Race Report: 2016 Jefferson Cup Category – Men’s 4 – Robert Steele
Race: 2016 Jefferson Cup
Category: Men’s 4
Date: April 3rd, 2016
Race Start: 9:00 AM
Distance: 50 miles after neutral roll out.
Weather: Sunny, but cold and windy (low 38, high 48)
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Finish: 27/79 registered racers (I don’t have the DNS list)
Jeff Cup was my road race season opener this year, as the Black Hill Circuit Race was cancelled, so this was the first time I have toed the start line on my Addict since last July. Jeff Cup is a semi-closed road race, so the peloton has the entire road on which to race, a first for me, and that facet definitely influenced my ability to move around once the race started.
I met a couple of other Cat 4 racers before the line-up who, while racing in other team kit, were USMES teammates, and who agreed to work with me during the race if the chance arose, which greatly boosted my confidence, as I was the only USMES racer in my field racing for the team, in team kit. I wasn’t feeling too great about going solo for 50 miles, and knowing there were other guys in the race willing to help out really eased my nerves. However, after lining up and getting out on the road for the neutral roll out, I really never saw either of those guys again in the race. Oh well, just knowing they were there helped me emotionally.
After the roll out, there was an early breakaway of about 10 riders, at less than 5 miles into the race. The field had spread out all over the road (closed road race, remember), but there was still space on the extreme left side of the road. Since the field was still accordioning from the roll-out, I took a chance and passed by the clump and bridged up to the 10 man break. When I did, I realized that group was also moving pretty slowly, and there was a 2 man break walking away from the larger group. I moved up the line and shot off the front to catch the two.
Once I caught up, and caught my breath (it took me a few miles to really catch into the 2 man break) I told them I was willing to pull hard through the rollers if they would pull me up the bigger climbs (Both of them were much lighter than me, I am still sitting right at 205 pounds, over 220 with kit and bike). After one huge pull across a set of rollers (pegging 400+ watts even dropping through the roller) the other two conceded I was a useful member of the break and agreed to pull me up the big climbs. We rolled like that for about 10 miles before the younger of the two (I never got his name) fell back and was absorbed by the pack (we were holding about a 45 second lead on the field at this point).
For the next 20+ miles, Allen XXXX of Electric Banana (UNC team) and I swapped off pulling around the 10 mile loop, agreeing to not go too hard, since it was just two of us. However, the field wasn’t interested in catching us either, so we held our 45 second lead for at least two laps. After that, another pair bridged up from the field, and one of them still had enough gas to take pulls. At that point, the 3 of us picked up the pace again and eventually pulled away from the field up to a minute ahead. This pace was wearing me out significantly, and I eventually started to fall off. Allen and the other rider helped me stay up, until we crossed into the final 10 mile loop, and our lead dropped to 40 seconds. Allen dropped both me and the other rider on the long climb coming away from the finish line, though, with the help of yet another rider bridging up from the field, we were both able to bridge back up. Even so, neither of us had the necessary strength to stay in the break, and we fell back into the field with about 2 miles to the finish. I stayed near the front of the field, but, at the 400m mark, my left thigh cramped when I tried to sprint it out. Finished in the middle of the field, in 27th place.
The race course was lovely. Neutral roll out brought us out of the school parking lot, and down Route 20 into the race course. The course itself was primarily composed of rollers, with one 500m climb that was tough, and a couple of lesser climbs that still hurt. The final 1km was slightly uphill, but not a short steep pitch as is all too common in the races around DC. Toughest part of the race was the windy conditions; often, when cresting a hill, I looked down to see if I had a flat, as the headwind slowed me down that much.