Snagged another great finish today. I hit the Turtle Pond Road Race with four IBC teammates in the Masters 45+ field. Lining up, there appeared to be far more than 54 riders than were pre-registered, including some additional contenders. I saw that Paul Wonsavage (Onion River Sports) signed up. I was going to keep a close eye on him. He can be tough as nails and nipped me at the line a couple years ago at Bow for the win.
There were two notable climbs on the course. Oak Hill, gaining over 200ft in a steep section just after the start/finish line, and Hothole Hill, a steep 100ft grunt about 3-4 miles out from the finish. We do five 11+ mile laps for a 56 mile race. Topo 7.0 says over 900ft of climbing per lap, but I know that is too high. It is probably more like 700-800, for 3500-4000ft for the race. Starting out at base of Oak Hill was neutral. Once cresting top, racing went live and attacks ensued. Several other teams were well represented, including CCB, Gearworks, Corner Cycle, and especially OA/Cyclemania with over a dozen guys. Blocking was well executed any time these teams sent somebody up the road. I managed to get into or bridge up to a couple of these breaks, but we were mercilessly reeled back in. Teammate Brett Rutledge came around the blockers many times when IBC wasn't represented in the break away and other teams weren't willing to work. There were so many OA/Cyclemania guys that it was almost impossible to get around the blockers sometimes.
I stayed near the front of the race for four laps. I was quickly becoming cooked and discussed lead-out strategy with teammate Steve Gauthier while finishing the fourth lap. He can sprint. This field wasn't going to let a hillclimb weeny like me get away. I even thought I wouldn't do this race again, as it wasn't selective enough. Things sure looked like they were going to end in a bunch sprint. I generally sit up and get out of the way for these things. But if I could string things out in the home stretch, I thought perhaps that could keep things under control and give Steve a shot for the win.
We hit Oak Hill on our fifth and final lap. Thus far, I thought the Oak Hill ascents were pretty tame. I see Paul Wonsavage is already at the front of our pack of 30-40 guys. I work my way up to him. Paul starts stringing us out and I stay glued to his wheel. The pace was no longer tame. I started to not feel so great, having moments of doubt, like maybe I should just let him go. I hadn't been looking back. I figured the field would just scoop us up as we crested like the earlier climbs. But no. As Paul and I crested, we had sizable gap on the rest of the field. No words were necessary. We both knew what to do. Paul took some monster pulls on the descent. I also put my best effort into it. The rest of the IBC contingent knew what to do too. Brett and Kevin Young came to the front to disrupt chase efforts. Before Paul and I knew it, the field was no where in sight.
Continuing in time-trial mode, we worked very well together. But man, I was hurting. I'm sure I had drool and snot all over my face. Then we get to that Pothole Hill kicker. I gapped Paul but didn't mean too. I was pretty sure we still needed each other at this point, as it was 3-4 miles to the finish and I did not know how far back the chase group was. I let up slightly, but Paul wasn't getting back on as quickly as I would have liked. I decided to go it alone, head down, all-out hammer to the finish. On a long straight-away, I could see the pack. Yikes. Once I got to the small rise to the line, I was finally able to relax. I won with 17 seconds on Paul, who had 4 seconds on field. I was happy he made it too. Teammate Steve took 6th place in the bunch sprint for the remaining podium spot. Some great work by my IBC teammates helped secure the win.
Nothing like finishing a race at 20 minute time-trial pace. That turned out to be way harder than Battenkill last weekend. Shorter race, all paved, but way higher average intensity. That's also now 2-for-2 wins at Turtle Pond. I last raced Turtle Pond in 2007 and won in a very similar way. This year though, the break started at the top of Oak Hill, where I've never seen a winning break start, 10 miles from the finish. It was a spectacular day, just starting to get hot as the afternoon races were lining up. I was tentative on the course changes safety-wise, but the narrow fishing area was well marshaled. There were no crashes. I think the course changes are a keeper. It's been a while since I sauntered over the line for a win. To think of it, Turtle Pond in 2007 was the last time. Hope they get today's finishing photo on Bikereg.