Winning off the Front with Limited Talents

First; although I have decent fitness, I was a lot more fit earlier in the year, so that had little to do with the win.

The trick here is that before and during the race I was watching a number of conditions and riders very closely.  I also counted on my team mates to make quick and logical decisions during the race ... and they did, perfectly.  

Conditions - The course; The finish line is essentially at turn one.  On the last lap, the turn one barriers were to be removed.  Turn one to turn two, big ring ramp of maybe 5%, typically 53/17 to 53/21, cross wind from the left.  Turn two to turn three, Big ring about 3% out of turn two for about 100 meters then down hill at about 2% for a few hundred meters, steady head wind along the entire back stretch.  Turn three to turn four, downhill about 2%, no wind.  Turn three to finish (turn four) steady tail wind, one minor dog leg with 250 meters to the finish.

Analysis of the course from my point of view.  The hill was not long enough or steep enough to pop me unless I was in a situation where I would need to work consistently, like in a break.  The head wind on the back straight gave an extra advantage to anyone sitting in.  The home straight tail wind was strong enough to make for very fast runs to the finish with less effort than it would appear.  During an early lap I tested the tail wind while closing a gap to Roy Detweiler on the home straight.  Fast and easy.  None of the corners were difficult enough to effect the race.  

Analysis of other riders.  My primary concerns were "the regulars."  Andy Buck (Lehigh Wheelmen), very strong but not too quick accelerating.  Bob Kehl (Guy's) Almost as strong as Andy, willing to work any time it is called for.  Bob usually has a better sprint than Andy.  Kevin Tuttle (PBC) has shown very good fitness recently.  Kevin is an opportunist, frequently rolling off the front, who can keep a very steady pace if he is allowed to get a gap.  Roy Detweiler (LW) almost as strong as Bob, not a great sprint.  Roy always works for Andy and/or Chip Berezny.  He can be relied on to chase anything down unless Andy is in it, or block for Andy when he is off the front.  

As a team, we (TSV) could rely on Roy to do most of our work for us as long as Andy was in the field.  In fact, Roy chased down Kevin on at least two occasions.  At the same time, I knew that Andy would expect Roy to chase any one of us if required but that his chase would be somewhat delayed as he wound up to speed.  Andy could be expected to go with any of the marked riders as long as he could.  Bob would also go with any of the threats as well.  Steve Lehman would be considered the biggest threat since he was closest to Andy in the BAR, he had won his last three races, can time trial and sprint as well.  With Jay, John, Ron and Steve Laverty we had the field pretty much blanketed if we needed it.  

After the first few laps, it was pretty clear how the race was playing out: For the most part, the racing would be negative, none of the threats would be able to get off the front alone.  They were either chased down or all the threats were off the front together.  At the same time, there seemed little appetite for taking pulls on the back straight into the head wind.  Before the head wind kicked in after turn two, there were any number of riders willing to go hard up the first part of the hill.  Lap after lap we hit it hard out of turn one and up the hill then turned it off before the top of the back straight.  As the laps clicked away, the "turn off" point on the back straight seemed to come earlier and earlier.  
By the time that we had three laps to go my plans had boiled down to one of two possibilities.  1) I would try to win a field or small group sprint with an early jump before the dogleg on the home straight if the pace got ramped up over the last couple of laps.  A higher pace would tire my legs enough to make a late attack less likely to succeed.  An early sprint because of the tail wind.  With a good tail wind, he who jumps first gets it ... 2) If the pace had not been hard, I would hit it full gas out of turn two.  With some of the riders clearly tiring on the second part of the hill, there would be an excellent chance for some to hesitate when I attacked.  I knew that Roy and Andy would not be able to hold my wheel when I attacked but that Roy would have to chase for Andy.  This scenario helped me and Tri-State in two ways.  First, with only about 1K left, there would not be enough time left for Roy to get Andy close enough to me and it would make the rest of the field "honest."  With Roy chasing, the field would be strung out, keeping the sprint both safer and better suited to a strong big gear sprinter like Steve.  

Once I had attacked, I simply concentrated on doing the specific things that I needed to do to finish it off.  I knew that I could afford to go at a full 100% from turn two until I had to stop pedaling into turn three.  Since I would have about one second to rest in turn three and the short straight after three was both downhill and short I could afford to go only 80% into turn four recovering somewhat for the wind-up out of turn four.  And here is where that tail wind came in.  I knew that with a tail wind, I only had to go full gas for another fifteen pedal strokes out of turn four to get up to almost the same speed that the field would sprint at.  Once I was spinning out in a 53/12, I would not likely get caught.  If I had had to worry about a head wind home straight, I would have needed to save a bit more during the attack.  Because of the specific conditions at this race on this day, I could use tactics that I almost never use.  I could simply get away with it.

The lesson here is to do a thoughtful analysis of the race course, the conditions and your competitors both before and especially during the race.  Oh, and don't forget your intervals.

Ps.  I don't want to slight anyone in this note.  I wrote this completely from my very narrow perspective during the race.  In fact, the race had a lot more going on than my simplistic take on it.  John C. and Ron attacked a number of times forcing other teams to do more work than they wanted, Jay did some wonderful work closing gaps on the hill, Steve Lehman was ALWAYS on it, etc.