There have been some great examples of teamwork in the past week in European professional races, but I think what our men’s C team pulled off in Philly is even better.
There has been a lot of very excited banter about the Philly weekend and I wanted to throw in a few comments. First, the weekend was a blast. Rutgers had been a fun race but Philly blew it out of the water. Within races the MIT riders worked amazingly well together and it was the first time I understood the power that teamwork can have in this sport. Outside of races it was fantastic to hang out with such a great crowd of people.
One major thing I learned was position, Position, POSITION! Both races I rotated somewhere between the front and back of the pack without much particular concern. I felt I was strong enough to get to the front quickly if I needed to be there. Unfortunately, quickly was not fast enough and both days I missed the moves that mattered. In the circuit this resulted in me running out of room to catch the leaders before the finish line and in the crit it meant not being part of the all-star (all-MIT) breakaway.
As soon as the pack realized that the break was all-MIT, 7-8 of the strongest riders formed a pace-line for the chase. It was the fastest I had seen the C pack react in any of my 4 races. Zach Ulissi and I found ourselves behind the train and quickly realized something needed to be done to slow it down. It took a lap or two for us to effectively insert ourselves into the line but we become more and more effective as the race went on (I could be wrong but I heard the gap actually increased during the last 2 laps).
A few simple notes on blocking strategies which seemed to work well: 1) 2 > 1. Zach and I were much more effective when working together then by either of ourselves alone. One person sat 2nd wheel and disrupted leader transition and the other sat 4-5 and blocked the flow of new riders up to positions where they might be able to take the lead.
2) don’t give up second wheel! Pretend you are Golem and 2nd wheel is the ring of power. You take it and as soon as the front guy fails be prepared to take it again when someone else advances. (The delays that this disruption created were the most noticeable to me)
3) Turn smart, not fast. I tried to go into each turn in 2nd position and follow the leaders line (or slightly inside it). However, I eased up before the turn and didn’t gun to hard out of them. This caused a good slinky effect even near the front and made everyone work each turn. It was a bit harder to execute this while still holding my position but probably made a difference overall.
I’m not sure how effective these would be in higher categories but they seemed to work well enough for Zach and I.
Congrats to everyone who rode this weekend, especially those who put the hard efforts in off the front of the race!