Hoping to learn from some terrible race tactics at the recent criterium I set off on Saturday with one aim – work as little as possible. I was hoping to use the large peloton to my advantage and try contest what was bound to be a sprint finish, with nobody willing to take a chance and work in a breakaway….. How I wish this was the case…
After an uneventful crossing and set up prior to the race start we were soon out of the ferry terminal and on to the Neutral zone which was quite pleasant and even when the race started on the bridge it was quite a relaxed pace in the peloton. There was an early 4 man break which managed to get 1.5mins however there was no urgency with well over 100km to go. I could see from the rear of the bunch that we were pulling some of the riders back and decided to head to the front to find out what was going on and bring with me some water. James Cole was sitting up front monitoring and he let me know that Nate was up the road with a Mav (Alan) and 2 others.
Nate was pulled back with Alan left off the front on his own. There was still no response from any teams with such a long way still to go and we continued with a relaxed pace gradually reeling him in. A few km from the turn there was a large crash in the middle of the pack and the peloton split. I was lucky, however we lost Nate and James here as they were caught behind and were unable to chase back on and Klaus unfortunately managed to pick up a puncture. I decided with some riders in the group showing signs of tiring it was no longer good sitting right at the back and headed up to the pointy end and stayed around 5th-10thwheel coming in to the turn.
The Mavs were well represented on the front and were reminding us that it was a race and looking for someone to try pick up the pace but I wasn’t looking for the wind and just sat in between their wheels. On one of the run ups to a short incline the Mavs were sending Alan up the road while the others on the front were sitting up to let him get a gap. I decided he wasn’t a bad wheel to follow and slipped out past them on the descent and carried the speed onto his wheel with zero interests of working, just covering, so we didn’t get caught out and have to work this early in the race.
Alan seemed happy to sit on the front while I just sat in we were also joined by Mark 4T2 and when he decided to take the front pushed the pace real hard. For a few turns they allowed me to sit on the back however I soon got some grief and they were not keen on pulling a sprinter any further. Ok I thought we have a decent gap and we also have another sprinter in the pack for Anza (ok Salter really – Sean you need to sort this out!!) maybe I should do a few turns but nothing serious, just to keep us away and make the other teams work….
So 45km from the finish the break was formed and we are rolling pretty well together. With Mark setting a blistering pace on the flat we soon opened up a 1.5 min gap and with 30km to go we were told that opened up to 3.5min. As I was digesting this and thinking we might be able to make it to the end the first cramp hit my left calf. With 2 gels left I decided it was all or nothing so took both in quick succession and as much water as I could stomach.
From here Alan was also fading and had stopped working on the front. However with the strength of Ironman Mark, I decided I was going to stay committed and pushed on. With 15km left to go we were down to 1.5min and on the inclines we were slowing a lot, as much as it sounds weird slowing actually was hurting me more and I preferred to get out the saddle and push on which was putting a few bike lengths between us. This way I didn’t have to respond to the surges when Matt came past and was a little more comfortable keeping the same rhythm. I’m sure my counterpart hates me for this as it was no doubt putting him under pressure on the climbs.
With 4 km to go I’m not sure if it was an attack or a genuine pull however after I had done one of my longer pulls Mark came past like a steam train and I was struggling to jump in front of Alan’s wheel and was very close to throwing in the towel. Thankfully he eased up slightly and I managed to regain some composure before Alan said he was going to give us one pull before sending us off to fight for the win.
As the final bridge came in to view I was confident I could get a gap and hold it so I decided I was going to take up the attack very early as I was very scared the peloton were closing quick and with a few punchy sprinters in there I would have no chance if we were caught. I reckon I picked up the pace with around 600m to go and with 200m to go my quads, calf and hamstrings were all reminding me that they had been cramping for some time and I had to grit my teeth but with a few grunts and yelps I pushed for the line with everything I could muster.
I managed to cross the line 1st and my fellow breakaway companions also made it home before the Peloton so would join me on the podium. Fantastic work all round and without any member working the way we did I have no doubt that none of us would have made it on the podium. So if you are reading this, thanks Alan and Mark both of whom gave their all to make the break stick.
I would also like to add a massive thank you to my fellow Anza rider; James, Nate, Don, Max, Frank & Alex who were all really up for this one and were willing to cover on the front making sure we were not left unrepresented with me not having to do any work in the first 80km apart from a few cheeky bottle runs on the descents.
Another great event organized by the cycosports group so last thing is to say thanks to Kent and his crew of volunteers and I’m looking forward to the next race back at Pasir Gudang to celebrate SG50