We've been racing all over since last we wrote, most recently we did a ten-day road trip that took us from Washington DC and a neutral start around the Pentagon, down to a nice park in Richmond, VA and one day later we were raging across the roads of Ohio.
The Tour of Ohio was a big race for us, as it lined up with our ability level nicely, and we hoped for some good results and an opportunity to really race bikes. Sometimes in the bigger races, like say, the Tour of Sommerville, the actual racing of the bike seems to be lost in the speed and quality of a high-power field. So we came to Ohio with high hopes, decent form, and two new riders - the first, a junior from South Carolina, Andy Baker, and the other just a couple of years older from the other side of the country, Eric Bennett, from Ventura, California.
We ran into a superb Abercrombie and Fitch squad at Ohio, and an even better Mark Hekman; from day one A & F was all over the race, controlling it from start to finish with superior numbers and incredible support for their main man Hekman. This frustrated us for a lot of the race. It was discouraging. When you attacked, you knew there was little to no chance for any real success (except for the pivotal third stage).
We rode well, aggressively, but without that certain fervor that has seen us to good results and encouraging racing in the past. It was with this in mind that we arrived at the final day, yet another stage tailor-made for a bunch sprint - it would make for the fifth group gallop in six stages. We decided as a unit that we were going to race bikes with that often talked about and rarely pulled off 'old school fury.'
We were hellbent on racing our bikes with some old school fury on Saturday, and after a nice, easy start to the stage at the back, we linked up and headed to the front to do our best to make something happen. Exactly what, we weren't quite sure, but the feeling that we had to try and do something was definitely shared by everyone.
So with about 30 laps to go, we got started doing the one thing that has worked wonders for us in the past: attack and counter-attack, so Chris, David, Junior (Andy), and I attacked, countered, attacked, and countered. Pat and Eric had rough times, as they both lost their contacts early on and rode the rest of the race in a semi-blind haze. That must have been fun.
It was plainly obvious that nothing was going anywhere, so after a certain point our goal became merely to make our presence felt and to make sure everyone knew that we were in fact here in Springfield, Ohio, so we did. One time I got off solo and for no other reason than to hear my name called out, I stretched the effort out for an extra lap. Did it do anything? No. Was it worth it? For sure. Call me selfish, I don't know, but I love hearing my name when I race, it motivates me to no end to maybe stay away for an extra lap for just one more, 'that's Jered Gruber from the Time Development Team.'
Maybe it's because before this year I had never had my name called out in a bike race that I can remember. It makes my skin prickle when I hear it. Maybe everyone else on the team likes to hear their names called as well, because they were riding like it. Chris got away late in the game in a good move with Seigler rider Mike Stoop. The two of them were part of a bigger break, but they were the only two really driving it, and they made a good effort to keep it going... but once again, to no avail.
Looking back, it was an unfortunate week for Chris. His first day wreck and loss of an hour was the only thing between him and third place overall on GC. I know the woulda/shoulda/coulda game is not the best to play, but it still stands that Chris rode a good race, and hopefully his luck will improve for the Nationals and the rest of the year.
Back to the racing. It was incredibly motivating though when we really got together at the front. When a move you're in comes back and instantly white, black, and red flashes past on a Time bike - that's just the best thing in the world. To be the person that counters when your team-mate comes back from a move because you know that's what needs to be done is just as cool.
And if for some reason no-one flashes by, you suck it up and go again, because you know the next time they will be there. I haven't felt so amped up mid-race in a long while. Again, it didn't amount to anything, but I'm sure if we can continue to get better at the 'old school fury' we're bound to experience some sort of success at some point down the road. Considering that we're not too fantastic with the bunch sprints either - it seems to be our only option. I think, too, that it makes us an incredibly powerful unit. It goes to the very foundation of team. Sure, we're all moderately strong as individuals, but when we manage to get things going in the attack-counter string, we become something a lot bigger than any one of us could ever be, and that's just cool, not to mention motivating.
I don't mean to make it sound like we become some unbeatable colossus or anything, but it definitely brings all of our racing up at least a few notches, and that's good stuff. Again though, we were x-d out of the bunch sprint, and once again Abercrombie won (they were fantastic all week - huge congrats), and Mark Hekman (same thing - huge congrats) took the overall.
So our 'old school fury' apparently wasn't ferocious enough, but hey, I didn't have much left in the tank afterwards and I don't think anyone else did either - and with a little bit better fortune in the eyes of Eric and Pat, perhaps we might have had that little bit of extra fury that could have perhaps wrenched something free...maybe...we'll keep trying that's for sure.