My role was to ride at the front w/ the other guys on the team (except Nate and Conrad) and anyone else willing to work to keep the pace fast and tough. This was designed to do three things: 1.) minimize the threat of other attacks 2.) soften the field for Nate/Conrad attack(s) 3.) give us a shot at breaking the course record.
Rolling out through South Lake Tahoe I knew I was on a good day and between the highway patrol rolling road closures and motorbikes leapfrogging to hold lights, the lead car with photographers snapping shots, sunrise on Tahoe and a team paceline on the front putting the plan into action hammering around the lake and knowing I didnt need to really save chips for the finish it was certainly one of the highlights of the season. [Note: Riding around the lake with your buds and a rolling road closure is reason enough to do this race!]. The presence of a tandem and a dude on a TT bike up front lent a kind of kooky and cool Cannonball Run feel to things early on . . . then we hit Emerald Bay climbs and nothing but road racing strong dudes rolled to the front and the first selection was made.
I saw my Mom and Hirsh in Tahoe City that was cool. I stayed at and near the front all the way to Incline and when we got there was pretty cooked, but excited to see what Nate and Conrad would do and how the race would unfold on the final climbs where surely the decisive attacks would come. At the Sand Harbor climb one guy attacked and Ramsey covered it and I sat in with the group and just tried to hang on as long as I could. I ended up hanging on to the top of Sand Harbor and was a little surprised to be with the lead group, all together, as we descended and approached the final small climb before the finish.
As we hit that climb, Conrad led Nate on an awesome attack and I was not surprised to see the rest of the field have no immediate answer. I was fighting cramps and hoping all the work wed done had the rest of the field in the exact same position. Now the tables were turned and I was the one who sat in and did nothing as rider after rider tried to real Nate only to blow themselves out. This bit of recovery while everyone chased was everything for the finish. The gap to Nate wasnt huge and as we approached the finish I was ready to lead Conrad out to ensure the team win if things came together over the last 100m. Sprints are usually confusing and this was even moreso with Nate just up the road and Conrad on my wheel I was a little frozen . . . luckily Conrad yelled go! or something and I could see Nate had the W so I just hit it . . . I was a little surprised Conrad wasnt coming around but I ended up in 2nd when the dust cleared, and later learned hed dropped a chain so that made sense. Seeing and hanging w/ my family and the guys at the finish and for beers on a beautiful Tahoe afternoon was amazing . . . no substitute for the feeling of true team accomplishment.
A few weeks before the 2007 edition of the Lake Tahoe Race, I contacted the promoter with tales of a super-team descending upon the event and shattering the around-the-lake record of 3 hours. However in 2007, the plans of a super-team fell through, and the record stood.
With the advent of the Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries in 2008, I saw another opportunity to challenge the record around the lake. So I hatched a race-plan that would insure a record breaking ride, along with a 1st place finish. The plan was simple, using 5 riders as workers to push a record breaking pace, while another 2 riders sat-in to save it all for the finish. Gary Mandy, Andy Scott, Matt Chappell, Ramsey Etchison and Nick Schaffner (myself) would act as the tireless rouluers for the day, maintaining a minimum pace of 24 mph to break the record. Because we had 5 strong riders at the front of the race, I was not concerned about covering any attacks, and this prediction proved to be true. In the rear of the peleton, we had Nate Freed (with his super-charged engine) and Conrad Snover (with his mighty spring) sitting-in, doing absolutely no work. The idea was that near the end of the race, Conrad would launch Nate into a solo breakaway, then Conrad would sit-in for himself in case the breakaway failed, and then take the sprint.
As the records now show, we broke the record and Nate took 1st place. All thanks to strong legs, big lungs and solid teamwork. And actually no thanks to me, my fat-ass got dropped 15 miles into the race!
Here is my view….
We had a goal, maintain an average that will break the record, ncrease the pace at key places that will break up the bunch into a group of riders that will most likely stay together until the final attack by Nate or sprint finish with Conrad being set up to take the win. We had a total of 7 riders, two were off the pace before we hit the first climb, the rest stayed together until the end. The work was done by three riders in the team to keep the pace at the record breaking average and Nate made the move which was planned and went on to win the event in a record time.
Key moves: Gary lifting the pace and breaking up the pack leading up the climb at Emerald Bay. Andy, Ramsey and Gary holding an average through the flat sections to Incline Village, Ramsey riding on the attack wheel from the Las Vegas kid, Nate collaborating with Conrad on when to make his move and then executing it just right to take the win.
Thanks for playing….
My role was to ride at the front of the lead group and help establish a course record pace that would burn through our opponents matches by the time we reached the last climb. I did not put this to practice until the peleton reached the first climb heading up to Emerald Bay. This climb splits the peleton and allows you to see who has a realistic chance at winning. Two riders stood out at this point and we kept our eyes on both. Forty miles later as the race ramped up and into the last climb one of the identified riders, a kid from Las Vegas, attacked and I just happened to be on his wheel so I went with him. We stayed away for most of the climb and he did all of the work. I’m not sure if he would of stayed away on his own but he lit a match and I put it out. Important to note that nobody else tried to go with us in a potentially decisive moment. To me this indicated the lack of legs from anyone vying for the win other than Conrad or Nate.
I hung out in the pack with Nate for almost the entire race. My job was to do nothing all day, maybe set Nate up for a breakaway, then be ready to contest the sprint should Nate get caught. Climbing up Spooner, I could tell that we were the strongest, but I didn’t have the guts to go for it early. Nate was strong, so I told him to try a break. We didn’t get organized until it was too late and his late break near the top was caught by 3 dudes. I sat in the pack and was pulled up to him, but the effort dropped several riders, including Ramsey after his effort to cover the previous break.
Nate and I regrouped and dropped to the back. I told Nate to get on my wheel and at the next rise I would attack full speed from the back of the pack, catapulting hi
m to a
solo breakaway with a big gap. That worked well and we had a huge gap in no time. Nate told me to keep going, but I didn’t hear him and peeled off so he could go it alone. He was able to throw down and solo in for the win.
Andy was fired up to lead my out to sprint for second, but after my chain came off the big ring – 3 times – when he looked back at me, I told him to just go, and he took the sprint by storm, taking 2nd. I had a fun day watching from the back and strategizing with Nate on when/how we should attack. I must say- since I rode conservatively all day, I got to the finish wishing I could have done more to contribute to the win, but to see everyone work so well together, with each team member doing their part so well, then watch the plan fall into place was absolutely epic.
Kristin Krone owner of Wild Cherries called my cell a few hours after the race to congratulate us all good news travels fast!
I think that I had the easiest job of everyone for the race…. sit in and conserve energy until the final 5-10 miles or so, then launch an attack and just try to hang on for the win. With Conrad as the backup for a sprint finish, I felt extremely confident going into the race that we would control the pace and emerge with the win. The start of the race was very sketchy. Les, the race director showed up to the line with a gun, which I assumed was to start the race. Then instead, he yelled “Go” and we all pushed off. 5 seconds later a deafening gunshot rang out, and I heard a crash behind me. Word traveled up that it was Allie, and she was taken out by a tandem that was startled by the late gunshot. I was really considering turning around at this point to check and make sure that she was OK. I decided not to, and was feeling guilty about it for the duration of the race. I found out after the finish that she was a little banged up from the crash, but not hurt too bad.
Each individual rider executed his job perfectly. Our pace stayed right at or around 24mph, and when the time came to attack, I still felt as fresh as I had at the start. My first attack was covered fairly quickly, but I did not completely burn myself out. With about 2 miles to go, Conrad gave me a slingshot-style leadout, and I was able to open up a huge gap on the field behind me. From then on I just tried to stay as aero as possible, and not look back. I could feel myself slowing down drastically as I neared the finish line, but was able to hang on for the win just barely. I know that without the help from everyone, I probably wouldnt have been able to pull out the win, and absolutely wouldnt have broken the record. Thanks guys! Now lets get ready to defend the record (or just set a new one) next year!