by Jason Lewiss
|Alex Habbit, Jason Lewiss, and Donald Davis, Masters 40+ podium|
Acadiana is a typical three-stage race featuring a TT, a crit, and a road race. The field was made up of roughly ½ Texans and ½ Louisianans. The TT started Saturday morning, so after a couple hours of sleep I headed down to the start. I still hadn’t decided whether to do the Cat 123 race or the Masters 40+ race, and I thought I would check the numbers and decide once I got there.
The plan was to get there early, because one, I hadn’t registered yet, and two, the TT was only 4.3 miles, so a long warm-up was extremely important. Well, my plan almost worked—I got there in time to do a good warm-up, but as I was parking, I realized I left my skinsuit in the hotel! My choice seemed to be to do the TT in normal clothing or to rush back to the hotel (25 minutes away), get my suit, and do the TT with no warm-up. I chose the latter option, and figuring I would have no time to warm up, I chose the Masters race, thinking the field would not be as deep overall. Fortunately, start times were pushed back, but by the time I pinned my number and got my TT bike ready to go, I only had about 10 minutes to warm up, nowhere near what I’d wanted. Oh well.
I had no idea what to expect in the TT. There was a time when I was a good TTer, but I hadn’t done a good one in a few years, mostly because I rarely train on my TT bike anymore. Somewhere along the line I lost the motivation to do rides by myself, especially those involving hard efforts. I hadn’t touched the P3 in a long time. I didn’t even do a warm-up ride on it in the days leading up to the race, so I hoped everything was still working properly. I basically just oiled the drivetrain and hopped on, hoping I could get by on fitness, though a longer TT would have suited me much better.
With the lack of a good warm-up, I decided to start conservatively, but I was still extremely uncomfortable. I gave it all I had on the way back and it seemed to go okay, as I caught my 30-second man. That gave me a bit of confidence, and I figured I finished in the top half. I wound up 6th, one place out of the money, but with 10 points for the GC. I was only 25 seconds out of 1st, which I was thrilled with under the circumstances.
The crit was that evening, and I made sure I got a suitable warm-up. I also made sure I knew the race numbers of the guys ahead of me. A few guys from my old team were there, which was nice, as I figured we might help one another if need be.
There were about five primes during the race and one hotspot sprint for GC points. The race hosts, Acadiana Bicycle Company Racing (ABCR), had the biggest team and were in 2nd and 4th after the TT, so they did the majority of the work in the bunch. I popped off the front twice to bag cash primes, and I was surprised by how easy it was. Both times I had such a big gap that I was able to soft pedal the last few hundred meters and put out very little effort.
An Austinbikes rider went off the front and was away solo for a long time. He was 3rd on GC, and I was happy for him to sit out there, as he never got more than 20 seconds, and I was confident I could close the gap if need be. Unfortunately, this meant he scored top points in the hotspot sprint. I went off the front at the same place I had for the primes to score 2nd place in the hotspot sprint. I was surprised the group let me pick up the two points so easily, but I certainly wasn’t complaining.
Just past the halfway point, the gap to the leader went down to about 10 seconds, and an Acadiana rider, Alex (2nd in the TT), bridged. The gap started to go out again, and another rider went really hard to bridge. I took off after him, and we had a foursome containing 2nd, 3rd, and 6th on GC with about nine or ten laps to go. It was almost an identical scenario to the one I was in just two days prior at the Driveway where I finished 2nd. We worked well together and eventually extended our lead enough that we were guaranteed to finish 1st through 4th. Again, I finished 2nd, but I finished ahead of the two guys who were ahead of me in the TT. So, that meant in 10 days, I finished 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd in mass start events. I was ready to finally win something, and I texted two people that night that I was going to win the road race, not out of any disrespect for my competitors, but to put pressure on myself and for motivation.
Going into the road race, Alex (ABCR) was in 1st, Charlie (Austinbikes) was three points behind him, and I was one point behind Charlie in 3rd. The TT winner, Donald, was one point behind me. That basically meant that if any of us in the top four won, then we would win the overall. As soon as we started racing, it started raining. It did this off and on during the race, sometimes quite hard. ABCR controlled the race once again. They had the leader and kept him near the front, went in almost every move, and pulled back anything too dangerous.
I tried not to do too much work, and the one time a dangerous move went with Alex in it, I bridged halfway, and when I realized a couple of guys came with me, made them complete the bridge. It was too early, and eventually we came back together.
About halfway into the race, the pack got fragmented into small groups as the pace went up on a section of the course with lots of turns. I was sitting too far back in the bunch, and I latched onto a guy as he jumped from group to group. At one point he seemed to slow, and I encouraged him to keep going until we caught the front group. I stayed on his wheel until we reached the front group, and then I attacked as I figured it was the perfect time, since guys were lined out and fragmented.
Things were simple now—I needed to win the race to win overall. Actually, it was the same scenario for all of us, but at the time I thought Donald was a couple of points further back, and I didn’t realize he would also win GC with a road race win. I also didn’t know at the time that he was the two-time defending champ. For the first half hour I noticed Donald’s pulls were much stronger than Alex’s, and Alex seemed to be suffering a bit. Later, Donald’s pulls grew weaker and shorter, and Alex’s got a bit stronger, but I had no idea if there was any bluffing going on.
I knew eventually I would attack after one of Alex’s pulls. Donald had huge legs, and I didn’t want to take a chance of losing yet another sprint. I needed to wait until the last moment, but I didn’t want to wait so long that Alex was anticipating it and waiting on me.
I attacked just after the last feed zone with two or three miles to go, just as Alex was pulling off. I looked back and they were trying to get across to me, but it wasn’t happening. I got a decent gap, but the road was straight and wide open and there was a solid headwind, which I hadn’t anticipated. That last couple of miles wasn’t fun, as the headwind was brutal, and I could see them there about 150 meters back. The elastic never broke, so I couldn’t let up. When I finally saw the flag signaling 1k to go, it was a great feeling, because I knew once I was there, no one would catch me, as I would cough up a lung staying ahead if I had to. Right about that time, I noticed the gap was coming down. Turns out it was Donald coming after me solo. He was coming strong, but I was able to slow it down with about 200 meters to go and coast in for the win. Success!
As an added bonus, my former teammate Larry was 2nd in the sprint from the remaining group and finished 5th—a good day all around! I’d definitely recommend the race. It was well-organized, ABCR were great hosts, and Lafayette is a pretty little town. The courses were also nice, if a little flat for my liking. I plan on going back next year for sure.
Many thanks to Acadiana Bicycle Company Racing for the race photos! Check them out on their website, http://abc.ccracinginc.org, or on Facebook.