"What if" is a slippery slope, but one we can't help investigating to some degree.
This year at Hodges Village Dam I was going to run a 56" gear (33x17), but after pre-riding, decided I would be better served with a 53"(33x18). Last year I ran a 54.8" (34x18).
The reason I question this is pre-riding, while talking with Kerry and Andy, and maintaining a much lower HR, my average speed was only about a half mph less than when racing.
I have no delusions of being able to match Steve on the day, but comparing my time to other racers who are a known quantity last year to this year, I feel I could have done better.
Andrew Chambers is a good example of this. Some races suit him better than me and vice-versa.
Climbing races suit us both, but Ski resorts suit him better due to the nature of the descents. Rougher terrain also works better to Andy's strengths.
For example, last year at Winsted Woods I was about 4 minutes faster than Andy. This year about 4.5 minutes. Last year I was about 2.5 minutes slower than Andy at Hodges Village Dam, this year over 8!
Although I know it would have no effect on the results it still has me second guessing my choice of changing my gear.
Food for though for next year.