Women’s Racing … stories and dropkicks
I’ll say it straight off the bat – I am not a fan of having multiple fields on criterium courses. It’s unsafe, it impedes the quality of racing, and it causes scoring nightmares for the officials. However, one could argue that racing multiple fields on a crit course is the only way to fit in all the categories of our diverse population at a race like Madera.
If that’s the case, then it is absolutely incumbent that the promoter have enough moto officials for the event, AND those moto officials be properly educated on how to avoid fields combining in the final few laps of a race.
The opening stage for women at Madera is a criterium where category 4s and 35+ race at the same time, and then the p1/2s and 3s do the same a bit later. In the 4s/35+ race … it was only with the slimmest margins of luck that the cat 4 field didn’t sprint into the back of the 35+ field on the final lap. It was way, way too close. Luckily, the 35s revved up the engine just enough to keep a safe separation. In the p1/2 and 3 fields’ race … that luck ran out, the fields combined with 3 to go ~ the moto tried an unsafe separation in the final laps, and a crash ensued.
There was an easy solution to both instances … in both races, it was evident for the final 7 laps that the fields were getting too close to each other and there was a high potential for overtaking. To stop this from happening the moto should have neutralized the packs that were behind for just a few moments, creating a gap between the fields that would ensure safety through to the finish, and yet also allow for each field to resume its quality of competition. At Madera, the moto ref simply did not have the experience or understanding of racing to know to do this.
The moto was responsible for the crash that occurred once the p1/2 and cat 3 fields combined: firstly, because the fields merging could and SHOULD have been avoided; and secondly, because if fields merge in the final few minutes of a race – the safe thing to do is let them all finish together and let the cameras sort out the placings. The moto, in this instance, inserted himself into the race to demand field separation and caused stress, distracted the riders, and ultimately increased significantly the chances of a crash occurring.
With the discontinuation of radios for teams, it becomes even more important for (we) officials to become better trained. Officials need to know how caravan feeding will work for a race and communicate that to the riders/teams; they need to know how to best handle field neutralizations mid-race and especially near finishes; and officials need to know how to properly communicate road hazards and time gaps to riders.
It’s what we are paid to do – so either do it right, or don’t be out there.
The actual racing
Lauren Hecht won all the time bonuses for the p1/2 field – showing very strong powersprint conditioning. She would take the win in the crit ahead of Mary Ellen Ash (Los Gatos) and Emily Kachorek (Wells Fargo) in a chaotic field sprint.
For the cat 3s, Beth Newell won the first time bonus with a well timed drive to the line, showing building form for her assault on the velodrome season later this year. Jane Wolcott would be the winner of the crit, part of a quintet of category 3 riders who jumped into and through the p1/2 field with 3 laps to go. (sigh)
With the time trials later in the day for the women, the racing was less aggressive than would be hoped for by spectators (at least this one), and no riders stood out in either tactics or determination.
The time trail was won by Metromint’s Molly Van Houweling, 14 seconds ahead of Jane Despas (Yahooligirl). But, as in the Valley of the Sun Stage Race earlier in the year … MVH would be moved down the leader’s board because of time bonuses won in field sprints.
Jane Despas rides solo, and yet she was able to control a field of 34 riders and 4 strong teams from any breakaways ~ ensuring she had opportunity to take the 20 second time bonus on hand for the winning the road race. And Metromint Cycling, one of my favorite teams, was unable to force a combine of other teams to send anything off the front to steal away that time bonus … a tactical blunder of epic proportions.
With 4 riders in the top-12, Metromint had opportunity to create selections in the road race that would benefit their team by a) forcing Despas to chase and burning her matches for the sprint; and/or b) getting one of their riders in a position to take the overall.
But instead, it was a full-field coming to the line in a 72-mile road race … with Despas easily dispatching the others in her forte, a grinder uphill sprint. Kudos to the tenacity and strength of Despas, but huge disappointment in the Metromint riders for not having the ability to protect their GC.
How to force a break
I’m someone who couldn’t sprint or time trial their way out of a paper bag … yet, I’ve been able to win a good number of crits, road races, and GCs in my day. How? Through the art of the breakaway.
There is much that influences when, where, and how to attack in a bike race. And there are a myriad of goals for attacking, as well … especially in a stage race run on time. There are tactical breaks that go away (usually early) because teams find them beneficial, and there are physical breaks brought about by continued aggression. For now, I’m just going to try and outline what i feel are the necessary components of creating a successful physical break.
Forcing a breakaway takes team cooperation, the ability to read a race, and the relentless but JUDICIOUS use of the attack. Too many riders employ the kamikaze attack methodology … saving up their strength for one, massive explosion upon the race. This is very often done at a moment in the race when the rider feels the strongest … and not when the race situation demands it. The kamikaze rider is not reading the race, but instead looking for an opportunity to unleash their effort … to die.
Breakaways are rarely formed in one big explosion during a race … but instead, through a serious of orchestrated mini-bombs dropped on the field, over and over again, until finally the field relents, folds in, and must recoover from the bombardment by dropping pace as the break rides away.
Once attacking begins in a race, it is most often a relentless series of continuing attacks that will form a breakaway. To achieve this, teammates must coordinate their attacks: if one rider launches a move, it is incumbent upon the others to prepare to counter attack when/if that rider’s effort is caught. If your team has 4 riders able to attack … that gives ample opportunity for each rider to force some rest into their legs and lungs while one of their teammates has initiated a move.
By trading attacks, you spread the workload over multiple riders … keeping energy expenditures down. Get rid of the kamikaze mentality … instead, be a chess playing bombadeer. Think moves ahead ~ consider who is chasing the breaks, what teams are also attacking, which riders seem committed to getting away and which are content to sit in. When you attack, realize that you are likely going to have to make another acceleration off the front OR follow a competitors attack again soon. Remember, you don’t have to attack at 100%! And moreover, you can save energy by ATTACKING WITH OTHERS!
Solo attacks are rarely beneficial to your team, as the speed of an individual is not going to outpace or strain a pack of riders. If you find yourself off the front of a race solo – you must ask yourself if this is beneficial for your team, or just pride f*ing with you. Remember, it is through judicious use of energy and attack that builds successful breakaways. Don’t be a kamikaze unless the situation demands it … and it rarely does.
In other words, read the race and meter your efforts. Breakaways occur because riders have the courage and resilience to keep attacking, again and again, until finally a move is forced away. It is only through trial and error that you will learn how to accomplish this.- you must attack.
more later …
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