Firsthand account of the “controversial” Cat 3 race of the Tidewater Road Race from 2nd place finisher, Justin Markunas:
VWS was represented by Mike, Thom, Adam and me. There were roughly 30-35 riders at the line with NCVC bringing at least seven and Cheerbacks with five or so. Given the fact that the field was dominated by three teams, and there was some rolling terrain, our strategy was to get numbers in a break with the remaining teammates hanging back to control the field and disrupt any chases. If the break was swallowed up or never formed, we would shift to leading out either Thom or me for the sprint finish.
After a relatively long neutral start, we finally began the race. Adam, Mike and Thom positioned themselves well early while I lagged a bit for the first two miles as the field was bunched due to soft pace. As I made my way up to the front, the attacks started coming in. Each of our guys did a great job controlling these making sure we were represented if anything got away. I was beginning to think we would be hunkering down for a field sprint until midway through the second lap. A group of six or seven riders, including Thom, established a bit of a gap on the pack. Both NCVC and Cheerbacks had multiple people in this group and I decided to join to give us some numbers. In the end, a total of twelve ended up in the break, with NCVC having four riders there. The organization of the break was not great as a good number of people decided against taking pulls at the front. Thom did a great job driving the pace to ensure we stayed away and encourage me several times (at least five, conservatively speaking) to sit back a bit and not see any wind. I absolutely appreciated his input as I tend to be overly aggressive in certain race settings.
Early in the fourth lap it became a bit more clear that the break was going to stick and Thom‘s pacesetting at the front played an important role in this. Just as important were the efforts of Mike and Adam for controlling the chasing given the lack of gusto in the break. At this point we were down to nine riders, with NCVC still having four there. With roughly seven miles to go, one of their riders attacked and got off the front. Sensing his lead was getting a little dangerous I decided to chase him back, calculating I had enough time to recover for the final push. As soon as we reeled him in another NCVC rider shot off the front. I felt very little impetus to go on another chase and a 10-15 second gap ensued. Eventually, a couple other riders put in some work to ensure the gap did not grow.
As we finished the fourth lap onto a left turn roughly 150 seconds from the finish, serious confusion ensued. The pace car went straight along with the solo rider. The other riders and I sat up, slowed and took the left not knowing what to do. After a few seconds of blank stares at one another we picked up the pace and started playing the positioning game for the final sprint. This consisted of a downhill section followed by 30s uphill at a 4% grade. I got on the wheel of a powerful rider from Evolution at the bottom of the hill as he made the initial attack. He began to fade a little and I made my move around him mid way up. Here’s the link to the final sprint (thanks Sean for making me famous;)
Admittedly it was a weird feeling crossing the line first with the confusion that happened. I decided to double up and do the next race, and the results and payout were not available in the 40 minute gap between races. After completing the second race, I made my way to the officials to grab the earning for the hard earned team win and was told there was a reshuffling of the final results. The race director decided to give the win to the NCVC solo rider as it was determined he would not be caught, bumping me to second place. I was briefly stunned by this but quickly collected myself and told the volunteers I respected the decision as long as one of them would take a picture of me. There was no podium but this was the best I could do, see attached.
While I was a bit disappointed with the race director’s decision, I 100% respect it and understand that mistakes happen in a fast-paced sport. Regardless, our team executed perfectly on our strategy and did everything in our control to get a rider across the finish line first. I was totally impressed by Adam, who coming back to racing after years off, did a great job being a factor at the front of the field early in the race rather than sitting back to get comfortable. Mike did well to cover early breaks as I was making my way up the field as well as maintaining control of the chase. Thom was absolutely awesome drilling the pace in the break. All these things added up to a great team result that we can be proud of it, even if the books say we finished second.