I'm going out of order here so I'll have to figure out how I'll deal with that. I haven't written a race report since forever, and in the meantime I've not only done a race but I've even worked one. Then I got sick and yada yada yada and now here I am.
So Sunday August 18th was the Bob Beals New England Masters Championships. They're usually at around this time of year and it's usually a solid group of racers, experienced and savvy. Last year I had a blast doing the race, even though I didn't do that well.
This year I expected worse. In my race on August 10th I lasted all of 9 minutes. I'd worked some crazy hours that weekend, then dealt with a sick Junior and taking care of some stuff for my family. I myself got sick and started rapidly consuming our stock of Dayquil just to get through the day.
Coming up to the weekend I felt pretty pessimistic. I was so pessimistic that I even let my teammates talk me into doing the M35+ race, not the (typically slower) M45+ race. My pessimistic thought process went something like, "Well, if I'm going to get shelled in 10 minutes in a race, I might as well line up with some teammates."
With that in mind the Missus, Junior, and I headed down to the Rhode Island shore, to one of the stalwart course of the area, Ninigret Park. A figure eight loop it's flat, sits on a former WW2 airfield, and, over 30 years ago, it was where I finished my first race.
On this day I'd line up with my regular teammate and friend, SOC, just like last year. However we would be joining a trio of leg breaking strongmen - Dave, Todd, and Stan. Dave typically attacks until he drops, doing fun stuff until his legs go. He's managed to win races doing this so it's not like he just blows himself up, sometimes his efforts take him to the line first. Dave is a Cat 2 so normally we don't race together.
Todd is another confirmed legbreaker, with some very good rides to his credit. He's mainly a 'cross racer, and a Masters National Champ at that, so in crits he does them "just for training". He's either a Cat 1 or Cat 2 so, again, normally we don't race together.
If only I could go so well "in training".
Stan would be our wild card. A superbly aggressive racer, Stan has won sprints but prefers to get into breaks. He won the Plainville Cat 3-4 Series this spring and has been on a roll this year. We've raced a few times but I've been usually off the back so, yeah, whatever.
With teammates like these SOC and I would be (happily) relegated to domestique duty.
Before the races, during our warm up, we got together a few times. For me, as someone with 10 minutes expectation in my head, I didn't mind what they discussed because I wouldn't be there at the end. The progression of thought made me smile though - you could sense the collective excitement grow as time went on.
First it was the, "Okay, guys, we're just here to race. We don't want to dictate the race. We'll let the other guys attack, we'll follow, and if something works out then it works out."
Five minutes later it changed a bit. "Hey, I think what we'll do is we should be able to get a couple of us off the front. Dave and Todd will be the leaders, Stan will be the wild card, and you and SOC cover."
Then just before the start we got together one more time. "Okay, guys, we're going to try and get Dave, Todd, and Stan in a break. You and SOC cover the field, help get us away. If we miss a move then we need to ride hard to bring it back, steady, not a lap then blow. Got it?"
You can see the progression from "We're just racing" to "Okay we're going to deliver a knockout blow."
We lined up, got our final instructions from the chief ref, and we were off. Crits start either slow or fast and today it was slow. I immediately moved to the front so I could participate in my 10 minutes of racing. Look, if I'm going to get shelled, I at least want to get in an effort or two. So to the front it was, totally unlike my normal tactic when I race for myself.
From left, in red/black Expo kit, Dave, Todd, and Stan.
Dave was most alert of the trio of leaders and he responded to a few digs right away. Todd hung around in the vicinity, following any secondary moves, and Stan sat a few wheels back, watching and waiting. SOC was getting his legs warmed up so he sat back for a bit.
"What just happened?"
Early in the race I moved up the right side just before someone way over on the left did something. The field swerved to their right, toward me. A guy I just passed, in an orange kit, ended up getting something in his front wheel, probably a skewer or a derailleur. His wheel almost totally disintegrated, he somehow managed to roll his bike to the grass.
Against all the "rules" we all looked to see what happened - that's the picture above. Normally if something happens you keep your eyes forward because you don't want to be part of a secondary crash - it's like the rubber necking crash on the other side of the highway from the "actual" crash. In this field though I guess everyone felt comfortable looking.
The consensus after the incident is that the disintegrating-front-wheel guy did an awesome job staying upright. No one else got caught up in the incident and the race went on normally.
Legs are breaking!
Note single file and the gaps. You have to imagine the pain.
About a third of the way into the race our trio started doing some damage to the field. Stan had countered after a flurry of failed attacks. Taking advantage of the field taking a collective breath, he launched on his own. He can do that too, not like me and my one lap escapades.
After a lap or so a couple guys went after him. Then, with the three clear, Dave followed a move then counterattacked when the rider in front eased. Todd had followed other racers so he was in the select group on Dave's wheel. Suddenly seven more riders were going clear.
All of the Expo leaders were in the break.
SOC and I went to the front to cover moves.
Break is to the right of the picture, they've just exited the backside right turn.
SOC was much more active than me. The move that pulled the seven chasers clear really hurt me and I was struggling just to stay on wheels. Once the break got away and the immediate chasers all eased I moved to the front to see if I could help.
Ultimately SOC did much of the marking until the break had a good half lap on us. I marked a move or two but that was it. After that I hid in the field, tried to do one more lap, one more lap, one more lap.
The break is to our left, half a lap up.
The nightmare is that we have three in the break of ten and they work too hard and don't do well. I tried to see what was happening in the break when we passed each other on the two main straights (front and back straight). I felt a bit worried when I kept seeing non-Expo riders riding away from the group, Expo guys chasing hard. The non-Expo guys realized the threat our trio held so they tried to break the group into smaller pieces.
Once the break got half a lap ahead SOC did a one lap pull, to be nice to the others. I don't think it helped make them feel better but one rider did comment that "we're finally in a good rhythm" when SOC did that pull. SOC wasn't about to tell him that his plan from there forward was to sit at the back with me and wait for the finish.
When I heard 7 to go I realized that, okay, I may have a chance at finishing this race. I didn't feel absolutely stressed, no cramps, no weirdness, no emptiness in my legs. A glimmer of hope lit up inside of me.
At 5 to go I thought it a possibility.
At 2 to go I knew I'd make it. Now I had to deal with positioning and all that - the good stuff in a crit.
Shovel, to my right, finds me inside 2 to go.
We're both a few seconds behind the front of the field.
I got on his wheel.
Just before we got the bell I chose to go right when the group scattered a bit. Shovel, overlapped to the left, was stuck out there. I felt the right/middle to be a better spot so I went there, and I hoped that Shovel would be back.
Shovel, now with half a lap to go, finds me again.
He didn't disappoint me. He found me in the same spot on the course and this time didn't even bother looking. He rolled by, glanced to make sure I was there, and kept going.
Dead Zone - Shovel starts to go.
When we got into the Dead Zone, the bit of course totally obscured by trees and bushes, he pushed a bit harder, getting into his Cane Creek mass-start legal aero bars.
Final two-part bend ahead.
White speck about to go out of view is Kyle, who was away for a couple laps.
I didn't see Kyle at this point - I didn't know anyone was ahead of the field except the break. I did know that I always get nervous, expecting to be swamped, and so I decided I'd jump as early as I dared.
Just as we rounded the first part of the two part final bend I glanced back, saw the left was clear, and jump hard.
My HR was 172 when I jumped - I had no idea it was so high. I prefer jumping at under 165 bpm.
Overgeared, pedals turning in slow motion, I looked up and thought, "Wow, I went waaaaay too early". I looked down, tried to see if anyone was about to blast around me, and saw no one. I looked up again. The finish line didn't look any closer. Down. No one coming around. Up. Jeepers the finish is still so far away. And is that Kyle in front of me?
I eased just before the line because I didn't see anyone sprinting so I thought maybe I was committing a faux pas. I saw Kyle too, looking intently to make sure it was him - Specialized jersey, bike, the white or silver helmet. Yes, it was Kyle. He'd been in the field so he must have made a big move at least a lap ago, maybe two laps or more before the finish.
On our cool down lap Dave rolled by SOC and me. He gave a thumbs up, and Stan later confirmed that Dave had won the race. This made SOC and me smile because, really, that's the way we'd hoped it would work out.
Thumbs up. Yes!
Shovel's leadout got me the field sprint, if you count Kyle as being a chaser off the front for a couple laps. That was enough to get me second, and,
Here's a view from Mrs SOC:
(Video from SOC)
Ends up I was 12th in the race - 10 rider break, Kyle, then me. SOC, who totally sat up going into the sprint ("nothing to sprint for") finished 44th officially. He grinned when he learned that I got 12th - he'd been a few wheels behind me and he'd killed me in most of the sprints we've done on our own. I think next time he'll be sprinting.
Overall a good day. Going in with zero expectations, hoping to last more than 10 minutes, and winning the field sprint (I'm going to say Kyle was a chase/break rider)... it was all good.
As a bonus I had Strava'ed the race. I saw something about second best time on the final sprint, a segment in Strava. When clicked through to the segment I saw my rank as 4th.
Ends up that last year, in my surprise good-sprint where I had to sprint early and then passed a bunch of the field, was a 12 second sprint, 41.7 mph Strava says. Three riders have done that same sprint in 11 seconds. In this race I did the final sprint in 14 seconds, the second fastest time I've done it.
That was a nice thing to see. Of course now I want to do a 10 second sprint. Haha. We'll see.