VeloWorks-SpokesETC is excited to announce some new developments for the 2019 MABRA road and cyclocross season. Stay tuned!
The Tour de Tysons circuit race is always a favorite on the MABRA calendar. The VWS crew brought skeleton squads to the Women’s 1/2/3, 3 and 4/5 fields as well as Men’s 3/4, 45+ and 1/2/3. In the Men’s 4 race, however, they full was in force with an attitude to do damage. Andrew brought home a 2nd place finish to polish off a well-controlled race. His report is below:
Men’s Category 4
Great showing by the team, we’ve really improved communicating and knowing what needs to be done over the course of racing together. Thanks to Pat and Pete who had tight schedules and weren’t even sure if they’d have room on the start line. Also thanks to Beth and Chelsea for setting me up with ice and to Beth again for magically having watermelon juice afterwords.
The plan was to split into two groups: Pete, Pat, Clay, Zac, Jason in the first group; Brian and myself in the second. The first group’s job was to wreak havoc on the 75ish person field right from the gun. Clay and the boys did just that, promptly thinning the heard and shredding everything. Brian and I were hiding in the pack, waiting to unleash something useful in the end. Throughout the race the first group stayed near the front and kept the pace up. I couldn’t see quite everything, but I’m pretty sure I saw everyone make a dig at the front or to get up to the front at some point. I recall Zac chasing a few things down, and then launching his own attack that got around 20 seconds on the field at one point. The group tried to control the front, I recall Pat flying up to do a little good natured blocking that bought Zac a few more seconds. He eventually came back, but I think if he could have extended it a little more he might have hit that downhill again and really put serious time on the peleton.
The course had plenty of room to maneuver, despite some odd juts and narrow areas (how bout that 18-wheeler on lap 1?). I used the space to start positioning myself a little higher up with around 5 to go, chasing down little gaps that formed so I could stay near the front. Around the bell lap I inadvertently floated up to the front. Despite my lack of pedaling, no one wanted to come around. I knew pretty much everyone had to be on my wheel, so I put in a hard dig right at the base of the hill and then tried to even out the effort. My memory gets very hazy here (it was hot), I recall there being bikes around me, possibly someone got in front for a second, Zac made a valiant effort to lead me out but had to come from too far back and had already done a tone of work. I kept going hard just because that seemed better than overthinking things. I recall hearing Zac (possibly someone else) saying something like “go ” or “you got a gap” – anyway someone said something that made me dig in hard. When I looked up I was first coming into the final turn. I felt pretty spent, but promised myself 10 good seconds of sprint. Felt like 10 hours. I felt some bikes coming up on my outside, I heard Sean yell “dig!” and so I did. I held on for second, as the winner got half a wheel or so on me across the line. I wanted to feel spiteful toward him, but he joined in the podium shenanigans so he was cool.
Throughout the race, Joe Jefferson called out Veloworks as being the first or second riders at the front. Whether its Clay shelling the field, Pat blocking the field for Zac, or Zac telling me to slide over to the left so he doesn’t have to fight a rando for my wheel, people are noticing how we race. 2nd is my best finish, and the way the team herded a 75-ish man field like sheep dogs was by far the best teamwork out there.
After a few years hiatus the Chantilly Criterium returned in 2017 with some fast, flat racing. The VeloWorks-Spokes Etc team took full squads into the Men’s 4s, 3/4, Women’s 4 and 123 races. The men worked hard. The women dominated with Kim taking her first career win (and earning her category upgrade) and Kaitlyn lapping the field to take 2nd place. See their excellent race reports below.
Category 1-2-3 Women
Robin, Chelsea, and I lined up for a small but mighty women’s 1/2/3 race at Chantilly. Our plan was pretty straightforward–we had numbers, so make the field work. I was especially motivated to race hard because my coach was in town to see me race for the first time 3 years!
All the kudos go to Robin and Chelsea for masterfully managing the field throughout the entire race in a clean and positive way. I hope that everyone who shared kudos for you to me also shared them with you! You gals were AWESOME!!
At the whistle, we all clipped in and I launched the first attack. I pedaled hard through the first corner and looked back to see a sizable gap back to the field, so I just kept it going. After 2.5 solo laps off the front (for Sean: approx 6 min at VO2), an Artemis rider pulled the field back up to me right before the last corner, so I shut it down and grabbed a wheel.
Then, during the next lap and a half, Robin and Chelsea traded off attacks and counter attacks. Coming through the final corner I was about 4th wheel and was asked to pull through to close a small gap that the rider in front of me couldn’t close. No big deal. Coming through start/finish, I noticed that Robin was still on the front and that I was pretty well recovered from the first effort. As we rounded turn one, I got up and launched again from about 3rd-4th wheel.
After 4 solo laps out front and many people shouting time gaps at me (all I ever heard was ……SECONDS!), I looked back to see that a rider in black and red had cleanly bridged up to me. Once she was on my wheel, I glanced back to see her shaking her head. I immediately said, “don’t shake your head, we have to pedal!” 🙂 And that we did! We traded half-lap pulls for the next 11 laps.
With about 13 to go, the moto rolled up to us and said we were 1:30 in front of the field. I immediately looked down to get a time check on how long each lap was. The next time around, I looked down again to realize that we were doing approximately 2 minute laps. That meant we were only a quarter lap behind the field! Lapping the field was definitely possible. A few laps later when I was on the front, the motor rolled up and said, “look around this corner (final corner) and you’ll see the field!” I think my breakaway companion and I both breathed a sigh of relief and then kicked it up a notch! As we rounded the corner, I flicked my elbow and said, “bring it home, momma!” She pulled us up to within a wheel of the field and we both rolled up and sat up. The lap counter read 7 laps to go–plenty of time to recover.
At this point, I relaxed for a sip or two and realized that I was plenty uncomfortable sitting at the back of the pack on some highly questionable wheels. As we rounded the first corner, I glanced back to my breakaway companion, tapped my left hip to signal for her to get on my wheel and I pulled us both to the front. Once we got up there, I let her know that it is safer for us to ride up in the front.
Robin was comfortably controlling pace at the front, but with me back in the field I thought it made sense for us to not be on the front and let someone else sit in the wind. So I rolled up next to her and said, ‘get off the front,’ which proved to be a difficult task—no one (literally NO ONE) would pull through. And in reality, the front was really the safest place to be.
There was a prime lap at some point, for which a single racer sprinted. My breakaway companion expressed confusion about what was going on (a bell ringing with 4 to go?), so I explained to her the situation and let her know not to chase the single rider going for the prime for she wasn’t going to go anywhere. The prime was complete and the rider rolled back to the pack.
With 2 to go, Chelsea got up front and picked up the pace. Still no one else wanted to work. As we came around for bell lap, Chelsea was still on the front until about half-way around the back side (someone actually asked me, ‘is this your lead out train, Kaitlyn?’ I said, ‘ha! no.” because Chelsea was working for Robin at that point!) Then a bit of a swarm happened and I lost my placement at 3rd wheel. My breakaway companion was right next to me, so I attempted to get on her wheel. Unfortunately she was on a less than steady wheel through the last corner, so I opted to go wide to feel a bit more comfortable. This caused me to get gapped just enough that I caught a bit of wind and couldn’t straighten it out in time to out-sprint her. I completely lost sight of where Robin and Chelsea were. 🙁
Like I said at the top, all of this was possible because of the incredible race management by Chelsea and Robin!
Women’s Category 4
This is quite possibly the best race report and video for 7th place finish we’ve ever published. Sean‘s report of the last lap of his Race Avenue Crit.
2017 Race Avenue – Men’s Masters 45+ last lap
I did an attack on the backside of the course about 90 seconds from the finish. Got up to 40mph vs about 31mph for the pack. I had swung far right to the curb after corner 2 and was alone with the rest of the pack on the usual left side of the wide residential road. I waited a few seconds hoping to get eyes off of me. Then stayed seated and tried not to show the 1000w effort to accelerate to avoid followers.
There had been a guy solo off the front and out of sight for most of the race. We all assumed we were racing for 2nd place. Once I fly through corners 3 and 4 I can see the leader. OMG he is right in front of me. I had not seen him in half an hour. I thought I was doing a late race attack for 2nd place and now I actually had a shot at the win.
From the final corner to the line was 45 looooooooooong seconds. I averaged 600w but only about 24mph. 2% grade and slight headwind and I had already done a big effort on the backside to get 5 seconds on the pack.
The pack did 31mph up the final straight. The Masters 45+ pack was the fastest from the final corner to the line of all races all day long according to Strava. I saw the winner and tasted blood. They saw BOTH the winner and me and tasted blood and flew hard.
I am unable to catch the winner and neither is the pack but it was very close. They caught me 2 seconds from the line and were within a bike length of the winner at the line. Only 5 guys from the charge got by me though so I ended up in 7th. I missed 2nd place by 2 seconds.
I had spoken to my coach a couple days before the race and said I was not confident yet racing in the Masters Open against Cat 1s. I said I might try to aim for making the payout and maybe a podium spot if I time it right instead of racing for the win. It is much safer to race for a Top 10.
His response …. You always race for the win.
With the chance to race on the newly awarded US Nationals road race course, the VeloWorks/Spokes, Etc. took a full squad to Clear Spring, Maryland. The women raced a combined Category 1-4 field, the men split the squad among the 35+ 3/4, the open 3/4 and the 1/2/3 races. Jason came away with a solid 6th in the 35+ race and Jamie took the win in a controversial women’s race. See her report below.
Category 1-4 Women
Robin and I took the start line with a group of about 25 women. After a neutral start, the race proceeded at a conversational pace until the first little set of climbs, where a few riders drove the pace up before relaxing on the downhill. A woman from Colavita attacked the downhill and I countered briefly, mostly to have open road in front of me for the descent. I kept the effort level low because I didn’t want to get away with 45 miles to go. There were a few surges, but nothing serious until a Sweetspot-Cutaway rider got a gap about halfway through the race. She stayed away for most of a lap with a lead that varied between 20 and 30 seconds. A few riders tried to bridge up to her, and the racing got tough. She was eventually brought back and the pack stayed together for a bit.
I was sitting second wheel through the rollers on the second half of the course when the rider in front of me accelerated hard up a hill. I matched her pedal stroke for pedal stroke and it didn’t hurt too bad, so I figured I’d try my luck off the front. I dug hard on the next roller and got a gap. I was getting time splits from the officials, so I know the gap fluctuated between 20 and 30 seconds. I got to come through on the bell lap with a 30-second gap, which was cool. My goal was to stay away at least until we got over the main hill, because I figured I’d be blown out the peloton’s butthole if I got caught there. I managed to stay away with a steadily-closing gap until after the descent and the hard right turn on the other side. Shortly after that, the race came back together and I got a little rest.
At that point, there were about 10 miles left in the race. Women who had teammates started coming together and moving towards the front. Robin and I found each other and talked about who had the better legs. I told her I felt like I could still sprint a little, so we decided to do what we could in the final sprint with her leading me out. Sweetspot-Cutaway and Haymarket were keeping a steady but fairly easy pace at the front. I was on Robin’s wheel.
Coming into the final significant climb (where the road narrows), Robin and a rider from ABRT ended up on the front. Robin drove the pace hard up the hill and I managed to stay on her wheel, although it took an effort because she’s STRONG! Neither of us was sure how far up the finish line was, so we didn’t know when to go. We tried to keep our heads up and respond to the movements of the pack. We made the final turn. At some point, the pace got harder and Robin’s legs were done. My legs felt pretty done, too, but I tried to stay near the front and jump on the tail of someone else’s leadout. ABRT jumped and I tried to follow, but I was sinking rapidly through the pack. Legs had too much in the breakaway, I guess, and I sat up, figuring it might be good enough for a top 10.
But as we came across the line, I noticed that there were no officials. And no camera. And no spectators. Then I remembered that one of the race e-mails mentioned that the finish line would be up the road near the school, and I realized that everyone had sprinted to the wrong line! One of the motos pulled up alongside us and told us that we’d gone too soon; the line was still ahead. I accelerated, and yelled that the finish line was still ahead. No one else had enough time to respond, though, and I already had the winning gap. I came across the line, fist raised in victory.
And then things got less fun. Naturally, the women who had sprinted to the wrong line were angry. We were all summoned to talk with the officials. Robin and I rolled up as they were listing out the people who should have (in their opinion) won. Robin and I mostly stayed quiet and listened, keeping in mind the first rule of Veloworks-Spokes Etc. The crux of the argument was that the women’s field hadn’t been told that there would be two lines and two tents, but some neutral observers had reported that that fact was included in the pre-race briefing. The head judge took me aside and asked me if I had known that the finish line was still farther ahead. I was upfront about the fact that no, I hadn’t known exactly where the finish line was and I had sprinted along with everyone else for the first line. But I also said that I had figured out what was going on and acted upon it. “I think everyone should race heads up,” I said, and left it at that.
The officials decided to take the results from the actual finish line, rather than the line that everyone sprinted to. The third place woman declined to stand on the podium; she would have won if the decision had gone the other way.
So I won, and I think I deserved the win. I don’t think it would be reasonable to say, “Well, none of us knew where the finish line was, so we’ve all decided that there should be a different finish line for our race than for everyone else’s races.” And I think Robin and I (and Beth, who was also around) represented VWS well in a difficult situation. There were women from other teams who came up to me and told me to be proud. But it still wasn’t a very enjoyable win.
We all at VeloWorks/Spokes, Etc. take our oath very seriously. “Don’t be a jerk.” Robin and Jamie represented VWS with grace, honesty and class amid the swirling controversy, regardless of where the officials chose to place them. Chapeau, ladies!
VeloWorks/Spokes, Etc. team continued it’s hot streak with great performances at the cool, damp, sloppy Poolesville Road Race.
Category 4/5 Women
First of all, major kudos for the tough VWS cat 4 women, who all showed up to race Poolesville. I don’t think any of us were especially excited about riding in the rain and in the mud (except maybe Jamie, who must be part Belgian), but we did it anyway! Our race plan was to keep it hard from the start, with Jamie, Sarah and me doing pacemaking and attacking, and Beth and Kim looking after Cinnamon as our A.
Of course, as racing often goes, our plan changed almost immediately on Lap 1. Cinnamon lost touch with the group in the gravel, which we didn’t realize until later, and Beth got a flat in it. (The gravel also claimed Jamie’s tire on lap 2). Gah! The peloton rode on, and I put in a couple attacks after the short steep hill on Elmer School. I got a small gap of maybe 5 or 10 seconds, but was gradually floating back to the field when a rider from Bike Rack rode past me. I knew from past races that she was pretty strong, so I followed her wheel to not let her get away.
The Bike Rack rider and I worked together a little while, but those attacks had me tired and struggling to keep up the pace. I ended up dropping back a bit, and spent several miles trying to close a small gap between us. Eventually I caught up to her again and we started working, but I didn’t think we’d be able to stay away for 2 more laps together. However, the moto came by at several points to give us time gaps, and they were steadily increasing. Midway through the final lap he told us we were up to 2 minutes, which is when we knew the break going to stick.
I had no doubt this was the result of VWS women doing work to manage the pack, and knowing the rest of the women were now essentially putting their race on the line for me gave me the extra motivation I needed to keep pushing those last few miles. I wasn’t sure, though, how I should try and lose my breakaway companion… my legs were feeling a little heavy, so I didn’t want to leave it down to a sprint.
Fortunately, the opportunity presented itself after the final turn onto Westerly. I saw she was starting to fall behind, so I decided to take off. When I was gasping for air and thinking I was almost done, though, I saw the 1K to go sign, ahhhhh!! Thankfully, I managed to not die before getting across the line. I then watched Sarah take 3rd in an incredible sprint, and Kim finish seconds later in a reduced group of 5 or 6 women. Cinnamon cheerfully joined the finishers not long thereafter.
I was stunned by the result, and cannot thank the Cat 4 women enough for making it happen. Even though any one of them could have been on the top step, they made a choice to race selflessly in support of a teammate — a teammate who was not even supposed to be on the podium that day! That. Is. AWESOME. I look forward to repaying that goodwill, and to getting all the VWS women the results they have earned and deserve this season.
Category 3 Men
Sean, Eric, MT and I lined up in a field of about 40 along with the 1/2/3 women. NCVC was well represented in the group as well as District Velocity and District Taco. With the long stretch of gravel for each of the six laps, we took a wait and see approach given the unpredictability of the course, with the potential of setting up Sean on the flat to slightly downhill finish.
The pace was tame from the start with a measured push through the gravel as riders were getting their confidence on the surface. After this stretch and a series of rollers, two riders went off the front. With about two miles left in the first lap I put in a modest chase effort to keep the riders in sight while letting them dangle a bit on their own. I’m guessing I had pulled for two minutes or so when another rider came around me. I took a glance back and saw the peloton had given us 200 feet or so. At this point, I decided to bridge to the riders off the front to see if we could establish a four man break. As we started the second lap, the other rider and I really drilled the downhill of Willard road until we caught the two of the front. I immediately began pushing the pace to ensure we consolidated our lead. The moto then informed us we had 25 seconds on the chase. Looking back there was nobody in sight.
With 45 or so miles to go and 5 more passes through the gravel, I figured our chances were slim to be able to stay away. On the bright side, I knew MT, Sean and Eric would use their abilities to try and break up coordination of a chase. Additionally, both District Taco and District Velocity were represented in the break, cutting down the number of teams that would be willing to drive the peloton. My main goal at this point was to increase the gap quickly in hopes of sinking the morale of the chase group. Over the course of the next couple laps, I put in work on a good portion of the flat and downhill sections to ensure we didn’t lose time. On the flip side, the other three riders did a great job leading the way on the gravel as I did not feel particularly comfortable on the slick stuff. Somewhere on the third lap the moto told us we had a fifty second gap. I knew this wasn’t enough and just kept driving the break as hard as I could. Everyone appeared to be tired at this point but we all took our turns at the front. On the fourth lap I flagged the moto down to get an idea of the gap and he said he wasn’t getting radio communication at this point. While I felt this was a good sign, I knew we still had a lot of work to do.
By the sixth lap everyone in the break was running on fumes but continued to do their part. The last time through the gravel seemed like it would never end as the other riders did their best at the front. I kept looking back thinking we were going to be caught. As we hit the last couple of miles of the race with no chase in sight, the truce faded as everyone was posturing for the final push. This was very similar to the Turkey Hill finish last week where I pulled a tempo pace towards the end with riders on my wheel, who proceeded to come me around me in the last 100m. I knew I had to do something differently this time. I was able to shed two of the riders with a hard pace up the false flat into the last kilometer, with one rider still on my wheel. I put in a quick attack at this point with the rider still directly behind me. Knowing I had to create a gap before the finish, I put in another attack with about 400m left. This time I was able to get some separation and as I began my sprint with 200m left, the other rider sat up and I was able to cross the finish line with a smile rather than having to fight the last few meters. In the end we had gapped the peloton by over four minutes.
I had an amazing time with the other three riders in the break. As tired as everyone looked and felt, even with forty miles left, I was so impressed that they all put in the necessary work when it was their turn. Equally important, however, was the effort that was put in to break up the chase. While being in the break was an incredibly hard, we were not going so fast that we were uncatchable. Without the help of teammates putting in this critical work, I’m am sure we would have been reeled in at some point. After the race, riders from other teams told me the nice job they did in this and I thank you all so much for being willing to do this for me. Additionally, I really appreciate all of you in the VWS cheering section by the finish line. While I could only hear you all for a couple of seconds each lap, it really kept me in good spirits to know you were there.
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