At the end of any cycling road race one rider crosses the line first as the victor but behind his or her achievements is the fact cycling at the highest level is a true team sport. This is most clearly in evidence as we observe ‘Team Columbia’ or ‘Team CSC’ driving the TdF peloton toward a stage win or a yellow jersey for a member of their team. At the local level team-work is rarely attempted and less often successful. This is particular true of Cat3 racing in which the majority of riders are looking for some individual glory! However when teamwork does work then it give great satisfaction to all involved and so it was at the IN State Cat3 RR champs this past Saturday.
A field of 65 rolled out for 65mile with four Tortugans (Renjay, Chris, Adam and Geraint) equipped with a vague plan as to how they hoped the day would pan out. Four against 61 other riders are not good odds especially when there were many teams of equal or greater size. The best way for RJ or Adam to win was for them to slip into a breakaway whilst we felt confident that Chris could win a bunch sprint if it came to that. During a surprisingly aggressive opening lap RJ did indeed get into a promising breakaway that unfortunately came to nothing thanks to some strange tactics by rival team who seemed to be well represented in the break!
After a number of abortive efforts throughout the race, it all came down to the last lap with a couple of riders off of the front of the group. The Tortuga plan was then became to try and ensure a bunch sprint so it was that Adam and Geraint went to the front and set the pace for the final 8 miles whilst RJ and Chris stuck close together in the group. The escapers were eventually captured and whilst the pace wasn’t very high the fact that we were willing to lead the group appeared to discourage any attackers. For some strange reason the remaining 60 riders in the group all thought that they could win a bunch sprint so were content not to attack. I would also guess that the fact his teammates were clearly working for him meant that Chris felt both some confidence and some pressure to perform and that helped his focus and ultimate performance.
As the group came onto the final long straightaway, Adam and RJ both hit the front to position Chris for a run at the finish. The result is almost irrelevant (Chris did end up taking the win after a protested finish) as the fact that the team was able to put their rider in a position to win was the main achievement. We were able to do this with a small number of focused riders who could have easily been taken off of task by some aggression by othr teams. Did every other rider really think they could win a sprint? Why wasn’t there attacks by riders who have no sprint? Isn’t it better to attempt to win rather than sprint for 20th position? If Tortuga had played in a similar way then I have no doubt we could have finished within the top 20 but is it better to go 6th, 11th, 12th and 20th than 1st, 18th, 21st and 50th? I think we chose to attempt to make the latter happen and in my mind it is much more satisfying!
And what a day it was the team as a whole. Three state champs was a phenomenal return on a days racing- Chris (cat3), Myron (masters) and Sydney did the team very proud indeed! Fear the Turtle ;)!!