Sterling Classic Road Race
Cat 5 U35
By the time I got around to signing up, the 35+ Cat 5 wave was full so I entered the U35 race. I knew a bunch of the NEBC U23 team was entered, and was looking forward to joining them. On the way to the race, I thought, “Some of the team members are 16 years old. In 2040, they’ll be my age now…” and that just got a little depressing. After registering, I went out for a spin and flatted about 1/4 mile down the road when I picked up a piece of glass. Turns out some d-bag had dumped a bunch of glass right at the exit to the parking lot. I’d like to think it wasn’t intentional, but the way the glass was ground up into little kernels and in located in several different spots was a bit suspicious. Luckily, more than enough time to make a change.
There is a neutral roll-out for the first 2 miles to the base of the “finish climb”, a short (~1 minute) fairly steep (8%) climb. We were to do 3 laps for a total of 24 miles. I managed to sit in for most of the first 2 laps. There seemed to be about 6 or 7 pretty strong guys who were taking some hefty pulls, and myself, Brandon, and Emil stayed up in the top 10 spots. There were a couple of half-hearted attempts at solo-breakaways which were quickly shut down. I was thinking the race would pretty much stay together until the final lap when we turned onto Rte 12 or maybe even to the final climb.
Heading up the “finish climb” for the 2nd to last time, I was on the front and 2 guys went by. I’ve got that moment pretty much etched in my mind as in that split second I made a decision which ended up removing any shot at winning. A binary choice, go with them or wait. I chose to wait, figuring that there were enough strong guys behind me that we’d be able to reel them in. Unfortunately, when we crested the hill, there was myself, Emil, and one other guy, and the 2 guys in front had the hammer down and were probably 75 yds in front. The rest of the pack was a decent ways back, apparently a couple of guys on the front had died pretty hard and a lot of the pack had gotten stuck behind them. At that point, I knew we were in trouble. The three of us started to chase but weren’t making a dent on the lead of the 2 guys in front. Emil had Jr. gearing, which meant that he was spinning out on the downhills…a huge bummer on this course since there is about a 3 mile stretch where you are going really fast and at some point we lost Emil. Myself and the other guy (Shawn) gave it a go, but when we popped out on rte 12 with ~3 miles to go we could see that the 2 leaders were ~150 yds ahead and it was pretty apparent we weren’t catching them…it was going to be Shawn and I racing up the final climb for 3rd place. This stretch sucked, as all I could keep thinking was “*(&# (**& (*&&…why didn’t I go with them?”
We got to the Dunkins which means about 1 mile to go, and I figured it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and paying attention to the fact that if you aren’t going to be 1st or 2nd, 3rd place is a lot better than 4th. Might as well channel that frustration into the final climb. Keith Reynolds had told me “the final climb isn’t that long, but it’s long enough that people will lose a lot of distance in the last few yards if they go too hard early”. That’s exactly what happened, as Shawn sprinted past as soon as we hit the climb, but I was able to catch on and then pull away for 3rd place.
I spoke to the guy who ended up winning (Daniel Nuzzo-Mueller), and he told me that he had pulled for most of the final lap during the break, and when they got to the climb told the 2nd place finisher “I’m done, you take it” but the other guy had said “I’ve sucked your wheel this whole lap, you take it.” Very gentlemanly, I just wish I’d been there with them to mix it up and at least make it less gentlemanly. Not sure if the finishing positions would have ended up differently as those two really hauled the mail on the last lap, but it would have been easier to take if these guys had crushed me on the final climb as opposed to outwitting me and not giving me a chance to find out…looking at the power file, I did about 400 watts up the climb when the break got away and 600 watts on the final climb. So, tip of the cap to a well timed/executed break, and lesson learned is that the farther along I am in a race, the less conservative I can be w/regards to letting people get up the road.