Masters 45+, 43 miles
Goggle Analytics tells me I get more readers on Mondays than any other day of the week. Must be folks come into work, not really wanting to be there, so they go blog hopping. Well, fill your coffee mug, this could be another long one.
This is the fourth year continuing my tradition of racing Equinox/Bow on back to back days. Seems to be working. I generally win Equinox (see yesterday's post) and podium Bow. I know well now the feeling in my legs getting up for Bow. It sucks. But I also know that if I go into this weekend with light volume and just a little intensity, I do alright. It just takes the first lap or so of the race for my legs to come around.
Only 40 Masters 45+ guys were pre-reg'd. But John Funk (Cycle Fitness) and teammates Tom Officer and Mark Luzio were in. So was Paul Wonsavage (Onion River) who nipped me at the line for a win last year. But many other fast guys showed up day-of, like Bill Thompson (CCC/Keltic) and Dave Kellogg (Arc en Ciel). We may have had close to 60 starters with a fairly stacked field. I don't really have any goals when I do this race the day after Equinox other than to just enjoy the ride.
We kept the modified course from last year thanks to rave reviews. It makes it just a tad more of a climbers course. We were neutral this time up the first portion of the climb. But when we got to the second portion where the KOM line is, things heated up quickly. John Funk and Paul Wonsavage got away. Terrific. The strongest climber in masters racing and last year's winner gone. The dual of Mark Luzio and Tom Officer pretty much shut down any attempt to bring John back. These guys are the consummate teammates. They selflessly spend themselves to ensure John's success. It drove me friggin bonkers. Every time I came to the front to do some work and motioned for the next rider to pull through, it was Mark or Tom. These guys followed me more closely than my shadow. This was totally disruptive to chasing the 2-man break.
Another rider, Alec Petro (Team Psycho), recognized this and made many valiant moves around the blockers to put in some serious pulls. Many other riders just wouldn't come up. Not sure what it is. Maybe you'd see a few guys up there and think you're comfy back there, let them do the work. But half the guys you see up there are not only not doing any work, they are disrupting those trying to do some work. So Alec and I put in a disproportionate amount of work, much to the chagrin of my two teammates.
As we wrapped up the first lap, it poured briefly. This was a mixed blessing. It greatly reduced my probability of overheating, but I don't like the mess it makes of my good bike. I wasn't sure how well my carbon wheels were going to work wet either, as I've never ridden them in the rain.
Apparently John dropped Paul, and we brought Paul back in on the second lap. I didn't talk to Paul after the race, but in hindsight, I wonder if this was a mistake on John's behalf. With John still up the road solo and teammates blocking, the race was very well controlled. Attacks were futile. There weren't any, really. That suited me fine. I moved up to the front on lap two and led all the way up the first climb. Speed is low enough there that drafting benefit was negligible, and I could ensure blockers would not be setting the pace. I went pretty hard, but not 100%. Most of the field seemed content with that pace and nobody tried to come around. I took pleasure in a sadistic sense that only cyclists can appreciate, that if I was hurting by setting the pace up this thing, the others behind me probably weren't too comfortable either.
Lap three played out just like lap two. John was up the road still, but working by himself, he started to lose time. Alec and I continued to spend a lot of time at the front of the pack. I set pace again up the big hill. Clearing the KOM hill, I started to not feel so well. On the descent, Alec was just off the front when Bill Thompson launched hard and I followed. We drew a gap. We caught Alec. But Tom and Mark would have none of it and we were viciously reeled back in. Dang. There went a match or two for naught. We had John in sight most of the time now and his wheel van fell back behind us. Spectators were yelling out times like 35 seconds. Bill commented that we should "let John simmer out there a little longer" before shutting him down. Good plan.
Just as we crossed the start/finish for our bell lap, we caught John. Alec commented to me that we pretty much singlehandedly shut down what looked like a winning break at one point. A couple others contributed to the effort too. Kellogg, Dave Foley (BOB/Stonyfield), and Jon Eichman (Quad Cycles) also pushed the pace a few times.
Alec was still riding amazingly strong going up the climb on the fourth lap. He rode away from the pack of 25 or so riders left in main group. He crested the KOM hill about 10 seconds up. I was really feeling it at this point and started to think putting in all that effort to chase John down was stupid. But boy, it was fun. Not sure it would have happened if Alec and I didn't step up to the plate. Then John, a teammate or two and one other rider gapped me at the KOM. I was cooked. Fortunately, Kellogg and a few others were right there to ensure we got back with John's group.
Now we had a different guy just up the road. Is anybody besides me going to go after Alec? I must have this terrible reputation for chasing everybody down, such that the pack can pretty much count on it. But I've been in too many races lately where nobody works and breaks fly clean out of sight to the end. We had maybe 15 guys left just as we began the big descent. Everybody sat up. Since I was at the front, I didn't know they sat up and I accidentally rolled off the front. I figured if they are going to do that, I'm not going to let Alec win this race alone. I put my head down and discretely ramped up the power. The gap began to grow. I guess Mark and Tom didn't know what to do without John up there. I entered no man's land hoping to bridge up to Alec. I killed myself, spinning up to 47mph for about 2-3 miles. I finally caught him with maybe 10-15 seconds gap to the pack. Alec was very agreeable to work together.
I was pretty much cooked, however. Alec did about 60-70% of the work in our two-man break. The pack was never far behind. We continued to TT drill the remaining 3-4 miles in the race. All those turns (hard left where I almost took Alec out on wet road), all those steep blips, and all those short descents where you could not for one second let your power drop. Once we crested the final blip with sizable gap, I was pretty confident we had it. I still took no chances and took one more good pull down towards the fire station. Crossing the intersection, we both knew we had it. Now it got interesting. I can't sprint for shit. I didn't really care if I won or not at this point. Alec certainly deserved it more than I did. Rather than play cat and mouse games, we lined up side by side and ramped it up together with over 200m to go. Alec slowly inched away from me to the line. That was all I had. He was maybe a bike length ahead of me at the line.
After the finish, we learned the pack wasn't just letting us go. They were drilling it at times too but perhaps not on the descents. You can almost bank on nobody in a pack wanting to work on a descent. Alec commented how fitting it was that the two guys that did most of the work shutting down a dangerous break got away in the end to take first two spots. It usually doesn't happen that way. I was very surprised myself I found the reserves to bridge up to Alec. The pack of around 15 guys came in only 16 seconds behind us. I heard that with even a modest group size, the sprint was very sketchy. No crashes, but apparently some close calls. Glad I was clear of that, as I would have just gotten out of the way.
Alec Petro is relatively new in the masters road racing scene. I believe he comes from a triathlete and mountain bike background. The bar to win a masters road race just got raised a little higher. He won his race last weekend too.
It is spooky how similar this weekend has played out two years in a row. In 2007, I won my age group at Equinox, took 4th over all, and set a new PR. Then the next day in 2007 at Bow, I get in a small break on the last lap and took second place, just missing a win. This year, same... exact... deal. Win age at Equinox, 4th overall (with Ian Gordan in #3 spot both years too!), and set a new PR. Come to Bow, get in small break in last lap and just miss the win with second place finish. I think I should do more hillclimb races before hilly road races. Maybe there's something to that "opening" concept elite riders talk about. I was going to do the Agamenticus TT next weekend, but now that I had a decent road race finish, I just may have to participate in the Tokeneke sufferfest.