April 23, 2012

Mazatlan Pan Am Cup

After my experience in the heat of Ixtapa Pan Am Cup, I decided to approach Mazatlan in a different way. I didn’t want to use all my matches by being off the front for 40k on this very flat course, so I had planned on swimming easy, riding with the pack (with specific tactics in mind) and seeing what I could do on the run. I stood my ground and let the race play out exactly as planned – but due to a curve ball thrown in halfway through the bike it turned out to be one of the most tactically frustrating races I’ve ever been in.

The ocean temperature was 20.2c which means that it was barely a non-wetsuit swim (the cut off is 20c, so my new 2012 BlueSeventy Helix has to wait yet again to start his first race). The swim was a beach start with some tiny waves to navigate, but overall a very simple two lap course. I liked the swim because after one lap you get out of the water, run on the beach for a bit, then re-enter the water (JG style) which (along with being non-wetsuit) was an advantage for me. I had a good start and was at the front from the first dolphin dive. I just cruised it around the course the first lap and was satisfied with the pace. When I finished the first lap I got a chance to see where everyone was, and turns out it was just me and Joe Maloy (another American) off the front. Knowing that my plan was to ride with the pack, I just put it in cruise control and relaxed the rest of the way in.

When Joe and I got to T1 we had a 30 second gap on the rest of the field, Joe was like “do you wanna go?” and since I had my Ixtapa result fresh in my mind, and a specific plan I wanted to follow, I told him “Sorry dude, I’m just gonna sit up and wait for the pack”. So the two of us rode slow as heck waiting for the chase pack to catch us, but they didn’t catch us until about ¾ of the way through the 6.7k lap. When we saw the chase pack coming after us at the turnaround, there was about 22 guys (20 Mexicans, 1 Canadian, and 1 Austrian) fully organized, sharing the work to bring us back; when they finally caught us, the majority of the pack immediately stopped working and the tactical frustration began.

After the first lap, when we were all established as the lead pack, individual attacks started flying off the front. Every time someone from Mexico would attack, the rest of the athletes from their country stopped working and left the chasing to the non-countrymen. I was expecting this, and after studying the start list I had a few people marked who I wasn’t going to let get away. So if someone attacked and it wasn’t one of the “main men”, Jordan Bryden (CAN), Joe (USA) and I would just keep it smooth on the front and slowly bring them back. If it was a “main man” then Jordan and I were out of the saddle bridging the gap as quick as possible. So this went on for the next 2.5 laps until finally Fransisco Serrano (the #1 ranked athlete and my top marked man) and his countrymen pulled off a chess move which was THE LAST THING I wanted to happen.

After Jordan and I had rotated through, two Mexicans went to the front and completely sat up. Jordan and I were blocked in because there was a curb on our right, and many more Mexicans to our left. The two guys on the front just rode side by side soft pedaling while Fransisco attacked with another Mexican athlete. Jordan yelled “LEFT LEFT LEFT!!” and I was like “I see it, but I can’t get there!” By the time Jordan and I got free there was about a 15sec gap to the two leaders, and now that there was two Mexicans up the road, that meant 18 Mexicans in our pack would never come to the front of the pack again (at one point both Jordan and I stopped pedaling, sat up and looked behind us and even though we slowed down to about 12MPH they would just brake and stay behind us - it was ridiculous).

So now the North Americans had to make a decision:
A) Work hard to bridge up to the breakaway and tow along the rest of the field who will then have extremely fresh legs for the run.
B) Try to attack our group and bridge up by ourselves.
C) Accept that the break is going to stick and try to minimize the damage without killing ourselves.
The sad result was trying plan B a couple times (but being immediately chased down and slowed down by all of Mexico) and then having to finally submit to plan C.

After the combination of Jordan-Tommy-Joe rinse repeat were on the front the rest of the bike leg, leading into T2 everyone behind us ramped up the speed to easily over 30MPH and I was literally sprinting with my feet on top of my shoes to get into T2 in the top 10. After being ran into and run over I had a solid T2 and was out on the run in 8th. After a lot of passing, and getting passed and re passing over the four lap course, I was in 12th position with 1k to go. I decided to just go for it the last K and ended up passing five people and finished 7th. Joe had an awesome run and went from about 15th out of T2 to 4th overall!

It’s frustrating going down to Mexico for a triathlon, and having my strengths of swimming and biking nullified to just end up racing what seemed to be a 10k run race. Looking back I wish I had known how fast of a runner Joe was so that I could have worked for him out of the water and on the bike. I feel like he could have won the race if we had known each other and collaborated beforehand. Next time!