Blue Hills Classic Circuit Race
It seemed like everyone was telling me that I’d like the course, but you never know what to expect when someone tells you how a course or a race is supposed to go. It’s always different when you’re racing. That said, the course did have some features that made the race better for me than it would make it for the sprinter types and the bigger guys. For the vast majority of the 7-point-something mile circuit it was flat or downhill, and it kicked up for a mile or so at 5% up to the finish. A fast, big ring climb.
Anyway, the start was super early. I was up at 4:30, I’d picked up Aidan by 5:30, and we were on the road after a quick coffee stop. Little did we know that despite the early start to the morning, we’d be late to the start of the race due to some navigational difficulties. After turning around when we hit Rhode Island and agreeing that no, this definitely was not where we should have been, yes, we should turn around, and wondering why we didn’t use the GPS, with a solid 45 minutes to the start we roll into the parking lot, reg, and pin our numbers.
After getting everything on, visiting the facilities, and getting the bikes out of the car it’s ten minutes to start time. I really have to try racing with a proper warm-up one of these days, because it seems like every race I’ve done within the last couple of weeks has had me arriving on the line cold and stiff. Regardless, it was a beautiful morning and it was warm enough to race in shorts and short sleeves. We rolled off and it wasn’t even feeling like we were moving particularly fast: I found myself not minding the lack of warm-up, sitting somewhere in the middle of the pack and cruising, warming up on the flat and downhill first six miles. I was poking somewhere around Duane’s wheel but still thinking that I should move up. I saw Aidan up in front in the top ten positions, thinking I should be there as well. When we hit the climb I was planning on moving up, and I saw the guys at the front pushing the pace a little bit, but I was boxed in and comfortable with the speed. After cresting I moved up closer to the front when the pack spread out and I stuck there. The next lap was uneventful, except when we got to the climb again, Eric got away with a couple of other guys.
The next lap, on the long straight stretch on 138 we were all pedaling easy and nobody was chasing – and that was okay with me too – we had a guy away. Up the climb the third time, everyone went a bit harder, and I followed some of the guys who made little attacks. All the sudden I was off the front with a handful of guys, and race brain kicked in and told me to go fast! Smart brain would have disagreed, because I didn’t want to bring our own rider back, but smart brain was somewhere whimpering in a corner, plagued by oxygen debt. Fortunately we were passing right by the parking lot and Cathy yelled at me to get off the front. Smart brain, chipping in, said that this was a good idea, so I got off the front and sucked wheel for the remainder of the lap. A couple of MRC guys were doing a lot of chasing, and the break seemed to be getting closer and closer, getting sucked back in right before we hit the hard right turn that signaled the start of the last climb.
I focused on my position, knowing that it was essential here and knowing that my legs felt good enough to make something happen. People were freaking out about when and where we had the whole road and could cross the yellow line. I was somewhere on the left-front side of the pack, still feeling good, pushing tempo up the climb, and the pace keeps getting faster. People keep moving backwards, and little attacks are going out, but we’re keeping it steady. All of a sudden I’m on the front and race brain screams at me to go hard, but I just picked the pace up a bit, unsure where the finish line would come. I got a little gap, but then there was a super-explosive attack (along with a crash behind me that slowed down Aidan) and I was too fatigued already to explode in kind. I got out of the saddle, and finally saw the finish line, but it was more of a drawn out battle to hold my gap than it was a sprint. Cory Small from CL Noonan passed me coming in, taking the 4th position from me, and then right as I crossed the line I saw two bike throws on either side of me,two ECV riders barely nudged me out of 5th and 6th. So I held on for 7th.
I was super happy with my legs, even without a proper warmup. They felt punchy for the entire race, except for the finish, when I needed it! I just should have raced the finish better tactically, holding off my attack/pace increase until closer to the line, where I could have really hit it hard and gotten a bigger gap. It seems more and more like I need a specific plan coming into the finish of every race or else race-brain will take over and make me do something stupid. Oh well. I had a good time, and I was super happy to see my teammate, Emil, take his first win in the 5s.
To tell you the truth, my training has been extremely lame these past few weeks. Barely been on the bike for a few reasons (none of which are good reasons, I know.) 1. I really don’t want to ride my current bike anymore, and just can’t wait to be riding the new rig which is half built up in my room. 2. I’m not very motivated to ride. 3. The weather has been sucky and I’ve been wimpy.
With that said, I went into the Blue Hills Classic completely unprepared. It was somewhat frustrating with how early the Cat 4 start was, 8:00am. That means almost a 4:30 wake-up. Got to bed around 10:30, and couldn’t fall asleep until midnight. Got to the race a whole 30 minutes later then expected because of a stupid mistake on my part. On the directions on Bikereg, it said, take exit 2, and blah blah blah. I then told Noah (who I was carpooling with for the day) to take I-95 South all the way to exit 2. Before I know it, I realize I made a huge mistake. We were supposed to merge onto 93, and take 93’s exit 2! Oops. There goes any planned warm-up.
Got to the race, pinned up absurdly huge numbers, and went to the start. I had good positioning at the start, and was in the second row all the way on the right. After some chatting with some CLV guys, the race began. I clipped in real quick without any issues, and gunned off the line. Was on the front and set the pace at around 24ish mph. I hadn’t seen the course, and didn’t know what to expect, so I decided to sit in a bit for the first part. I let 2-3 riders go up, and I sat top 5 for a good 5 minutes or so. I saw a rider jump, and I expected others to jump. A little bit after, I decided to respond, and got away from the group trying to bridge up. He was really pushing the pace, and I was killing myself to bridge up. At somepoint, I said to myself “Hey Mister! What the heck do you think you are doing? Obviously that guy won’t stay out for the whole race and we haven’t even finished 1 lap yet! You are gonna pop too early!” Ended up sitting up and held onto my top 5 positioning. When we hit the main climb, I sat right on the front, and held a good steady pace. Pretty relaxed, and not too quick, but it hurt. Sometimes I feel that although I am a perfect climbers weight, I just don’t have the right type of legs for it. I don’t go up hill as easily as some. The second lap was pretty similar, although I was in a few different breakaways that didn’t stick. Dan McCabe attacked on the climb during that lap, and I grabbed his wheel. I was feeling all the work I did earlier in the race, and couldn’t hold his pace and I popped. About 25 people passed me, and I then used the third lap to move back up to top 5.
On the last lap, I was feeling pretty gassed. Definitely feeling the work I did during the race in the legs. Everyone’s riding was pretty sketchy, and I was doing my best to stay away from the chaos. I didn’t know it, but apparently there was a breakaway off the front, as well as a chase group. I was sitting top 5, and nobody wanted to take their turn on the front to try to pull them back. After the hard right turn before the final climb, I decided to just gun it, and pull the chase group back. I was then sitting about 6 back, on the right side of the road when we hit the base of the climb. An attack went on the left side, and I went to cover it by riding the gutter. I passed about 10 guys and was sitting right on someone’s wheel who seemed pretty fast. Someone creeped up on my right and on my left, and I was boxed in. The pace picked up quite a bit, and the guy in front of me started to slow down. I had no option but to slow as well. I couldn’t move to either side to pass him. Super frustrating. After maybe 10 more guys passed me on either side, I saw an opening on my left. It was on the last kicker before the top of the climb, so maybe a few hundred meters before the finish. I took it, and found myself right in the middle of the field. All of a sudden, there was an attack, and someone a few in front of me, covered, and he must have latched handlebars with the guy on his right, and took both of them down. This then took down a few more guys, and before I know it, I’m slammed on the brakes, going 4 mph, and the whole field is passing me. I finally get an opening to go around the carnage, and by that time, the majority of the field was sprinting over the line.
All in all, I was happy with my performance during the race. It was my first race that I felt in control of it. I was racing very aggressively (Sometimes too aggressively, but I guess the right amount comes with experience.) and was able to hold a top-5 positioning fairly easily.
Bad luck, that’s all. I’ve sure had a whole lot of it this season.
Off to Sterling next weekend, which means more climbing… fantastic.
Sunday Morning I woke up at 6 to get ready for the race. Since both of my parents were out of the country, my older sister Cathrine drove me and my two friends to the race. I went over and got my number 118, which today was my lucky number! I got my bike ready, and realized I had forgotten my Garmin. This was not good, because I would not be able to record my ride. Anyway, I took a look at the neutral bike and I thought to myself if I wanted to get a mechanical to be able to ride a specialized fully equipped with Sram Red. When the race started Ethan P, Ethan Y-k were pulling at the front going at a good pace. When we hit the hill on the first lap, we dropped a few riders and Brandon and I took part in a 7 man breakaway. On the second round on the hill, we dropped 3 riders and I was in a group with 3 other guys. One of the guys broke away, so me and the 2 other guys worked hard to catch him. Luckily he had been working extremely hard and he was dead tired when we hit the hill. He then pulled up the entire hill with me on his wheel. When the finish line was in sight we were all together until a guy from Rapha decided to attack, and I attacked with him. It was now up to us two for the win. Having the course be perfect for me, I sprinted away from him and won my first race!!!! My day couldn’t have been better! It was a great race, and I thank Blue Hills Cycling Club, and 545 Velo for hosting it. Everyone there did great!
I arrived in Milton really early for the Blue Hills Classic. MapQuest lied big time to me and told me it would take an hour, but when I followed my GPS it only took forty minutes. I was there at 6:15 for my 8:05 race. While I waited for others to arrive, I changed, register and rode on my rollers for a little bit. Once others were set and ready to ride, I rode with Ethan Y-K and Emil for a bit. Between that and my roller session, I had a pretty good warmup and my legs were feeling rather fresh.
The race started really mellow. For most of the first lap (each lap is 7.2 miles) I just sat on Emil’s wheel while we cruised with the pack. Apparently this was too boring for another rider because he attacked on the base of the finishing climb on the first lap. I was prepared to let him go but when Emil responded, I went with because I thought that we would have a decent chance of staying away. The three of us weren’t alone for long and by the end of the lap we had become a pack of seven. From there the pace was really high. The guy who initially attacked and was clearly the strongest kept screaming at us to “make it stick!!” By my estimation we opened up a rather large gap really quickly but the pace was still blistering. My Garmin was consistently reading in the 27s while I was with them. About halfway through the lap, I was peeling off after my pull and I messed up while jumping back on. I wasn’t aggressive enough and a gap opened up. I tried to close it down but I wasn’t quite able to. For the next three or four miles, I rode tantalizingly close to the pack. I was maybe 50 feet behind them. Maybe. I just couldn’t get on though. Once we hit the finishing climb for the second time though, they powered right up and left my behind. I slowed my pace a little bit, switching my tactic from catching to sustaining. I was almost at the point where I initially lost contact with them that I looked behind my and noticed a small group of riders. Happy that I wasn’t being swallowed by the peloton, I sat up to join them. It turned out there were only three of them and we worked together taking fast, quick pulls. When we were just a little ways up the finishing hill for the third and final time, one of the riders attacked. I went with him and just sat on his wheel as he put all his effort into the break. He eventually looked at me to pull through and help but it was then I looked behind us and noticed the gap between us and the two others was large and growing. As a result, I sat right on his wheel and let him lead me out. He sprinted for the line but I was able to pass him pretty easily because of how tired he was. I ended up finishing 7th.
I am really disappointed because I know that I was strong enough to contend for the win had I been in the lead group. It was just one small error that cost me. Looking back, I always think I could have given just a little bit more. I could’ve suffered harder to catch them. In the moment, though, I think I was giving all I had. I guess the moment I should’ve put the extra effort in was right when the gap opened but I wasn’t thinking that clearly right then. I just buried myself a little too much on my pull and didn’t jump hard enough back on. I’ve definitely learned a good lesson from this race and hopefully I can avoid stupid tactical errors like this in the future. I am satisfied with the work I did, just not the result.
This was a very tough race for me; the long hill at the end of the lap was a killer. Although, I did have a great time during the race and was fairly pleased with my finish.
The cat 5 race started at 8:05 with the cat 4 race starting a few minutes before. I arrived around 7:15 so I would have enough time to register and warm up. When I got there, I was surprised at how many people were there, with that many people I knew it would be a tough race. I got registered and ready for the race then met up with the rest if the team. When I registered, there were two numbers and I saw everyone with them one the side and bottom, (which I thought was pretty strange), but I put them both on the way everyone else had them. I didn’t get much of a warm up in but was not too concerned based on the distance of the race and the fact that it was a rolling start.
We lined up at the end of parking lot with a state police escort in front of us to block the traffic, which was pretty nice. I was in the second row at the start and through the first few miles. I didn’t plan on staying upfront but I had teammates with me there and no one else seemed too eager to pull so we just cruised along at about 20mph for the first 5 miles. I tried to fall back a little bit but did not want to fall too far back or cut off anyone else. At the end of the first lap, one guy broke away at the bottom of the hill. About half of the field chased him and the rest stayed back to spin up the long winding hill. By the top of the hill I had fallen pretty far back and was basically by myself. One other rider came up next to me and we stared to work together to catch the small group ahead of us.
For the rest of the race we stayed together occasionally trying to catch the group ahead of us, sometimes staying with them for a mile or so and then falling back. We rode at a good pace, switching off pulling every mile or so. It wasn’t until the climb on the last lap that we actually talked to each other. We split up on the hill and sprinted the last 100 yards to the finish where I pulled ahead right before the finish line. As I started sprinting, my I could feel my legs starting to cramp, so I dug in and worked through it until the finish. I coasted back down the hill to the parking lot and cooled down. Overall I was pleased with my race but I think I should have at least tried to chase the breakaway.
[No race report provided]