Monday, February 25, 2008

Fun in the Texas Sun: Walburg Road Race

It was supposed to be "cold" in the morning. Yup, in Texas 41F is cold. Being from KS, I just put on some arm warmers and used the leg goop for warmth. Onward:

Walburg is an excellent way to start the season. First, it's warm. Not like doing the Frozen Toes. It's warm, there's lots of guys (110+) and you can really race versus being marked by all 13 guys in the field back home. The key players are Hotel San Jose, Team Orven (from Monterrey Mexico), Brian Jensen, and Mercy. Everyone else either had too few guys to be effective, or were simply so disorganized as a team that they neutralized themselves by acting as individuals.

Orven was the TEAM this day. But with 13 organized guys, that should be expected. They put two up the road immediately and we never really saw them again (more on that). The other guys just rode in the field, covered moves, and rode tempo on the front of the field controlling everything. Kudos to them for clamping the vice grips on the field. Other teams really fizzled as far as my expectations go. Mercy, as I found out, is probably as under-powered as we are in that they have numbers, but not the motor yet (big, huge YET) to do much about Orven. That will change as their guys come into form and they will be a quality team as always. Brian was the only pro and therefore marked like no one else. But team Hotel San Jose surprised me with their non- cohesiveness. They put two guys on the front to chase one time, but it only lasted for about 10 minutes. It seems like 5-10 minutes is the longest you can get an amateur team to organize for before they give up.

Typically the wind cuts the field into pieces and only a few guys finish. However, this time the wind wasn't really a factor until the last 20 miles or so. With one lap to go Steve Tilford went hard enough to break the field into 2-4 groups (I was in the second, but didn't look behind me to count) by himself. In the process, this fractured the the grip that Orven had on the race and showed them to be vulnerable. About 2 miles later, 2 more guys slipped off the front as we watched. But the stage had been set for the final lap (dun, dun, dun).

Steve and Brian Jensen went to the front with another U-25 development kid. The three of them started hammering and really going fast, dropping the peloton into the gutter for a draft free ride on the white line. The three were being followed by 7-8 of the Orven riders so it looked a bit menacing. I saw what was going on and jumped up to the rotation where I said, "Steve, could you ask Brian to slide left a little please." Steve saw me, Brian gave me room and now there were 4 of us rotating. Every time I looked back to check the damage, there were less people. 15, 10, 8, 8, 7, 5, 3. But they were all Orven which is still fairly ominous.

We caught the other two that were in the secondary move and were only about 2km from the finish, which is uphill, which is hard, especially after riding hard for 8 miles at the end of your longest RIDE of the year. Oh yeah, and only RACE of the year so far.

I ended up leading out the sprint for Steve and Brian (lead out is a relative term here). One Orven guy went by us so fast that we were never catching him.... until he broke his chain and fell down. Another Orven rider got by us for a 1,2,3 sweep. Brian got 4th, Steve 6th, and Adam 9th. Also, we took about 3:30 out the break in 8 miles, finishing 25 seconds behind the two original break away riders. Pretty good outing for February. I'll put some pictures up if I can find some.