Looking Back at 2017 #1: Trooper Brinkerhoff

Starting our look back at 2017 is an early-season success for devo team rider Ken Greim, at the time a cat 4 racer. Ken raced in the C field at the Trooper Brinkerhoff road race in Ravena. NY in unseasonably warm weather. Here's how it went in his own words:

"Trooper Brinkerhoff C Field (M 4/5, W 3/4/5). 36 miles of racing, consisting of a short neutral start and 3 nearly 12 mile laps. If you haven't raced it, it's basically a rectangle with long north-south legs and short east-west legs. The finish is a little side road that heads due north off the top east-west leg. Normally the wind blows from the north here, meaning it's a headwind sprint and 20-25 seconds from the last corner to the finish, but today the forecast called for 15 mph south winds.

No teammates in the C field today. The reg list didn't look very intimidating, but I noticed 2 guys who I knew to be super strong (for the 4s, of course). My plan was standard for a 4/5 race with no real teams - stay up front, follow dangerous moves, don't initiate anything early but commit if a move looks promising. The one part of the course I highlighted was the ~2 min power section (maybe 30 second steep kicker then false flat) connecting the headwind leg to the tailwind leg. In the C race last year, the field always went full gas through that section but never managed to force a selection. I actually wasn't sure if it was possible this year, but I figured that with a few miles of tailwind after, there was a chance.

I staged in the front row and sat in the top few wheels for the first few miles of the race, which were all headwind. I managed to either stay off the front or just soft pedal when I got to the front. A few solo attacks went but I knew that nothing was dangerous this early into the headwind. I was never the first to chase an attack, but I followed the 2nd or 3rd guy most times to hold my position. 

Coming into the hill section, I was in the top 5 wheels and just holding my position while waiting for attacks. 2 CBRC (club that hosts the race) guys came up the side, including one of the guys I'd circled as a potential winner, so I immediately followed but there were a few guys who got between us. CBRC kept drilling it and the two guys behind them couldn't hold the wheel, so I jumped around to close gaps. At this point the field was starting to splinter but we needed more; I knew that if we hammered for a little while longer as we turned onto the tailwind section we could get away cleanly, though.

One of the CBRC guys burned all of his matches in the first move, so he was dropped pretty quickly. The remaining 6 of us drilled the tailwind section, rotating cleanly. The break contained the 2 guys I had noted pre-race. This had to be the move; I thought there was no way we wouldn't stay away from the field if we kept cooperating. And with 2.5 laps left, I decided that I would figure out how to shrink the group later after we'd built a gap. 

Everybody kept cooperating and rotating. Other than the occasional skipped pull by the Hot Tubes junior (Curtis and Emma White's younger brother, I later learned), everything was smooth. Pulling at the group's pace felt pretty easy, but there were no signs that the field was coming back, so I was content to keep the group together.

Early on in the 3rd lap, one of the guys touched wheels, over-corrected, and crashed himself out (and took out a random person who had been dropped that we were passing). He flies across the road like a bowling ball into pins. It's ridiculous. So then there we 5 in the break.  

Now, time to figure out how to get across the line first. It seemed like the junior was struggling a little, so I thought about hammering through the hill section to try and drop him, but otherwise I didn't have any plans other than to sprint. I was first through the corner into the uphill and started hammering,but I didn't force any gaps so I shut it down pretty quickly. In hindsight, if I wanted to attack, I shouldn't have done it from the front where everybody could see. I was a little worried that I just broke the cooperation of the group, but as we were nearing the turn onto the tailwind section, the lead car finally gave us the gap: 1:40, with less than 15 min of racing left. We had this.

The 3rd lap was about 2 min slower than each of the previous 2 for our group, and I think that was all in the last few miles. Nobody truly sat up, but there wasn't smooth rotation and pulls were easy tempo, especially as we got closer to the finish. As we slowed down, I kept myself in the top 3 wheels, just in case. There were two spots where I thought about making a move: a short kicker about 1.5 km to the finish and a false flat about 1km to go. After the 1km to go, it's downhill into a tailwind sprint, so I thought a long move could work. But I knew that my uphill attacks a few miles prior didn't stick, so I decided to just follow moves instead of attack. Everybody else seemed to think the same thing and nobody attacked.

I sat 2nd wheel from 1.5 km to 1 km but moved to the front at 1 km. At this point I was soft pedaling under 200 watts to stay on the front. I kept watching and waiting and watching and waiting for somebody to go as we hit the downhill, but nobody was coming. As the downhill flattened out before the left hander into the sprint, I saw one guy starting to move up from the back, so I ramped it up to cleanly stay in front and on the inside through the corner. Then I just started sprinting full gas because I knew with the tailwind it would be under 20 seconds and there was no point in waiting for others to jump early. 

I shifted up twice during the long sprint and got up to about 42 mph (thanks tailwind). I was afraid that one of the better sprinters would come around me, so I didn't even look back or think about posting up, but Natasja was watching at the line and said I won by a mile, or at least a few bike lengths. I hit numbers I've never seen in a race sprint (not that they're good sprinting watts by any means!) and rarely in workouts - [coach] Josh must think I'm sandbagging my sprint workouts now. 

I'm really happy that I executed with both my legs and my head to get the win. I've been close the last few weeks at Marblehead (6th) and Brumble (4th), and each week I've been a littler smarter and a little fitter (thanks Coach Josh). It all came together today. Just need another decent result to have my points for a 3 upgrade."

As a sidenote, congrats to new GLV rider Matt Shaffer on third place in this race as well (your missing rider in the podium picture)!