David Whitney French Photography | Off the front: the solo break-away

Off the front: the solo break-away

March 21, 2017  •  Leave a Comment


One of the most exciting experiences in bike racing is the solo break-away. If anyone has seen a bike race, to include the Tour de France, you have seen them from time to time. One rider, off the front, with the rest of the pack (or peloton), chasing. Do solo breaks work? Sometimes, but not often. 


The Tucson Bicycle Classic, or TBC, is a three day stage race that takes place in Tucson and Green Valley. Friday is a short time trial out by Old Tucson on the west side of Gates Pass. Saturday is a longer road race, taking place in Green Valley, about 30 miles south of Tucson, and Sunday is the Circuit Race, taking place on the west side of town by Pima Community College.

I had started the TBC thinking it would be a bit easier this year, after all, I was in a new age group. I realized that things weren't going to be easier when I noted that the 55 plus category was larger than the 45 plus category I did last year. The time trial is usually not my strong suit, and I finished toward the back on that day. The next day was a 41 mile race with a couple of tough, hilly sections. I felt I had been riding well and my training was good, but half way through the race, there were a number of surges that took place just after a section I had been off the front with another rider. We were caught quickly, but my efforts left my match-book emptier than it should have been for the attacks that soon started. I was dropped from the main group, and ended up nearly five minutes back on the day. 

Going into the final day, the top 10 riders were all close in time, some just 10 to 15 seconds. I figured this day would be my chance, if I had any, to get off the front. The reason? The top 10 riders would be watching each other. I had a choice, I could stay in the field, hang on, and wait for a field sprint, or take a chance of getting off the front and moving up in the placings. 

The last stage of this race has always been my favorite, Its shorter, with some short hills, that suit me. So in keeping with my race strategy I try to tell people to use: ride your strengths and protect your weaknesses, I drifted slowly off the front on one of the first laps up a steeper section of the course. I didn't make a large, impressive jump, just enough to get a gap. A big effort may have drawn attention. When I glanced behind, there was no one following, so I put the power into the pedals and sped up. By the time I was at the top of the first climb, I had 30 meters on the field. From there it was off too the races. 

I stayed away for over a lap, looking back, seeing if I could see the peloton. They were out of sight for nearly an entire lap. But eventually, someone decided that was enough, and on the second lap I was off the front, they started to close. I could see them, and at that point, started to rest, knowing that my time in the wind, solo, with the announcer calling out my name, was going to end. 

I ended up finishing with the main group. (See above, the very back) No one else got away the rest of the day. The effort I had to expend staying on to that main group was more than I spent on the solo break. I has a good day, and was happy to finish 11th, in the same pack as the leader. All in all, I had a good race, that was fun, and hard, and exciting, all at the same time.

And thanks to Damion Alexander, fellow photographer and real estate agent, for snapping the first shot of me, off the front. 


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Photography, Lessons Learned, and Cycling.



I have been taking pictures since I was about 6 years old.  I started with a Kodak Instamatic.  Just holding that Kodak was fun back then. Today, the camera badge may say "Nikon", but the fun of taking someone's photograph is still there. 


Times have changed regarding photography over the past 20 years.  My first business was in in Corpus Chirsti, Texas back in 1992.  I went under the same name, my name, David Whitney French Photography.  One of my favorite photo gigs was doing weddings.  Why?  Well, besides being a challenge at times, with the stress of getting the right shot in the age of film, everyone was happy!  It was a happy time for the groom, bride, attendants, everyone.  What more could I ask for?  Hanging out, with a camera for a few hours or more with a bunch of happy people.


Oh, and I like riding my bike!