Do you know the feeling you when you think you did quite well, but you are kind of disappointed anyway? “Story of my racing life,” do I hear? Well, mine too, it seems so far. 🙂
I had my eye on this year’s Sterling RR. I raced it last year. Loved it. I made a big mistake back then and I did not plan on making it again this year. I have also improved my speed and gained a little experience (see my last report form Quabbin ;-). I pre-rode the loop a week ago and was rather satisfied with my effort, since my speed alone was comparable with last year’s wining time. I thought I should be ready to start picking come prizes, finally. 🙂
And it started quite well. First of all, NEBC had a quite a presence at Sterling. You turned around the parking lot in the morning and it looked like we owned that place. It felt great. A couple of us gathered at a comfortable position at the start line. Russ was there next to me, David and Doug right behind me, and in that order we rolled out the neutral start. I definitely learned from my mistake at Quabbin. This time I was practically licking the motorbike in front of me. Russ was there with me all the time, eager to go fast.
In that formation we started climbing the finish hill, still at neutral speed. I heard Dough yelling cheerfully “still behind you.” It was the last thing I heard from him during the race. The entire front bunch charged as soon as we hit the start line. The speed was more like if it was a crit. I think the entire field split and spread almost immediately. Russ and I were at the front, practically controlling. We were not pulling, but we occupied the 2nd to 4th position most of the time. I know what you are thinking – we should not be at the front yet, but I disagree. Since There is almost never any organized chase in Cat 5 (I have not seen one yet), I do not think we could have afforded to create a gap.
We continued at route 12, still quite fast; I was almost getting tired from it. The first guy dropped before Dunkin’ and that was where Russ started pulling, and pulling he was hard. I thought it was still too soon for us to do anything, so I yelled at him “take a break”. Unfortunately, it looked like Russ heard me saying “make a break”, or “try to break,” and he charged instead. Oops. 🙁 I wanted him to slow down, but it is not easy to catch a charged Russ, let me tell you. It took some effort before I was alongside of him repeating to tell him what I meant. We slowed down, almost at the Rt. 62 intersection. Just then another guy went by us. I remembered him from the clinic this year. We said hi to each other. He continued, I was on him. He obviously knew how to use his Zip 404s. I looked back and saw creating a gap, and I thought: “No, this is too soon for me; I’d rather slow down and cruise with the group for a while; the guy is not going anywhere alone.”
Since that second, everything is kind of hazy. I do not really remember how we split, but I expect we simply took the next hill at different speeds and we kind of spread apart in the false flat that follows. I remember the Zip guy still at the front with one or two others. Close behind him a group of 10 (about) with Russ among them. I was in yet another group behind. How did that happen? Don’t ask me! (I was probably still tired from chasing Russ and the Zip guy 🙂 You probably can guess the story that followed. The spaces between the groups were 3 bike lengths at first, then 10, and soon about 200 yards and growing. It did not look like a lost race yet, and my group was almost right behind the one with Russ in it. We could not get organized for the live of us. That is the big problem. There are guys that simply do not know how to do it, and there are some who know, but since they do not know each other, they do not get organized anyway.
We were trying the entire second loop to make something, anything, but to no avail. After entering the last round I finally abandoned the idea and pulled away. I thought I could have more chances on my own. I passed a few that got dropped, but I never made it to the group ahead. I finished 14th overall, 2 minutes after Russ, and 5 minutes after the winning bunch of 4.
You see, I was not disappointed with my performance. I still think I did quite well, considering. After all, my time was 7 minutes faster that the last year’s winner’s. I also do not think that I made any major mistakes. I am only disappointed because I hoped for better. That, and also the number of “ifs and should haves” that kind of drove me crazy: Should we really have gone so fast the first loop? What if I did not call out Russ? What if I did not try to slow him down after he charged? Should I have stay sucked on those Zip wheels? Could I have dug deeper when it started being obvious I might get separated from the front? Would I have made it worse or better? I will never know!
I liked that race a lot. Beautiful weather, no crashes, decent standing overall. Just a little unsettled, that’s all; those pesky questions were eating me for the rest of Saturday, though. Until I sat down later the evening, browsing a new issue of the Peloton magazine when my eyes spotted the following quote there, printed in big letters on a red background: “What happens when you lose a bike race? Not much. You regroup, move on, travel home, and return to training.” Well said, isn’t it?
See you at lake Auburn.