Sterling Classic Road Race
The way I raced at Sterling was exactly opposite the way I’d raced at Blue Hills a week prior. Not necessarily in regards to results, even though I did comparatively worse at Sterling than at Blue Hills. And not necessarily in regards to the courses, either: both were circuit races with uphill finishes and rolling descents. And I really wanted to do this one right. I was more focused coming into it, I had a plan, and I was going to follow it. And up until the finish, I did.
This was my first time racing Sterling, despite the fact that everyone else I know seems to have raced it twice already. Everyone said I would like this course too, just like they had last week! It wasn’t a hard course to like, probably because it was a pretty easy course to figure out. Despite being pretty smart off the bike (I’m in the midst of a couple weeks of AP Exams, which are horrible), I guess I’m not very smart on the bike. Or when talking to girls. But I digress…due to my lack of on-bike mental capacity, this course was good. There’s one major climb, stay near the front and go hard so you don’t get gapped, and hang on near the front down the rolling descent so you can recover. Sounds easiy, right? For most of the race, it was.
I was probably within the top fifteen positions for the entire race. I kinda started the race like a cross race, sprinting off the line, but it wasn’t so much a race to a holeshot as it was a race to the first couple positions so that when the race went live at the climb I wouldn’t be stuck in all the traffic moving backwards. That worked. Then I sat in down the descent, conserved, and that was good too. I moved through the pack painlessly and efficiently, without risking myself but also without hesitating. I was walking that line between aggressiveness and defensiveness that allowed me to maintain good position and conserve energy while also staying in the safe spots in the pack. In short, race brain was finally adopting some of smart brain’s habits!
I really got caught up in the race, it seemed, because once the we went up the hill for a fourth time (out of six) I noticed my mouth felt glommy and sticky. I was undermining my best efforts to turn the odds in my favor: I had been forgetting to drink. And though I gulped down the rest of my first bottle and started on the second, I knew it was too late. The cramps were going to come, and it wasn’t like they would go away. Once you start cramping, the rest of the ride you’re on the verge of doing so. So the next time through the climb, surely enough I could feel that pre-cramp feeling coming on.
When we hit Rt. 12 for the last time the attacks were constant. The two KMS ridersin the field must have attacked five times. I was in the top couple of guys, on the left side. We rolled around the corner to finish and I sprinted hard up the left gutter, but the cramps hit hard and I was moving backwards.
Good legs and bad tactics one weekend to good tactics and crappy legs the next. Once you fix one chink in the armor another springs up, it seems.
I went into race day with a completely different mindset then I usually did. I didn’t give myself the expectation to get a great result. I hoped for one, and was going to try for one, but knew that if I had yet another let-down, it would really kill my spirits. Another reason, is because I knew that the course was not suited to me at all, for whatever reason, I’m just not a great climber.
Everything went pretty smoothly, and I rolled to the start on my brand new bike pretty early on to get a good position. People were actually sprinting from staging to the start line because they knew that a good position was so critical for the first climb after the neutral start. Luckily, both Noah and I got front row positions. After what seemed like the longest 30 seconds of my life, we rolled out. When we made our way through part of the town into the base of the climb, I knew that it was going to be pretty tough on the legs, but I felt surprisingly well on the steepest section as well as the gradual grade immediately after it. The pace car accelerated, and the race began. I was sitting second position, feeling pretty strong, and was covering the early attacks, making sure that nothing got away. In retrospect, this was totally idiotic, and when I am in race mode, I don’t think about these things. Brandon, Emil, and both Ethans had warned me about the descent and how with the junior gearing restrictions, it is very hard to hold onto those without the restrictions wheel. Perhaps it was because I had a 45/12 gearing combination (the largest legal combination, with 26 feet of roll out exactly) , or have a super aggressive position on the new bike, but I held wheels pretty easily. Rolling out onto the highway section, I was again, 2nd position, and it was super windy, and the guy in front of me pulled off, I pulled through and yet again, made a stupid mistake going up a ~5 percent grade at 25mph into a headwind.
A couple laps went by, and with 2 to go, on the climb, after the steep section, the gradual rise, someone attacked and I really was feeling all the work I did earlier in the race. I was hurting pretty bad and must have lost about 40 spots. On the next roller, I got boxed out and then lost a lot more positioning, and found myself in the rear 25% of a 100 man field. At the bottom of the descent, going into the last roller before the highway section, a massive crash occurred. I hadn’t exactly seen what had happened, but later learned that a rider had gone off the shoulder on the right side of the road, and lost control in some loose dirt/sand, and took about 3 rider with him, causing a chain reaction of about 20 riders to go down, or have to stop. I was one of them, but fortunately, stayed upright. Pure chaos, broken bikes, exploding tubes, and broken riders, I carved my way through the carnage, and began my way up the roller (which was a whole lot harder when not in the pack!). I was dangling behind the front group, maybe 500 meters back going into a headwind on the highway, and just couldn’t hold that 25+ mph due to some cramps that were beginning to form. I knew my race was over, so I sat up and let some riders that were trying to chase on to me so I could work with them. With 1 lap to go, on the climb going into the final lap, my cramps got really bad. About 10-15 riders who were still feeling strong then rode off and I couldn’t hold their pace. I then began working with a super nice guy from Cycle Lodge, and we picked up one other rider. The rider (sorry I forgot your name!) from Cycle Lodge towed us back into town and up to the base of the climb into the final 200 or so meters into the final sprint/climb. I attacked, and so did the rider on my wheel. I put the pedal to the metal, and totally buried myself. All the spectators could see how hard we were going and started screaming for us to dig deep, and ride harder. I pushed past the cramps, and somehow, I kept the other racer from coming around me on the sprint. I beat him by about half a bike length.
All in all, since I wasn’t expecting for a top 5 placing due to the nature of the course, I wasn’t overly disappointed by the outcome of the race. I sure was bummed, but wasn’t as frustrated as I was in past weeks.
Next weekend is my second MTB race. Can I make it back to back MTB wins? Two for Two? Wish me luck.
Saturday morning I woke up at 5:30 to get everything together and my bike into the car. My dad and I left the house at around 6:15 and the GPS said we would arrive in sterling at 7:10. This would have left me a great amount of time to get everything set up. As we got down Route 9 into framingham I quickly realized that I had forgotten my water bottles and no drinks. We turned around to get them since they are pretty important in a race like this. When we left my house for the 2nd time the GPS said we would get there at around 7:30 so I still had enough time to warm up and get ready.
When we got there I parked right next to Ethan Y-K and his dad. I went in and registered. I set up my trainer next to ethan so that we could warm up together. I got on the trainer and did a good warm up. I started to sweat and got real nice and warm. When the start of the race was close, I looped around the parking lot a few times to keep warm.
Now the neutral start had kicked in. We were only going around 14 Mph until we hit Meetinghouse Rd. Then the race had really started. One guy went for a little breakaway and I hopped on his wheel. Nobidy other than me responded and we ended up getting a decent lead. Luckily for me he pulled the whole thing so I didn’t end up wasting any energy at all. WE then quickly got caught by the pack and stayed there. The first time around meetinghouse rd, some people were struggling but others weren’t. I was among the people who weren’t because I was top 5 over the top. We then formed a slightly smaller pack because some people had been dropped on the previous lap. I quickly found my self become good buddies with a fellow NEBC member Kyle Welch who had a great race. On the 3rd time around before our 3rd lap on meeting house road, 2 guys attacked and kyle and I were debating on whether or not we should go with them. We ended up not going because we wanted to wait for some of the strong guys that had been dropped. We then ended up with a 3 man group consisting of me, kyle and another racer. Going down the hill was impossible for me because of my junior gearing. Kyle and that other guy dropped me going downhill. I then solo rid for a little while until I saw a 3 man group catching up, so I stayed back with them. I rested behind them all the way to meetinghouse rd and then ended up beating them in the sprint for 5th place. Good race and overall really proud of my result!!
Well this was a day to forget. I have been battling a stomach problem recently and I wasn’t feeling very well before the race which affected my warmup. Still, I got a pretty good warmup in and luckily my stomach felt fine during the race. The beginning of the race was less eventful than I anticipated. I had heard people would attack up Meetinghouse the first time despite the race still being neutral. This really didn’t happen in my race, though. Over the top one guy did try to solo away and Emil jumped on for a ride, but they were pulled back in pretty quickly. The rest of the first lap was pretty uneventful. I stayed near the front with Emil and Kyle Welch as we rode at a decent pace.
I always like to be behind a teammate when possible mainly because I know and trust them. During the second lap I ended up two riders behind Kyle with a BayHill Capital rider in between us. On one of the right hand corners before the downhill section, a gap opened up between Kyle and the BayHill rider. I was waiting for him to close it down but it quickly became apparent he wasn’t going to. Still, they were pretty far ahead with the gap increasing because of how the peloton stretched around that corner. I jumped past him to go catch the lead group but I was never able to catch them. Going downhill as a junior is a complete pain because of gearing restrictions. Without having riders to draft off of I was spinning out a lot in my attempt to catch them. By the time we got to flatter parts I was pretty far behind but I didn’t give up (see my anger in my Blue Hills report about getting dropped from the main group). When we got to Route 12, it was obvious I wouldn’t catch them. I looked behind me and saw the BayHill Capital rider and two others pretty far back. Up until then I was completely unaware the rest of the race wasn’t right behind me. I sat up and waited for the three to join me. The rest of the second and third laps were pretty easy because I was still feeling good. The other three riders were quite tired but we were shouting words of encouragement at each other to stay ahead of whoever might me coming up from behind. Once we got onto Route 12 for the final time, I could see people behind us but I knew they were too far back to catch us. About two tenths of a mile before Meetinghouse, I attacked. No one else even tried to come with me. I had such a large gap by the time I got to Meetinghouse I didn’t even bother to sprint up it. I ended up 12th but I know I could’ve done a lot better.
It’s really frustrating losing contact with the lead group because another rider let a gap open up, but that’s racing. I’ve learned a lot from this week and last at Blue Hills about the danger of a gap, even one that looks small, opening up. This time, though, it wasn’t my fault. I know my finish would have been better had I not lost contact but I am pretty happy with my legs. Racing isn’t all about strength, though, and I must improve my tactics and positioning for my results to improve.
This was just my kind of race; all the steep hills and fast descents were just what I needed to really do well. I am a climber and the results reflected this.
When I left my house it was 37 degrees outside, by the time I got to the race it was in the high 40s, and at the start of the race it was in the mid 50s. I was worried that shorts and short sleeves wouldn’t be enough but it was the opposite, by the finish it was almost 70! Despite the weird weather, I got a good warm up in on my trainer with the rest of the team and felt pretty good for the start. We lined up on the road outside the school parking lot and rolled off behind the pace car. It was about 2 miles to the actual start of the race and I had heard that it was an uphill start but I didn’t know how steep the hill really was.
The start line was just over the top of an incredibly steep and short hill. Once the race started we all just stayed in a pack for most of the first lap. The pack was good for drafting but on the fast narrow down hills it got a little sketchy. On one of the faster descents, we were going about 35mph and I was over to the left when someone on my right swerved to avoid some broken pavement and bumped into my handlebars. Luckily I was used to this from cyclocross but I definitely stayed a little further away from him after that. Near the end of that lap the pack started to spread out in the front and the back, but I stayed in the middle pack. On the hill going to the finish line, someone up front swerved and bumped another rider who hit someone else and caused a chain reaction resulting in a crash mid-way up the hill which I came very close to being a part of. About a mile after the crash, one person took off and a group chased him down, gapping a few others and me. We quickly formed a pace line and tried to chase the lead group down but they we still going faster with a good lead. We stayed in this pace line for the rest of the race; occasionally we would pick up a couple other riders. We basically rode in our group of 5-10 until the last hill on route 12 where we all started to spread out as we sprinted toward the final climb. I was right behind 2 strong riders at the last turn and on the hill I passed them, until I started to feel nauseous, knowing that I had pushed myself as hard as I could go and was forces to slowdown. They finished about 3 seconds ahead of me, which wasn’t too bad.
During this race, I felt very strong on the hills and I fell pretty good about how I finished. These types of races with a lot of hills are where I can really prove myself.
I got there at around 7:00 for a Cat 5 35 under at 8:30. Once I had gotten reged Emil, Ethan P, Brandon, and I got on our trainers and rode until 8:15 where when then went to the start so we could get in the front. We had a neutral start which was from the school to the finish. I got up the first hill with no problem but on the next hill there was an attack so everyone sped up. Once we got to the first downhill I spun out with my junior gears. I stayed with them until the hill right before the turn onto the highway. I was also passed by three other guys that were dropped but I ended up catching them up the finishing hill. I ended up staying with these two guys for the rest of the race. On the last lap and last turn we sprinted and I got a lead on them and beat them.
I felt pretty good though out the race but I just wish I could of stayed with them longer.