Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CSI Northampton: 11.6.10

Last year I missed Noho thanks to the H1N1 virus.... remember that little special friend? I know Kurt Perham does. With no avarian flu or rhinovirus lurking in our home 2010 would be different, and in more ways than one. We crossed a threshold as a family this weekend, actually paying for a room for just the four of us. No sleeping on the floor, no driving hours upon hours back and forth from home just to save a some money... we actually opened the wallet... err... bad choice of metaphors... opened the checkbook.... and made a weekend out of it.

It was worth every penny.

Rewind to last week. There were no rooms to be had in Northampton as late as Thursday. UMass Football, a lacrosse tourney, and "some bike race thing" (direct quote from hotel reservationist) meant that the best rooms were down in Springfield. Buahh... I got myself on a waiting list and crossed my fingers. At 1:20 pm on Friday, the call came... I was in at the Clarion, the hotel with the indoor pool. Sealed the reservation with the credit card. Daddy just hit one out of the park!

I went to a meeting at 2 pm Friday, returned to my desk at 3 pm, then got ready to leave at 5 pm. Hey... where's my wallet? I looked for an hour and finally left without it. Turns out my wallet pulled a Thelma & Louise and made a break for it. Must have got bored just driving around though because it went on a little shopping spree too, to the tune of $2300 in electronics from Best Buy, Target, Game Stop... all of my favorites!!! Of course, I wasn't buying any of this stuff so it wasn't so much fun for me. Hopefully the thief enjoys their time with the stuff, because Commerce Security is on the case. I'd rather have the FBI looking for me if I did something wrong. These guys mean business.

What is the first order of business when your wallet gets stolen the night before a weekend away at a race half way across the state? Print a permission to ride form of course! I've got no printer at home so Zank hooked me up with the official stuff. Zanks alot! Everything else can, and would have to, wait.

After two days of steady rain the course was damp in spots Saturday morning but drying out nicely. I pre-rode after the 8:30 race and again after the 9:30 and the difference was significant, but things were still to soggy to go with my beloved file treads. The Bikeman.com guys hooked me up with a bit of sealant for my moody rear Fango and I was off to the starting grid.

Being my first VERGE races of the year, I didn't have points and thus got no call up at staging. I was apparently the fastest guy without a VERGE point once again, as my number was the first one called by crossresults.com rankings after the VERGE point holders were placed. I had let Hopengarten play with that title long enough and I was glad to have it back, even if only for 45 miuntes. Ohh, the foreshadowing!!!

At the whistle I moved up the left hand side quite nicely, as the elongated starting chute afforded the opportunity to move up by braking late. Like those people who try to merge into a backed up off ramp by riding along side all of the suckers who played nice and stayed in queue. At the first hard left hander I had the inside line, and much like Gloucester Day 1 I drove past the post, then turned left and gained a ton of spots by using my body and bike as a gate around which "None shall pass!"

The trip through the top half of the course on the first lap was strange. Very easy going, there were just so many people and the lines were too tight to really try and move up. I took the opportunity to recover from the starting effort and think about where I would need to start spending energy. The turns down in the field were so flowy and fun, you could pedal them and really push the traction to the edge while making up time. That's where I started to really mash away on the pedals, and I was happy with my position in the field after having picked up a few spots towards the end of the top rooty section.

Things really got sorted out about half way through the second lap near the barriers. John Foley was about 5 seconds behind a group with Kurt Perham, Pete Smith, Ryan Rumsey, Al Starrett and Bill Shattuck, and I was about 5 seconds behind him. Through the sand I managed to catch John, and I rode his wheel through the end of the that lap and half way through the third. I told him that I'd take a turn at the front, and I led us around for about 3/4 of a lap at a much more manageable pace. John apparently had enough of my ridiculously slow pace and got to the front. He took the opportunity to remind me that this was a bike race and that we were supposed to be going fast. So sorry, my fault. My legs was howling in pain and I was breathing like an excited puppy. People around the course were telling us that we were fighting for 14th. This was great news. I thought that even getting 15th would be a big win for me... a few years ago top 20 in a VERGE race seemed like a pipe dream, and the only time I cracked the top 20 I was out of the points at the time. I started to think about the worst thing that could happen while following John... really I could blow up sky high and still get top 20. What did I have to do to avoid that? Suck wheel as much as possible. Don't crash. Don't flat. In other words, play it safe. I don't think that is a good way to contest a bike race, I'll have to ask JONNY BOLD next time I see him.

The rest I got while leading helped, so when John got back up there I was able to hang with him for two more laps, not willing to repeat the mistake of getting in front again. In retrospect, I believe we could have caught that group if I hadn't taken 7 minutes of racing off: if I had drilled it we could have bridged up to them. I really have to start thinking that the race is ahead of me to go and chase after and not behind me waiting to pounce. John would charge hard out of the corners, open a small gap, and I'd roll back up to him and sit in time and time again. That may be smart racing, but it isn't going to ever get really exceptional results.

For the last two laps the group ahead began to break apart, with Rumsey and Starrett drifting back towards us. By that time there wasn't enough race left to catch them though, and both John and I noticed that Brian Rutter, Ryan Laroque and Aaron Millette had formed a little chase group behind us. The gap to them wasn't growing and may have been shrinking. When I saw Rutter on the front I wasn't terrible worried, but with 1.5 to go Laroque took up the chase and I went into panic mode. This caused me to muff the second to last trip through the sand, and Foley got away by 6 bike lengths. I burned matches to catch back on in the windy field section, and enjoyed a draft back through the start/finish to the bell. The effort to catch back on cost me though, and John dropped me quickly up the run. He stacked it up after the off-camber descent which got me back on his wheel, but ever-cool and very strong he kept me behind him the rest of the way and easily beat me in the sprint, taking 14th while I rolled for 15th.

I've not got some legitimate, old school VERGE points. None of this top 25 get points... top 15 like back in the say (2008). I was very worried early on the season about my preparation for these races, granted I had some mechanical issues but even on the days when I didn't things weren't great. It seems as though it just took some time for the high-intensity stuff to come around, and I'm feeling pretty good during these races. I went as hard as I could, but I wasn't completely blown afterwards either. Didn't even consider doing the nordic flop to the ground. Maybe there is another gear down there, just waiting to be used. We'll have to see...

Charlie raced the kids race and finished 3rd, looking over his shoulder the entire time just like his dad. He was excited to race and made fast friends with the other kids that were out there to race as well.

yes, I made him wear the garmin.

We went to Spoleto's for some decent Italian food and then dropped into Raven books because Charlie wanted to check it out. I'm thrilled that this kid loves to read so much. We were working on a strictly cash basis so I bought him a $1 Hardy Boys mystery and an old copy of Alice in Wonderland for Cory. The kids loved the city, saying it wasn't too big like Boston nor too small like Sutton. We returned to the hotel and spent a relaxing two hours at the indoor pool before turning in.


Steve said...

Some kid's race photos up on Podium Insight...I think your son is in there. Kid's races make the weekend.


matt said...

Steve - thanks for the link. That's my boy in the fourth picture. He's sitting on a wheel, just like me.