Tuesday, April 5, 2016

ECCC Week 3: Shippensburg Scurry

by Brian Drollette

The Yale Bulldogs were back at it this past weekend for the third ECCC race of the season. Three racers made the trek to Shippensburg, PA, looking to continue their strong season amongst other racers in the northeast. The weekend's races took us through rural farm roads, the Michaux state forest, and 1,000+ foot climbs.

The Shippensburg Scurry race weekend proved to be quite unique. Instead of the typical circuit race, criterium, and time trial that we've grown accustomed to so far this season, we were faced with a timed circuit race, a mass start hill climb, and a longer road race.

Circuit Race

The circuit race felt more like a criterium with more hills, due to the short laps and timed duration. The course was a 2.1 mile loop with three turns on farm roads. The back stretch was a slightly downhill, freshly paved road with a bit of a tailwind that allowed racers to push the pace well over 30 mph.

Less than half of a bike length secured the victory for Brian in the Men's C circuit race.

Up first for the Bulldogs were Matt Ampleman and Brian Drollette in the Men's C race that lasted 40 minutes. The short yet punchy hills kept the field on their toes and allowed for a bit of separation in the field. All attacks were eventually reeled back in and the last lap was a perfect setup for a sprint finish. The backstretch was speedy as everyone fought for the best position. Matt worked his way to the front 10 riders while Brian stayed tucked in behind the fifth wheel. Less than 1km from the finish, the course made a sharp left turn into a hill, with the finish line down on the backside. Brian began his sprint with 200m to go, passing all five racers before the crest, and held off a fellow racer from Princeton by a mere inches for the win. Matt passed ten racers on the last stretch and secure a solid 5th place, securing 8 more points for the Bulldogs!

Mike Grome in the A circuit race.
Captain Michael Grome, in his first race since a crash at the Temple Criterium, raced the 60 minute Men's A race. Mike put in a solid effort to get himself back into racing form. He crossed the line in 19th in good spirits, ready to go for the next two races!

Hill Climb

Typically, hill climbs are treated as individual time trials, where everyone races the clock and starts in 20-30 second intervals. Not this one. The folks at Shippensburg decided to mix things up a bit by turning it into a mass start race. At 6 miles long with 1,300 feet of elevation gain, this race was sure to thin out the field.

Matt and Brian, in a pack of 47 other racers, stayed with the main field until Brian dropped off at mile three. Matt fought hard, climbing much of the race out of the saddle, before dropping at mile 4. He was able to finish with the help of three other racers for a respectable 15th place in the extraordinarily fast field (the C winner had the fastest time of any category!). Brian crossed the line in 24th, just over a minute behind Matt. Mike spun his way up the hill in under 23 minutes, taking 17th in the 29 racer A field.

Road Race

After racing in mild, sunny weather on Saturday, Mother Nature had other plans for Sunday. We woke up to temperatures in the 30s with 25 mph sustained winds and gusts over 40 mph. Everyone packed into the community center at the park, trying to stay warm, while waiting for an update from the officials on the status of the races. Due to downed trees and power lines, as well as ice on parts of the course, the officials reduced the 11 mile loop to 8 miles and detoured around a significant climb.

Matt and Brian again started the day in the 4-lap C race. The first few miles of the course were modestly sheltered by trees, deceiving racers into thinking that the conditions weren't too bad. That all changed once the road opened up, cutting straight through flat farmland without an ounce of shelter from the wind. The field was quickly shredded, dropping riders left and right. The cross winds were so strong that Brian and a rider from Army were both blown off of the side of the road, though they both stayed upright. After the second lap, Brian pulled himself from the race due to the conditions while Matt toughed it out. He worked with a group of 10 on the front to pull in a small breakaway, and with less than two miles to go he lost contact with the group as the outside of the lane offered no protection from the wind. He rode the rest of the race solo, crossing the line 11th in arguably the toughest race of the season so far. Good work Matt!

Mike wrapped up the day in the A race. He quickly realized the strategy needed to shelter himself from the wind within the pack, saving precious watts when needed. A five-man breakaway formed while Mike and 8 other tried to bring them back in over the 66 mile course. The breakaway held off the field, and Mike sprinted to 11th.

In his first race weekend back from a crash, Mike shared a few lessons learned: 1) recovery from an injury takes a lot of time, 2) don't be too hard on yourself if you can't pick up where you left off, 3) positioning saves watts! A good wheel to follow, especially in heavy winds, can make all of the difference.

Next weekend the Bulldogs will head to a combined race hosted by Dartmouth and UVM in Hanover, NH and Charlotte, VT. Only 3 race weekends left in the ECCC!

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