The Jefferson Cup Road Race in Charlottesville, Virginia, has served as an early season test of fitness and tactics for 25 years. The Velo-Works/Spokes, Etc. team brought members to the morning Cat 4 race in the chilly morning, the Cat 5 and women’s races mid-day and the Cat 3/4 race in the afternoon. After last years, weather-shortened cold rain event, the sunny skies were a welcome change.
Course description: 10 Mile laps of rolling to hilly terrain. Rolling road enclosure, so no double-yellow line restriction.
Weather: Morning in the upper 20s, afternoon races in the low 50s. Sunny and light wind.
Cat 4 Race
Cat 5 Race
The Cat5s staged and rolled out from the middle school parking lot. There was a bit of confusion as to where the neutralization was lifted, so I took care to move up quickly into the top quarter of the field as soon as I could. Tempo surged a bit as we hit the first kicker after the start/finish, but the pace calmed down once we moved into some rolling terrain. The top 4 or 5 wheels were obviously antsy, and so I made it a point to mark them prior to “the big hill”. Thanks to some YouTube recon, I tried to make it a point to sit 3rd or 4th wheel coming into the climb; it’s a flat right-hander into the hill, and keeping a tight inside line away from traffic let me keep good speed into the climb. I had also estimated that the climb would be right on the edge of a big-ring grunt-fest and a little-ring spin-fest. So, on the first ascent I tried on my sur la plaque legs and stayed glued on at third wheel.
Aaaaand I’m in a break.
3 of us manage to gap the field by the top of the climb by about 10 seconds, and I’m not really wanting to do this, this early in the race. So I quickly try to gauge what sort of shape our groupetto is in, listening to breathing, watching their cadences as we sped down the back side of the climb. As I’m sitting second wheel on a Long and Foster racer, I decided to pull up next to him and see if he wanted to do the work – he nodded and so we started taking pulls. I made every effort NOT to put in much effort. After about 7-8 minutes of rotating, we’re caught. But that was fine by me – I didn’t want to burn any matches playing around at the front on lap 1.
By lap 2 I’m seeing familiar bibs all wanting to stay up front. I noticed the 3 or 4 Long and Foster guys chatting a bit, so I was hopeful they’d try to do a little work to control the race – I’d be happy to tag along on any of their efforts. So, again, I did my best through the rolling terrain of the parcours to just stay 3rd or 4th wheel before hitting “the big hill”.
Aaaaaand I’m in a break.
Aaaaaand it’s the same Long and Foster racer as last time. I quickly decided I’d be perfectly happy sitting in and letting him do all the work. We crest the “big hill” and I’m feeling good, not blowing up. My hope was that his buddies would do a better job at holding off the peloton this time around.
No such luck – after a few minutes of sitting in, I take a quick pull on the descent (more a “good faith” pull than anything else) and notice we’ve gained about 4 or 5 riders, and the peloton is only a few seconds back.
I sat up to try and let the swarm decide tempo – I remember thinking, “there’s no way I’m tugging anybody around today!” and soft pedaled until somebody decided to come around me.
Back to sitting in 3rd or 4th wheel, and now on lap 3. Tempo had slowed, and I noticed a few new bibs in the top 10 spots – these guys were my new marks. Thankfully no one was trying to be a hero on lap 3, but rather, tempo just slightly but steadily increased until the final right hander, into the false flat before the finish.
The front of the peloton was starting to fight for position, and despite a few bumped bars and shoulder massages, I kept within the top 5 wheels with about 2k to go. At 1k to go, the heroes started making moves, and we let them yo-yo out and right back. At 500m to go another group went, but obviously with a bit less haste – and back they came. At 200m to go, the wheels I had marked early in lap 3 jumped, and I knew those might stick. So, jumping on 4th wheel, I tucked in and tried to save it for the last 100m. At 100m to go, I jumped out of 4th wheel’s slipstream and made my move, crossing the line 4th.
Women’s Cat 4 Race
Tina and Jackie rolled out in a 23 women’s Cat 4 field. Both worked hard in the group and Tina was able to muster a mid-pack finish. Jackie battled to stay with the group, but, like many others before on the course, succumbed to the hills and finished solo. Her personal blog on the race is here.
Cat 3/4 Race
Sean, Belov, Mike, Eric and Bob toed the line with a field of 50 riders. The plan was to look to get Bob in an early break and Mike in a later one if the opportunity arose. Being early in the year, no one was letting anything go, however, and very few opportunities presented themselves. The pace was hot early and shelled several riders. With 2+ laps to go a 2 man break escaped with 1 rider chasing. 2 of these riders were represented by 2 of the larger teams in the field, so it appeared that small break would survive. Early in the last lap, however, all but one rider had been swallowed up by the pack. And ultimately, the solo breakaway was caught with less than 1k to to. The team tried to set up Bob for a late finish, but none of us had the legs to carry him to a high position. Afterward, Mike realized his back brake had been dragging. For how long, no one knows. So goes bike racing.
The team is looking forward to the Easter weekend away from racing and then a strong showing at Carl Dolan Memorial race on 4/12.