May 9 2007
Ah, Jiminy Peak. The New England spring classic that embodies most of what I hate about
road races; wide roads, non-selective climbs, uphill finish, dead-ahead descent. It is, however, extremely pretty. I figured I’d finally do it this year because it passes, for a time, through my hometown.
Registration was bliss. It was like someone read my thoughts on the subject or something. For the nearly sold-out race, with start times all within a few minutes of each other (except the pros), there was no crowd. Alphabetical registration, signs on the ceiling, plenty of clean, well-stocked facilties – for once in my life, I have nothing to complain about.
The course is a dopey little thing, a 30k loop consisting of a rolling, steady (1-2%) downhill into Williamstown, a few miles dead flat, and three distinct pitches, the finish line being (surprise, surprise) on top of the third, at the high point of the course. It’s followed immediately by a fast, more or less straight descent. It’s pretty hard to get dropped.
The race began with the usual amount of shouting from the officials, over volunteer fire pickup truck loudspeakers, which made them incomprehensible. All I got was if there are any yellow line violations, the entire field would be disqualified (meaning that you have, results wise, nothing to lose by crossing the yellow line). No teammates, but plenty of fans in the field.
The break went early, probably three, four miles in, which made me upset that I had no teammates. I love the long break in hilly road races. They went off pretty much uncontested, and by the time I got to the front for the sharp corner onto Route 7, they were out of sight. I stayed near, but not on, the front for most of the pitches, and over the first two, felt ok. The third was awful, though, and I was hurting the first time over the line.
On the descent, it became obivous that I’d hurt for nothing. The leaders were taking it slow, and the stench of cork-on-carbon was everywhere. As we turned back onto 43, the pace dropped to 13mph, and didn’t go much above it until the flat stretch after the sharp corner. Then people started riding fast, and I was Bob Roll, glued to Alain Bondue’s wheel, for a bit. Then the pitches started again, and people rode slowly.
This time I just played chill, and felt ok over the climb. Nothing really hurt, I guess, but I felt empty, kinda fragile. I figured it had worn off as we started the final lap, and people started throwing those annoying kid glove, looking back attacks. I thought, maybe for a second, there’d be a break, but no one was serious about it. Even Cat. 3’s are silly enough to think they can all win up the final climb/in the final sprint.
The field was, to its credit, pretty safe. I obviously need way more pack riding experience (5 races this year, something like 20 in the last 3) but I found myself bar-to-bar with people once or twice and no one pooped the bunk. One rider was a bit sketchy, but under popular pressure, he managed eventually to uneff himself.
So on the final bit of climbs, I was hanging on OK. I knew from where I wanted to attack, but also knew that I didn’t have it for an attack myself. If someone jumped in front of me, I’d go, if only to punish people for being negative riders. Then I started to slide a bit. It’s such a telltale sign of looming disaster, when you’re revved up pretty good on a climb, and you start dropping spaces to save energy because you can’t muster the extra 2-3 bpm to lock your place down.
Maybe I could have eaten more or drank more, but I think I’m just slow. As I’m sitting mid-pack, this big guy in a West Hill Shop jersey, a regular hockey-playing wedge of flesh moves to the front. Only one reason beefcake like that goes to the front at this point in a race with an uphill finish. He put in the first real attack of the race (no looking back, just stomping away) and I was pretty much toast. More members of the Cosmo fan club tried to pace and push me back to the field, but I couldn’t lock down those final 30 meters, and that was that.
So I tempoed in the last 3 miles, where the dudes at PEP totally dropped the ball and placed me at 32 minutes(!!!) down, in 87th place. Good thing I didn’t fold, clip or otherwise mangle my number, because then you might have missed me with the finish line camera, huh? Jerks. I’d say I was in the 70s somewhere, at least. Next time I get dropped, I’ll be sure to roll up directly to the camera and be like “yo, PEP guy, I’m finishing in 3, 2, 1, now!”