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  1. #1
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    Tips on racing course with big rollers in an unusually large/aggressive pack?

    The situation seems to defy the usual approaches for a number of reasons... It is a very, very large pack, well over 100, and while I'm on par with many of them generally, I'm really, really bad at climbing, skewed waaaaay toward sprinter end of spectrum mostly because of weight and body type.
    The weight loss part is done, it's going no lower for this event. So the question is, what's the best strategy for the hills?
    The course has no long climbs, but about 18 large rollers mostly averaging in the 4 percent range for 100 feet to 150 feet of vertical each. Each hill is fed by a pretty much matching downhill.
    I know job one is to stay near the front, and I'll do what I can, but I'm solo, and there will be a number of large and highly aggressive teams that will be constantly pushing me backwards...
    The big thing is, these are the size hill that, if I'm literally on the front, my momentum zooming in from a descent would normally help with a lot.
    But it's unlikely I will be able to reach the front for all, maybe not any, of the climbs, since this pack will really, really, jam the road.
    And so if you're in the middle of the pack or the back, you will be forced to brake down to 12-14 mph at the bottom of each climb at a point where, alone, you'd be doing 32-34 mph... and in effect forcing you to climb I dunno, 30-50 percent more than those on the front for the entire race... plus have to accelerate before reaching the top each time.
    Beyond the fighting for the front, any thoughts on technique that would help even a little?

  2. #2
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    No. Just get in the front. Whether or not you have teammates has nothing to do with it. Get up there and stay up there. On the front or off.

    Or, if the finish is far enough away to where it doesn't matter, just chill wherever.

  3. #3
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    As I said, I will try to stay up front as much as possible... thanks for reinforcing that.
    Also interested in thoughts about what will help if Im pushed back. Again, the pack is huge and will clog the road, so the ability to move up and back at will won't be there. And what chances there are to do that will be rare indeed until late in the game. I want to make sure Im still there at that point.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by thumper8888 View Post
    As I said, I will try to stay up front as much as possible... thanks for reinforcing that.
    Also interested in thoughts about what will help if Im pushed back. Again, the pack is huge and will clog the road, so the ability to move up and back at will won't be there. And what chances there are to do that will be rare indeed until late in the game. I want to make sure Im still there at that point.
    Thinking break...but we all know the +/- of that. Or once up front surf the more aggressive wheels. Every big road race seems to have 15-20 guys (just a wag) who want to instigate. Some are stupid but, some obviously have a chance. Sometimes just going front move to move can save energy. Not knowing the field, you or the course it's really hard to give useful advise though.

    Are you talking about nationals?

  5. #5
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    Yes, good guess. Broadly my fitness puts me mid-pack, but in this group of course there is an even larger than usual gap between mid-pack guys and major contenders. I would do well if still in the game at the end.... but my climbing "ability" and build puts me near the bottom of this talent pool on the hills, especially if Im not in a position to punch up and over them quickly.
    It's not a course for the talented climbers, and it looks a lot like the finish will be a bunch sprint with the 20-30 survivors, unless some of the guys with serious TT ability get away in a small group.
    WAG.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by thumper8888 View Post
    Yes, good guess. Broadly my fitness puts me mid-pack, but in this group of course there is an even larger than usual gap between mid-pack guys and major contenders. I would do well if still in the game at the end.... but my climbing "ability" and build puts me near the bottom of this talent pool on the hills, especially if Im not in a position to punch up and over them quickly.
    It's not a course for the talented climbers, and it looks a lot like the finish will be a bunch sprint with the 20-30 survivors, unless some of the guys with serious TT ability get away in a small group.
    WAG.
    Yeah it's going to be fully on looking at who's registered (40-44 and 45-49). I'm assuming masters..so, Ouch! Fast and hard no matter what. Not knowing the roads I bet there are a couple sections that would prove to be decisive where splits will happen. I don't know but, just guessing with the profile and the curves in the road. For example, where Steyes Ferry turns onto Concord then into Williams. Fast into and sprints out of the turns combined with a punchy climb is a nice place to hurt or put on the hurt. Looks like the feed zone will be ok but, if I had a quarter every time some yahoo attacked there I'd have like $3.25:-)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodys737 View Post
    Yeah it's going to be fully on looking at who's registered (40-44 and 45-49). I'm assuming masters..so, Ouch! Fast and hard no matter what. Not knowing the roads I bet there are a couple sections that would prove to be decisive where splits will happen. I don't know but, just guessing with the profile and the curves in the road. For example, where Steyes Ferry turns onto Concord then into Williams. Fast into and sprints out of the turns combined with a punchy climb is a nice place to hurt or put on the hurt. Looks like the feed zone will be ok but, if I had a quarter every time some yahoo attacked there I'd have like $3.25:-)
    Exactly. The hill there is short but it's a sheer wall, then right after that the turn onto williams is hyper, sharp, like 270 degrees, and three or four guys off the front could get a 25 meter jump just off that turn. It's going to totally jam up the main group trying to pinwheel through that.
    It doesn't leap out at you on paper, but in person it does, up to that corner. After that, though, there's downhill etc.
    On paper, another optty is the final steep climb of each lap with that endless false flat back up to start/finish.
    There isn't that much climbing, in total feet, but the course looks just, i dunno, busy and unpleasant. Somehow it's all up or down... the longest flat piece is just 2/10s of a mile and the as short as it is, the downhill stuff often looks pretty white-knuckle for packs that size, in part because the roads are tight.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by thumper8888 View Post
    Exactly. The hill there is short but it's a sheer wall, then right after that the turn onto williams is hyper, sharp, like 270 degrees, and three or four guys off the front could get a 25 meter jump just off that turn. It's going to totally jam up the main group trying to pinwheel through that.
    It doesn't leap out at you on paper, but in person it does, up to that corner. After that, though, there's downhill etc.
    On paper, another optty is the final steep climb of each lap with that endless false flat back up to start/finish.
    There isn't that much climbing, in total feet, but the course looks just, i dunno, busy and unpleasant. Somehow it's all up or down... the longest flat piece is just 2/10s of a mile and the as short as it is, the downhill stuff often looks pretty white-knuckle for packs that size, in part because the roads are tight.
    Not that this would be smart or recommended, but the way I think and race, I'd want to instigate or at least try and get a gap prior to that section knowing I'd get caught. Rinse and repeat on the next lap. While you'd have to go very hard, perhaps you would eliminate those super huge power spikes just staying on a wheel. But that's me. I do well or the best on courses with punchy short climbs.

  9. #9
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    I'm not a great climber either, so If at all possible I try to get to the front to start the climb. Hopefully, as faster guys come by, you can hold on to the group and get over the hill. I did this last year at the TX state road race and when the race split on the last big climb, I was able to get on to the back of the group and finish with the main group.

  10. #10
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    Yes, that's the textbook technique... and if it were clear that I could move up for all -- or even most -- of the short climbs this is exactly what I'd do, and have done in races with smaller packs. I just think it's unlikely this time that I can do it at will.
    If I do manage to start the first climb at or near the front and then slip back and grab the tail of the long pack, it would work great exactly once then I'd be stuck back there until 100-and-some riders eventually lined out and left space to move up one side, which may not happen for 6-8-10 climbs

  11. #11
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    Edit: just realized the date of the original post. Late as usual...

    Can you provide a bit more detail as to why you will have such difficulty staying up front? I realize staying up front requires effort and awareness. I've been swarmed before, but I also found that the alert racer can counter this if they pay attention.

    I get the feeling that you don't stay up front because you aren't confident in your ability. Therefore, you let others determine your position.

    More information might help with advice.

  12. #12
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    Well, the deal is done now.
    It's pretty simple. It was the road nationals, and magical thinking aside not everyone entered, including me, had legit podium shot. Many of the guys up front were really, really good...
    As to getting swarmed, there were about 100 people in the pack and even on two lanes that totally clogs the road much of the race.
    I'm almost entirely a sprinter and there clearly were many, many people in the group, nearly all of them in fact, who could outclimb me. So it wasn't realistic to think that I could sit on the front for all eighteen or so climbs.
    It was equally unrealistic to assume to, even with skilled, and aggressive riding, that if I started on front, eased to the back on each climb in the traditional way that those outmatched for climbing do, that I or anyone else in that group could fight their way back onto the front 17 times, pushing through the road-choking clog.
    So that could have been in the bag of tricks for use once or twice, but not as a sustainable strategy for the entire race.
    In the event, the plan I developed was fine... much as I suspected the folks in the middle and back of the pack got hit hard on the climbs and so the average climbing speed was something I could handle without any trouble at all as the pack stretched out a bit on most climbs.
    In the end what failed me was having a good end game. I need to have planned on.. I finished around the back of the top third but was able to passed quite a few in the sprint despite traffic and closing on more at a high rate at the line... and I had the jets to have done a lot better if I'd been smarter.
    But I wasn't.

  13. #13
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    Good for you; sounds like it was a great learning experience. It's not that often you get to ride in such a large pack. Was it as difficult as you thought to move up or back in such a crowd?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by dingrr View Post
    Good for you; sounds like it was a great learning experience. It's not that often you get to ride in such a large pack. Was it as difficult as you thought to move up or back in such a crowd?
    There were a handful of times when you could do it without taking really, really bad risks... Those opt's so spread out that they really were limiting for strategy... like, it you left it to the last 3-4 miles it was not going to happen.
    But it could be done at times, just meant the usual -- pushing a lot of wind up one side of the pack when it was lined out. And generally that meant you'd have to be doing high-20s mph for extended period and hope you got close to front before the leaders slowed again.
    And then fighting to stay up. At one point I did slip up half a pack worth but in no time was in the back again where I needed to be for the hills anyway.
    Dicey race, really dicey, surprised there were just two crashes... the guys who went down in one hit hard and sounded to be badly hurt.
    In some ways no selection it had issues similar to the crit where I think dozens went down. Though apparently some of that was a badly designed last minute re-do of the crit course.
    Sounded like they had to practically hose the blood off the street.

  15. #15
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    Will you race it again in 2017? Depending on work I'd like to try and make it out there. I'm assuming the courses will be the same. Heard not good things about the crit course though which is a bummer...hopefully they will clean it up for next year.

  16. #16
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    I dunno if I'd do it again. In truth, because I didn't see myself doing well at it, it was kind of a B race for me, and yet a B that required an A-plus commitment and logistics and had an A-plus risk level.
    It's possible, though.... and this will sound odd, but I think I would be more interested if they move it to a locale where I'd get dropped into a chase group, just for reasons of safety. You do more than one or two 100-man bunch sprints with cat 4s and 5s mixed in and you are going to get badly hurt. Law of nature.
    The little town where they held it was truly charming, the people were great. But I know the west coast types are lobbying for something more selective, and last time I looked US cycling had posted simply "north carolina" for the location.
    We have a large and geographically varied state, so they could lay out 100 miles with 20 feet of climbing or 10 mile loops with 6,000 feet per. It would be pretty easy for them to lay out a great course just an hour or even less farther west, with, say, a 400 or 500-foot bump with 10 percent grades or worse in spots.
    But even 200 or 300 feet of the right hill could get them what they want.
    Or... they could go full mountain. We have endless amounts of them, as Lance A. can attest.

  17. #17
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    well, that changed quickly...

    Quote Originally Posted by woodys737 View Post
    Will you race it again in 2017? Depending on work I'd like to try and make it out there. I'm assuming the courses will be the same. Heard not good things about the crit course though which is a bummer...hopefully they will clean it up for next year.

    They just announced that they'll run the masters nats in Georgia. Must have been a lot of complaints about the NC course.
    It's a bit unclear what the course is down there, but from clues on the internet it looks like a loop with not a ton of feet of climbing but much of it in one place and vertical enough that there will be some selection.

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