So what do you do when a frustrated, disorganized pack decides to soft pedal all but the last 1km of the final lap? If you’re Matt Harbaugh you work your way to the front with 3 miles to go and try to push the pace, only to realize no one was interested, you’re off the front and you have only one guy on your wheel. Then you keep up the pressure and increase the distance on a pack crawling along at 17 mph on a slightly up hill section we took all the previous laps at 22 mph. I expected the final lap in this section to be ridiculously hard because the final k was a slight downhill with the wind at your back so I thought it would be a brutal battle for position to be first into the right hand turn just before the final k marker; to give you some persepective the first lap through the finish area the pack was cruising at an easy 35 mph; it was a hella fast run up to the finish! But, for the final lap it was not and the pack was content at staying bunched up and taking the turn at slow speed, making it very difficult to get any position and I was stuck to far back in the pack to be effective. I honestly thought we were going to stop and have a standing start for the sprint to the finish. Matt saw none of this as his well timed effort gave him a well deserved 4th! Another rider broke off with about 2 miles to go and chased down Matt and the other rider in the final k stealing a podium finish, but 4th is damn good and he was the first cat 4 to finish.
The events of the rest of the race may help explain the behavior at the end. The first lap was very fast with groups of 2 to 10 shooting off and being brought back in the whole way around and just before the finish stretch of the first lap two guys broke off and stayed off, we never saw them again, despite strong efforts from the front of the pack through lap 4. The two guys off the front probably belonged in a different race, just sayin’… The main teams working the front were Darkhorse, Ghisalo and QCW with our old pal Tracey Seagar leading lots of efforts to form breakaways. There were several formidable groups that gained a good distance only to fall apart and be sucked back into the pack. I even tried my efforts at the front a few times during these chases and to see if I could split off and attempt to join one of the break away groups only to realize that was a recipe for complete disaster so, a bit humbled, I settled into mid pack and spent the rest of the race there. What changed the dynamic was during the 3rd lap a break away group of about 5 seemed like it was really going to be able to succeed (it had a QCW and Darkhorse rider) only to fall apart when Tracey slid out in a corner and the break away lost a strong member and cooperation from the main pack. It was a rough week for Tracey as he was hit by a car on Wednesday during his commute, but he still finished the race, because he is a badass! After that it was clear QCW wasn’t going to do any more work at the front and eventually Darkhorse got tired of doing the work and no one else seemed interested in doing anything so the race ended as I described it above.
Congrats to Matt for his highest road finish yet!
Having stacked up a ton of mileage this week. I didn’t expect to do
very well at the race, so I only took 2 small pulls towards the end of
race when the pace was sagging. The turns were terrible with the pack
so I knew that getting a head and taking them at full speed would be a
much better option. I also knew that if it came down to a sprint, I
would most certainly loose. So I go to pull again and after 30 seconds
I look back and there is just one guy and we put 100 yards on the
pack. So I was like well shits Its now or never. So I just crushed it
as hard as I could and the other guy,I think his name was shawn, held
on. We traded some pulls and then at the last turn he cramped and I
left him. By this time 1 other guy had caught us. I held on to his
wheel for a bit, but then he powered away from me with 200km to go.