Freed flies to first " but only with help from friends |

Freed flies to first " but only with help from friends

Courtesy Paul McKenzieCyclepaths/Wildcherries Cycling Team members Gary Mandy (front), Conrad Snover and Nate Freed (back) compete in Saturday's 72-Mile Ultra Bike Race. Freed captured the top spot with a time of 2 hours, 59 minutes, 08 seconds. He did it with the help of the team, which led the way so he could draft off the pack and conserve energy.

As cliche as it sounds, the “no-I-in-team” strategy worked out beautifully for the Cyclepaths/Wildcherries Cycling Team in Saturday’s 72-Mile Ultra Bike Race.

“Basically, we got together the night before and set two goals: We wanted to win, and we wanted to break the record, sort of in that order,” said Nick Schaffner, one of seven local team members who helped execute the plan.

Schaffner actually did more than just help. He was the mastermind behind the scheme, which included working together as a unit to propel one teammate to a first-place finish ” and in less than 3 hours to establish a new record in the sixth-year Lake Tahoe Marathon Week event.

“To do that, we had to keep two (cyclists) protected so they didn’t have to do any work, with the idea that they could break away at the end for the win,” Schaffner said, adding that they would have to average 24 mph around the lake. “The other four of us were just out to hammer ourselves into the ground. …

“But we totally pulled it off.”

The chosen one was Nate Freed of Tahoe City. And he fulfilled his end of the bargain.

Conserving his energy on the heels of his Truckee teammates, Freed ” who celebrates his 27th birthday today ” split from the pack about two or three miles before the Spooner Summit finish line. A highly competitive field of cyclists, many of whom claim local residence, followed in pursuit. But none would catch Freed, who finished first in 2:59:08 to shatter the record of 3 hours, 1 minute.

“I broke the record, but I couldn’t have done it without those guys,” said Freed, who placed fifth on his own last year and second in 2006. “They set the pace up front while I conserved energy. Without their efforts, I would not have been able to break the record.”

Freed finished in 3:06:32 last year and 3:04:49 in 2006.

Schaffner said the Cyclepaths/Wildcherries team ” which has 12 members all together and was formed in November 2007 ” appointed Freed as their anchor because of his fitness level coming off a busy race season.

“He has a big engine. I knew he could do it,” said Schaffner, whose teammates on Saturday also included Conrad Snover, Matt Chappell, Gary Mandy, Ramsey Etchison and Andrew Scott ” who won’t be an official member until next year, Schaffner said.

Like any good plan, however, the Cyclepaths/Wildcherries crew had a backup.

“We definitely had a plan ‘B,’ which was me,” said Snover, who sat back with Freed before helping him launch his attack on the final stretch. Snover’s role was to surge ahead for the win if his teammate failed.

“Conrad is our best sprinter, so if Nate wasn’t able to pull off his solo attack, Conrad would zip around everyone at the end,” Schaffner explained.

While it didn’t come down to that, it was far from a blowout victory.

“They were definitely gaining on me,” Freed said of the other cyclists. “Another half-mile and I would not have been able to hold on.”

In fact, 13 cyclists broke the previous record. Several were from Cyclepaths/Wildcherries Cycling Team, although Snover and Schaffner said the top-10 results posted on the Lake Tahoe Marathon Web site on Tuesday were inaccurate.

Either way, their man won. And he couldn’t have done it alone, Freed said.

Which begs the question: How could a competitive group of cyclists concede individual victory, even to one of their own?

“The selflessness came easy,” Chappell said. “We all wanted to win the race and knew we could do it if we pulled together. …

“Going into this race it was clear that our best option was to utilize the overall strength of Nate Freed in the event that he could break away from the peloton to take the solo win, which eventually played out perfectly.”

Indeed. Look out for the Cyclepaths/Wildcherries Cycling Team in 2009.

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