Around 7:30 am, I departed Hanover for Lake Sunapee, having passed up massive opportunity for drink and debauchery the night previous, with passenger Erik Newman, who most certainly did not. We were hopeful when we left that the damp, but not rainy, and cool, but not cold, conditions would continue throughout the day. As we hit the highway, the rain seemed to increase, but we were hopeful it was an illusion caused by increased speed. By the time we made it to the humble village depart in the Sunapee Ski Resort parking lot (an adventure in itself), we were hopeful of nothing. Not that I don’t enjoy riding in the forty-degree rain, but I generally don’t hope for it.
On the way into the lodge, my brain and colon had an argument about which to hit up first: the bathroom, or registration. My colon won. As a result, I registered late. I was expecting a fine (they fine you for everything) but my only penalty was a different number and no warm-up. Ran into teammate Greg at the start and we discussed strategy – mine was to hang on and maybe try stuff in the second lap. His was (having only two weeks of riding) to maybe hang on and help me. Since NEBC had, like, 10 riders, it’s clear we wouldn’t be dictating the tactics regardless.
Though the flyer proudly proclaims 1200 feet of climbing per lap, it’s really not that bad, with mostly mild rollers and one pitch of notable steepness. Back in 2004, the last time I did this race, we just rolled around the lake in a big clump and waited for the sprint, which is somewhere between uphill and flat. It’s nice because while the entire field is motivated into riding because they (like idiots) think “hey a sprint, anyone can win”, but then find their motivation sapped by the bit of rise preceding the line.
Once active, someone started pulling on the field. Nothing hard, but a good tempo. I was too far down/too much rained on to tell who was doing it, but I’d assume NEBC, since they had like 10 guys in the race (out of 43 starters). After a bit of riding, everyone settled down because it was rainy and cold. Over the first few rollers, I felt ok, keeping in the saddle and pushing just a bit to grab spaces. By the time we hit the wall climb, I, and some others, had enough of this junk, and got some space.
I don’t remember if there was an NEBC guy with us, but there must have been because I can recall pulling through once or twice. For some reason, I was really frustrated by the soaked feeling of my arms, so I took off my gloves, which impressed everyone. Eventually, though we climbed hard, we all sort decided not to try the break, but one dude from CCB just kept rolling over the top and got clear. From there we sort of puttered through the lap, with me wondering if we’d ever see the breakaway again.
I kept this thought for a while, but eventually, NEBC decide to send a bunch of guys to the front to make some pace, and we caught sight of him on the wide, straight-ish roads that make up the first part of the course. He hung out a while longer because I guess NEBC figured it was a done deal, but we finally recaptured him just as the rolling hills were beginning.
By this point I was feeling antsy. The legs were surprisingly good-feeling, not “holy crap, I gotta take off ASAP” legs, but decent. So I’d come to the front just at the top of each little rise and coast down, getting a head start on the next one, while keeping an eye on things. Eventually, an NEBC guy went, and I was like “ok, we can do this”. Honestly, I figured it was a good move because the dude appeared beefier than I was – maybe I could ditch him over a rise an solo in.
Not the case. It became immediately apparent that this guy would climb the legs off me. We went with about 12 miles to go, and held out until about 4 or 5, and I think I pulled through on an uphill exactly once. This isn’t to say we didn’t work well, sharing work without complaint when possible, but I was getting hurt over each climb. Which I guess is good, since I never get to climb w/hurt in my current environs. Coming over the hard pitch put me into some serious hurt, but I found a rhythm and it was a good experience.
Finally, over the last climb of note, they pulled the truck out from between us and the group. I looked back, and the field was there, and up the road, my companion had a few seconds. So I let up a bit, seeing as my legs were pretty toasted. The catch took a while, and I was kinda starting to regret not fighting to the last by the time the field swarmed over me. I retook position pretty well, but as we crested the climb, waiting for another non-NEBC rider to come through and chase, someone managed to bridge across, and the two piled up time on the downhill.
Complicating the chase was a steady stream of dropped riders. They didn’t get in the way, but made it impossible to see up the road, and to determine who, exactly, had jumped across. I pulled on some downhill stuff, but with the legs gone, I couldn’t really put in an effort. Hard to say if I would have been able to keep up if I hadn’t given in just that little bit, but I sure am regretting not making a go for it.
By the time we started sighting up for the sprint, they were clear to win. I grabbed second wheel coming through the traffic circle, remembering that in my last time out here, I’d left myself way too far back. Second wheel is too close though, and there was no leadout to speak of (ahem, NEBC, I’m looking at you, here), so I was down in 53/23, doing like 40 rpm, waiting for someone to go. Not that I would have won or even placed well in the sprint, but I would have enjoyed grabbing a wheel for a “true” ST, rather than limping in however many seconds down.
So, in the end, 19th place and the personal satisfaction of sticking a break, at least for a little bit. Erik was already back in the car, having bailed from the 4 race after going off the front for a lap. I drove home feeling OK but sad to lack the high-end grit when it mattered. I’m still trying to get skinny, which might have been the cause of some of the leg weakness in the climbs, but I think the problem is just not enough genuinely hard riding. Maybe some shorter, harder intervals are in order. Maybe I’ll get some next week in Connecticut.