Monday, February 29, 2016

Preseason Week 1: William & Mary Tidewater Winter Classic

Race Roster: 1 Women's C, 1 Men's A, 1 Men's C, 1 Men's D, and an open Cat 5

On Saturday, our friends at the College of William & Mary and the rest of the ACCC welcomed a few Bulldogs to the Tidewater Winter Classic road race in Williamsburg, VA. We had the chance to shake out our cold winter bones and get in the groove of road racing preseason style, as ECCC races are still a month away.

If our racing skills are anything close to our car packing
skills, we'd be in the TDF.

Rise and Shine!

After a 6am wakeup call, we made it to York River State Park and set up camp. Unfortunately, we were unable to fit a trainer in the car so warmups consisted of a few laps around the parking lot in layers upon layers. The south is supposed to be warm, right? Not so fast! 32 degrees for the first race.

The course was a 9 mile loop with a few hills in the beginning. Compared to the roads in New Haven, this was a fairly flat race. The kicker came at the end, with the last 200m uphill to the finish line. 

8 AM: Men's Cat 5, 2 laps

Michael Landry, coming off a 6th place nationals performance in CX, started his first road race in the open Cat 5 field. He stayed tucked in the middle of the pack for most of the race, with a bit of difficulty finding a wheel to suck in the last part of the race. The uphill finished worked to his advantage, though, as he passed a dozen riders in the last 200m to a 3rd place sprint finish! Not a bad way to start the season!

8:05 AM: Men's Collegiate D, 2 laps

Brian Drollette road his first collegiate race in the Men's D field. Liberty University took charge with multiple riders and Brian kept on their wheels near the front for the majority of the race. With less than 2 miles to go, he saw a Liberty racer jump off the front and quickly pursued. As they worked together to keep the rest of the field from chasing them down, a rider from the University of Delaware crossed the gap. The three of them rounded the final turn to the finish line with Brian on front. At the sprint finish he wound up in 3rd place behind UDel (first) and Liberty (second). ECCC riders going 1 and 3 in a 57-rider ACCC race? Awesome!

8:10 AM: Women's Collegiate C, 2 laps

Nerea Cal was the sole rider for the women's team, racing in the combined open 3/4 and collegiate B/C field. Unfortunately, she was caught up in a crash early on in the race. Thankfully she wound up uninjured (both rider and bike!) and was able to still finish. She helped a fellow NC State rider fix her bike and they along with a few other racers pacelined together and finished a few minutes behind the main field. 

Although the day didn't go as planned, Nerea said, "I am thankful I wasn't hurt and, by working with a girl from another team, developed a relationship that may bear fruitful for future races. Other than that, I was happy to spend a day riding my bike, cheering on my fiancé and teammates, and am looking forward to future (warmer) races." That's the attitude we need on this team!

Michael Landry racing in the Collegiate C field.
10:10 AM: Men's Collegiate C, 3 laps

Thought he was done? Think again! Michael Landry clipped in one more time for another stab at a win in the collegiate C race. By this time, it was a bit warmer outside and fantastic racing weather. For the majority of the 30 mile race, Michael stayed with the main pack of 43. With less than 2 miles to go, he attacked off the front, hoping a few others would follow for a successful breakaway. The main field had other plans, though, and accelerated to catch him. By the sprint finish, he had burned most of his matches and finished 14th in the main pack. A respectable finish by any means! 

Captain Michael Grome racing in the Collegiate A field.

3:05 PM: Men's Collegiate A, 5 laps

Team captain Michael Grome burst onto the Collegiate A cycling field in great form (though not without a few nerves) for the last race of the day. By this time the wind had picked up and the temperature dropped,which only made for a more interesting race.

Following the neutral rollout, a breakaway took off that included a Virginia Tech rider. Mike worked at the front of the peloton with other riders to reel in the breakaway with success, even though other Tech riders would make their way into the paceline and slow down in order to help their rider.

Once the breakaway was caught, a rider Mike had been working with took off. In a split-second moment of indecisiveness, Mike chose to play it safe and stay with the group. The racer was ultimately chased down but still managed to sprint to the win. Mike said, "I just wonder what would have happened if I decided to join him off the front instead of playing it safer, but that might be a lesson learned for another time." Still, Mike finished right with the main field (20/45) in what was an awesome A race. Good work Mike!

Final Thoughts

For all of us, the Tidewater Classic was an opportunity for new experiences. Landry and Brian got their first taste of road racing, Nerea got her one and only crash out of the way for the season, and Grome got over his anxiety of racing with the big dogs in the A field. The ECCC better get ready for the Bulldogs, because we're here to kick some butt.

Our next race weekend will be March 12 at the University of Maryland/Johns Hopkins Route One Rampage Criterium in Hyattsville, MD. Stay tuned for a race update!

As always, we need to give some big shoutouts to our coaches, CCNS, and sponsors, Kempner, The Devil's Gear Bike ShopCollege Street CyclesSkratch LabsPeanut Butter & Co.Rudy ProjectCamelbackIamsMinouraDeFeetCastelliBiketag, and many more. We wouldn't be off to a great 2016 road season without their help!

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