The final months of race season saw Team Sixcycle-RK&O embark on several stage races. After a solid performance in the category 3 field at Tour of Castkills that included top tens in GC and both road races, the team sent four riders to the Tour de Millersburg stage race in Millersbrug, PA that has perhaps more local community support than any other race in the region. The team performed well, securing third and fifth place in the criterium, and third place in the overall GC. Race link: http://www.tourdemillersburg.com/
Tour de Millersburg Race Report from Team Sixcycle-RK&O's Ashley Doane
The 2013 Tour de Millersburg (ToM) was a beautiful weekend of racing that included a 20k individual time trial and criterium in downtown Millersburg, both held on Saturday, and a road race on Sunday. The overall winner was decided using a simple points system in which each rider received points according to his placing in each of the three stages, with 1st getting 1 point, 2nd getting 2 points, and so on. In this Omnium format, the General Classification was determined by the lowest accumulated points. To do well at ToM, we would need a solid time trial and consistent finishes in the criterium and road race.
The week before Millersburg, I had raced the Tour of Catskills, and with the help of my teammates, managed to finish top ten in both road races and the time-based general classification. Following Catskills, I was excited to have another go at a short stage race, but unsure just how I would feel after the big efforts I had made on those steep diabolical hills of upstate NY just days ago.
Late on the mid-August Friday evening, we escaped from the roar of Manhattan to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania dutch country and the sleepy town of Millersburg. We awoke at dawn the next morning for an early time trial. I prepared a cup of Grimpeur Bros. brew, ladled several large helpings of steal cut oats from our rice cooker, and enjoyed a quiet breakfast. Satisfied, I hopped on the bike and pedaled across town. Picking up my race numbers at registration, several kids in neon yellow shirts offered their assistance.
As it turned out, all those volunteering to help run the race wore high-vis yellow shirts, and at 7AM a dozen or more volunteers were helping to ensure a smooth race. For the entire weekend, I was impressed again and again by the generosity of all the volunteers in Millersburg helping to put on the race. Later on saturday, my teammate Matt recalled the generous spirit of the community. Upon seeing Matt park his car on the roadside and begin assembling his bike in the afternoon August heat before the crit, one women had come out of her nearby house to offer him some cold lemonade.
In the the flat and fast TT, I did my best to minimize losses against a number of riders on dedicated TT setups that clearly put down some speed on the flats (I had only brought a road bike for the weekend). The top placings were tight, and I finished just outside top 10.
The criterium was a fast and technical 4-corner rectangular course through downtown Millersburg. Lining up for the start, I made the mistake of starting towards the back of the field and on the far right of the road. My teammates Bryan, Dan, and Matt were all the wiser, positioning themselves in the front and on the left, allowing a fast outside line through the first corner.
From the gun, my teammate Matt drilled the pace at the front, stretching the pack single file. Racing through each of the four corners generated an accordion-like effect through the field- a decrease in speed going into each corner followed by an acceleration to stay in the draft. Magnified through the peloton, I was 30 or 40 riders back and nearly sprinting out of every corner to keep position. Matt's relentless pace continued, and for three fast laps he held a gap of 30 or so meters off the front. At the same time, I moved though the strung out field, advancing several positions on each leg of the rectangular course. By the fifth lap, I had made it up to the front, but the racing was just getting going.
As we dove into the 4th corner of the rectangular course and hit the short power-climb for the fifth time, I saw two riders catch Matt and begin to overtake him. My teammate's relentless pace had created the opportunity for a counter attack, and this was the move. Before I had much time to think about recovering from the efforts I had just made to gain position, I launched past Matt and the two attacking riders, picked up a gear, and put my head down. 100m into the effort, I glanced under my arm to see the two riders with me. For the next lap I let these guys work, and did my best to recover while sitting in the draft, then joined the rotation of short pulls as we tried to gain time on the angry field behind us.
We each pulled for half a lap and slowly gained time on the field. 21 laps to go. If we stayed away, we were each guaranteed a top 3 finish in the crit, and motivation to work together was high. Looking back, I saw my teammates Dan and Matt, riding at the front of the pack - setting the pace high enough to discourage attacks that could catch the break, but a touch under our pace so that the break could slowly gain time.
At 10 laps to go, our three-rider break had over one minute on the field, and it was beginning to feel like we might stick it. Then with 5 laps to go, we were getting close to lapping the field. The bell sounded the final lap, and in corner-three we made contact with the back of the field. The three of us dove into corner-four and opened a sprint into the final stretch to the finish, weaving left and right through the tail-end of the main field's bunch sprint . Not expecting anyone to be sprinting from behind, those riders in the field that had sat up in the sprint weren't holding their line through the finish. I narrowly avoided a crash, then sat up and rolled across the finish in 3rd.
Thanks to a strong early attack and skillful use of team strategy by teammates, the 3rd place in the crit advanced me to 6th place in the overall GC. Our strategy for sunday's road was to defend our top 10 GC spot, with the possibility of moving to a podium placing.
By 8AM the next morning, we were racing again, this time through the rolling hills of rural PA for 56 miles- three laps of an 18.5 mile circuit. The course began with a slight downhill leaving Millersburg, and within the first 5 miles we hit a small hill with one switchback and a King of the Mountains (KOM) competition sprint point.
I decided to have a go at the KOM award- a points-based sprint competition with points for the top 3 riders to cross the top of the hill. I made my way to the front dozen or so riders in the first couple miles of the race, and hit the hill in good position. After an initial acceleration towards the bottom of the hill, I attacked, taking one rider with me. It was Alan Fody, a buddy from Philadelphia who raced for Amoroso. Alan had a strong sprint, and my move was to try and ride away from him on the hill, before the flat sprint point that came just after the top. I churned a big gear and picked up leg speed, yet the climb was very short, and Alan stayed right on my wheel, popping around me in the last 20 meters to win the KOM sprint by a few feet.
Resting for a moment as the peloton caught back up, I congratulated Alan on a nice effort, and one that I couldn't answer. I had played my cards and came up short that round, but took the points for second and would have a go on the next lap.
But something wasn't right. Through the surge to the KOM, I had expected to feel the exhausting yet exhilarating pain that comes with such intense all-out efforts that can define a race's hardest moments. But instead I felt a sort of core sinking sensation and failing legs. The depleted and torched feeling resembled bonking, coming before I could complete a full effort, yet I was sure I was on top of my nutrition. I realized these were the sensations of deep fatigue after the efforts of saturday's crit, on top of the huge efforts made the following week at Tour of the Catskills. This was going to be a long race, and if I was going to get through it, I would need my team's help.
Through the next 40 or so miles I did my best to conserve energy and ride safely towards the front of the field. My teammates Bryan and Matt were always close by. I again took second at the KOM, this time satisfied to stay on wheels in the possibility that Alan would crack and miss the 3rd round. But at the final KOM he was there and secured the KOM win.
With 20K to go to the finish, I found my teammates Bryan and Matt towards the front of the field. The next 10k of road had flat rolling hills, and the final 10k was a flat and long downhill, all into a headwind, and a chicane leading into a 100m flat sprint. Our goal was simply to get as high a placing in the final sprint as possible to keep a solid GC placing. Bryan was the first to move to the front, steadily churning an increasing pace like a big diesel engine.
"Yo! Riding behind this dude is like being behind a truck!" a rider next to me exclaimed. He was referring, of course, to Bryan "Friedo", and he was right. Friedo kept the pace high or the next several miles, defending our GC position by keeping me safe and out of the wind. The fatigue I had felt earlier was increasing, and the downhill and flat sprint finish would be hard.
With 12k to go, I found myself a dozen or so wheels from the front. My teammate Matt quickly spotted me, and ushered me on his wheel to the front. With 10k to go, we hit a strong crosswind that would stay with us to the final chicane. I stayed locked on my teammates wheel as Matt moved towards the front.
The strong crosswinds through the final 10k blew from the left, meaning I would need to be positioned to the right of the rider in front of me. Positioned properly, riding in a crosswind draft is especially effective to conserve energy, and my teammate knew exactly how to play this in our favor. Keeping the glean of my high-vis shoes in his periphery to ensure I stayed with him, Matt pulled to the front and moved to the far right of the road, anchoring his trajectory with the white line that marked the shoulder. Leaving 1-2 feet of road to his right, I was able to ride in his draft like a two-rider echelon. Purposefully, Matt had left no room for anyone to draft me, forcing the riders behind into the gutter.
With 8k to go, the crosswinds continued, and Matt's pace was relentless. My teammate was putting down a massive effort. We were going to defend a GC spot, and I was along for the ride.
I glanced behind me with 5K to go, and saw the field completely strung out, with riders hugging the far right edge of the road. One by one, several riders fought the wind and rode up to me on the left from several wheels back, only to hit the wind with nowhere to hide. Through the final 5k Matt's massive pull kept me in perfect position. With 1k to go, several lead outs emerged, and going into the final S-turn, I slipped back to about 10th. Exiting the chicane, I stayed on Matt's wheel through the finish, and the team got me to the line at 12th. Exhausted, I was satisfied that I had finished near top 10 for the team.
In the end, the team's efforts paid off, and we finished in 3rd place in the General Classification. Through teamwork in racing, and the generous help of so many in Millersburg to make the race possible, the 2013 Tour of Millersburg was a fantastic weekend of August racing, and one that we look forward to racing in years to come.