I decided to race down an age category at Sunapee this year. The field was smaller and a couple of my regular riding partners were racing the Master 35's. Smaller field does not mean easier though. A couple former pros and several other strong men would see to that.
I raced Sunapee many times and have left empty handed most of those times. The last time I raced Sunapee a couple years ago was an anomaly when I won the 45's. What does me in are the numerous short, punchy climbs. I get sucked in to staying near the front, lest I get caught behind a split. By the end if it is still together, I've got nothing left for the finishing shot to the line.
The shenanigans started early on the first lap. A couple riders would launch, pace would go ballistic, then we'd all sit up. Repeat often. I surmised if a break didn't have a Strava or CCB guy in it, it was destined to be gunned down.
When we got to the first major climb on Rt 11, Mike Barton (Strava) set a blistering pace. My legs were awakened. I thought surely this would bust up the field. We crest with 6-8 good guys, then sat up. It all came back together. This process repeated several times along the back side of the course on Rt 103A. It was 110% or nothing.
Along Rt 103 heading back to the rotary, I drifted back into the field. Wouldn't you know it, three guys rolled off the front and nobody did anything. I think Paul Richard (CCB) might have been one of them. A Strava rider was another. The magical mix. When I worked my way back up to the front a couple miles later, they were still only 15 seconds or so up the road. I thought about bridging up to them, but it would take serious match expenditure and I didn't think their teammates would permit it. So I comforted myself with thoughts it wouldn't stick anyway.
We begin the roller section on Rt 11 again. Pace was hard, but now my legs were warmed up, so not shockingly hard. The pack let up a little. Ciaran Mangan (CCB) and I got off the front. We continued to drill it, dangling precariously close off the front. Then the gap grew. I thought maybe we had a chance to bridge up to the other three at least a minute ahead of us. Then we hit that last pesky roller before turning right onto Rt 103A. The field overtook us with such force I thought surely we'd be catapulted right off the back. Fortunately there was no shortage of riders strung out, so I barely stayed on. That pretty much depleted my matchbook.
We got to The Wall on Rt 103A. I found myself up front putzing along. There were still three riders up the road we'd occasionally get a glimpse of. I thought it was odd that somebody wasn't attacking this bitch. Then Barton and one other rider upped the pace. Nobody could match their W/kg. Bye-bye. From the top of this climb, all the serious grunt work is done before the finish.
Impressively, Barton and the other guy not only stayed away, but soon caught the break more than a minute ahead. We'd be sprint'n for sixth place now. Peter Vollers (KMS) and Frankie McCormack (Clif Bar) were with us. We'd surely be winding up around the rotary on this one. To make matters worse, it started to rain just before the rotary.
It never ceases to amaze me how road tires grip pavement. I would never carry speed around a turn like that in training. I only did it during the race because everybody else was and they weren't sliding out. Going up the finishing chute, the leadouts and normal imploders quickly fell by the wayside. Then... nothing else happened! It was one of the most anti-climatic finishes to a road race I've been in. We pretty much just all single-filed it up to the line. Since nobody was passing me, I didn't kill it and let a gap grow to guy in front of me. Results show 9sec gap, but it was more like 2-3 to guy in front of me. The 9sec was to first guy of four ahead of me I surmise. I came in 10th place, a typical Sunapee finish for me.
So in the last few miles, Barton bridged to the break and won the race, after his teammate slaved away in a break for half the race. Richard took third. If I'd known cash paid eight deep, maybe I would have tried a little harder in the finish. The race took a lot out of me. It hurt more than in 2009 with I was in break for 3/4 of the race. In a break, pace becomes more steady TT like. This race was VOmax or conversation pace, almost nothing in between.
I tried Sport Legs for the first time. I didn't cramp during the race, but there was lots of recovery throughout. Too soon to say if I bought a $26 bottle of snake oil.
I've become keenly aware of risk lately, ever since I learned how easily injury can occur. I rode near the center line much of the race. There were times we're bombing downhill at 40mph when dump trucks came the opposite way at 50mph, not more the 2-3ft away. Any little mishap in the pack could hurl you over the line. I'm less afraid of dying than being maimed for life. Being risk adverse takes away from some of the thrill of racing. I fear I'm slowly losing my nerve to participate in road races even though I've never crashed or even flatted in one. The Sunapee race is always well run though. Most intersections are marshaled by police. The course is one of the safer ones I do each year. I'll probably keep coming back. I do miss the other two central NH races, Turtle Pond and Bow. The hills in those races were more selective.
Next up may be a MTB race before heading to Italy. I'm tempted to stay off my bike for the next three weeks so I don't break something on my body again just before the trip.