Monday, April 4, 2011

Morgantown Road Race Report 4.2.11

Greg, Chad, and I decided to head out to WV for some hilly spring racing. The course was a 50 mile loop with 4 major climbs totaling 3100 feet. For reference, the plan was to sit in until the first major climb at 23 miles, where we planned to ride with whoever was setting the pace. From there we’d be able to figure out who to pay attention to. The field would probably thin out along the way, but we planned to make our real move on the last climb. That one tops out 10 miles from the finish, and it’s downhill most of the way home. If we could be in a small lead group over the top of that last climb, no one was going to catch us.

The weather forecast wasn’t looking great during the week leading up to the race, and it was hard to figure out what was actually going to happen. We knew there would be precipitation, but with temperatures in the 30s, weren’t exactly sure what kind of precipitation we were going to have to deal with. On the way to the race, conditions only got worse. Trucks were scattered about the interstate, because they couldn’t make it up the mountains. We saw a couple of other cars with road bikes on them, so we figured we wouldn’t be alone if we showed up at the start line.

Photo by Greg Capelle

At registration, it was a horrible mix of snow and rain. Luckily, the race was delayed a half hour due to the weather conditions, so that gave us some time to set up the tent and hop on the trainers. The snow stopped, but it was still cold and wet. After throwing our stuff back in the car, we headed to the start line to drop our spare wheels in the support truck. We look around for a minute and see some trucks for some other fields, but don’t see ours. We were then informed by a helpful promoter that our race was already 3 minutes down the road. Greg, Chad, and I looked at each other for a second, and headed off to start our chase.

Since this was a road race with a neutral roll out, we figured they weren’t that far ahead, and with a little TTT warm-up, we’d be able to catch them before the 1st climb. 6 miles later, we were on the back of the peleton and working our way up towards the front. We asked around to see if there was an early break, and figured out that one or two guys were up the road, but they apparently weren’t together. We just sat in and let the field dictate the pace to the first real climb of the day.

The first major climb came at 23 miles in. We caught the last of the early escapees right at the base. Once on the climb, we stuck to the plan and stayed at the front without actually setting the pace. It wasn’t blistering, but the field was starting to thin anyway. About ¾ of the way up, I’m riding right next to the guy setting the pace, and I feel like I’m only pushing about 75% effort. I looked at the guy next to me, and he looked redlined. I guess Chad and Greg were feeling the same as me a couple of wheels back, because the pre-race plan was about to go out the window. Greg turned to Chad and audibly asks: “Do you want to go?” Now that those cards were on the table, we didn’t have much choice. Chad gives an “OK,” they hit the gas, and I hear Chad say "Matt, grab my wheel" as they go by. I did what he told me. I just thought we’d end up creating a small break with a large KindHuman presence, but when we hit the top, it was just the 3 of us. I know we didn’t catch the field off guard, so I’m guessing the only people with the strength to match our move were caught out of position. Bad for them… lucky for us.

We crested the top, organize quickly, and start a screaming descent to the base of the next climb just a couple of miles down the road. We lost sight of the chase before we hit the 3rd corner on the descent. The 2nd of the back-to-back climbs was ridiculously steep. On the way up, I was thinking we may have made a horrible mistake by making a move with 25 miles to go. We assumed that whatever chase group had been organized behind would be just as cooked as us, and we decided to pace up the climb without going too far into the red. Once over the top and still out of sight from the chase, it was clear that this move had a good chance.

Following the 2nd of the back-to-back climbs was another screaming descent including a blind entry to a hairpin that gave Chad a little cyclocross practice Greg some sweet fixie skid practice. After that little debacle we reorganized for the next 10 miles of mildly rolling terrain. We kept drilling the pace line through this section, but my rear derailleur cable housing had somehow gotten crushed, and I was having difficulty staying in a gear. To top it off, our little “late start TTT warm-up” seemed to be coming back to haunt me with some calf spasms. Greg and Chad carried the majority of the load through this section while I tried to recover. Surprisingly, I could actually help push the pace on climbs, but I felt mostly useless on the flats, just taking short pulls to try to give them a couple more seconds rest. Even though I wasn’t able to help as I would have liked, I knew we were more organized than the chase group, so we were most likely extending our gap through the flats.

On the second to last climb, we got a line of sight to the chase group. They were a solid 3 minutes back, and it looked like it was only a handful of riders. At the base of the last climb, we just hoped we’d stay out of sight over the top. The last climb was brutal. It started off tame enough, but eventually made a right hander into what looked like a wall. The pitch just continued to increase until we got to the last switchback that greeted us with a false summit. We had to keep going up for another ¼ mile or so, but with no sight of the chase group at the bottom of the wall, we knew we were home free. We pushed the pace on the descent, and kept a relatively moderate tempo through the rolling section to the finish. The finish was completely uninteresting, because I couldn’t even pretend to contest the sprint with my leg spasms. Based on the number of points we all had going into the race, we just agreed that it would be best to let me take the win. Chad took 2nd, and Greg took 3rd.

Photo by Fred Jordan

It wasn’t quite how we planned to do it, but Greg made a great call to make the change mid-race. The moral of the story is that if you pretend your leg hurts, your team mates let you win.

Photo by Stephen Mull (KindHuman CX rider who happened to finish 2nd in the elite field)


  1. Very impressive especially the fitness on the climbs to break away also considering that you guys were 3 minutes behind from the race at the beginning and still won.

  2. You guyz made the blogosphere!!!!