Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yes, we have no Onions

We went to Walla Walla last Friday and I didn't even buy any onions. Or eat any of the "famous" Walla Walla Sweets. No, I brought all my own food and bought no more than coffee in that little town in the windy, rolling hills of Washington.

The collegiate omnium this weekend was different than usual - instead of RR, TTT, and crit, it was road race, TTT, and circuit race - the latter being on a rolling, windy course that made the race more than just a series of sprints.

The road race went 5 laps around the racecourse for 75 miles through the rollers and had only one climb on it, a ~1k feedzone climb. But being out in the exposed eastern part of the state, the wind picked up and made the racing interesting.

UW brought the usual crowd of 8-9 racers in a pack of 25-30 and with those kind of numbers, it's hard to fight back. They can pretty much put enough guys into any effort to make it hard for even strong individuals to tilt the race out of their favor. And you have to expect to have at least a couple of them in any break, which is what happened when a break of 5 - 2 UW, 2 Whitman, and me - got away on lap 2. It looked like a good move as that meant that about half the remaining field would be shutting down anything behind us that threatened to catch up. Sweet. Then a lap later some horsepower bridged up when Jake from WSU came across with yet another UW - Davis from Eugene - on his wheel. So now it's 3 UW, 2 Whitman, Jake, and me. We get 1:30 on the field, then 2:00, then UW sits up and announces: "We don't like it".

WHAT?! So we've got a high horsepower break, the field behind us is probably being neutralized by four different schools with my 3 guys sure to be jumping on everything that moves, Whitman and WSU's guys doing the same, and ... drum roll ... the 6 UW guys doing what they always do, and now the UW break is playing silly beggars and trying to get caught by a group that is trying hard not to catch them. Picture that one for a minute.

Well, hauling those guys around in the wind is silly. So Whitman and I had a little chat and agreed that we would prefer to make UW hurt if possible and not to chase each other - so then we spend the next lap alternating between attacking the bejesus out of each other and sitting up. That hurt. It just drained everyone, and Jake just sat there watching us brawl.

Just past the start/finish with 13 miles to go, I rolled off the side of the group and David immediately jumped on my wheel. The rest of the group let us go. So I gave it some stick, flicked the elbow to have Davis come around, and he did. We had a little talk, and to his credit he recognized that working a little was better than getting dropped if his boys weren't going to reel us back. So that's what we did and we went over the feedzone climb, powered over some shallow rollers and turned right onto a false flat downhill and crosswind stretch. That's where Davis cracked.

The kid is built like a pencil and he was sure trying, but I couldn't wait for him and when he fell off, I knew it was TT time. 8-9 miles to go and the guys behind us could see Davis fall off - and Colin from Whitman later told me that was the first time the 6 of them all agreed that they needed to ride. And ride we did - I turned the last corner at 5-6 miles to go straight into a headwind towards the finish with a 31 second gap, and 6 guys doing a team time trial behind me (poor Davis went backwards through them). I felt strong pushing over the initial rollers but the last few k's were all flat and unsheltered, straight into that Walla Walla wind. Oh the burn. I was dying, but so was the chase, and most of those 31 seconds were given away on the home straight - but not all of them. I had just enough to celebrate while the group started to sprint.
Photo credit Blair Ryan - thanks Blair!

Will from the U of O came across next riding ahead of the main pack with Brian from Idaho - the field sprinted some time later.

We got rocked in the TTT, but no matter.

The next day, we hit the 3 mile loops of the circuit race hard. Finishing on top of a short but steep hill, it was bound to split up the group, and that is what it did. Will and I got into the "break" of 10, and with 3 or so laps to go he got off with a little WWU guys and I spent the rest of the race shutting everything down. 4 UW, 2 Whitman, Jake, and some others - I got on every wheel that moved and Will stayed away, just visible up the road but not getting any closer. And Oregon took another W when Will came around his breakaway companion at the line.

So not a bad weekend, and worth skipping King's Valley and the Icebreaker. Because not only did we get to throw our arms up, but 6 hrs of riding in Walla Walla did a damn good job on starting the season's tan. And let's face it, a win is nice, but a tan is a must.

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