Living in Boston, MA for the time being… although originally from Virginia.
Day 1 Circuit Race-
I remembered this race very well from last year. I remembered where the roads narrow, where the pack ramps up for the KOM, I remembered the KOM hill being harder than it was, the steep decent, the false flat where the attack would happen, and the glorious glorious down hill to the finish. I knew this was a sprinters race and that I’d have to ride smart in order to come away with a good result. What can i say, I felt comfortable throughout the race and played it like a fiddle. Hang in the pack, stay out of the wind and make sure you’re in a good position for the final sprint. I wasn’t going for points or anything, I just wanted a solid GC place, so on the second lap, approaching the final long descent to the finish, I found the wheel of Brittlee Bowman, who I know placed 5th in this exact race last year. Brittlee rides with an effortless fluidity earned from countless hours spent on a bike. I know she raced track bikes but even if I didn’t, one look at her legs would tell me that she’s seriously fast. Just the wheel I wanted to have as we hurtled ourselves down the hill at 40mph. Hugging the yellow line, we move up the left side of the field. At 1k to go the descent really drops and the field stretches. I’m off Brittlee’s wheel and get into an aero tuck to bomb the hill. My gamin says I hit 48mph. The road levels off a bit and the sprinters are at the front pushing the pace. There are maybe 15 or so riders ahead of me when the center line rule is lifted and we can spread across both lanes. At 45mph, I was already spinning out in my top gear so I just put my head down and went with it. Channeling my best boldsprint skills, I squeezed through a gap and held a steady line. I could barely see the line as we flew over it.
Pulling up at the stop sign a lot of the riders around me were commenting on how scary fast we were going. Truth be told, I thought it was awesome, and I was hardly out of breath since I was basically drafting the front line. All said and done, 11th place and I beat the woman who would go on to win the GC (that’s her in the yellow/orange kit directly to my right). Wee!
Day 3 Road Race-
Day 3 is a drastically different kind of race. My only real objective was to minimize personal suffering as much as possible. Day 3 is a long race, 62mi, with climbs positioned right at the start, half way through, and at the very end of the race. The climbs decide your fate and as long as you don’t get dropped all by yourself during either the 1st or 2nd climbs, it’s really just a matter of getting to the final climb with as much juice left in your legs as possible. First climb, no problem, long gradual descent spent dodging cracks in the road and hanging at the back flowed into the only sprint followed immediately by the 2nd climb(and the 1st KOM). I forgot to start my garmin at the beginning of the race which threw off my mileage and left me lagging as the field launched into the sprint. Too much energy burned catching back up put me in a bad way for the start of the climb. And since there were KOM points up for grabs, the front of the field did not take it easy. Ah well, so it goes. Find a rhythm to your breathing, stay on top of your pedals and keep your head up. 6 of us came together to chase. I felt pretty good through all the climbing leading up to the KOM and feed zone. There was a gravel hill and a hard packed descent. One rider dropped her chain, more descending. At one point an official car said we were 2mins behind the field. I was perfectly content to pace line it to the base of the final climb and let it all fall where it would. There were a few motivated riders in the chase however, who seemed to want to really push and I guess try to catch back on. It didn’t make a ton of sense to me since we’d use a bunch of energy to catch back on, only to be spit out the back again when the field went for the remaining KOM points on the final climb. Ah well, I’d rather do work in a fast pace line than solo TT, that’s just how it goes sometimes. We kept the pace line cruising until we hit bumper to bumper traffic. The field was ahead. When we finally caught sight of them there was no choice but work hard and catch. And we did catch them. With about 2 miles to go before the climb. Alas, my legs felt creaky and I knew any hopes i’d had of climbing my way up a few spots in the GC were toast. Everything from that point on was pretty simple: suffer and sweat. Punctuated only briefly by Sean, Ted and Julia screaming their faces off. Love the enthusiasm guys, give me a push next time though?
I ended up 26th on the day and 25th overall in the GC. Still more work to be done, but I’m satisfied.
Let me just say, this was a pretty nice little course, the weather was lovely and it felt really good to race with friends but man! what a bizarre race this turn out to be. Literally crossed the finish line shaking my head in disbelief. The circuit was about 6.5 miles with 2 stretches of ‘up’ but otherwise flat and fast. Dan and I arrived with enough time to collect our numbers and spin around to warm up before our 8am and 8:10 starts. The next hour and change was just one moment of wtf after another culminating in the most mind boggling moment of any race I’ve done yet.
Let me recap the mayhem:
First lap- Front of field missed the first two turns of the circuit despite having a pace car.
2nd lap- felt one of my contact lenses curl up and blow off my eye. Great, now I’m a cyclops with absolutely no depth perception racing in a pack with more than it’s fair share of twitchy squirrels. I tried to stick on a trustworthy wheel and stay out of the wind but it soon became apparent that I was going to be riding at the front and doing work. Very well. One rider had gone off the front but no one seemed to think she was much of a threat since the field held a pretty slack pace.
By the 3rd lap my legs were feeling good and we were starting to ramp it up and make some progress when a USAC official pulled up next to us and whispered and gesticulated something about a mens field coming up behind…. stay right… neutralize? We’d pick back up once their field passed. Really? We’re working hard at this point to catch the break rider and you’re gonna hold us up? Oh and what’s that? there are two riders from our pack that you didn’t tell? Oh, now theyre broken off the front? Okay.
The final lap was more of the same. I kept my eye on Lauren and Cait thinking maybe either Ride Studio or Pedal Power would make a move on one of the final two hills but the pack stayed together going into the final right turn. Ahead of us a was a gentle downhill leading into one more bump before the finish. I’d managed to slot myself in as second wheel to an unattached rider willing to do the work at the front. At this point I kind of had this feeling like, you know, I’m actually in a pretty ideal position for this thing.. which is clearly going to be a sprint… maybe if I can just keep my nose above the tidal wave that will no doubt come from behind I’ll be okay.
Pushing the pace down the hill Cait Dooley pulled to the front and the field stretched. I knew I had to make her wheel or be swallowed up. We hit the final bump and I could feel the other riders poised behind me so I pulled off Cait’s wheel and pushed it up the rise. The finish was in sight and we were all ramping it up. Top of the rise and we were out of the saddle digging. Cait was directly to my left and I could feel riders close behind and to my right. The wave was cresting and I just held my bars steady and powered into the wide open space ahead of me. Next thing I knew I was across the line shaking my head going ‘what the fuck just happened’. I’m not a sprinter by any means but somehow I’d pulled it off.
With the 3 riders who’d made it off the front, that put me in 4th. Weird.
After finding the only open place to eat in Merrimac, Dan drove us home since, you know, I only had one working eye. Thinking in the car on the way home I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if the field hadn’t been unnaturally split, if we’d continued to reel in the break. I guess I’ll have to wait until next race to see if I was just good luck or whether I’ve actually become a better rider. I guess I’d settle for a combination of the two.