Mansfield Madness Race Report

After twelve years of bike racing, it's increasingly rare that I run into an experience that's novel enough I feel compelled to write about it (what's up, blog that hasn't been touched in six months!).  But, much to my surprise, fresh amateur bike racing experiences still DO exist in my life!  And I had one this weekend.

I headed down to the UConn Mansfield Madness criterium with no less than five teammates in the Men's 3/4 race, which was already a pretty fresh experience, since usually the B2C2 road squad can be counted on one hand with enough extra fingers to hold a wine glass (except that one time!).  As is traditional, we had already gotten our money's worth via several hours of circular prerace discussion about RACE TACTICS by the time the whistle blew, even though THE TACTICS basically boiled down to "get in a break with Matt Shaffer."

Shaffer is one of those guys who is briefly passing through the cat 3 field on his way to cat 1.  He's not the first, and he won't be the last, but the beauty of road racing is that sometimes you can beat those people if you play your cards right and catch some luck at the right time.  And being represented in a Shaffer-powered break was a much better card to play than "chasing a Shaffer-powered break."

We warmed up while watching the women's 3/4 race.  Christin was off the front alone, for a while, and I was like "haha that must be lonely and painful, glad it's not me" but then her gap kept getting bigger... and bigger... and then she lapped the field solo for the win, ensuring that literally nothing I did* in the upcoming race could make me the best bike racer in the car on the drive home.

Nevertheless, I ended up off the front with Ken Greim, Shaffer's teammate, but quite glaringly NOT SHAFFER, about five minutes into the race.  I pulled through at utterly unsustainable power numbers for a few laps (because March!  And #dabreak!) while we held single-digit seconds over the field, until Ken was like "hey this is silly and not going to work, " so we stopped.

Then I chilled in the pack for a bit while noting that I felt much less hyped than I did ten minutes ago.

Shaffer made his first attack but teammate Mike Wissell was all over that because of our sophisticated and nuanced prerace tactics discussion.

We rode a few more laps.

Another break of 2 guys went up the road, and held another nonthreatening gap for a while.

I saw Shaffer moving up as we went into the chicane, with the body language of a dude who had places to be.  "Ha, looks like Mike gets to go flying after another Shaffer attack in a second," I thought.

... and then I heard Mike say "Colin, you've got Shaffer" as he got boxed in behind me.

... and that's how I made the winning break.

I did my best to shut it down by completely ignoring two arm flicks, but it didn't matter, because when he looked back to see who wasn't pulling through, he also looked back to see three guys on his wheel, and a healthy gap to the field.  Three of the 4 big teams were represented (sorry ERRACE), and we motored up to the two guys off the front pretty quickly.

They were still in two-man break mode and taking longer pulls, so I yelled at them to take shorter pulls (I'm an expert in #dabreak by now, I have easily ten minutes lifetime experience!) and demonstrated by taking a shorter, faster pull myself.

Then I looked at my Garmin, calculated how much longer I would be in the break if it stuck (25 minutes), and decided to never pull that hard again.

I knew that I had five (!!!) teammates in the field covering every move and demoralizing the chase.  I also knew that if I got dropped from the break they would never let me forget it.

There were no technical sections where I could recover, there were no dismounts for the barriers, there were no gnarly descents.  It was just wind and pedaling hard behind people, and then being expected to pedal even harder in front of people.  The break is terrible.  I remembered why I am never in the break.

I started skipping pulls.  Not because I'm crafty.  Because I had to.   At least I have enough experience in getting dropped from the break now to recognize it coming and make evasive maneuvers.

With ten minutes to go, it became clear that I was GOING TO STAY IN THE WINNING BREAK for the first time in 12 years of racing bikes.

My brain was like "you could win the race from the break!" and then stomach was like "you should have eaten more" and my legs were like "no amount of glycogen could make us win this race but ok."

I still thought maybe I could win the race though.

With two laps to go the pace eased and things got mildly cagey.

Ken Greim was in the break (hi again, Ken) and is Shaffer's teammate, so he when he wound it up with just over half a lap to go we had to react to it, even though it was obviously TOO SOON and NOT SHAFFER.

I was glued to Matt's wheel as the train overtook Ken at thirty miles per hour and climbing, and my brain recognized that this position was exactly where I should be if I was going to win the race.

Unfortunately my legs had been doing threshold for 25 minutes, so I promptly let the gap open, tried to get on Ciaran Magnan's wheel when he filled it, got gapped AGAIN, and then Andrew Goodale came around me in the sprint, and I got 4th.

Whatever man, I finally made the break!

(Thanks Mike for telling me to go)

(Thanks Matt for being strong enough to keep us away singlehandedly)

(Thanks Ken for bailing on our first break so I had some matches left for the real break)

Andrew Goodale was nice enough to post his GoPro footage, so you read all these words for NO REASON when you could have just watched this video of the last lap instead, suckas!

There was a crash at the end and my entire team was either in the crash or stopped to check on teammates in the crash, so our final official team results were 4th place with five DNFs.  But everyone's okay and we're super stoked for next weekend!  Someone else can make the break, though.  Please.

* I mean I guess I could have lapped the mens field solo.  hahahahahahaha


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