The bass boats were out in full effect.
Also - my diatribe about CMass having some great riding still holds.
But I was wrong where it counted. I totally mis-read how the racing would unfold... specifically how the hills would play into the effort required to stay in touch with the lead group. Based on at least one other race report, all of the races basically the same way mine did.
Not that I'm complaining mind you, the differnce between what I thought would happen and what did happen allowed me to stay with the lead group for the entire race, so I'm pleased with that.
Here's the report...
After what appeared to be a truly neutral start, we turned left onto Mendon Rd. to climb what I thought would be the hardest hill of the day. First ascent was pretty managable, but we had just started, so I wasn't getting too excited by the relatively easy pace. Plunging down Mendon Rd. I took the opportunity to get to the front and have some fun. I also wanted to go by the house at the front of the field, I knew the kids would get a kick out of that. I know that descent like the back of my hand, and while I may have drifted over the would-be yellow line in my search of the straightest and fastest way to the bottom, I always ride that hill like that, so I can't control it or be held responsible really. Can I? The road was also designated temporarily one way for the race, so I thought it was cool.
My falcon-like descending skills got me a bit of a gap, 20 seconds or so, and 3 others were with me. They wanted to come through, but I waved them off as we turned onto Barnett so I could be at the front. I heard a few grunts and groans from my escape mates, but sorry. Did they really expect to go clear at 4 mi of a 52 mile race... because I sure didn't.
The kids loved seeing me come by first, so the effort was worth it, but I promptly went to the back of the group and began skipping turns, which generated additional groans and one snide "c'mon Matt, take your pull!" from racing pal Harry Stover. I got back in the line, but it was all for naught, we were swept up at the end of Whitins road just 3 miles along. No surprise there.
The gentle hill on Manchaug Rd, which I though would we would be riding at nuclear pace, was also tame, guys were rolling it like a group ride and I even moved up through the field a bit. We turned onto Lackey and things got very hot. The climbers attacked at the bottom while more power guys like me were best served setting a hard but sustainable pace. In the middle, the climbers slowed and I kept the effort up, limiting my losses. The top of the hill kicked again, and I got gapped when another rider couldn't hold the wheel in front of me. With one last effort I stayed close enough to get back on to the lead group through the start finish stretch, which was super fast.
We turned onto Mendon Rd. to start lap 2 and again rode that hill at an easy pace. It became clear at that moment what was happening andhow I had been so wrong about this course. There was no sense going hard anywhere but on Lackey Rd. because that was the only climb long enough to really cause permanent damage. The Mendon Rd. hill was followed by a 2 mile down hill, anyone popped off there could easily get back on. The Manchaug Rd. hill was too close to Lackey, so guys rode it easy because everyone was saving their legs for the big hill. This wasn't a climbers course - it was more like a classics course where non-climbers could justify a big effort on the hill to stay with the field then enjoy 9 miles of rest before doing it all over again.
Despite the fact that the race I was expecting was different than the race I was in, I still wasn't sure I could hang on for 5 laps. Going up Lackey once every 20 minutes to make it happen seemed possible. Lap two was uneventful, but I was surprised how timid the field was on the descent. Without pedalling I was able to slide right up to the front going down that hill every lap, passing guys who looked to be turning over a pretty big gear. It pays to be fat.*
Up the hill at the conclusion of lap two the attacks were ferocious. Good friend Mike Rowell marked Bill Yabrody and Jonny Bold of all people.... good for him. Mike is a pure bike racer and is not intimidated by anyone in any race, unlike me. The acceleration did create a split in the group, and my sag climbing technique (start the climb at the front hoping that as the good riders pass you you are still in the group over the top, albeit at the back) planted me firmly with... the chasers. The front bunch looked strong, consisted of all of the heads of state, and was starting to pull away a bit on Mendon Rd. I had been waiting for this to happen so that the rest of us could just race our own pace, but knowing I only had to bury myself on one hill per lap I wanted to get back up there and see how long I could hang on. I saw my pal and former/current cyclonauts team-mate Keith Gauvin in the chase group as well. I had committed to riding for him that day and when he rolled to the front to take up the chase I moved past, told him to get on my wheel, and took off down Mendon for the third time. We made it about 1/2 way across the 30 second gap before we hit the bottom, and I got on the gas to deliver him as close as possible at the turn onto Barnett. He came around and made the bridge while I sat up and waited for the field behind me. As soon as Keith integrated with the front group they slowed, and we were all together before turning onto Whitin. Can you say "wasted effort?" Between that and the first lap charge to my driveway I was riding way too hard too early.
The next lap and a half were again uneventful, the Lackey climb was hard but a steady effort at the bottom, some hard thrashing at the top, and a proper chase to get back on through the finish line had me in the final group of 25 or so guys at the bell. I did feel a bit of leg cramping coming on with one to go. Throughout the race there had been small efforts off the front but there was only one guy ahead by about 35 seconds at this point. I never see those things go, I think you have to be riding at the front of the field for that. I chatted with all around good guy Kevin Hines a bit and tried to ID the rider currently off the front. Seemed no one knew who it was.
Speaking of riding at the front, Mike Rowell was animating the entire race and never was further back than 5th or 6th wheel. On Whitins Rd. for the final time, with the field posturing a bit to see who was going to chase down the leader & I heard Mike say "f*&$ it, I'll go" and take off up the right side. I promptly jumped into the slipstream created by his effort and hid from the wind like a frightened child. Mike's a strong racer.
The final time on Manchaug saw a bit higher pace, but nothing killer, and by the top of that rise we were still all together. Turning onto Lackey for the final time I went just a bit harder but followed the same basic strategy: stay close, keep it steady when others slow down, then let it all out to get over the top. I was at the back of the lead group of 20 or so, and held their pace to the half way point on the hill. The second half acceleration came and I considered going with it but knew that I was risking a cramp as I felt that familiar twinge again. Looking back there wasn't many guys behind me and those that were there weren't that close. I decided to let the field roll away, keep a steady pace, and concede the time but try to maintain my spot. The field sprinted it out for 2nd about 25 seconds in front of me. I pulled hard to the line and a few guys caught and passed me, but Brian Haas was cool about it: he sat on while I busted to the line and let me roll through ahead of him.
Generous scoring had me finishing "st" (same time) as the group in 24th. I'll take the placing, but there was a huge gap ahead of me. Thanks JD!
Also - the same clowns who bring you crossresults.com have a road-results.com site that may actually have some cooler features. The race predictor there calculated that I would finish... 24th. Amazing.
After my race I rode three laps with Mr. Kenny in the SRAM volvo. Here are some shots:
Chris Bailey getting thrashed