This weekend saw the 2018 Snelling Road Race take place here in Northern California. A race of 87 miles over some tough terrain. A fun event.
The race, as is the norm for a parcours without an excess of climbing, was very, very busy early on as breaks tried to get established. As is my want, I thought I’d wet my beak and get amongst the action, so I had tried to instigate or follow a moves to no avail. Approximately 15 miles into the race a solo rider had been given a little space and was off the front, maybe 15-20 seconds. As always, I thought that it seemed appropriate to have a little dig.
Now, instantly one should realise the folly of this. This isn’t my first affair with that temptress which is the Solo Bridge, and as mentioned before, they should re-adjust that title of this endeavour from "bridge" to "full-gas sprint until you blow. Let’s hope you get there before you blow."
Off I go. First thing is to get separation from the pack, which is never easy especially early in the race. To attempt this I duly put about about 1000 w in a sprint to get a gap. Then, of course, one needs to press the advantage and get up to the rider ahead. To do this I then got into a rhythm of between 350-370 w. I’m hesitant to use the term ‘settle’ as that implies some sort of comfort, which I can assure you was absent. It’s at this point, after the sprint, about a minute into the work, that the situation’s obvious farcical nature becomes apparent. During the solo bridge you see your target, you blast from the pack, you get seated and into a rhythm and in that first minute you make good progress; you get two thirds of the way across in only about 60 seconds. Then, it dawns on you. You’re close to blowing your load and that progress you were making to your target falters. The gap stops going down. Oh dear...
Here’s the tease of the solo bridge. Getting into no-man’s land and then struggling like hell to get that last part across. The last part is always so difficult. An almost unattainable treasure. I’ll clarify here, it’s not actually getting across which is the unattainable treasure, although very difficult, it’s often attainable, often finished with a full-on sprint, out of the saddle to cover those last 30 m or so. It’s the getting across, then having any juice left to help out in the move. Of course, in this instance the solo rider had been out front too, forging ahead solo. He would need rest and recovery also. Could I provide that opportunity to him?
I was two thirds across and knew that I had to make that junction. All this had not escaped the attention of the solo rider I was moving towards. He had hoped to get some company so had been checking behind. He knew that I was moving across and was keen to see me get there. Here’s the funny part. A few minutes into my effort, after he’d been periodically checking on my progress, I am pretty sure he had eased off to let me make the junction. Even with this help I wasn’t closing very fast. After another few hundred meters he looked behind, one hand off the bars looking at me with this kind of shrug and a look which I could see, even through my lactate-blurred vision, conveying a clear an apparent sentiment of "What are you doing? Why are you prancing around in the gap between me and the pack. Get up here silly." At that particular moment I looked at my computer, perhaps convinced that maybe he was right, was I not trying? Nope, I was. Power meter said that I was doing 370 w at that moment, not bad for my 148 lb frame.
I did make it across. The whole bridge attempt took 3:09- about 2 minutes too long! The average was 357 w. The power numbers aren’t absurd, but should be put into context. I’d been active before in trying to get out front. Also, the dash across the gap involves a supra-threshold effort after an almost maximum, full-on sprint, which is a challenge. Once I had made it over, I took a few moments and then took a rather meek turn on the front.
In case you are wondering, after only a couple more minutes out front, we were caught by a chasing peloton. I didn’t have enough to drive open the gap. I was pretty cooked and needed some recuperation. The solo bridge- what’s the point? Even if you make it if you are in no position to start hammering instantly the chances of your move getting daylight are slim. Might not be the most sense to try. But it does look cool at least.
I put the power profile of the attempt below. You can clearly see the initial sprint and the two obvious drops in power were turns in the course where I (thankfully) had to stop pedaling to avoid pedal strike. The final sprint to close the gap after the last turn is visible too.