Cat 4, 8+ mile loop mostly flat, 5 laps.
Strong wind from the southwest meaning that literally half the course presented stiff headwind problems. If you didn't know how to echelon, you were in trouble.
Our best rider moved up to the 3's last week so we were depleted. The course and finish seemed to suit one of our more compact muscular guys so I decided that we would work for him. We decided who would attack, chase, and had a leadout plan. It seemed like a really good plan.
These plans rarely work. We are just Cat 4's after all, so who are we trying to fool.
Barely into the first lap that rain hits us hard - in the hardest part of the course where the echelon, if you get one, went into the gutter. A couple of minor attacks didn't last long. One of our lightweight climbers spent a lot of time at the front on the first two laps either attacking, chasing or driving a hard pace. This stretched out the group in the headwind sections. On the third lap, I moved up towards the front to give him a break. A four man break was trying to get established and I helped chase it down. I was at the front when we caught them and they immediately countered. I went with them. One of the guys was in the process of popping so the four of us remaining tried to get something going for a short while but we weren't organized enough. I settled back in to a top 5 position.
Back through headwind hell and I lost position trying to secure a good echelon. As we rounded the corner into the next headwind section, a two man group attacks. They got a good gap and nobody wanted to chase hard into the wind. I was too far back to react when this happened. I got forced into the wind during a little surge and tried to fight my way back into an echelon but there was nowhere to hide. I decided that if I was going to be out in the wind I may as well make some forward progress instead of sheltering someone else. I moved up to the front five and found some brief shelter. I decided that I would chase when we rounded the corner. I moved to the front right before the corner, got as aero as I could, and then went as hard as I could. (A teammate told after the race that this put a lot of pressure on the back of the field because they had to fight really hard to stay attached.) I chased, trading off with a few other guys, for half a lap maybe and we caught one of the breakaway riders. This relaxed the field and because of that we would not see the other rider the rest of the way.
Last lap, I'm looking for teammates to set up the finish. I can only find one and he's struggling with the wind. Multiple attacks are now going off the front and I'm trying to go with them but my jump is not strong enough. About 5-6 guys are up the road and I find myself chasing again. I can't decide if it's better to sell out on the chase, or to gamble by conserving a bit and counting on others to chase. I chose the latter. I helped out and took some pulls, but let others do most of the work. We catch them right before the final turn.
The jockeying and echeloning into the headwind sprint was exactly what you would expect. I saw some guys bounce off each other but amazingly everyone stayed upright. The left side of the road was a gaggle of guys fighting for the right wheel and I had gone to the right to avoid two of the guys that bounced off each other. I only have one teammate left and he can't get to me because he got forced off the road. Without a wheel, I'm screwed because I'm not built for a headwind sprint.
The winning move of the field sprint shoots off quite like a rocket. Everyone else goes. I see LowCel come up on my left. I dig in and do what I can and come across in 7th for the field sprint, 8th overall.
I just didn't have enough juice left, but felt good about salvaging a top 10 for the team after our "plan" got kicked to the curb.
Two 8th places in a row now. Time to figure out how to do better.