Cold and dreary rain greeted the first MABRA spring classic, the Jefferson Cup Road Race in Charlottesville VA. Nate and Brian set up shop at the front of the staging area, thankful that the stormy weather that had the string of frozen cat 4 and masters riders reporting back with near-hypothermic reports seemed to break for the Cat 5 race in the middle of the day. Nate and Brian planned to work hard to sit in towards the front of the race, and hunt down moves and breakaways in and around the rolling parcours and featured climb. After a quick warmup and some wonderful soigneur work from Kaitlyn and some warming embrocation, they set off.
Following the neutral rollout, the race began calmly, with the group nervous before the first ascent of Blenheim road. The pace picked up immediately as the group rounded the right hand turn, and separated into two groups. Brian and Nate calmly pedaled up the first half, but when a clear split formed, worked quickly over the false flat at the top to close the gap and join the first group. The split was decisive and continued through the rest of the first lap. Brian fell victim to the surges of the group and fell back, but finished strong after finding a group of riders to roll with.
Nate, still with the front group of about 20, started to sit in more to rest and recover in the lead up to the final lap. After turning onto the finishing straight and approaching the bell lap, a single rider calmly pedaled away to create a gap of about 15 seconds. With little action going on to chase, the pack crossed the finish line and Nate started to set the pace. Working with a couple of familiar faces from the SEAVS/Haymarket team, Nate found himself at the front of a group strung out over the two early rollers before the Blenheim Rd. climb, and in good position to separate. A couple of words of encouragement, and Nate collected 3 other riders and set off up the climb at full gas.
After joining up with the breakaway rider, the group of 5 worked together to keep their advantage. A small chase group had formed, forcing the breakaway to keep the pedal to the metal, though they would not manage to catch them. On a short roller on the backside of the race, Shane from SEAVS/Haymarket managed to slip away into the wind and put a small gap on the other four.
Not wanting to burn their last match pulling the group back to his wheel, Nate and the rest of the chasers all tried to get back to the leader without doing the work themselves. This predictably failed, and the gap remained at 10 seconds into the finishing stretch and finally became insurmountable. After shifting around and working to time the sprint correctly, Nate caught a short stint behind the wheel of a breakaway rider and launched his sprint, collecting second place by a half-bike length.
Lydia lined up for her first road race as a member of the Veloworks Women’s team, and braved some cold winds and tough roads for her first finish in the Black and Red, with a special thanks to the mechanics at Spokes Etc. in Fairfax for getting her shifting set up just right!
The wet and windy weather returned following the Cat 5s, and eight riders from Veloworks readied themselves to brave the elements and tough racing for the 3/4 race. Tom N., Tom A., Sean, Chris, Billy, Mike, Eric and even Thom B. lined up on the front, and hit the course for a somewhat shortened 5 lap race. The plan was to protect Mike and Billy from the front for the first half, and attempt to get one of them into a break in the second half of the race.
From the gun, the weather and the fast pace of the race proved to be difficult. Several riders from the team dropped out after the first couple laps, reporting icy feet, freezing fingers, and dead legs. However, the conditions did not stop Mike and Billy from making some moves in the second half of the race
With just over one lap to go, Mike made a group of seven attacking of the front, and came through the bell at the finish line with a 10 second advantage. Billy was well placed at the front of the chase, and when he heard the time gap from the VWS spectators, he sprang into action.
On the two rollers leading into the climb, Billy did the yeoman’s work necessary to ensure Mike’s breakaway would succeed. Following the wheels of each rider attempting to set the pace, he sprinted and came around four or five different moves, and disrupted the timing of each to give the breakaway the opportunity to gain time on the climbs. After one such move, he even elicited some grumbling, prompting another in-the-know rider to point out that “he has a teammate in the break.”
At the front, Mike’s breakaway became three, and a very strong UVA collegiate rider pulled away in the last two km to earn a very well-deserved solo victory. After getting caught up in a two-up sprint for 2nd, Mike tried to shake the other member of the break off his wheel, but settled for third in a terrific performance.
Billy’s hard work let the break succeed but drained him of any fuel for the pack finish, and he stayed upright to complete the race in the group. All of the VWS riders finished upright for the day, and once a couple of them warmed up, were no worse for the wear.
Special thanks to race producers Monticello Velo Club and Blue Wheel Bicycles for putting on an excellent race, and to our excellent sponsors like Spokes Etc. and Specialized Bicycles for keeping us well equipped to race in all kinds of conditions.