2007 Working Man's Stage Race – Race Report

Jul 19 2007

So I’m gonna try to be upbeat, because this was a pretty fun event, but I didn’t get my workout in today and that makes me grumpy. Working Man’s “stage race” is a three day event, held over consecutive evenings on the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border. I think a more clever name would be “Criterium Regionál” (misplaced accent for added comic effect) since it more closely resembles the format of that storied French race than a traditional multi-day event. But I digress.

Stage 1 – Time Trial
Blue collar moniker notwithstanding, this is not a “working man’s” race. Especially if you live in Boston, where even a workday of 7:30 to 3:30pm leaves barely enough time to battle your way through traffic and get to Amesbury, MA in time for sign in. Perhaps if the organizers weren’t citing a made-up USCF rule about all fields needing to sign-in before the first rider starts racing, there would be less of a time crunch for us commuters.

The course is 6.25 or so miles, with some undulation, but nothing that should slow you down/cause you save up for the road ahead. That’s really another trait that belies the name – the parcours is flat enough that Joe Megabucks can roll up to the line on some seriously pricey aero gear confident that he’s bought himself at least a couple of seconds. I had some closeout Cosmic Elites (with some fancy tubies taped on not-so-straight) and my ole’ Vision Techs. I think I was well below the curve.

No matter. I arrived in the nick of time to give Rebecca Menke my aerobars and sign in. Start at 7:04 pm, so after reattaching the bars post-Rebecca’s race, I did my patented out-and-back with a minute to spare warm-up and arrived -1:15 to my start. I began my watch on the guy one minute ahead of me so I could forget about it when my turn came, and just do the subtraction later. Hopped out of the gate quick, jacking the HR up to 180 before settling in. Lesson for next time – go harder off the line and get the legs locked into the burn.

I felt good, but couldn’t really get the ear-buzzing, leg-searing drive that you need over every rise to do a real solid TT. Too much easy training, I think. Plus I took the corners like a myopic nun with serious reservations about the existence of an afterlife. I was a little nervous about the tape job on the tubulars still, and I felt I was having a good enough run to worry about blowing it in a crash around one of the not-completely-easy corners on course.

There’s a climb that peaks at 4.5 miles, and really, that’s the end of the race. I was about halfway up this climb, feeling good, but in no pain, when my 30 second man caught me. I followed (not drafted) him home, and it was really easy. It’s clear I need more aggressive rides, harder intervals (some effing hills around here wouldn’t kill me); something to get me back into the pain habit. I was a bit down on myself, but when results came in, it was revealed I’d started between the guy who came in second and the guy who came in third (there’s really only one worse place to start than that) and finished in 8th. Not too shabby, for even with only 31 riders, it’s still a 2/3 field.

Stage 2 – Circuit Race
The circuit was much the same as the TT, with a slight extension and another kinda hill thingy, followed by another easy descent. It turns out the TT had claimed a few victims, with Josh Lipka crashing and Josh Bardige being directed off-course by the police. So lots of riders, I figured would be mixing it up, looking to make up for lost time, especially as the race is run on a points scoring system.

Things were pretty hot from the gun, and while some early moves went, no KOM points were awarded the first lap, prompting me to hold off because I “didn’t like the mix” of riders going up the road. I was waiting for Lipka or Colin H. Murphy or Ryan Kelly to put in an attack and break the field up. This did not happen. After a lap of sitting around, Josh Lipka put in a sharp attack to get the remaining KOM point, and broke a small group of guys clear over the top (self included). But the descent was too fast and too straight to get any distance.

As the race developed, it became clear a lot of guys weren’t racing to win. Maybe there was some sort of UNH lovefest going on – I can’t really tell. But lots of hard pulls and nonsensical attacks went out. Riders took flyers, but after the break was pulled back on lap 3, it was pretty much gruppo compatto. I guess I kinda got lulled into riding uptempo but not hard, too, around 160 bpm, and spent a lot of time watching and marking attacks that didn’t make sense, waiting to throw my full power into a move that never came.

On the penultimate lap, it began to rain, which I was fine with because, crooked front tire aside, Conti Sprinters at 105 psi felt amazing, and stuck to the road like you wouldn’t believe. I was getting real sick of sitting around, and so, on a long stretch of road leading into a sweeping uphill bend, I wound it up from like, 20 wheels back. Too far, yeah, so there was advanced warning, but c’mon – who’s gonna mark me? I got a gap, and out of sight for a second or two, but really couldn’t pop that zone of serious pain you have to push through for a good break. The climb, like all the others, was followed by an idiotically easy downhill, and so I was swept up after a within 3 or 4 minutes.

The attack, followed shortly by the KOM hill, really got my blood up, and I wanted to attack more. But the descent let me sit up too much, and my engine powered down a gear, even as some real watts merchants went to the front and strung out the field to no apparent purpose. I just put it in my head to get over the KOM line on the last lap in good position, so I wouldn’t have to fight through the descent. I took some yellow line liberties on the way up, but nothing like what people were pulling down the other side. I’m all for a little gamesmanship, but this race was finishing at dusk, in the gloom and rain, on essentially open roads – maybe my instincts for self-preservation are just too strong.

Needless to say, I got very confused in the mish-mash of the closing KM, and took a terrible line around the final corner, but got a descent sprint in (watts wise) to salvage 12th. This left me in 7th overall, which in a race that pays to 6th, is not a bad place to be with one event to go. Teammate Paul Richard, who’s much better at this sort of thing than I am, wormed his way up well through the closing meters, and with his 5th place finish, jumped into the GC Top 10. So we’d have some interesting GC leverage in the final event Points Race the next day.

Stage 3 – Points Race
This actually never happened. Despite a summer of drought, it had been raining all day and the officials judged the track “too wet” to race on safely. Now, I’ve only had one race before canceled due to rain, and that was something disgusting like a 6-inch, day-long downpour – one of those things that should be a nor’easter but it’s 45 degrees out. Today’s race canceling weather was on-and-off misting to light rain. Independent sources had referred to the Star Racetrack as “thunderdome” and “the circle of death”, but I’m incredulous (to say the least) that conditions were unsafe.

I’ve really got nothing bad to say about the organizers and officials at this event. They were helpful, friendly and approachable, madly in love with their 20+ year-old race, and in all ways the antithesis of most authority figures I encounter in this ridiculous sport. But after enduring the hassle of:

  1. waking up early
  2. driving to work (I never drive to work)
  3. feeding the meter ($3, plus schedule disruption)
  4. paying a parking ticket because I couldn’t get out of a meeting to feed the meter ($20)
  5. burning a quarter tank of gas ($10, plus carbon footprint guilt)
  6. 120 miles of wear and tear on my aging Subaru
  7. 2.5 hours of heavy-ass traffic

getting to the track to be told the race was canceled due to the barely-falling drizzle was a pretty effing bitter pill to swallow. Especially because I was one of the first riders not to be paid in the now-frozen GC, and especially because word of the cancellation got out to many non-Cosmo entrants (like the entire state of New Hampshire) before they invested all that effort in trying to attend.

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