With Aria, Travis, Roni, Mark, and Philly lining up to race the elite cat 4 field at the 2015 edition of the Knight's Ferry road race, the plan was to be active in the breaks, but save Mark and Travis for an epic charge at the end.
Spoiler: this played out (almost) perfectly.
Knights Ferry is a 13 mile out-and-back with an uphill finish, 2 laps, rolling hills, and 59 miles of very windy racing. Knowing this, Philly used his break experience and patrolled the front, waiting for the almost inevitable sneak-away that happened in the first 5 miles of racing, snapping away from the pack with 4 others at the first turn-around.
The break quickly gained a big advantage -- almost 2 minutes at one point -- thanks to the ferocious headwind and a group committed to working together. While Travis, Mark, and Aria sat in with the chase group, the break kept churning away until the final out and back. As the miles wound down, the urgency in the chase group of around 10 steadily grew and in the final trip through the headwinds, the chase worked well and cut around 1 minute off of the leaders as they whittled down to just 6. Philly kept pushing the break, but with almost 50 miles and a lot of headwind, they were doomed.
At the final turn-around, Mark and Travis saw the destruction of the break -- which was attacking itself -- and turned on the engines. With fresh ER legs and only 30-60 seconds to bridge, Mark shredded everyone from the chase but Travis and a savvy racer from another team. As they hammered past Philly, he caught on, and the three TMB riders flew towards the finish, with Mark putting out an unreal effort to wear everyone down and deliver Travis to the final climb.
With less 1km to go, Travis launched from the rocket ship express of Mark's rear wheel as the final, punchy climb began. Travis put it all on the pavement, but got passed just at the finish, placing him on the 2nd step of the podium.
Mark and Philly rounded out the TMB domination of the race at 4th and 5th place, completely shelled from their big days in the saddle.
Over burritos on the way home, Philly and Travis talked about the lessons they learned during the race:
1) Make a plan. Then stick to the plan. If the plan is flexible, it will serve you well and set you up for maximum success.
2) Headwinds and tight turn-arounds suck. But are tactically very useful: they make for great resources to generate big moves that separate the wheat from the chaff.
3) We were super lucky to have all the support from the team sponsors and supporters: OSMO nutrition kept us fueled during the race and helped maximize recovery afterwards, Rachel is a saint (and definitely the new team mascot), and our Capo kits kept us comfortable and supported on the rough, wet roads and changing conditions.
4) Play for the team -- Mark put his life on the line to shred everyone but the best in the field to set Travis up for the win, and the one move that Philly could have made at the end to potentially help shake the ultimate winner off Travis' wheel by putting in one last dig and trying an early sprint would have been a hard one to muster, but could've changed the podium order for TMB.
5) With 3 out of 5 starters for TMBDEV making the top 5 today, it's going to be an awesome year for #TMBequator.
Race Report written by "Philly" Williams