It goes without saying that bicycle racing is a complex sport. Everyone who rides knows about the myriad of challenges that are out of a riders control out on the road, and one can imagine that adding 100+ Type-A riders that have a thirst for success can only complicate matters. Cycling is the only sport that I am aware of, in which every participant has a chance to win the race. Over a hundred riders or sometimes over two-hundred can be in any given event, one can begin to appreciate the importance and difficulty of achieving a win. This past Sunday at the Ladera Ranch Grand Prix, I achieved the win and felt the power of its importance.
The race course was fairly straight-forward with four right turns across a technical, somewhat windy, and fast course in a beautiful SoCal neighborhood. For all intents and purposes, it was our normal 75 minute race. But today would prove to be a very entertaining race for the fans and a great race for me and my teammate, David Santos.
The Ladera Ranch Grand Prix has ended in a sprint-finish many times and only rarely finishes in a break-away, which was not to our advantage. However, before the race, Dave and I devised a plan to be aggressive and ‘roll the dice’, so to speak, to see if we could establish a break-away that could break the will of the peloton. We started by being aggressive and following attacks, I covered a move, it was brought back, Santos was quickly off the front with another move, working to get it established. Then that move was back and I was off the front again. At one point, both he and I were in a promising break-away and we rode really hard, but the field was too eager and shut-down the break-away.
After letting the race settle down a little bit, three riders found themselves off the front with a little gap, neither Mr. Santos or I were there, but we had a plan. As the peloton chased, I waited and communicated with David that I was going to go across. When the time was right and pace slackened, I used my momentum to attack my way to the break-away.
At this time, the break-away had been off the front for about two laps and they guys in it seemed to be working well. I was pleased to know that a few riders that I have been in break-aways with earlier in the season were in this move. This meant that I could count on them to pull hard and they could count on me to do the same.
Once I arrived in the break-away, I wasted no time and went to the front and began to rotate with the guys, even adding a little encouragement to the my break-away companions to get the motivation/cohesion established. Luckily, the three riders in the break-away did not hesitate and we all worked well, this pushed the gap out to about 25 seconds with about thirty minutes or more left to race. This is where the race began to get good…
After getting the break-away established, we started to feel pretty comfortable and began to settle down a little bit to share the load between the four of us. Then, immediately, the peloton was at five seconds, they were chasing us down rapidly! We pushed ourselves and all took solid pulls to push our advantage back out to 15 seconds, but the peloton was not finished. Our move was looking doomed and even though we were at a 15 seconds gap, it appeared the peloton could pounce at any time.
We continued to work hard and push out the advantage, only to see our gap shrink again to five seconds or slightly under. We were nearly caught. However, the four of us stayed organized taking hard pulls and not looking back. We were able to push our advantage back out, again. We still had fifteen minutes of racing left and we knew it was going to be full-on to the end of the race.
Me and my break-away companions had turned up the heat twice and were starting to feel the efforts in our legs, but knew we had to find more from ourselves to foil the chasing peloton. It was when we saw the ‘5 laps to go’ card and the peloton single-file chasing us that we had to buckle-down and risk everything. None of us in the break-away saved anything for a tactical final as we powered from turn-to-turn. Four laps to go, the gap is coming down, three laps to go, we hold the gap, two laps to go, the gap is less again… We were all tired, but still cohesive and working well. As we came around to get one-lap to go, the fans and spectators were screaming at us, ‘they are right there, go! go!’
After a final bit of encouragement and a solid pull, we set off on the last lap not knowing what would come, but hoping we could stay away from the peloton. We had worked so hard, it would be a heart-breaker to loose now!
As the peloton galloped after us, each rider took a big pull and we came into the final where we all sprinted for the line. I had built great momentum into and out of the final turn which propelled me into the sprint. Although my legs were smashed and I was dying, I put everything I could into my Xpedo pedals, pushing and pulling on the handlebars desperately trying to squeeze every last ounce of speed out of my KHS.
Today was my day, given the strength and talent of my fellow break-away riders. I did not know how the finish would play out, but having given my all, I crossed the line first. It was an amazing rush of excitement and joy. It was moment of pure exhilaration.
At this point, it should be mentioned that in both of my last two races, I have performed a similar move racing solo, only to get caught within the last lap. But today I had the power of one…one teammate that is. My homeboy, David Santos played the perfect teammate and his presence as one of the strongest and most dangerous riders in the peloton gave me the opportunity to go for the win. That is why cycling is a team sport and having raced on the same team with David for five years, I can tell you, he is an incredible athlete, teammate, and friend. Sometimes it only takes one!
My title for this piece, ‘the power of one’ is not just a reference to the power of having one teammate, which undoubtedly made this win possible. It refers to the power of one positive comment or one message to a friend that can mean so much. After the race, I was flush with excitement, but the best part of earning the win was not standing on the podium or the cool jersey that came with the race winning medal. The best part was the series of personal messages that I received from friends, teammates, fellow racers, and KHS team sponsors!
Each message was crafted by the sender, a heart-felt congratulations or enthusiastic “at’a boy”! The messages were humbling and incredibly powerful, it went a long way to reinforcing a lesson that I was taught as a boy, you never know how your positive words can shape another persons experience.
I am so thankful to have had this experience, to have won a great bike race that was entertaining for the spectators to watch, and received the messages from so many folks congratulating me. It is these relationships and people that make being a part of the KHS-Maxxis-JLVelo team and incredible experience! Thank you to everyone, you are appreciated beyond what I am able to convey in this race-report!
Congratulations as well, to Joy McCulloch who placed 3rd in the women’s P1/2/3 race earlier in the day.
Thank you to our sponsors: KHS Bicycles, Maxxis Tires, JLVelo, Serfas, Shimano, Velo Saddles, Praxis Works, Xpedo Pedals, Kali Protectives, NDXSports, Bike Religion, Bicycle Blue Book, WD-40 BIKE, Chamois Butt’r, Cycling Illustrated, Rennie & Associates, Kramp Krushers, Ultra Cycle, and Q2.
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