Cat 4 Report from Sean:
The weather was beautiful and warm for this morning’s Chantilly Circuit Race. Today was a day I wanted to do well. I had been talking smack with some friends promising I would win the Cat 4 race. Yeah, it was being cocky and surely bad luck but my form has been feeling pretty good the past week despite not so spectacular showings in my past 3 races.
Tom N was my lone wingman today in the 4s. This was not a target race on the team calendar so not many registered. Tomorrow is our big target at Carl Dolan. Tom and I did a few warmup laps together and he was able to share some vital course wisdom since he has done this circuit race before. During our easy laps we watched the Cat 5 race happening with fellow teammate Brian. Early in that race there was a nasty crash at a particularly rough patch of road. Tom gave me the low down on that section pointing out what likely happened and what to watch out for. His intel really helped to calm the nerves.
Once it was time to line up I got a primo spot front and center. I kept looking down at my heart rate numbers seeing them touching 100bpm just standing there. I was super nervous. My coach Thom Bailey with VeloWorks Cycling Development has me in a building period right now getting ready for Page County in a couple weeks. This weeks intervals have pretty much run my legs through the meat grinder. Plus I was fighting a cold all week. So my form at the start was a big question mark. Legs felt tired but I was still excited to race.
The field size today had 77 men registered. My biggest field to date. The gun shot and we were off. I followed my plan of staying at the front the whole race. There were occasional surges but they did not ever follow through and the pace in general was pretty easy to follow. Only once did I dig myself into a small hole and had to recover out when I covered a move of about 10 people I thought might hold together and gap the field. I did not want to miss a move that big. But alas everything stayed together.
With about 3 to go I had my mark. A tall Bike Lane rider who was super smooth and had a super smooth teammate leading him around. I followed him for a lap until we started to get swarmed a bit so I hit the accelerator again and pulled around the two in order to hold a top 10 position. Turns out that that Bike Lane rider, Jason Ray, would go on to win the race ahead of me by about a bike length and a half.
Come around to 2 laps to go and I moved up to 5th while protecting my sprint exit. In this race that happened to be the left side. Every lap people would move up easily from the left and I knew that was the lane I wanted on the next lap.
Last lap comes around and no one made a strong move. Everyone stared at each other. I expected some of the teams like NCVC with big numbers to come barreling by and I was going to jump on any train that left the station. But it never really happened. Tom N was in the pack and we were unable to hook up so I was freelancing. Held my top 5 place as best as I could while taking that left side with an exit.
We get to the final right hand corner which is 200m from the finish. I was on the outside line. As I am making the turn I notice a guy had a big jump. It was Jason Ray, the guy I had marked earlier and given up on. He had about 6 bike lengths and was gone. An Artemis guy, Darion Jackson, had gotten around the corner a bit smoother than me and gapped me.
Now it was time to do this. I punch it and the speed builds. Jason is going to be a big ask to catch but Darion was within possibility. The line gets closer and closer. I am still laying down the power without a fade. At the line I take 2nd place by inches and lose out the win by just over a bike length. I gained a lot of ground on them both but ran out of road for the win.
I missed out on the top step to Jason who had taken the inside line on that final corner but at the front without traffic. I did not want to take that risk without a leadout. His position paid off. Good on him. And also good on Darion from Artemis. We all three had a big gap to the rest of the field in the finish line photo even though just 200m prior we were all in the same pack.
I am looking forward to upcoming races and especially a well oiled leadout train.
Cat 5 Report
Despite riding this one solo, Brian hoped for a strong finish and planned on marking strong wheels and being opportunistic towards the front.
It was pack racing as expected, with not too many riders wanting to test the waters and try to get a break to stick early. About mid-way through, Brian tried to take a crack at it and towed the group from the front but was unable to coax a few riders into organization and decided to sit in and stay safe until the inevitable bunch sprint.
While a few Evolution Cycling team riders eventually tried to get away, the pack stayed together as anticipated. On the last trip down the back stretch, Brian thought he picked the right wheel to surf and was sitting 4th before the rise to the last right turn. Unfortunately, the line faded some and got swallowed up by a group of riders on the outside. Able to take back some position by the turn home, he was able to fight back and salvage a few more spots with a strong sprint from 150 meters out.
A solid finish 8th place finish and more valuable experience for the Cat 5 bunch.