Trooper Brinkerhoff Memorial 1/2/3

This weekend marked my 9th race of the year already, and it was still March. Someone tell me I'm not a collegiate bike racer anymore. Because of pending bad weather in Rhode Island, and my desire to do better at longer road races this year, I decided to make the drive up to Coxsackie NY again for the third weekend in a row. The night before was occupied by the B2C2 Bike Swap, which as usual, results in lots of beer drinking, eating of delicious baked confections, and a less than ideal amount of sleep. For those who don't know my #fatkid chronicles, I have very little self-control.

We (girlfriend and myself) got up early enough to be cranky, and made it to Coxsackie with a fair amount of time to get situated. I mounted my new tubulars the day prior, so I was quick to get things adjusted, put new brake pads on and give them a little test ride before the race went off. Mostly, I did this because this race is often VERY windy, and 808's might not have been the ideal choice. However, the wind seemed pretty light this time around, and given the weather (partly-cloudy and high 40's), it was going to be a nice day for spring bicycle racing. I got to put on my awesome new Craft Aero Suit for the race, so I could at least have some pockets AND go fast at the same time.

Leading up to the race you always want to measure the competition, who's showing up, who's going well, etc. This was especially important this time around, as I was flying solo and a number of teams (CCB, JAM Fund, Stan's NoTubes, Medique/Silber, Grinta) brought plenty of guys to play with. I suppose I had an ally in Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home) who was also flying solo, and everyone watches the Pro in the field like a hawk. Curtis White (CCB) was the local favorite, had made the break in the last two weeks, and brought some always-strong CCB teammates to help control the race. Notably absent were Paul Lynch (BMC) and Tim Ahearn (CCAP), who were the animators of the last two weekends and made the breaks stick. For those who don't know the course, it's pretty fun and not terribly hard, 12-mile laps with some punchy climbs, preceded or followed by false-flats about halfway through, and then one last punchy-climb about 2k from the finish. In the past two weeks, the break went on the punch/false-flat/punch at the far end of the course, so I wanted to be attentive to watch/latch on to anything dangerous that went up the road there.

We rolled out with about 70 guys to a moderately paced start, a small number of guys went up the road in the first few miles but never really got out of site, I used my offseason #fatkid weight to move up on the downhills, and put myself hovering near the front to watch it on the climb. We pushed it a little on the first lap, not enough to let anything get off the front, but enough to shed some guys off the back. No big deal, we've got five laps to sort this thing out. The rest of the lap and beginning of the next were a series of little moves that never got much daylight in front of the field. Lap two on the climb is where things started to shake up a little. Curtis and another went on the climb and got a decent gap, but there were still only two of them. On the backstretch, they maybe got 10-15 seconds, and I found myself at the front with a couple others who missed (Anthony Clark, Tyler Wren, etc) and attempted to make a bridging effort. The field wasn't keen to let us go, so the other guys sat up when I pulled through, and all of a sudden I had a gap. I put in a little dig, and made it maybe 2/3 of the way across to the leaders, took a look back and saw the pack single-file lined out chasing. I then made the conscious decision to sit up rather than burn another match to make it across, as by the time the field came back up, the duo out front had lost most of their advantage and we were soon altogether again.

The next two laps were a lot of the same, position well on the climb, drill it a bit when the moves go, sit up when the field slowly catches on. I kept thinking the move was going to go for real on the fourth lap, where Tyler attacked twice on the halfway climb (albeit to bridge up to Curtis or two guys who went from the bottom of the climb to get a gap), but he was so marked that no one ever let him get a bike length. So again, we were all together with the field coming back together on the back stretch after being strung out for a bit. At this point, going into the fifth and final lap, I started to think differently about the outcome, and that my aggression or attacking likely won't result in much with everyone else having teammates. If the break didn't go before the last lap, I figured it would likely never go and we would end in some form of a bunch sprint.

And then, of course, a group of 5 or 6 with some big teams in it rolled away at the beginning of the final lap while I was sitting mid pack. Their gap maybe got out to 15-20 seconds, and as I was moving up on the downhills, I kept thinking "I need to go, I should bridge." But I stopped to take a moment to see that while there was no clear chase on the front, we were rolling along well, and leaders seemed to be in blob-formation rather than drilling it in a paceline. On the halfway climb, everybody seemed keen to keep the pace moderately high, and we played the game of 'watch the pro' with Tyler. I was trying to focus on keeping my effort steady, and to save some matches for the end. Towards the end of the climb and the turn right onto the backstretch, it looked like 5 or 6 guys tried to get off the front of the group, but we were strung out chasing and brought it back.

On the backstretch, I was trying to move up or keep position on the right, without digging too hard, which can involve some tricky maneuvering. I chose the right because in the last lap I had witnessed 5 guys get strong-armed by the moto-ref for moving up using the yellow line. At one point I got pushed onto the gravel and lost my rear wheel to a soft spot, which resulted in a spectacular 35mph fishtail, but I kept the weight on the front wheel and managed to keep it up and get back in the line without losing more than 5 or so spots. At this point with only a few miles left, I was still mid pack and just ended up using matches to move up in the wind and find my way to the front. The backstretch is a little curvy, not enough to make it interesting, but enough so that I couldn't see the situation up the road. At one point I saw two pace cars with flashing lights in front of us, so I made the assumption that the second car ahead was the follow-car for the break. The pace slowed down going into the final punch at 2k to go, and I thought it was game over.

A CCB guy and JAM Fund guy slowly jumped away from the field before the climb started. I got pushed into the gravel again as the punch started, but recovered and the adrenaline kicked in and I decided to just go. I kicked on the climb to gap the field, and then again over the top to get across to the JAM Fund guy, while leaving the CCB guy behind. (Cue video below) We got a small, but not insignificant gap to the field and rotated pretty hard as the course went false-flat down to the finish. I looked behind to see Curtis bridging up to us with a Medique/Silber guy, and the field lined out behind chasing. Going into the final turn, I knew they were coming up, but I thought it would be smarter to let them as they would be gassed just as much chasing. What I didn't know what that the field was essentially right there too when we made the turn.

Going into the turn, the Medique guy came around me on the inside, which was a free pass to his wheel. He accelerated, but not too hard, and all I could think about was the field charging right behind. I went for it just before the slight bend left, probably at about 250m to go, and saw Curtis right on my wheel. I was lucky to have picked the right gear to stay on top of in the sprint, never lost momentum, and Curtis never came around me. As I was crossing the line, all I could hear was my girlfriend screaming my name wildly, I looked over and she was jumping up and down uncontrollably. Then I looked ahead and saw there were no riders up the road. "Oh, damn, I WON!" (end video) Curtis patted me on the back, I got congrats from guys all around, and was still in a bit of disbelief as I thought that guys were still up the road. At least I would have posted up, or something!

It was later talking to Kyle Wolfe that I realized that the small separation of guys I saw at the front on the last time up the halfway climb, was actually us catching the break. In the end, it's hard to say whether or not I made the right logical move, or if I would have made the same move if I had known we were altogether, and just waited for the sprint. I was just lucky to feel fresh enough to have that one extra punch at the end to blow things up. It feels good to get a W this early in the season, and confirm that I am indeed building on the awesome year I had last year. I think this is a good sign of things to come for this year.

Thanks for reading, please watch the video of the last 1.5k as taken from the squad car in front of us.