I hear stories of great team work in flat races...but what about hilly ones?
I hear stories of great team work in flat races...but what about hilly ones?
In hilly races I have gone to the front on a climb and worked to create a split, then had a stronger or faster finishing teamate use that for a result.
There's going to be a split anyhow so you want to see if you can make it come out to your advantage- spring loose your guy(s) and just enough other riders to ensure that it stays away. Then you can disrupt the chase with all the usual tactics, and you can also set a false tempo on the climbs to lose some more time.
Here's one from last summer. The course wasn't actually all that hilly, nothing more than a few minutes in length, only moderately steep with a small wall here and there. But it was constant, up and down, and they were long draggy type hills, too long to qualify as any kind of roller. After 60+ miles it starts to wear on you.
The other big factor was the heat - a 1 pm August start in Texas. Easily 100+ out on the black asphalt. No wind to speak of, and what breeze there might've been was blocked by tall pine trees. Are you familiar with the scent of a pine forest on a really hot day? It smells like anguish and cramps (at least, that's what it smells like to me).
Small field, maybe 20 starters. Two teams brought 4 guys, we had 2, a couple others had 2, and the rest were singles. Big team 1 attacks from the start. I was not even slightly warmed up so it hurt to follow the big team 2's counter. And that pretty much set the pattern for the early miles... neither of the big teams was letting anything get up the road without representation, and since there were only 2 of us on my team that meant I was chasing every second attack. It wasn't even halfway yet and I was just hoping the right combo would go, and did not care whether I was in it or not.
Did I mention it was hot? Because of that, we weren't going all that fast - slow patchy asphalt melting, constant little grinder hills, hot sun beating down. Any deep effort was so hard to recover from. It was racing in slow-motion, lots of poker-playing, guys not willing / able to really lay it out hard.
Finally, the feed zone, halfway point. One guy had been otf solo, just dangling a minute or so up, for a while. I and a couple other guys were half-assed maintaining tempo to keep him in check. Going thru the feed hill, I grabbed 3 bottles, dumped one on my head and felt way better. Looked around and see that I have a gap with one of the big team guys. I'm not one to easily give up a gap so I settle in to a nice hard tempo for a couple minutes and elbow him through. Gap is growing. We start going faster, catch the solo guy. A couple more turns, look back and here comes the reaction.
The counter group has 4 guys, including 1 each from the big teams, and my teammate. We merge for a moment, get disorganized, see the pack coming back. I look at my bud, say "y'all better go" and at the same time, another rider attacks. Off they go, 4 of them. I go into defense mode (thankfully, b/c I am pretty toasted at that point).
That was the right combo, we never saw that group again. My teammie won the race. I rolled in w the 2nd group which was only 4 of us by the end.
"have fun and be kind"
- an internet post
Two years ago at our state RR championship at one of the hilliest courses we have there wasn't a moment when two of our guys weren't attacking on every climb keeping the pace redlined. Guys were just blowing up and even the strong guys were starting to roll to the front before the climbs to minimize how far they'd go backwards. 16 miles to go I was able to attack on one of the longer climbs and that was that. Waited in the rain for all my guys to finish (some of them didn't make the whole race and some of them rolled in 10-15 minutes later) then bought pizza and champagne for the group.
Jiminy Peak RR, early season MA race, maybe 15 years ago. Maybe 18. Typically super cold, wet, rainy, horrible. 11 mile? lap with a 1 mile finishing climb. Might be longer but I don't think so. Rest of course is rolling. I don't remember much but that's the last time I did the race.
I show up intent on keeping things together for the first lap - our team had a couple good "road racers" and we felt that we could get a guy into the top 10 if things went well.
I've never made that climb with the group so I decided to race for just the first lap. After that I'd do whatever. If I could hang in, fine, I'd work another lap. Otherwise I'd stop.
Guy attacks in the dirt parking lot as we roll out, blasts out of the group.
I go up there, start hammering. All these really big guys are just killing it up front. I looked around, realize that ALL of them have shown up for this first lap. None of us would get over the climb with the group.
We are just flying along, single file, on the right shoulder for some reason (wind? not sure why). I can't believe this guy is still off the front, we're going like 30-32 mph up and down these little rollers (20 feet elevation changes).
Then we all almost run into some idiot standing on the shoulder, he's swinging his arms around.
It's the guy off the front, he flatted, took out his wheel, and was waving it around.
All of us at the front look around, shut it down. Everyone's relieved to get this little "warm up" effort over and done with.
We hit the hill, I tried to surf the front just before with my guy on my wheel, and then I filter back as the road goes up.
I start thinking I'll make it but with about 100m to go I come off. I chase like a mad man but doing 50-ish on the downhill doesn't get me anywhere. Since we descend down to the parking lot I decide to turn left into it. My race is over.
I'm shivering, cold, change, pack up, leave.
A week or so later I get a check and a mug in the mail. Apparently I got 6th in the race (!?). I return the very hard-to-get mug and the check, thanking the promoters but pointing out I was almost back at home (3 hour drive) when the race ended.
Since no one protested that 6th place, I officially got 6th. For the rest of the year other riders would give me congrats on my "strong ride" at Jiminy Peak.
So, yeah, I worked for the team. We got our top 10. Ha. But in a hilly race it's all about who's strong enough to stay up front. There isn't much else after that. I'm pretty sure our road racers got hammered at the end.
**Note, hindsight has shown some of the tactics used in the following story to be good, while some were poorly advised**
Me and one teammate show up for a race last spring in a field of 60.
Two days before, a good friend had been hit and almost killed in a hit-and-run, and ever since then I'd been mad, furious, angry, and raging on the inside.
The day before the race, I resolve to attack until I'd broken positively everyone's legs, and I resolved to get my teammate a win.
This was the first race with any particularly engaging terrain... We had rolling roads through the countryside, then a big hill, lots of small to medium ups-and-downs,and the a wide-open wind-swept section through a valley to finish the loop.
I showed up, didn't particularly warm up, but I did tell 'The Kid' that I had a plan, I was going to attack repeatedly until everyone got tired of chasing our jersey, or was worn out from trying to bridge, and then he'd go up the road. At that point in the year, he had a really big engine, but didn't have much/any jump... so I figured that the key was to get everyone else sick of chasing down big attacks, and then spring him. We only had two guys in the field, but I was pretty sure we could do it.
We rolled out, my insides were still simmering, but for about the first/only time this season, I held my guns.
The pack rolled through the hills, we got to the big hill, and it was go-time. The early guys went hard immediately, I held back. The pitch got steeper, I moved up to about 8th in the pack, with about 8 guys up the road. The guys around me were slowing down, and the guys up the road were really hurting and turning the cranks over.
I switched to the little ring, hit it, HARD. Not out-of-the-saddle, dancing away hard, it was more seated-medium-RPM, climbing... but going fast. The field had been string out, but as the top few guys tried to grab my wheel on my way by, none of them stuck, I was picking up speed as I went past the now-blown guys up the road, and like that, the whole front-end of the field went 'pop'.
I crested the hill with a gap, but the descent was twistier than I was expecting, and I sat up a bit to see who wanted to ride.
About 4 guys came in, one at a time, on the descent, and we opened up the throttle. After a while, the pack got back to us on the ups-and-downs, but we were down to about 40 guys, and just a few miles into the race.
We came out into the flats, found the wind moving from L-to-R, with our overall direction being L-to-R, to it was either firm cross-winds or a tail wind.
I attacked 4 times or so, my plan for it was to do 3' intervals off the front, to see how many guys I could blow up. The first two times I got my gap there guys were trying to come up, but I rode hard so that none of them could make it before dying in the wind. When guys stopped trying to bridge, I brought the distance down, watched a few more guys try to get across... so I increased the distance until they popped, and then eventually sat up and shuffled back about 10 guys in.
The next time I jumped harder, heard a commotion as I went by, got aero, and didn't look up until 2 minutes in.... the field was waaay back there and strung out. I was riding like a berzerker, knew I was burning lots of energy, but didn't really care. Thinking about the car accident and my friend in the hospital with tubes everywhere just made me lose my mind and crank on the pedals. 3' over, I shut it down, and spun my legs until the field came back up on me... got some strange looks from the front of the pack, shuffled back into the string, and waited. The pack was down to 25.
6 or 7 minutes later, I decided to do one more big effort, and see if anyone would come with me. There was only one guy who looked like he wanted to ride, most everyone else was looking like they wanted out of the wind, and wanted to pace to slow down. One team was riding at the front with 3 guys, but they'd been riding the front the whole way, and were down to 5 guys from having started with 9.
I hit out one more time, got the other guy to come with me, but he popped within the first 2 minutes, and couldn't even latch on to the field on his way backwards. This time, the front of the field wasn't even chasing that hard... I figured I couldn't knock any more fight out of them, so I came back, drifted to the back of the field where 'The Kid' (henceforth, TK) was sitting 3 wheels from last, and said, "Your turn, but don't come back."... something to that effect anyway, I was tired. So I tailed gunned, last man on the line.
He moved up, and as the field was bunching up and stringing out around the curves, the wind playing havoc on everyone, soon enough there was a guy trying to make a move once we hit a tailwind section. He only lasted about 15" (really, not kidding), but my teamate was on his wheel in a flash. The first guy popped, but another guy was trying to get up to TK, and now we were in a beam-on cross-wind.
In the cross wind, the field (about 25 guys) paused, bunched up, and I went from cheering on TK's move, to in a flash, pedaling. With the field bunched up in the gutter, I got the slingshot effect and went ripping by. The first guy was 10m off the front of the field and toast, going backwards. The next guy hadn't made it up to TK yet... 15m back? I went past the first guy and started screaming at my teamate to go full gas. The guy still trying to bridge got totally freaked out by my yelling, sat up, looked around, and stopped pedaling. I made it up to my teamate, took a pull, and we started the two-man TT.
He was fresh, I was pretty well singed, but we went at it like hammers. He'd never been in a break-away before, so we got up to speed on pulling off into the wind, pulling off to the outside line, and he already was a master of motoring along... so on we went.
Within a few minutes the field was out of sight around the curves&hills, and we started the rolling hills, trending back up towards the finish line. After a while, I was really cooked, tried to sit on his wheel for a bit, but he was strong and I couldn't even do that very well. We chatted briefly, I wished him good luck, and I sat up.
Since I was still pedaling, albeit slowly, it took two minutes or so before the pack caught up, and they were down to 12 guys.
I was still catching my breath, while trying to take sloppy turns in the rotation, and basically play the fool, and we didn't catch sight of TK until 1K to go. He had a couple of hundred meters gap, so it was a fast chase (the remaining guys were really moving), but my teamate took it - only man in the picture.
The whole field was blown apart, my teamate won, and I felt like I'd done what I showed up to do.
Looking back on it, I would play the strategy different now... but that's hindsight, and I did get what I wanted that day. I wish I would have tried for the win, but I didn't have the confidence to go for it, and by the time it was a 2man TT, my matches were gone.
Looking back, that was one of my proudest moments from this first full year of racing.
I'll be back on that course a couple of times this next year for different races that use those roads - and this time I'll be racing for me.
all that racing, attacking on hills, and herd-thinning was on one of these,... built with 9speed, and weighing 23 pounds.
you don't need no fancy-light-aero bike, you need to be willing to suffer.
I'm looking forward to reading these posts when I have a bit more time, but till then, here are two stories.
Battenkill when I was a Cat 4. We had a plan for the finale but since the race was really conservative, one of my teammates sprung away midrace. He opened a gap, some people chased, so he looked back, sat up, so everyone else sat up, too. That's when he started riding. When he was out of sight, the rest of his teammates changed our plan to helping him stay away. This meant going really hard up climbs and on dirt roads, to dissuade a hard chase on pavement. It worked, I guess, because my teammate stayed away and won.
Another one - Hilly road race, cat 3, three hard climbs per 20-mi lap. We kept our protected rider very sheltered, kept him out of trouble by leading him up a sharp climb and leading down a tricky descent. We covered a lot of flurried attacks and put him and a few more of us into a good-sized split. He missed a solo move that wound up winning but initiated the podium move over the sharp climb with 1mi to go, sprinted for 3rd from a four-rider move. He said the only reason that he had the energy to do that was that he was completely sheltered the whole race and didn't have to do any work whatsoever (other than get himself up the climbs). He's not a podium-all-the-time rider - it was a really surprising result he's proud of.
great stories...keep them coming
Last edited by tsutaoka; 01-04-11 at 04:02 PM.
Incredible story Ian. Just incredible!