Katherine Snell, Category 3/4 Women, DNF (flat)
Great race for the part of it I was able to do. I flatted at mile 40 or so going into Greenwich, replaced the tube with my spare and then had it explode on me and gave up with a great deal of frustration and exasperation. I had a few offers of spare tubes but at that point had given up a considerable amount of time in what had been a respectable position as I figured based on my average speed at that point (19.0 mph), with 2/3 of the total mileage done, that I would have finished in the top 30.
Nonetheless I learned a bunch and had some good experiences during the race that I can share. I had one simple strategy – be near the front for the decisive climb on Juniper Swamp Rd as to not get dropped on the climb. Related to this strategy was to try and hit the bridge and the first dirt section near the front as well so that I would be in good position on the first difficult climb on Perry Hill Rd. I lined up with Julie, Shannon and Michele near the front but on the right side going into a left turn at the start. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake as those who lined up on the left side got the advantage of being on the front. After the neutral start, the pace continued to be very mellow up Rt. 313 controlled by a large CVC contingent on the front. Unfortunately due to our start position and the slow pace, I was effectively boxed in the middle of the pack, unable to move near the front and so I maintained a mid-pack position as we accelerated after the turn onto Eagleville Rd. After a hard right and a few rollers we turned onto the first dirt section. Then it was back onto the pavement and the climb on Perry Hill Rd. This climb is almost as steep as the infamed Juniper Swamp climb albeit on pavement. A few riders keeled over and crashed as the field slowed down on the climb. Unfortunately my legs were not as fresh as they had been the previous Sunday when I pre-rode the course and my climbing speed was considerably slower. So as usual, I was spit out the back on the climb and chased the lead group with Shannon and Michele back through the downhill and through the dirt on Juniper Swamp Rd. I reached them just as we hit the climb with basically no time to recover and crawled up the hill. By the time I crested, the leaders were pretty far down the road.
I formed a chase group and at one point, we were within a minute of the lead group. The pace picked up on the next climb and again I dropped off and valiantly tried to chase the group past the feed in Sushan. At this point, I was starting to feel a little tired and in need of some recovery so I slowed down a little and tried to get some gel out of my flask (you really need to dilute that stuff if it’s in a flask). We reformed another little group heading out of Salem and again I lost them during the Joe Bean climb. I think I’m going to have to learn patience on the flats and let the group do more pulling so that I can survive the climbs better. It’s tough though when you’re chasing and the others in the group are not working as hard as you to keep up the pace. After Joe Bean, I hit Ferguson full blast. My gel flask was jettisoned from the bike when I hit a pothole but I was staying up on a scary fast dirt descent with a motorcycle who was following the race. We were doing over 35 mph. A couple of gals were off on the side of the road with flats and I remember thinking how that would not happen to me because I had my brand spanking new Vittoria Paves. After Ferguson I was solo TTing on Rt. 29 and was passed by the lead groups of the Cat 5 45+ and M60+ fields. On the last bit of climb into Greenwich, I heard an unwelcome hissing sound as one of the groups went by me. I rode for another couple of minutes before my tires became squishy enough that I realized that it was my wheel that had flatted. I stopped, pulled the wheel off and put the new tube back in within a few minutes. It seems it always takes longer when the pressure is on. I then filled the tire with CO2 and was about to put it back on the bike when it exploded along with my hopes of finishing the race in decent position. I called my friend who was waiting for me in the feed zone and after a while, she swung by in the car and picked me up. While I was waiting, a group of 3/4 women that eventually finished in the 30s passed by about 20 minutes after I flatted. There were kind offers of help but I figured I was done at that point. We arrived back in town just in time to see Shannon finish in 9th place and Michele at 20th. Excellent work ladies! Anyways I have a room booked at the Cambridge Hotel for next year and am already looking forward to Tour of the Battenkill 2010!