Kaleb Naegeli's Race Report: UNCW Weekend

Written by Brooks on . Posted in Race Reports

This weekend the collegiate racing scene returned to North Carolina for a series of races hosted by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and the main UNC campus (in Chapel Hill). 

EVENT: Watha Road Race
DATE: 1.March.2014
AUTHOR: Kaleb Naegeli
TEAMMATES: E. McDonnell, A. Fulton, M. Howe, J. Timmerman
PREVIOUS RESULT: 13th (2012)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: 60-mile road race on an almost entirely-flat 12-mile loop. The day was windy, but not excessively so, and the only real technical portion of the course was a series of bends and turns in the road in the last kilometer before the finish - including a sharp 90-degree turn with 250m to go. 
WEATHER: low 50s and cloudy
Our race field was larger than normal (45+ riders) due to the addition of some riders from other conferences who did not have races on the schedule this weekend: King University (from the Southeastern Conference), Virginia Tech, and Appalachian State had seven riders each and Duke had all five of our major contributors.

Flat races are certainly not selective, thus creating a very fast race with a lot of attacking and chasing. In theory, a breakaway comprised of the four major teams would be likely to stick, but coordination between the teams never really worked out to facilitate such a move. At the midway point of lap two, a rider from King University went at it solo and a rider from East Tennessee State bridged the gap to him as the peloton sat and dared others to do the work to pull the move back.

Eventually, Virginia Tech, NC State, App State, and Duke (mostly me) contributed people to chase and we slowly brought the gap back from 1 minute. With a catch imminent halfway through lap three (right at the midway point of the race), I ran through a rather unassuming pothole and promptly flatted my rear tire. I switched out for a spare from the wheel truck, but I could not chase back onto the group - a gap of over one minute to the main group in a strong headwind/crosswind was just a bit too big. So I did not finish. 

Meanwhile, Matt Howe counterattacked the previous breakaway once it was caught and went up the road with another rider from King. The two would stay out with less than one lap to go, at which point the field lined it out for a sprint. Zeb King (Applachian State) overpowered the field to take the win while Matt (6th), Eoin (8th), and Jacob (9th) all managed to finish in the top 10. The late turn makes for a tough sprint - particularly against the firepower that Zeb displayed in a sprint. Not the best day (and quite disappointing for me personally, because I felt great), but it could have been worse. 
EVENT: UNC Criterium
DATE: 2.March.2014
AUTHOR: Kaleb Naegeli
TEAMMATES: E. McDonnell, A. Fulton, M. Howe, J. Timmerman, J. Stamm
PREVIOUS RESULT: New course! New race!
COURSE DESCRIPTION: Criterium in Chapel Hill, NC. The loop was a fast, two-thirds of a mile circle shape with two quick left-right chicanes before a long, uphill drag to a right turn 300m from the finish line. 
WEATHER: Sunny and 70. Perfection.
Sunday's race was a another big field, another fast start, and, for the first time this season, the odds-on favorite to win the conference title this year, Steven Vogel (Wake Forest) showed up. 

The race started fast and aggressive as the big teams all tried to send riders up the road. 10 minutes into the race, Evan Lang (Virginia Commonwealth) made a go of it solo and was afforded a small gap. Soon, Vogel and Zeb King (Saturday's winner) attacked to bridge and carried Matt Bruner (NC State), Corey Davis (James Madison), a rider from King University, and Alex (Duke) with them. They reached Evan and created a strong breakaway that forced pressure on Virginia Tech to chase. This breakaway was like a hand-picked all-star team of ACCC riders.

At the race's midway point, though, Alex was dropped from the breakaway and panic set in. Eoin, Matt, and I took to the front to chase and made some progress in bringing the gap in from 25 seconds to 20. But the three of us chasing a break of six was a bad proposition, and miscommunication with organizing a continued chase disrupted all efforts. VT was reluctant to help until much later, and the gap grew rapidly.

The break stayed away and lapped the field, and the pace stayed awfully high for the last ten laps. The group was strung out and we resorted to (another) field sprint. Matt Howe was 10th, Alex was 16th, and I was 19th. An awfully frustrating and disappointing day when all was said and done.