Jun 6 2007
So at the end of my last race report, I noted I was coming up to Auburn (home of the J-Bone) looking for results. But come race day, I was heading up to Maine looking mostly for a bathroom. Further complicating things, my chaffeur/domestic goddess was in extreme danger of missing her start after my poor directions and road awareness sent us on a brief side trip to Gloucester. So treat your mind’s eye to the image of me careening through the hills of Central Maine, clinging (with a full colon) to the “Oh, s&!t” bar of a turbo VW wagon, piloted by the madwoman who purchased the vehicle with just such scenarios in mind. High comedy, indeed.
Upon arrival, I hobbled out to registration with her license, where the officials pulled a Sergeant Schultz (that’s two “Hogan’s Heroes” references in one day, BTW) and let me sign for her while she got changed. I then spent a few nerve-wracking moments in the porta-potty line before finally getting to relax and prepare for my race. The site was pretty nice – park in a field, some buildings, some shade, but no water(!). Apparently, there was water, but no one found out where it was until the p/1/2 field got rolling. Still, friendly officials, well managed.
The course was (IMHO) great. The start was downhill, followed by a good, short wall (probably 45-60 seconds of ascending?). Two corners atop the wall were interesting, followed by a bumpy gradual downhill to the lake. The last 3k had a good 250 feet of climb, and the last KM was a false flat until 200 meters. So no easy sprint, no mass/power contest. It would take some smarts, either in selecting a move or position, to do well here.
I lined up last for Men’s 3, and was apparently too far over the yellow line to start. An official was like “now you can go to the back”, but I was more like “Now I can go over to the other side and start from the dirt”. I did just this and rolled out with the first row. Take the over-strict USCF official! I immediately put myself back a few spots, though, because people were making me nervous on the descent, and I’d rather have a chance to react to crashes than cause them by fighting for position less than a mile in.
The wall breezed by the first time, but I was nervous for position on the descent. It was bottle-sheddingly bumpy, with the only good pavement I could find right near the yellow line. I figured an early move would go, with so many teams having multiple riders (NorEast, FCC, NEBC, VeloEuropa, etc) but as far as I could tell from my admittedly poorly chosen seat, there were just surges and shadow punches. I did a little work in the last few miles of the lap to get back to the front before the climb.
Right as we came up to the foot of it, I dodged a weird road-lump (after checking over my shoulder, of course), and for the first time since 2003, someone told me to “ride straight”. So I was like “Thanks, but I know where the course goes”. A guy from NorEast cycling (basically the UNH summer jersey) next to me overheard the exchange, and was like “Wait, so we keep going straight? Then up this hill, and at the crossroads, go straight some more?” Ah, it’s good to have some college guys back in the peloton. Humorless old masters were really starting to get to me.
To say I ate up the climb would be an understatement. Not once was I in the least bit of distress. I even got stuck behind some putzer, changed my rhythm until I could get by him, re-accelerated, and still, no big deal. I ended up further back than I would have liked, but someone was cranking over the top of the hill, so I got a nice little simulation of what a prospective run at the line would be like. You’d want to hold a wheel.
Lap 2 and still no break. Levi, the local Saris rep, fired off an attack WAY over the yellow line with two other guys, that eventually grew to 15 or so. But it was three or four engines dragging a tail. Despite the representation of every major team, no one wanted to work, and enough riders on the unhappy side of the split didn’t want to be there that it came back together. Up the hill again, and I was 20th or so? I thought I could see the front of the field, but apparently, a Portland Velo Rider got clear at this point.
Lap 3 and I’m ready to act. My legs get this awful feeling when they’ve been running at 150-160 bpm for too long – it’s like they’re cored out or something. They still feel strong and quick, but like something’s literally missing right around the bone. I guess I’m just a diesel, and I need that hard pace to really get everything warm and activated. I was in the top 5 over the wall, and looking maybe to get a group together, but no one really seemed to want to go. 20+ miles is too far for me solo, so I sat up, hoping the teams would try and do their work.
With about 4 miles to go in the 3rd lap, people seemed to motivate. FCC and NorEast (or maybe one or the other – they’re both red and gray) started moving guys up, and I got ready for some hard riding. Then there was a wobble, and down went two guys, I think both from NorEast. And of course, it was right in font of me. I grabbed some brake, body-englished right, and took a helmet in the shin, but otherwise rode clear. I was the last (or next to last – I think a Coast 2 Coast guy was behind me) rider to get through cleanly, and from behind there was a massive outcry of “wait up! hold up!”. Are you f-ing kidding me? I’m all for civility in racing, but in a one-day race? With a guy up the road? Save your breath and chase back on.
Up the hill had some spice to it this time. I took a pull on one of the final pitches, and a glance over the shoulder revealed a much reduced field, seemed like 20 guys, max, all clinging tightly. Darcy shouted the gap to me (1:35!) so I bridged up to some light looking dudes who seemed they might want to get away. We took a few turns, but the NEBC guy who won Sunapee pulled everyone back to us. We got the bell, climbed the wall, and the anchor…went…out.
I’ve been in my fair share of lazy races, but this was the worst. I can’t count how many teams had multiple riders, and no one pulled. Ok, Miro took a pull at one point. But other than that, it was ridiculous. ANOTHER Portland Velo guy just sort of drifted clear – no attack, no surge – and no one followed. People were yelling and cussing, “oh you pull!” “no, you!”, but it did no good. If I had a gun, I would have shot the TargetTraining guy who insisted on being second wheel 100% of the time. I would have shot him in the gut, too, for a slow death.
You could say “Cosmo, why didn’t you pull?” But you’d be an idiot. As the sole representative of my team, pulling would be dumb. I’d be wasting myself for the benefit of others. Now, a nearly-spent NEBC, NorEast, or Velo-Europa guy could have wasted himself for a teammate, but apparently, that never occurred to any of them. My best option was a nice, stiff attack, to prevent the field from just following along. And at five miles to go, I did just that.
I didn’t realize at the time, but little lump of a hill I jumped at was really the last viable escape point. It was steep, followed by a good downhill and a 90 degree corner to slow the field. Still, I expected everyone to come with me, but only one dude did, from Connecticut Coast Cycling. Maybe I was dulled from all that soft-pedaling, but it felt almost like he countered me rather than joined. We got together, and he immediately started to yell at me for not pulling through at 32 mph. I told him I was trying to pull through, and eventually we got a rhythm going. Took a few checks back and the field was out of site. I was cranking 180+ bpm, so a genuine effort for sure, but I supplemented it with little sex noises over the rollers, to create an illusion that I was really suffering against gravity.
We came into the hill, and I let him lead. Not sure if he tried to attack, but he got space at the bottom. I clawed past him, gritting a little bit (193 bpm) to crest the second pitch, and then I made a long, seated pull, waiting until just before the last stiff rise before letting him come through. My next time past I just notched it up a bit, and he couldn’t hold. Bad luck for him that I was climbing well that day. I locked the gunsights on PVC rider #2, but couldn’t close it down. I told myself I had space behind, and I should just open up at 1km to go, but the legs simply weren’t there, and I coasted in for 3rd, apparently 10 seconds up on my erstwhile companion and another 10 on the field.
35 American Dollars and five upgrade points (like I care) was the reward for my effort, plus looking awesome in front of a healthy Team INTERNATIONAL BICYCLE CENTERS presence and the aforementioned V-dub driver. I’d like to credit my race sense again, since going at any other time probably would have brought the field with me, but not catching the guy in second left a slightly bitter aftertaste. Gonna have to work on that “kill yourself for 1-2 minutes” gear if I want to really start hammering in these races. Still, it’s my first podium since Emma Roubaix in August of 2005, and a nice result to show the new team I’m worth the shop discount.