So I’ve been feeling kind of fat this whole Fitchburg weekend, and I realized why on the ride to the race this morning. Even on my easiest days of training, I get in more saddle time than I’ve had in two days of this race. Heck, just the ride to work takes up more time than the TT. I realize there are a tremendous number of fields to get through in a given day, but c’mon – yesterday’s Men’s 3 race was 9 laps; the Men’s 2 was 20. Until today, I just didn’t feel like I was getting my money’s worth.
Even todays race, all 68 miles of it, felt a little on the short side. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Yesterday was miserable, so I decided to forget about racing for a bit, eat some grilled steak, watch some Big Love and drink some beer. And I did and it was awesome. Woke up this AM on short sleep, but had two bowls of Honey Nut, a cup of coffee and was out the door. Skipped warm up entirely, and took my time swapping cassettes, chamoising up, and visiting the porta-john.
Despite this, my HR was 173 on the line (f-ing Timex. I can’t wait to tear into their cruddy HRM with a product review). Got rolling and the break went early (4-5mi?) and took its time finally getting together. Lots of people laughed, but there were some solid riders in it, and had I been feeling a little better/had a well placed GC teammate, I probably would have taken a shot at it. Various teams shuffled riders in, but I think the final composition was something like Anthem, NEBC, Velo-Europa and NorEast. Apparently no GC contenders.
The course is decent, a flat, rolling backstretch with a few short climbs, then a fairly steep transitional climb into the feed zone, then a rolling, wide-open climb and a wiiiiiiiiiide-open descent back through the lap. Points sprint on top of the hill. Last lap (that’d be the 6th, in our case) you race up Wachusett Mountain. A house on the back side of the course had a lawn party that was well underway when my field (the first of the day) rolled through at 9:20 or so. All in all, it was ok.
However, the officials (IHMO) began muffing things up around 9mi in, as they neutralized our field (for like 15 minutes) so the Masters could pass us. Despite my I usage of this neutral time to bum a homemade energy bar off Roy van Cleef, I think the neutralization was a mistake. It really interrupted the flow of the event, and in all honesty, I don’t think the Masters’ field ever would have caught us without the neutralization.
Certainly, the un-neutralization could have been done better. I think some riders just decided we were active and began rocket tucking up to, behind and eventually AROUND the official’s moto. Next lap, we caught the Masters back, and I commented “Not in such a hurry now, eh?”. They said some very dirty things back, but I believe also enjoyed the opportunity to do so.
With the break snatching up most of the points sprints, the racing activity was fairly limited. The escapados drew out their advantage to over 2 minutes as riders managed to cartwheel off the course on small climbs, pee on me (a first), break chains, and generally fart about. With three to go, some organized pulling got together, and I kept out of it for the most part. However, from my cheap seats, it appeared that GC contenders were pulling all on their little old lonesomes.
I mostly concerned myself with getting to and staying at the front during the steep climbs, and it proved fairly easy. Even as the break was caught at two to go, no one countered and we rode as a unit through the points sprint. There was still a man up the road, but with just a fistfull of seconds, we caught him well before the final shakeout. Which came way, way later than I would have liked.
Basically, I clung in with the field until the access road split into two one-way roads. Then I was riding – not just suffering over the pedals, but really riding – as steadily as I could, trying not to blow. There may have been a few seconds hiding on that ascent, but I was in no shape to pick them up. A few riders (Miro) who I would have liked to stay ahead of passed me, but what can you do? This race has basically been an expensive series of progressively less-annoying training races. Maybe I’ll be on form at Working Man’s or something.
All told, I’m thinking this race – like the other two – should have been longer. It was pretty much just a group ride to the bottom of the mountain. Granted, the final mile or so of climb takes a few minutes (7? 10?) but until it kicks up, everyone was just riding for position. I think there needs to be another pressing obstacle on the course somewhere. I only lost a 1:40 on the leaders, but was way back in 43rd. Put me 1:40 back of the winner during the queen stage at GMSR, and it’s a completely different story – though considering how much I love GMSR, comparing the two is a dangerous road to start down.