Portmore Classic Race 2019 Race Review
5th October 2019
By Darren Orchard.
‘Right lads here’s the plan’ Words spoken in the car park that would eventually work as perfectly as Rolex keeps time.
Coaches need to consider a lot of different elements to planning a race out for a athlete they manage. Course reviews, athlete type, strengths and weaknesses, previous race finishes on the course (if available) and reports on how races were won or lost on them, current fitness and form, any niggles or injuries, weather on the day and choice of equipment including clothing, nutrition, technical ability….and more. Racing and riding with the people you coach gives a great insight into their ability and how they will perform in a race, and also confirms what your data is telling you about them.
The plan for the Mud, Sweat n Gears team was easy. The planning had been done and the tactic was going to go one of two ways:
1) The race will not run to form and a breakaway will go and stay out. The chosen team riders, myself and Graham Biles (coached by myself), and Tom Carter will cover breaks and help to claw back any that stay out for some time. If a feasible small break goes in the final lap or two we needed to be near the front to help block the move from succeeding – a tough ask but we have strength in our team to give that a really good chance. However if the gap was massive and one of our riders was in it then we would work to try and win out from that group.
2) If the race followed the pattern that most other races followed this course it would come down to a bunch sprint. Being the more likely outcome our team was primed for this eventuality. Having a quality young sprinter in the team, and in a course that suited his ability perfectly would mean all we had to do was deliver him to the finish and feed off of any lead outs. Toby was our sprinter and was instructed to ignore the race other than to stay in the peloton and hang in until the end when he needed to find me at the front and then be led out. He would then feed off of another well know local sprinting superstar (I think we all know his name) to win.
So the actual race went to plan for a team and was so directly comparable to a flat sprinters day at the Tour de France. In the end we had to use both plan 1 and 2 to get the job done but we were primed for that.
For a number of laps a breakaway went out and at times had almost a 40 second lead. I went to the front to help the fight back to the break but time after time there were half hearted responses from many to get this to happen. At this level of racing how many times have people seen such breaks succeed, I would argue this its more common than would be expected as inexperience from within peloton seems to allow it to happen. A small group became organised at the front and fought back the break with the gap reduced to about 10 seconds, and at that point it seemed reasonable that they were coming back to the group, but the group doubled their effort and the peloton had sat up with a slight air of arrogance they pulled away once more. Finally the front of the peloton became organised once more and chased the group down. There was a couple of riders that went off the front but by now the group had learnt their lesson and how to work together to chase them down, Graham Biles helping out this time for us. So the race had more or less gone how we expected, it was now down to plan 2.
The final moments
The final moments of a road race are critical and can always produce unexpected results. Toby was told to keep his nose clean and put in minimal efforts and don’t even worry what was going on up front as the team would be working hard to help it come to a sprint to get to the finish – we can put a tick next to that. His refreshing honesty in a post race interview revealed just how well he did this with his rather comical comment that he did not even realise there was a break out front during the race. Up front I did my best to position myself in the peloton near the front as a lead out for Toby and be in a good position for mopping up a point or two. Tom Carter had had a good race to this point and I found him near the front and lined up behind him, suddenly a voice came from behind – it was Toby letting me know he was on the train and ready to go. Tom was gone and then Toby followed me through the bunch. Under strict instruction to follow a certain rider who was not part of the MSnGs team once their sprint started worked perfectly. James Horton is locally a well know force for sprinting and it was him that we told Toby to follow as a final lead out if he could. Almost like clockwork James came speeding past. Like a whippet chasing a very quick rabbit Toby latched onto his James’s wheel and then showed masses as he executed a 16w/kg sprint for 10 seconds to pass with ease and clearly win the sprint contest and the Portmore Classics Race.
In review our team tactics worked very well, we know our abilities and this was the perfect platform to show them. Toby showed what it takes to win yesterday, and as a team we worked well to get him to the right place at the right time. Even enough time to celebrate in style. I am so glad we put in such a performance and I am sure our team will be ready to race again in 2020!