Initially the plan was to go in separate cars but various factors meant that we headed out in the same car after picking up Junior from his twice weekly half day at daycare. Fortunately I have the whole "pack 4 wheels plus my gear plus all of Junior's stuff into the car" down pat and we headed out. I used to think cold weather races had more stuff but I think it's warm weather - a big cooler, more towel stuff, more wheels (because warm weather races tend to be more important and further away), and stuff for Junior to hang out outside (in cold weather we hold him).
The weather cooperated, finally, allowing the promoters (CVC) to announce that the race would be on midday instead of waiting until 4 PM to make the call. Although there was a few drops here and there in the afternoon it was essentially dry during the evening, with a almost literally just a few drops falling just as the A race ended.
The thermometer also cooperated, with temps in the 80s instead of the upper 90s. It felt pretty good to be outside, relatively speaking.
For me I wanted to see how hard I could work, how long I could last in the race. CCNS had a little gig going for CCAP so there were a lot of people at the event. I hoped that the larger field size would help me deal with what I expected to be a high pace. Ben Wolfe, Jelly Belly pro, was the star of the night, and we all expected him to do his normal mind blowing pace during the race.
(To be fair I also expected him not to actually go for the win, although he'd give it a semi-honest shot. Really, for him, this was just the end of a long training ride as he rode some crazy distance from the shore to get to the race. Pros tend to be like parents "competing" with their kids. I could sometimes win at chess or Go when I played with my dad but for me that meant I had to play really well. For him it was casual enough that he could read books, usually on strategy for chess or Go, while he was playing me.)
I have to admit that I almost never give out unsolicited advice, and I tend not to be very generous with unsolicited compliments. The only rider whose form I complimented in forever was Ben, when he was a Junior racing for CL Noonan (the blue/yellow team). He impressed me at a Rent back then and I made some casual comment about his impressive strength.
When he got really good, winning solo in really tough races, I thought that would be it. But for him to turn pro with Jelly Belly, to be thrown into all these big races in his first season, that takes the cake.
For me, then, I felt privileged to be able to race with Ben, even if his monster strength would make the race hard for me.
Ben obliges by attacking towards the end of the first lap.
Ben of course started the moves almost immediately, going about 3/4 into the first lap. Although everyone watched him go a few pedal strokes, within 50 meters the whole field latched onto his back wheel, leech-like.
Field all strung out behind Ben.
The problem with being the only pro in the field is that you're totally marked by everyone. Everyone figures the pro is strongest, let the pro do the work, hang on for dear life. Usually when the pro peels off everyone else sits up too.
The exceptions are the racers that want to take advantage of the pro's quiet times. A savvy and strong racer can get clear just after the pro peels off, try to establish a gap, and wait for the pro to rocket across the gap. At that point the group may solidify off the front and go all the way to the finish.
For the first time in a while I saw Secondo at a race. I met him somewhat inadvertently after deciding to try and give him help at an early Plainville Series. I even made a clip of that race. He raced like he hadn't been away, smooth and powerful.
Splits start to appear.
As the race progressed - it's all relative but for me that's 15 minutes or so - the legs started feeling a bit tired in the field. As Ben piled on the pressure, as others tried to keep pushing, the single file field started to splinter.
With only a dozen or so racers truly strong enough to work so hard so consistently at the front, the field didn't blow apart as quickly as it might have. Sitting in is always easier so us pack fodder just hung on for dear life, hoping the strong guys up front would finally tire of the massive pace and ease up for a bit.
Wind from the right, field splitting, guy in front jumps...
As I started getting tired I would stay in shelter just a touch too long. I'd enter the next section unprotected or slightly off a wheel or lose the wheel as the guy in front drilled it out of the corner. I had to dig into my reserves often, digging deep just to stay on the wheel.
At the same time I knew sitting on the back of any group would be about the same. Pulling is tough, yes, and bridging a gap is tough, yes, but once on a group it's the same almost-too-much-pace-for-me effort. Therefore it made sense to try and make it to the front group because then I'd "be in the race".
Guys drilling it to get to the break forming ahead.
When a couple guys really drilled it to get to the group ahead I tagged along. If we could close that 10 second gap then I'd be in the front group, with all the strong guys. If I could hang on that would be phenomenal. Of course I had to get there first.
The three guys ride away from me.
Alas I couldn't even stay on the wheels. They went just a bit too fast for me and I blew up.
The group blowing by me.
On top of not being able to stay with the chasers I was so blown that I struggled to get back into the main group. I guess it didn't help that they were going really hard, but still, I was there for, oh, maybe 100 meters.
The group rides away
Ultimately the three guys that launched the chase made it to the break. The group coalesced behind. The three guys were the move to follow, if you could. I'd read the race properly but couldn't back it up with my legs.
Waving to Junior
Note full finger gloves
I spent a couple laps recovering, trying to get some of the lactic acid out of my legs. I waved to Junior each lap. His eyes would smile from behind the bottle. When I was warming up with some teammates he didn't recognize me but alone he had no problem.
I jumped in when the group came by. The rules state that a lapped rider can't work with a break but they can work with the following group. I wanted to work on my high intensity efforts so I decided that if I had a chance I'd try and help the group get up to the break.
Group is about a straight behind the break.
Break is about to go around the next turn, at the end of the straight.
When I got my wits about me I realized that the group was about 15 seconds down on the break, really just the length of the back straight. This was doable, and when two guys committed to the effort I decided this was the time.
Second guy about to pull off. Break is about 100-120 meters away.
Pulling. 485w, 171bpm.
Really I think it's should be about 400w, based on the error I've seen between the two SRMs.
I pulled hard after the second guy pulled off. When I eased, two turns later, no one was behind me. I kept pulling, trying to encourage the guy to get on my wheel. He dug deep and followed me.
I went again.
Break just rounding the first turn.
At this point I was totally at my limit, pushing as hard as I could. I had no legs left, I was definitely deep in the anaerobic well, but I hoped that the guy on my wheel could bridge.
He goes... break is not much closer than a lap ago.
Alas he didn't make it. He closed a bit more but the relentless pace up front meant he couldn't cross. Incredibly the field had fallen back to about half a lap down, so far that I have no still that captures the two groups together. Although the chase didn't quite get across it obviously was the fastest group for those laps, getting closer to the break and dropping the field.
By David Wells, the whole race is here, including a short cameo by Ben.
Spectator recording his (?) kid riding next to the field, here.
With Junior well past his bed time (the A race starts at about the time he starts thinking of going to sleep), we had to pack up quickly and get going. We gave a jump to a CVC rider (I thought we didn't have jumpers but the Missus had put them in the Jetta Sportswagen when we first got it), and then we headed home.
Junior was exhausted and didn't really wake up when we got home, something he's done only a few times before. I wasn't much better - I wasn't hungry and had a couple cups of seltzer water before hitting the sack.