Okay, I got to hand it to John Eustice (promoter), this was a very fun race. Lets see:
80 miles of stunning roads in the Berkshires on a perfect day 68 degree day. Check.
Fabric race number instead of crinkly paper. Check
Free Tee shirt for signing up early. Check.
Solid Marshaling. Check
Plenty of cheering spectators along the way and at the finish. Check.
Free Pizza and beer at the finish with a band playing. Check.
Checks for NEBC as well. Chris Parker parked a money finish at 5th and Aaron (10th) and I (8th) were right behind him. We did a solid job today staying out front and took a some thoughtful risks. Anytime one of us went off the front in a small group the other two went to the front and stalled things and watched the gap grow. It didn’t create an ultimate break, but it did force folks to bun matches by bridging.
Lots of climbing in this one but no nightmare steeps: mostly long steady ups. (Imagine the Quabbin tower climb scattered 3 or four times in a race). Though we did well I think we could have done even better if we had the time to recon this one. At the end of the race there were two riders off the front (about 30 seconds up) we could all see them and I thought we would have a chance to reel them back in but then I saw the town of Lenox come into view and only a few moments later there were 200 yards to go. We rounded a very sharp turn over bricks that sent a couple riders off course and I still had plenty of juice for a sprint. (Too much really I should have killed it sooner!)
More Checks for NEBC in 5 land: Arnost hopefully had his last day in the fives: he bagged 2nd place in the cat 5 35+. Adam Walton showed good form with 9th. Tom Coughlin did a great job in the Masters 1-4. His time was a few minutes better than ours in a race that was brutally fast.
Lastly a shout out to MIke “West-of Springfield” Westberry of MRC. Despite the fact I’d only met him once on a training ride and dropped a line last minute, he had a cabin in the Berkshires, a Banjo and a growler of stout. A recipe for a great stay. Mike took 1st place at Harvard and 1st place today in the 5’s (He did try to upgrade before the race… I think he took first again just to nag USAC.) At any rate, thanks Mike, see you at the Hilltowns recon and maybe one of the Longsjo crits!
Maybe some of you remember my last week report in which I expressed my disappointment upon learning that what I thought was a top-ten finish was in fact a 15th. As it turns out, however, fate has two faces too. This weekend I thought I finished 4th in the Cat 5 Berkshire race, and I were quite happy about it. Imagine my surprise though when after returning home and receiving my Bikereg results I learned I was in fact 2nd. Yay!! I totally forgot we were a combined field of 35- and 35+ guys, and it did not even occurre to me to actually check the results right there. Oh well – every race I race there is at least one mistake I make. This one I do not mind that much though.
As for the race, it was hard, but not hard as I was afraid it would be and not hard all the time, which was key. We drove there on Friday, Chris Parker and I to avoid an early morning drive on Sunday. We had time for a decent dinner at a very nice Chinese place. I probably had too a big plate than what I should have. I think my poor sleeping was partly caused by that. The second reason was the fact the family next door never turned their TV set off, so we could hear it all night. I had a mild headache in the morning, but a high dosage of vitamin C made it go away.
The race had a 6-mile neutral start. It was not hard, mostly downhill, but fast. My computer reported 22 mph average for that segment. My HR was already up to 165, which made me worried. I think it was the lack of sleep. That and also our decision of not going for a ride (in light rain) the evening before.
There were about 4 major climbs in the race with the first one being the hardest, in my opinion. Each next one felt easier to me (in spite the fact I reached over 200 bps HR on the second climb – 6 miles long; I think dehydration started to kick in there).
We expected a feed zone at mile 30, but there was none, and as far I asked around, nobody else had seen it. I was going dry with my two bottles and desperately hoping some feed zone would appear soon. It finally did at mile 48. Unfortunately, it was behind a corner at an intersection on the wrong side of the road (left). That, I think, surprised the entire field. Most guys continued, but I simply could not afford not stopping. The girls did not know what to do, so I instructed one of them to please open the fancy bottle and dump the water into my already opened bike bottle. In the meantime I grabbed another bottle from her other hand and put it in my rear pocket. I think there were about five of us who decided to stop and we were ready to chase. The field was not too far yet. Fortunately we did not have to even do that. The peloton was decent enough to soft-pedal until we were all together again.
The pace eased up from that point up. We averaged about 21.7 before the feed, but we finished with 20.3 mph, so you can imagine. In my opinion, it was just a group ride from there (which I did not complain about at all). I was starting to get cramps at mile 60 or so, but a little bit of stretching and changed gear helped. Before I knew it we only had 8 miles to go, meaning that last “nasty” hill was just a mile down the road. And indeed, it was there, waiting, except it was not as nasty as I worried. And it had not a constant gradient either, so there were times for some rest between a few sections of harder effort. The hardest feature of the hill was, I think, the pavement. Mad, I though Billerica had it bad. 😉 There were crack a food wide and three inches deep. And plenty of them.
That last hill pretty much ended up the torture. It was a rolling road and the top 10+ of us were riding decently fast, but not over the edge. I could see/sense some guys having the itch to go, but nobody wanted to spend himself too soon. Before we knew it we were rolling on the pavement of Lenox town.
There were no marks as how long we still had to go, but I recognized the brick pavement from my morning back-riding the end of the course and realized we only had some six, may eight hundred meters left to the finish. Just two more turns and I could see the corner behind which the finish was. I had a great position, but took the corner a tad too fast and on the wrong, outer side. I almost hit the curb. Avoiding it took some speed from me. I was riding 4th on the finish stretch and the guy in front of me was equally fast and strong. The first two were already too far for us. I gave it a lot, but so did he. We crossed very close to each other, my front wheel pretty much on his rear one.
I stopped and screamed of pure happiness. It’s a long not so easy race and my being able to finish 4th with the guys as strong as they were made me very happy. That was of course still before I found I was 2nd in my category. I sent the organizers an email expressing my genuine desire to own that silver medal. Maybe they have hearts and will send it to me. I’ll pay the shipping, of course. 🙁