Sunday, May 12, 2013

Wa Wa Wachusett

Multi-disciplinary cyclists had many competition choices this past Saturday. New Englanders had no less than three MTB, one road and one hillclimb race to chose from. I've raced the Sterling Road Race before. Doesn't suit me well. Chance for wet roads compounded an already risky course. The Weeping Willow MTB race is drawing ever bigger fields. Again, lots of fast singletrack and periodic sketchy passes had risk painted all over it. How have I become so risk adverse?

Over at Wachusett Mtn was the first hillclimb race of the 2013 BUMPS challenge. This race was added to the series last year. I did it then, it was a good time. Several people I hadn't seen in a while would be there. An uphill race is ideal when weather is foul. Risk is very low. The decision was easy.

I wasn't stressing over this race at all. My plan was to train right through the weekend. No taper. I'll save the stressing for events later this summer, like the Washington hillclimb or CIGNA 5k run.

Warming up, the roads were wet and it was a bit misty out. The summit was socked in. At least it wasn't raining. There were several names I didn't recognize signed up, some from out of the area. I didn't bother to research if they were threats. The usual local threats were not signed up this time. Even though beating my time last year was pretty much out of the question and not a goal, I at least stood a chance to win the age group and some swag.

About fifty 50-59 year old men and women queued up.  Richard Fries MC'd the event. After pre-race instruction, I asked him if race organizer Marti Shea was racing, as I didn't see her. Richard asked if I was afraid of getting "skirted." Yep.   It was a mass start race with mixed experience riders, but I was at the front and Mile Hill Rd would bust things apart in one minute anyway. We go off, Brett Rutledge leads out initially, then I take over. When it got steep, I stood to string things out. After a couple minutes, one rider was left on my wheel. Who was he? I went pretty hard.

Brett Rutledge killing himself to keep Bill Dunkerley behind him. Bill came out ahead in the end.
Photo by Heather Dunkerley.

The most persistent gradient of the climb is on Mile Hill Rd outside the state park. I maintained a firm pace, but another rider quickly rolled up out of nowhere. Now I had two clingers on my wheel. I knew the grade would slacken further up on the mountain and we'd probably encounter some stiff headwind. There were many opportunities to draft on this mountain. Since I was not going for a PR, I at least wanted to race smartly enough to protect a potential win.

Shortly after turning into the state park, being shadowed by Tom Fagan and Dave O'Keeffe.
Photo by Heather Dunkerley

So I did something I almost never, ever do in a hillclimb. I capitulated and forced the other two to come up. They were Tom Fagan and Dave O'Keeffe. I shamelessly sat on wheels for the next 3-4 minutes, no doubt losing seconds against the clock had I continued to kill myself. But I knew this climb well. I knew where the steepest part was and it would not be into the wind. I would seal the deal there, about half a mile before the finish line.

Earlier in the week during my lunch interval loop, I averaged 483W for two minutes in one of my intervals.  I just needed to do that again and I'd be all set. I did exactly that, and Tom and Dave started to fade in the fog behind me.  I finished in 16:45, about 30 seconds slower than last year, but a solid win with about 15sec gap. Tim Ahearn won overall in 14:37, a new course record.

Fries @ awards

I won a 12-pack of Wachusett Brewery beer. Forget which brew. Brett promptly laid claim to it, since I don't imbibe. Had I not messed around mid race and came in another five seconds faster, I could have earned cash for 3rd place overall, assuming Tom didn't pip me at the line. A lesson for next time.

We had great food at awards with Richard funny as heck as always. There were auctions and raffles for MS too. Bill Dunkerley won a trip to Mallorca next spring. Marti, Joe, Mary and many others did a great job organizing and executing this event. It was refreshing to see so many first timers there, including young people.

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