First race of the season despite barely getting outside recently. 19 laps of a 2.2 mile rolling circuit around Marblehead Neck. I lined up at the start with teammates Victor Taormina and Gerry Harris. Our goal was to ride safe and fight the urge to try anything until the later stages of the race. This race tends to be more like a crit where the finish is nearly always a group sprint. There’s a lot of firepower in the P123 field and it’s rare that an early break stays away. I was off the bike nearly 2 weeks in mid-March from a nasty head/chest cold, so it’s been tricky ramping training back up and now having racing season arrive. I had no expectations for the race other than to have fun and enjoy my first P123 race.
There was a south wind that seemed to single-handedly push breakaways back into the field all day. I hung out in the middle of the pack for the first half of the race with only a couple movements towards the front when some breakaways would form up the road. In the 2nd half of the race, a persistent breakaway was almost out of sight up the road, so Gerry went to the front and helped with a steady pace until they were pulled back. At this point the pace was faster than the early part of the race and I was getting antsy to try something. Victor had burned a big match in an early breakaway that was eventually caught, but he wasn’t done. With 6 laps to go, Victor took to the front pushing a fast pace that discouraged any more breakaway attempts. It was awesome seeing him up there, and there was no shortage of comments asking who my diesel teammate was on the front. Gerry went up to help him with the pace as well and I could safely ride 10-15 riders back at an easier pace as we approached the final few laps.
I kept getting boxed in on the tailwind side of the course when I wanted to attack, so I made a breakaway attempt on the backside of the neck with 3 laps go. I was hoping some guys would go with me and I’d be able to get some shelter, but there was the fierce headwind and smartly nobody wanted to pull through. I sat up regretting having burned a big match there, and Victor and Gerry went back to the front with what they had left with just over 2 laps to go.
I attacked harder on the finishing climb with 2 laps to go and this time got a quick gap behind me. Turning the corner I looked back and saw 2 riders bridging across. There are so many split second decisions you need to make in a bike race, and any of them can impact your finishing result. My choices were 1) continue hammering and try to go alone, or 2) back off enough for them to catch on which would make us 3 riders strong. The pink sleeves of a CCB rider combined with the fast pace they were both riding at told me to ease up slightly and wait for them. CCB must have had 20+ riders in the field, so waiting for their rider would mean they’d be less likely to chase us. It turns out the CCB rider was Tim Mitchell which was motivating since he’s super strong. Tim’s won national and world titles in the time trial and road race, and owns just about every time trial record in the area (a few of which used to be mine!) He had to bridge up from well back in the field so it took him a few moments before he could pull through with 1.5 laps to go. The third rider who bridged up wouldn’t pull through, which was unfortunate since he was obviously strong and would have bettered our chances of staying clear. He must have had his reasons though.
Our lead of perhaps 10 seconds looked good with a lap to go, but then we got eaten alive by the headwind on the downhill backside of the course and the field was now chasing faster than we were riding. As we approached the final turn at the causeway, it was becoming clear the charging main field would catch us and we got swallowed up before the final finishing hill. I ended up finishing in the middle of the pack.
I was glad to finish the race with the rubber side down, and had lots of fun trying to shake things up late in the race. Next race is Tour of Battenkill this coming Saturday.
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