Masters 45+ Report
For a third race weekend in a row, it looked like rain. Procedure is such - check radar, and if it looks like pouring rain during race, go back to bed. But like Jiminy and Sterling, the rain cleared out just in time and other than wind, I found Sunapee conditions ideal.
We had 60 guys pre-reg'd in the Masters 45+ field. Many of the usual suspects were there, minus the New Yawkers. Sunapee is not quite hilly enough to bust things up. As such, I didn't have high expectations in this race. Optimally, I hoped to get away with a few big riders like Bill Thompson (CCC/Keltic) or Keith Button (NorEast) that could fight the tough winds.
Right from the rotary at the start of the race, attacks started. I participated in many of these. The deal is, anybody that went off was a contender, and everybody wanted to have a piece of what they were starting. Nothing worked. We stayed together through the hills on the front side of the course. On back side (Rt 103A), Tom Butler (CCC/Keltic) and I got away on the first few rolling hills with a decent gap. A couple minutes later, we got caught just before the biggest, steepest hill on Rt 103A. I nearly got shelled right then and there.
I sat in for the rest of lap one. Before finishing the first lap, another two riders got off the front. Don't know who they were. They had 30-60 seconds on us at one point. Nobody seemed to be working. A couple attempts quickly became disorganized. I was recovered from initial burst with Tom and worked my way back to the front. IBC teammates Brett Rutledge and Brian Anderson, myself, and one other rider began a four-person tempo pace rotation at the front. This gradually brought the gap down. Around the time we reached Rt 11, the break was shut down. Hard to say how far that break could have gone if IBC hadn't stepped up to do something about it.
More attacks ensued on the hills of Rt 11. Tom Officer (Cycle Fitness) made a decisive move, taking two others with him. Not sure what happened, as the effort abruptly petered out with some strong words exchanged. Over the crest of the big hill, a split of about 10 riders pulled away. It appeared though that some of the strongest riders in the split stayed at the back. It wasn't working and never got very far away. We were all back together before turning onto Rt 103A.
On Rt 103A, with 15-20 minutes to go in race, Randy Kirk (Cycle Fitness) makes a strong surge off the front. For a while, he hung out only 20 seconds or so ahead of us. I was pretty much cooked by this point. It didn't really matter to me that we'd be sprinting for second place, as in these kind of finishes I'm so far out of contention anyway.
Climbing the stair step hill back to the rotary, I figured I'd go out on a suicide launch on the last rise. I did, nobody responded. The field probably knew I was gassed anyway. Cresting the high point, I had maybe 10 seconds lead with Randy 20-30 seconds up. But the descent down to the rotary was not kind to me. I got swarmed as I went into the rotary, and the posturing to the finish had already begun. I pretty much stayed out of the way. I was quite sure the entire field came by. I was so spent I could have walked my bike up as fast.
I was surprised to learn that Tom Butler won. I was sure Randy's lead was insurmountable, but he got swarmed in the last meters too. So I took 19th out of 59 finishers. With team support present, I should have done better.
In four road races so far this year, I have not placed better than 9th. I podium'd several races last year. I think multiple things are going on here. First, teammate Brett points out that I can't just anonymously ride away from the field anymore. When you race with the same guys enough times, they get to know who you are. Second, I missed or screwed up in two races this year. I was sick for Turtle Pond and I missed getting in the 45's at Jiminy, both podium finishes last year. I haven't been good at benchmarking my fitness this spring, but I should be pretty close to where I was last year at this time. I think there is one other thing going on.
Since the last couple races have not been very hilly, any chance for a decent finish must come from a clean break. I've spent a lot of time near the front waiting for opportune moments or hopping on promising moves of others. Rarely do early attempts succeed, but it just kills me to sit mid pack fretting over what if THE move happens and I'm stuck there. I could get caught in a split over a hill too. But it is costly to hang out near the front. Kilojoules tick away even though it may not seem much work is being expended. It comes down to being greedy, always being there at the right moment. I'm sure more experienced riders are better at reading the race and know when to move forward. Teammates have mildly admonished me the last couple races for my tactical recklessness, and the criticism is well taken.
Next planned road race is Housatonic. That course is hilly enough to bust things up good. Hope I have the goods to do it justice. In the mean time, 6-gaps (132 miles, 14,000ft vertical, dirt, 20% grades) is this Saturday. Looks like 20+ guys are on board for the sufferfest. Following weekend looks like another long mountains group ride.