Raced in the Masters 35+ today at Jiminy Peak. Weather was dank - drizzly, windy, with temp in the low to mid 40's. We lucked out though. At least the rain stopped before we rolled off. The roads remained wet for most of the race.
I know very few riders in the Master's 35+ field. I recognized names of many pre-registered riders that place well, but I can't put faces to those names. A lot of riders have switched teams or have completely redesigned team kits too, further complicating who's who. 113 were pre-registered, and I'd guess 100 lined up. My plan was to not drift too far back from the front and not get caught behind a split. This plan did not serve me well.
As soon as we popped out on Rt 43, three riders took off and the field did nothing. I was not going to hop on every wisp that went off the front. We went so pathetically slow, 12mph at one point on Rt 43, that the 45+ field caught up to us as we turned onto Rt 7. The officials tried to neutralize us, but they weren't very successful. Eventually we started racing, setting a blistering pace over the finishing climb. This brought us all back together. I hit 55mph on the descent.
Back on Rt 43, attack after attack ensued. I did not participate in any of these, but I stayed very close to the front and had no choice but to all-out accelerate to stay with lead guys. It seemed guys like Ruiz (CCC/Keltic - who won 35's last year) and Aspholm (Westwood Velo - at least I think that was him) weren't concerned about many of these attempts either. This type of racing doesn't play into my strengths well at all. Each acceleration removed a match from my book. It seemed at any one time, there were always two or three guys off the front, but not very far, and not for long. We'd go gang-busters, catch somebody, then sit up. Our average speed was pretty slow, but when we went, we really went.
The second time over the finishing hill, I started to think I wasn't going to survive it one more time. Jiminy always does this to me. More riders got away on Rt 43 again, and this time it stuck. I don't know who they were. It seemed odd that some of strongest guys I knew in the field weren't part of this and teammates didn't seem to be proactive in chasing them down. There were several CCC/Keltic guys in the field and I don't think they made it in this initial break. On one of the risers on Rt 43, we got a nice split of about 15 riders away from the main pack. I pulled through working this a couple times, but was barely able to pull through. The field still had some fire power and caught us after a few miles. I'm guessing teams of the three-man break didn't want us spoiling their party. A little later, a couple more guys rolled off the front, then again on Rt 7 we lost a couple more.
I've learned my lesson in the past hopping on everything that takes off only to get reeled back in and being toast well before the finish. Well, in this race, pretty much anybody that took off on the third lap was let go. Go figure. We still had Aspholm, Ruiz, Gump (Incline Training) in the field of at least 30, maybe 50 guys going into finishing climb. Climb or no climb, I hate these kind of finishes. We would be competing for about 10th place. I was perfectly content just finishing with the field at this point. I was near the front rounding the corner onto Brodie Mtn Rd. It was still wet and a little muddy on the inside, the line I took each time. Half way up, about 10 more guys come past me, but then as we approached the finish, a lot of guys ran out of gas and I passed many. This was still good for at best 20th place, but more likely 25th or lower. We were mixing in with other dropped riders, so it was hard to tell. Not really that disappointed. It was a safe race and I got an excellent workout.
Talking with guys from the field I really wanted to be in, the 45+ field, I heard there were a couple minor crashes. Teammate Brett flatted on the first lap and was not able to get back on. The finishing climb was also quite mellow too.
So if the race was the main course for today, a tasty little climb I did after the race was dessert. A local rider pointed this out to me a couple years ago. It is Mt Tom near Springfield, MA. There used to be a cog railroad that went to the summit. Now a very narrow paved path sits in its place. The grade is heinous, 16% for 0.9 miles. That's average. I'm betting sustained sections exceed 20% with one bit at 25-30% right at the top. I nearly wheelied over backwards on that. On the descent, I had trouble keeping my rear wheel from skidding on the damp surface. Kids, don't try this right after a punishing road race without a triple crank. I think I was at 40rpm standing the whole way up. Anyway, the Google Earth and photo images tell the rest of the story.