Near the middle of the race, Chris Jones (VCU) took off solo and the field was content to let him burn energy alone. After a few miles, Jacob and a rider from Applachian State attempted to bridge, but after a few minutes of chasing, the entire peloton was back together. Virginia Tech began sending riders up the road, one after another, to try to bridge to Chris. Again, we were more-or-less content to let lone riders fight the wind.
The gap to Chris Jones began to grow, as did the gap to a VT rider in pursuit, so I went forward and, with the help of a rider from NC State and one from the University of Maryland, we brought the rider back with about 15 miles left to race. This was quickly followed by another attack from Virginia Tech from Taylor Pearman, a relatively unknown rider who had finished third in Men's C last year. With the gap to Jones at ~30-40 seconds and Taylor closing in quickly, I went to the front again to begin trying to bring the move back - riders solo in the wind would likely be brought back in the fast, frenetic final lap but two riders joining together would become much more formidable and dangerous. I got some help from NC State and Appalachian State in our chase, but Taylor caught up to Chris and with a lap to go, the gap was still hanging at 40 seconds.
On the last lap, Matt Bruner (NC State) attacked hard on the climb and created a break of six (including Jacob, Eoin, and Alex). But the group didn't work together very well and the peloton came back together. I returned to the front to try to bring this race together again and catch Chris and Taylor - I certainly didn't want Duke to be racing to settle for third in a field sprint. With help from Matt Bruner (NCSU), Miles Hubbard (App State), and Forrest Howard (App State), we brought the gap down to about ten seconds with about 3 miles to race (I did about half of the work in the chase).
As the gap got close, Matt and Miles began attacking to try to bridge up. They were my two biggest helpers in chasing, and when I was put on the defensive, the chase suffered. No one else would help do work and cover Matt and Miles (I am baffled by this strategy), so Taylor and Chris expanded their gap again. They stayed away (Taylor won) by about 15 seconds. In the last mile, I came to the front again and drove the pace as hard as I could to string the field out somewhat. I knew my legs were shot for an uphill sprint but I could hope to keep people from swarming up and boxing in our guys - a fast, strung-out sprint is a safer and better sprint.
My effort done, I sat up. Jacob and Alex took second and third in the field sprint (good for fourth and fifth overall) and I rolled casually across the line for 26th. All in all, it was a disappointing day because the field dared Duke to make the race happen and a break got away. I was frustrated to be so close to bringing the move back but ultimately miss out on the win. But we're learning as a team and will certainly improve in weeks to come.