Saturday's hillclimb race nicely tenderized my legs for Bow. They didn't feel horrible warming up, but you just can't tell if they are firing on all eight until the field punches it over the KOM hill. I raced the Master's 45+ field in the morning. Rain threatened the area, it was extremely muggy, but relatively cool. At least I slept well in my own bed after no sleep the night before.
We go off at 11am, neutral, all the way up the long, steep drag. This really sucked, as we were going so slow that we were practically falling over on each other. Seriously, well less than 10mph. Before the KOM "wall," as some call it, we went live. Paced picked up a little, but still lame. I think it was around this time Joe Rano (Gearworks) takes off solo. He almost gets out of sight. Since he is a threat, you'd think with several well represented teams, this would get dealt with promptly. Nope. I played it conservatively during the first lap to see if my legs had any snap in them.
It seems I was not the only one that raced hard the day before. Mark Luzio (Cycle Fitness) also did Equinox the day before. Many guys did the Concord Crit on Saturday. Guess that made the playing field kind of level, at least for most of the contenders. I like to believe it also had something to do with how lame our pace would be in this race.
Coming through the start-finish beginning lap two, I decided I wasn't soft pedaling up this hill again. I came to the front to set a pace that wasn't lame. Seems everybody was content with the pace, as nobody attempted to come around me. I led the whole way up the long, sustained steep part. Stu Abramson (OA/Cyclemania) stayed right over my shoulder. I was watching him, and I guess he was watching me. Of course, I wasn't really "pulling" up this hill. It is steep enough that everybody behind me was working nearly as hard. When the grade pointed down briefly before the KOM wall, I relinquished the lead. Stu took over and maintained similar pace over the final blip. This fragmented the field some. But would anybody come to the front to keep the pressure on? Noooooo! We had a real Cat 4 race on our hands, folks. So naturally we were about 50 strong again when we got to the bottom of the long descent.
Kevin from work and his wife Robin came out to cheer me on. They live just off the course. You get a couple extra Watts of boost over the KOM hill when your name is being screamed out.
Rick Sorenson (Battenkill-United) was next to launch off the front. You couldn't lose going off the front in this race. Although OA/Cyclemania worked to reel Joe back in, Rick got way off, out of sight even. He does this every year in this race, and every year I think he's going to make it solo to the end. This year, he went a lap and a half and was not caught until the fourth lap.
Third time up the hill was pretty hard too, with a mix of us setting pace. We tried to get a split over the KOM hill, but too many wheel suckers did not want to pull through. So of course, back together it all comes again. My legs were actually feeling pretty good considering what I did the day before, but not good enough to punch it over the top solo. After rounding the two corners before the long descent, I decided to punch it to see who would come with me. Nobody. I drew immediate gap, but without an OA/Cyclemania guy, I'm sure I would not have survived solo for a lap and a half. So I sat up.
As we're wrapping up lap three, Dave Foley (BOB/Stonyfield) sauntered off the front. He simmered out there for about a third of a lap before we swallowed him on the long ascent. I suspect he had visions of bridging to Sorenson who was still just up the road. But we caught Rick shortly later too. The final push over the KOM wall seered my legs good. Felt a couple little twinges in the hamstrings. Then everybody sat up.
Now that we're 3.5 laps into a 4 lap race, we see the Corner Cycle guys come out of hiding. Sam Morse and John Mosher took turns launching off the front. Other teams only reluctantly did anything to reel them back. Seems the front rotation towards the end was very small, mainly me, Stu Abramson and a couple others.
As we got into the last few miles of this short race, we actually began racing. Guys like Dave Kellogg (Arc en Ciel) and Paul Wonsavage (Onion River Sports) tried to get something going. I've been in last lap breaks with both these guys on this course with success. Alas, nothing was getting away. We were still at least 15 strong and it looked like a bunch finish was in store. Man, do I hate those. On the last blip before beginning the descent to the finish, both hamstrings seized as I tried to respond to one of Kellogg's moves. I had to roll over to the yellow line, stop pedaling and stretch them. Was pretty sure I was getting popped right there. Just as well, since many of these guys can actually sprint.
Once we started descending, I figured there will be at least one wheel I could draft to the line. Pace gets pretty crazy with about 1km to go. The churn at the front was insane. No 10mph cat and mouse like at Sunapee this spring. I struggled to not get boxed in. Riders were petering out left and right even though I didn't think we were going very hard. Now there's just 100m to go, and to my amazement, things just opened up in front of me. By the time I realized a little additional effort might have netted a win, I crossed the line in third. 14 of us finished in about a one second window and given same time. I was surprised to see only 47 out of 62 starters finished the race.
I was quite happy with a podium finish. This is the 5th time I've raced Bow, and all five times were the day after the Equinox hillclimb. I've podiumed four of those five times. Haven't won a master's race here though, only when I was still a Cat 5 back in 2005.
My teammate Brett thinks I sell myself short on sprinting ability, says I may be a better sprinter than I think I am. I do zero training for it. My shortest intervals are about 3 minutes in duration. If I do possess a high percentage of Type-2a muscle fiber, I could potentially be a good sprinter if I trained for it. Type 2a can be trained to behave like Type 1 or Type 2b fiber. Type 2b is what top sprinters possess lots of.
So after collecting a nice cash payout that covered registration and gas, I scrambled to squeeze in a little mountain biking. My meat sticks needed just a bit more tenderizing before throwing them on the grill. The weather didn't look good, as it started to sprinkle as I pulled out. I went to FOMBA, the trails now open again after all the heavy rain. I was pretty fried, so this was going to be conversation pace riding. I need the hours on greasy, technical terrain, else I'll never finish the Shenandoah 100 mile race in a month. I did a lap around Massabesic Lake, then hit some of the FOMBA singletrack. I was dismayed by the conditions. Seems the constant rain, loamy soil, and knobby tires wreaked havoc on the trails. Woodpecker, the only buff trail in the group, was 6ft wide in places by riders avoiding mud. It was even braided around trees in places to avoid mud. Perhaps FOMBA should keep them closed until things really dry out. I hit only two trails before cutting back out to doubletrack. Crashing into a tree did not seem like a good way to cap off an otherwise awesome weekend of racing. I managed to ride 17 miles in about 90 minutes and stayed dry.