With some attractive start times and the always enjoyable Branch Brook course on tap, several members of Team Sixcycle-RK&O headed to New Jersey on April 5th for the Cherry Blossom Challenge. Corey Morenz represented the squad in the Cat 3 field and posted this report.
Cherry Blossom Challenge Race Report from Team Sixcycle-RK&O’s Corey Morenz
A combination of wedding planning, travel and no desire to race in wet or frigid conditions made this my only second race of the year.
I had never raced the branch brook course before but was told it was a 2.2 mile flat loop that twisted and turned. That combined with a day of high winds meant great conditions for breakaways. I drove out with Dan and quickly found I was underdressed (a little too eager to break out our new LG skinsuits) so my warmup consisted of sitting in Dans car for an hour.
The masters race before ours ended in a solo breakaway and the course conditions seemed to be dampening the spirits of any chase groups. Soon enough we lined up and were off. Dan and I worked together beautifully for the first few laps, attacking and counter attacking each other’s moves. Our efforts paid off as the accelerations and headwinds whittled the field in half.
After I was reeled in from an unsuccessful attempt to again breakaway from the remaining group three riders floated off the front of the pack. They did not seem particularly dangerous and just dangled about 10 seconds in front of us for a while. Dan and I discussed and decided to wait for them to be reeled back in before launching a counterattack which we hoped could be the winning move.
Unfortunately a few laps later three riders off the front were barely remaining in sight and no one in the group seemed keen to chase. The racing became defensive with no one attempting to bridge or chase. With the winds continuing to howl most riders seemed content with a field sprint for 4th.
With three laps to go I attacked off the front only to find myself solo in no man’s land. I chased the break for a lap but then faded back to the pack, unsure if i had the stamina to bridge all the way up to the break solo.
Soon the bell rang for the final lap. I was annoyed at the field for their lame racing tactics and decided I’d try one last move. I sprinted straight into the headwind after we heard the bell and created a sizable gap on the rest of the field. After looking back a few times to see if anyone would bridge with me (they didn’t) I went full gas with everything I had left. The break off the front soon came within sight and I counted the gap closing from 20 seconds, then down to 15.
As the race came down to the final 1km the break was less than 10 seconds ahead. I forced myself out of the saddle for the final few hundred meters, but just then the break ramped up again for the sprint and I had to be content to roll over the line in 4th.
Just 9 seconds off the break but 20 seconds ahead of the field. A podium would have been sweet, but almost as fun was sticking it to the rest of the field and laying everything I had on the course.