Sunday, May 11, 2014


The BUMPS series kicked off this weekend with the Mt Wachusett hillclimb.The weather was a bit temperamental. It poured buckets on the drive over. At least it wasn't cold and there was no immediate threat of lightning. The rain tapered off just in time for the race, but the summit was solidly socked in with clouds.

There were a number of contenders registered for the men's 50-59 year old age group. Dave Kellogg, Tom Fagan and Gerry Clapper to name a few. Gerry contests the overall win on many of these climbs. He didn't show up, so that left things wide open in my age group.

Two waves were sent off, 49 and under and 50 and over. That made it much easier to keep track of those I needed to worry about. Chip timing was used, with a mat at the start and another at the finish. Only chip time mattered, so if you were last to cross the starting mat, you didn't lose any time from the first rider to cross over the starting mat. That can leave things a bit uncertain at the finish, as you might cross the line one second ahead of your rival, but if your rival started in the back row at the bottom, he will have beaten you.

Our wave goes off kind of nonchalant. The pace up Mile Hill Rd was very reasonable. I had no interest in drilling it from the go. Eventually I found myself leading the wave on the steepest part of Mile Hill. When we turned the corner into the state park, I ensured somebody else came up. There's a brief downhill there, and I didn't want to burn kilojoules while my rivals freewheeled behind me. No point. Bob Roldan came up and put in a good effort.

Bob leading a pack of 50's. Myself waving to Heather Dunkerley (photographer), with
Dave Kellogg hidden behind me, Len Engel behind him and Tom Fagan in ATA kit.

Apparently I didn't learn much from last year when I pulled the same move. We still had a big bunch of guys together with stair-steppy climbing for a while. There were many opportunities to gain bits of drafting benefit. When the grade pitched up again, I found myself up front. Should I attack now or should I just chill for a while, I asked myself? The pace was not taxing. I kind of liked my chances of just letting it come down to a sprint on the last pitch to the line.

I was left up front for the rest of the race. I was not going hard enough for anybody to derive much drafting benefit from it, yet nobody came around either. Last year I ditched Tom Fagan and one other rider on the sustained steep grade half a mile from the summit. I could have tried that again but strangely didn't have the motivation or think it was necessary. Playing roulette. After the steep grade, there was still a string of guys behind me. Dave Kellogg worried me the most, but I didn't know a couple of the others.

The morning of the race, I pulled my bike down from ceiling hooks, aired the tires and threw it in my car. I hadn't even ridden the hillclimb bike since last August, and I had to put it back together again after stripping it down for Mt Washington. The rear derailleur was misbehaving pretty badly in the small cogs. I didn't think it was a big deal climbing to this point, as I didn't need to use the smallest cogs.

Well wouldn't you know it, an all-out sprint even on double-digit grades needs those small cogs if you start in the small chainring. The chain was refusing to drop down to the smallest two cogs under load. I spun out wildly as we approached the line. Len Engel just pipped me at the line and Dave was just another couple seconds back. I deserved that. I should have attacked a half mile earlier and put in a honest fight rather than saving it for the last few seconds. I congratulated Len and we discussed our relative starting positions, as in theory, "gun time" doesn't matter, only chip time. He started a row behind me. So that pretty much clinched it.

Less than 100ft visibility at the summit. Damp, but not raining nor cold.

When preliminary results were posted back at the bottom, sure enough, Len beat me by 0.2 seconds. Talk about close. A little while later, however, results were revised, showing me 0.6 seconds faster than Len. I thought chip timing eliminated these kinds of things. The only thing I can think of what might have happened is initial results were gun time (everybody's clock starts at once when "go" is yelled) and revised results were chip time based on when you crossed the starting mat. This could only be if I actually crossed the mat after Len did. This may be possible, as I was in second row on inside corner, and a rider in front of me missed the clip-in, causing a minor delay. We may never know. Maybe we should just call it a tie.

Thinking about this a bit, only gun time should be used in a mass start race. That way you know exactly where you are relative to others as you approach the summit. Get to the line first, you win, zero doubt.  A timing mat can still be used at the bottom to ensure everybody starts in the correct wave, but don't use each individual's starting mat time as in an individual time-trial. This would make Len the winner.  Hillclimb races rarely come this close, so it usually doesn't matter if you are in 10th row and start moving a few seconds after the faster riders in the front start moving.

Anyway, for now I'm shown as the winner of the 50+ age group. The timer will look into this.  Had 49 finishers, in this group, a quarter of the participants! Regardless of timing confusion, Joe and Marti do a superb job organizing this event and the Mt Ascutney event in a couple weeks.

Due to dank conditions, a planned post-race ride didn't happen. Things did eventually clear up though, so I went for a spirited MTB ride from home in Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro state forest. Strava says I went my fastest ever on many segments. I guess when you go light on training for two days in a row (a rare thing for me), a 17 minute race doesn't really take much out of you. It is interesting to note how not only does speed go up when you are fresh, but finesse and skill are more solid too. I was cleaning everything.

On Mother's Day, I went out for a 50 miler off-road, hitting my favorite local trail system, Bear Brook, along the way. The trails and weather were both mint.  The ride was not without incident though.

Somewhere in Candia en route to Bear Brook

Ant hills on Bear Hill

Heading back on Trail 15, I caught up to punks stopped on a pair of ATVs. They saw me coming, took off, stopped a bit later, I caught up again, they took off again. Third time I caught and passed them. Then they took off again, buzzed me and threw mud up on me. I was BS, letting them know it, but I don’t think they heard me on loud machines with helmets on. They then pulled off on an illegal new trail, probably up to their dad’s back yard. What I should have done is followed them and called the police from the street in front of their house. Dad would have been unhappy having his $10,000 ATVs impounded for illegal, underage use on Manchester Water Works property.

So that was a minor buzz-kill on an otherwise perfect solo ride. I enjoyed large blocks of time without encountering or hearing other people. I finished with 52.3 miles in 4.6hrs on the Garmin. I feel very fortunate to have large tracts of undeveloped land to ride just 35 minutes drive from home.


DaveP said...

At least they didn't throw shit on you.

Good job on the race.

John Kinnee said...

Trying to nail down the exact course the race followed for my own time comparisons. Did you ride the paved summit walkway path to the very top?

Hill Junkie said...

John - no, we turned left into the lower parking lot. The line was maybe half way into the lot. It was this way the last two years. I thought last year it didn't go to very top because of construction, but no, now that construction is done at summit, we still didn't go to upper area.