5 laps, 57 miles
Rode around with Ben and Jay before the race; noting that the finish could be very fast in a pack as the hill was nearly insignificant. Pre-race strategy was that I was feeling good and would cover any breaks. We started the race and things were neutral up the big hill. Then the early activity began only a few minutes later, a small group of 2 or 3 went off the front. I chased like mad and made it up there but then it petered out and were consumed. Jay and Joe countered on the next attack.
Jay and I went to the front and pushed hard as soon as Keith came back after the first attack. The race strung out, and then, boom! Keith went again with a small group and Jay and I just rolled to the front and slowed everything down. Before we knew it, Keith’s group had a 2 minute lead, then 3 minutes. At one point the guys in the pack admitted that the break was not coming back.
The group was ~14 strong, many teams represented and quickly we organized into rotation. 50+ miles ahead of us. Lots of talk between people; “guys, nice and steady”, “short pulls”, “we train all winter for opportunities like this”.. I knew our teams would be doing a great job blocking in the pack and sure enough that’s what they were doing! Soon we got out of sight.
Three quarters through the first lap our lead car went straight when the course turned right. Momentary confusion, we braked and got right back on track without the pace car. If we followed the car our race would have been over right then and there. As a reminder it is the riders responsibility to know the course. I was still very active at the font, in hind site too active. A couple of riders were disruptive, it appeared to both Leo and I that they were either trying to open up gaps or just not very smooth in the pace line. We now had the wheel car, a clear sign the pack was not on our heels. Things began to smooth out and it was great to be part of a small group who’s goal was now getting to the finish line. The pace was high and we were quickly encircling the course. I started to roll off the front a little more quickly and tried to have a good balance of recovery.
It was pretty much game over after the 12 got away and we started crawling around the loop. By the time we finished lap 1 the break was 2 minutes up. Initially there were probably 14 in the break, but I think it was whittled down to 12 by the end. A CLNoonan rider came back after a lap or so, which led me to believe that they needed to chase. And they did chase, however afterwards I realized that they had a second rider in the move so they probably didn’t need to. Joe and I were so psyched that Keith had made the group and it wasn’t up to us to chase it down.
Laps 2 and 3 were easy going and the lead stretched out to 4 minutes. Svelte, Cambridge, Quad, and NEBC had the front end of the field shutdown. By the 4th lap the riders without teams were really groaning. There were some good efforts made to bring back the break, but they were too sporadic to make much of a dent. Bridge attempts were useless with so many teammates left in the pack to sit on moves. Conversation in the peloton turned to whether it was worth sprinting for the finish or not. It seemed that with a few riders having come back from the break we could potentially be sprinting for 10th place, so why not. We were here to race after all.
The long climb was hard, but not brutal. Just over the crest of the hill was a rewarding fast descent where you tuck back in and go fast. I started to feel some leg cramps setting in, ugh! I though I had a good combination of hydration and training where this would not happen. I had been eating a little and drinking everything in sight. Lap 4? started and Erica told us that we had something like 4 minutes on the field and this was the first intel we had. I reminded guys this was 30 minutes old, as that was from the last lap. Others agreed, no time to celebrate, the race was far from being over. The pace quickened and a few riders dealt some blows to the field by opening gaps and pushing the pace over the final lap.
My legs worsened. If you’ve ever heard “pedaling in squares” that’s exactly what it felt like. I haven’t been on a fixed gear in a year but right then and there that’s what my bike became. I’d stand and one leg would freeze, sending the rear wheel up in the air. I could barely relax the hamstrings. Steven from Sunapee was my savior, he said to continue to roll off the front and hang in the back as it would be a shame not to finish with the group. I blew off the back during one of the small ascents, at that point I wondered how far back was the pack? Could I whimper across the line before them? Refocusing I set my sights on the group ahead and slowly clawed my way back on to the group of 11. Soon I saw Steven loosing grip of the pack. With only the final few Kilometers to go I was losing it again but then shot into the middle of the pack and just spun out the legs. The attacks came but because of position I was able to maintain contact. Finally the sprint opened up just after the house with the “garage sale” and I came in mid-pack of the break away (7th for the day), so happy!
Back in the pack we got really strung out on the final lap coming over the last little kicker on School Street. Between Cambridge and Svelte there was a pro-style leadout train of 5 or 6, and they were keeping a really fast pace coming down the hill. It took a lot of energy to move up if you were out in the wind. McKittrick was at the tail of the train and it looked like the sprint was being set up for him. I wasn’t sure if there was a Svelte sprinter in there or not. For the rest of us, it was a battle for McKittrick’s wheel. We shuffled around a bit, but by the time we hit the last flat section I was fortunate enough to have his wheel.
The course kicks right at the 200m to go sign. Nothing steep, maybe 2 or 3% grade. My plan was to kick hard and early as we went into that little hill and hope that my momentum would carry me to the line. Unfortunately there was a moment of hesitation as we realized that there were cars stopped in the right lane right at the finish. We had the entire road from ~400m out and Luke Fortini was quick to capitalize on that, sprinting hard up the far left. He carried his speed up the hill perfectly and took the sprint. I followed his move and crossed the line second (14th for the day). McKittrick hesitated for just a moment longer than me but still crossed in third.
It was disappointing that 2.5 hours of rolling aroundended like that but I was happy to be able to finish strong. I saw Keith shortly after crossing the line and was thrilled to find out that he had finished with the break. An awesome day for us.
It was a fun race. I just wish I could have made it up the hill a few more times. I need more hill work. Even though there were only three of us, we acted and raced as a team, which was awesome to see, especially when it worked. Great rides by Jay and Keith! Can’t wait to race again. We need more CAT 3’s to come out an race!!! I know we have more than 3 strong guys!
Thanks for all the support from both Jay and Joe, without them it would have been impossible. It was so fun to find Steven from Sunapee to give him some thanks and to celebrate with NEBC. Thanks for reading.