Beating the odds..

By: Christian Helmig

Cycling is a team sport. Period. At the top level, if you do not have a team to support you, there is virtually no chance that you will be able to pull off a good result. Tactics play a crucial part in any race we enter. That’s what makes it such an interesting sport. Unfortunately, it can also lead to situations that aren’t very favorable: you can be outnumbered in a breakaway, you and your team might be obliged to expand a lot of energy to chase down a break if you missed it and your team would have no chance at winning if you didn’t put in the work and the break stayed away, etc. At the Tour de Grove we ran into a different kind of problem as United Health Care – supposedly the strongest team in the US – showed up to race. They have a really deep roster and some of the fastest sprinters in the country on their team so they know that they can win pretty much any race in a sprint. Not just do they have the fastest sprinters to deliver the win, they also have a super strong team to control the race and make sure that it actually comes to a field sprint and no break gets away. So that leaves everyone else in a dilemma: you can either try to establish a break – but with United Health Care being so strong, there is barely a chance that it will succeed – or you can sit in and wait for the sprint – which isn’t much better as coming around their sprinters in the end is very unlikely too. So what to do? We decided to be aggressive and go against the odds and try to establish a break. Unfortunately, none of the other teams seemed to be in that mindset and it was very hard to get a group off the front. I finally succeeded in attacking and getting a gap but I only had one other rider with me. Not the best odds… We rode as hard as we could for the better part of 25 minutes but no one else would even try to bridge up to us. So as a pretty logical consequence, we got caught with 2 laps to go after United put their whole team on the front to prepare for the sprint finish. None of the other team were abel to make a difference in the finish and United Healthcare won the race easily and also got the second spot on the podium – so basically the other 130 guys in the field were only passengers for the duration of the race, just making up numbers but didn’t have any kind of impact on how the race unfolded. Those are the times when tactics can be very frustrating, but for United Health Care it was a perfect scenario.

Fortunately it isn’t that way all the time and just this past weekend we showed that we can also make tactics work in our favor at the Georgetown Grand at the Texas State Criterium Championships, where ELBOWZ cleaned house. But that’s a different story…