Copperas Cove Classic, January 2010

#783 gets swamped at the end.

The 2010 Copperas Cove Classic has become the de facto start of the annual road race season for bikes here in Texas. The course is lollipop-shaped, with a 9 mile out route, then a loop, and the return 9 miles back in. The course has one or two loops, depending upon the category you race.

In years past, we’ve been burdened by harsh weather, sometimes with rain, but always with strong winds that tend to batter the riders. The road conditions aren’t perfect, either, and when you combine that with early-season rolling terrain, it makes for a tough course. This year, however, we had a medium-strong wind from the northeast, I think, and I actually got a suntan on my arms from the warm sun and weather. Temps were in the 70’s!!!

The Mirage Cat 3’s continue to impress me. We had five entrants: Chase McKinney, Shawn Hodges, Lee Eldridge, and Gary Dutschmann. We went in with a plan, agreed to work together and communicate, and to support or block as we saw the race unfold.

And, it worked.

Here’s how it unfolded…

The race was filled with over 95 Cat 3/4’s. I had originally agreed to do the 1/2/3’s to try and get the mileage in, but was persuaded to drop down to the 54 miler when the other guys signed up for that distance. We led from the very start of the race. Chase McKinney just rolled off the front, and when he was finally reeled in, Shawn Hodges and I stayed at or near the front to cover breaks, and keep the pace up a bit. However, at around the 4 mile mark, a rider from Joe’ PRO Bikes got off the front, and about a minute or two later, one of his own teammates launched off the front, to join him. I made a mental mistake in letting that happen, and by the time I had realized it, they were both a minute up the road, and they had a third rider blocking for them. Without really trying, I moved to the front to try and pick up the pace, and ended up just rolling off the front. It was left to me then to try and either bring the pack up, or bridge. If you know me, you know what I did.

The break of two remained 10 to 60 seconds in front of me for over 20 miles, as one rider bridged to me, then completely blew up, and I had to continue on my own. I tried shouting to them to slow down and let me catch them, but they didn’t hear me. Had they let me bridge, there is no doubt in my mind that we would have taken it to at least the 48 mile mark, where the final turn is to the finish line. But as it was, I was out there on my own for 52 minutes, 2-3 minutes up on the pack, and just able to see the two ahead of me by 15-60 seconds. I was finally reeled in by an SMU rider, but it took us about another 20 minutes before we finally caught one of the two guys, who had blown up. His teammate had played the spoiler quite well, breaking up our efforts to form pacelines quite well.

On this one really crummy road, which is sort of infamous for its’ potholes and deteriorating edges, we finally regrouped as a team, and I hid to recover while Hodges, Eldridge, and McKinney came to the front to pick up the pace. TBi and AT&T made several moves to bridge up to the solo rider as well, but it was Chase McKinney and a TBi’er who finally crossed that crucial 20 seconds, caught the kid, and then DRAGGED HIM ALONG while both TBi and Mirage blocked. Efforts to bridge were useless, and by the time we left the bad road and got back on to the final six miles of the loop, they had about a minute.

For years, the final six miles of the loop has been the area where I usually go flat and lose my energy or momentum. This year, though, I had no intention of letting that happen. In fact, after such an incredibly hard effort in the first 90 minutes, I had recovered quite well, and was around when Lee started to put in several fake attacks, which were designed to keep the other teams on their toes, and also to take the pepper out of their legs. That also worked. At one point, Lee, Shawn, and I completely blocked the front of the race, corking it at about 18 miles per hour. We held this for about 2 and a half minutes, which turned out to be critical, and gave Chase, the TBi’er, and the Joe’s PRO rider a chance to take their break up to 1:30. We lost the cork at the turn back toward the finish line, but we had done the damage. There was no way the pack was going to reel those guys in.

With about 8 miles to go, Lee rolled up next to me and said, “I’m going to go here at the top of this hill.” I said “okay”, and we waited for an attack from one of the more aggressive AT&T riders to get pulled in before I told Lee to go. He’d been saving everything for this moment, and when he unleashed it, he put 30 seconds in to the pack before they even knew what hit them. I remained on station at the front, covered breaks, and fostered general mayhem and frustration. The TBi kids did the same, though for some reason, we didn’t see the Joe’s Pro guys much at all in the last half hour. Several efforts were made to reel in Lee, but he gained more and more time, to guarantee himself fourth place. I could only wonder what was going on with Chase up at the front.

The finish to this race is held on a slightly downhill run, just about 500 meters after a peak on a rolling hill. When you have about 40 guys all trying to gain crucial places for points and money, it creates a lot of mayhem. I ended up getting sort of boxed in at the end, but was surprised to see that my combination of trispokes and aero helmet actually helped me glide PAST a few more people as we approached the line itself. I guess I could have sprinted harder, but what I really should have done was go at the top of the hill, one last time, and drilled it. However, I had been on the rivet and had played my hand as the team player, and had contributed to the animation of the race. My day was done. The final crown in the cap was learning that Chase had won the race, with Lee 4th. I finished 11th, still out of the money, and still out of the points.

I’m not discouraged at all, however. I think we have a great team, and I think we have a bright season of success ahead of us. I know where my training is going to take me, and I know that I have the support of the team when my moment happens. EVERYONE came up to us later and congratulated us on a great, clean race. We’re marked men now, but I have no doubt that we’ll respond appropriately.

Finally, I have to credit my belief in my training and in my firm belief in aerodynamics. I rode my trustworthy Nimble Trispokes, and a KED aero helmet, which HAD to have made a difference on the escape and again in the sprint. I also drank two full bottles of fluids, knowing that I was going to lose a lot more due to the helmet being a cap and not a ventilator. No cramps at all. I’ll write later about my belief in the two supplements I’m taking, Extreme Endurance and, well, Beet Root Juice. But that’s another discussion for another day. For now, I am grateful for my health, for Texas Racing, for my wife continuing to let me spend weekends away, and for my teammates – guys, you are making this more and more fun, the more we do this together.

I’ll write more regularly from here on out, and may modify this post to include images as they become available. Look for more about the training on my Cycling Center of Dallas Weblog.


1 Response to “Copperas Cove Classic, January 2010”

  1. 1 Lee
    2010/01/24 at 5:18 pm

    Great write up!

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