The race started out with a couple attacks. Nothing happend until one got 30 seconds away. Per instructions, we zipped up to ride with Moto 2 (the ref) and hung out for a while, but the attack was absorbed coming up to the start/finish line, so we dropped back into the tail-end position. We tried to help some guys bridge up to the pack but when you're shelled on the second lap, it's probably not in the cards. As we came down to turn right on Comus, this idiot on a bike with aero bars comes flying down from the left, cuts in front of us, and begins a desparate chase to try to catch on with the pack, passing some guys who were toast. James and I pulled up next to him and may have said some impolite things, asking him to please not try to insert himself into a race or he'd get badly hurt. (Okay, fine, I dropped about 50 F-bombs on the guy during a 20 second verbal machine-gunning). Didn't matter that much, he was dropped by the next little rise. He wasn't the only recreational cyclist we had problems with obstructing the road during the race. Why do people have to do that? It is *so* dangerous. If I found myself in a race with a rec rider inserting themselves into the pack it would take every fiber of my will power not to curb them, immediately.
Moments later we saw SuperDave pull off at Peachtree in the middle of lap 2. You reckon the pace was hard Saturday? Dang.
Around this time a Harley guy and a Maryland guy got well away. Soon, another Harley guy bridged up. They worked well together and got 30 seconds, then were quickly at 45 or 50, so the Moto called us up, and that's where we sat all day, watching the break. Ken Johnson was in the break, plus another Harley guy I didn't know and this Maryland guy who did really well, but who was clearly working hard just to hold the wheel.
It looked just like this... For three hours!
After a couple laps, the gap was up to 1:58 or so. We were having problems with comms, so James would stop the car on a hill, we'd time the gap back to the pack or chase group, and then drive at a socially unacceptable pace to catch back up. Around this time we realized it was
95 in the car, we were cooking, and didn't have any water. There were some emergency cokes in the back, but nothing actually thirst-quenching. We rolled by the feed zone and snagged a bottle. That was all we got.
James kept saying, "oh, my head... it feels terrible." It was like when that guy rolled his car a few years ago and got trapped in it, and his CD player was stuck on Duran Duran, and it played "Careless Whisper" several hundred times before the police found him. I think he started listening to Danzig after that. Eventually we were rolling through the feed zone and begging for water and people thought we were joking. We weren't. I got really pissed at some teammates who kept thinking we were joking around. Sadly, we were actually cooking in the car.
About 4 laps in, it started to get interesting. After some pre-emptive bridging attempts the group seemed to start to chase a bit harder. The gap came down pretty quickly - within a half lap it dropped from nearly two minutes, to ~40 seconds, and the three struggled to stay away during the 5th lap. But the chase group never caught on. Talking to Kirby afterwards, it seemed pretty clear that Harley decided to launch the pre-emptive bridge move and sort of fake a real chase. Hey, NCVC and Bike Doctor are famous for running down their own guys in the break, why not Harley?
The effect was to chew up the pack and make it impossible for any legit bridge moves to work - we'd hear reports of 3, 5 and 7 guys trying to get across, but they never made it. Kirby said it was extremely hard to hang on when Harley dropped the hammer.
I don't think it was clear to the three guys in the break that it was Harley leading the chase. So when the gap got down to 40, the break started visibly working a lot harder on the hills. They would quickly get the gap back up to 1:30, and every time thereafter it started to come down, they'd roll harder.
On lap 5, the three in the break were looking pretty dead, so we rolled up to them and handed them ice cold Cokes. They picked up the pace significantly after that. Coke adds life they say. After that the Motos started hitting us up for Cokes, and the head ref hit us up for a couple which he brought back to the break in the Women's 1-2-3. I heard later the Cokes were money.
Around this time we ran across a lapped rider who was trying to drop back to help his teammates. The ref radioed back his position, and we yelled at him to get off the course.
He didn't listen, said he wouldn't compete and was just riding around, and the last we saw of him, he was hammering trying to get up to speed, as the pack overtook him. I think Moto 1 may have caught him and pulled him. The jerk.
On lap 6, going up the first hill past the start on 109, the Harley guys attacked mildly. The Maryland guy was utter toast. As we saw the gap develop, James asked how long I thought we should wait. "Go now. He's finished." And he was. For the rest of the lap they kept their gap at
a minute or a little over or under that. They eased up noticeably on Old Baltimore and just sort of cruised it in, with Ken taking the win. Brian Butts, former Coppi and a good, good guy, came in a minute later in third.
The second most impressive performance of the day...
Battley Harley takes 1st through 6th
Battley Harley takes 1st through 6th
The tactical lesson I took from that is that if you have buddies in the break, one good way to help them is to launch a team attack that is hard, but which doesn't go real far. Do it repeatedly. The sharp accelerations will shred the pack and discourage it, and protect your teammates. You don't want to go hard for too long, you don't want to catch up to the break, but you want to make the pack spontaneously decide to bunch sprint for 4th instead of trying to win. That was a really smart tactic, and Harley probably found it easier to control the pack by hurting it and letting it decide to slow down, than by trying to get in front and block.
Lessons learned: bring water in the car. You make friends with Coke late in the race. Really think about which teams are in the break and who is leading the chase / making the bridge move / doing the pacemaking, they may telegraph their moves. Be nice to the refs, they have a tough job.
Final note - the ~55 mile break by those three guys was just a frickin' magnificent effort, it was amazing to watch that. If you ever have a chance to ride pace car or support for a long road race, I highly recommend it. You'll get some interesting insights on race dynamics. Just remember to bring some water for yourself. It gets warm.