This is a great race on an excellent course in the closed off Myles Standish State Park in Plymouth. There were about 60 of us lined up at the start, and we’d ride 8 laps of the 5-mile course which is lightly rolling. Both lanes are closed to traffic(most of the time) which is nice. There were a bunch of racers who’d already raced earlier races which brings a unique dynamic to the race where you know there will be a smaller number of animated riders and knowing which teams are represented in every move is key.
There were the usual dozen guys to watch. CCB, ENGVT, Green Line Velo, and Grinta all had solid teams. It was extra important to watch these teams since they had more than one rider who’d be super strong in breaks, and the ability for fierce counter attacks. There were other strong riders and decent sized teams there too so it would be tough to watch everything. I told myself I’d sit in as often as I could, try to get in a break with the right guys, and if needed chase down a dangerous break. This was my last road race for a while I didn’t feel like watching a break ride away.
The pace started out fast heading south over the rolling twisty roads on the west side of the pond. There was a tailwind on this side and everybody trying to get in a break was taking advantage of it. Things came together after a half lap, and I helped chase down a small break into the headwind before the end of lap one. With 8 laps and similar dynamics each lap I may have some of these laps confused.
On the second and third lap I pushed hard into breaks with strong guys. It always seemed to be the same 10 guys trying to get free – Keith Kelly and Connor Jennings from ENGVT, Kai Wiggins and Brendan McLaughlin from CCB, Cole Archambault and a host of other GLV guys, Bobby Bailey from 1K2go, and Grinta always had strong guys in the break or chasing it. A few times we had good representation in a small break just a few bike lengths off the front – most of this happening at 30-35 mile pace on the rolling side of the course – but the field wouldn’t let the gap open even if it meant chasing teammates down that were in the break. You can only wish teammates would stop chasing, but what are you going to do. Strong teams often want to get a couple guys in the break and when several teams are doing this the line gets strung out too much.
On the fourth lap I sat back thinking I’d better stop this try to get in a break nonsense, and wouldn’t you know it I look ahead and watch a 4-man break of solid teams start riding away – without anybody chasing. Of course. That’s kind of frustrating, so I started to chase it even if it meant burning too many matches for later. I chased steady most of that lap until nearly closing it up into the headwind, and then GLV finished the close. That’s it, I’m sitting in now – yeah right.
I find it easy to move up in the tailwind of lap 5 or 6 and once again drill it to bridge to a couple familiar fast guys that have a small gap. There were 4 or 5 of us again, small gap, several rotations at a strong effort, but chased down by a long string of riders before the uphill headwind part. You could hear the silence in the pack at this point as everybody had been working hard. The hope here is everybody is getting tired, but unfortunately the 30 guys sitting in the back of the field chatting it up are still fresh from gambling and sitting in – a gamble that was paying off today. I admit had I raced earlier I’d be sitting back there too!
Lap 7 started out similar to the others – the same teams and riders making yet another break attempt that I jumped to the front of. They’d better let us go now right? After committing and pushing hard for an extended pull at the front I looked back and saw a gap behind me, so I kept pushing hard hoping for guys to bridge or open the gap more. The gap opened, I had perhaps 20-30 meters, which isn’t much but the most I’ve had in years so I felt good and kept pushing. I kept tucked in the tailwind pushing time trial pace, but not too hard. I’d solo as long as I could which meant don’t try to move away on the field just stay steady. If they chase, they’ll get me. If they back off I’d move away and would need the energy to either stay away or be joined later by other bridging riders. When I neared the bottom of the course there was a truck in the road in front of us causing the pace car to beep it’s horn like crazy in an effort to get it to pull over. I saw all this happening and remained under control ready for anything but didn’t want to lose my gap. The truck finally pulled over to the left side of the road, the pace car started pulling right so I went left to go between them – all this happening at about 35mph on the fastest part of the course. At the last second the pace car realized it had to pull left since there wasn’t enough room to the right – yikes! – I hit the breaks and had to regroup and go to the right around the pace car. The chase was strung out quite a bit behind me but having lost all my speed the best I could do was accelerate to catch onto a few guys that had a small gap and seemed like they waited for me having seen the unfortunate car incident. We got caught shortly after that. I was just happy to be in one piece, and got some condolences from a couple guys that saw it happen. Oh well.
Last lap, the 30 or so guys that had been sitting in start all moving to the front with fresh legs. There were just too many riders left to contest a high speed downhill finish on a narrowing road. This is just the result of how the race played out and not any particular riders. I think there were 3 occasions in the final lap I nearly got taken out by other riders and sat up each time. Each time I’d regroup, see an opening, then attempt to move back up to top 10. Lather, rinse, repeat with other near crashes. I was perhaps 20th going down the final hill before the finish not willing to gamble anything on the guys next to me holding their lines, so I stayed wide in clean space, then once we straightened out pushed hard to the finish. I can sprint downhill fast, but from so far back I could only move up so
far. Once I neared the top 10 the group widened up and anybody not competing for the top few spots appeared to sit up when the road narrowed and ran out of space so I sat up finishing in 12th and happy to be on two wheels.
I was happy with how I felt after a long recovery from the flu, and not much you can do when race tactics play out like that. It was still a blast trading punches and racing with many guys I’ve learned to enjoy racing with. It’s always fun racing with such fast guys and strong teams. It’s time to get some long stuff in before B2VT and then it’s track season. I’ll be racing 4km Individual Pursuit and 4km Team Pursuit at Elite Track Nationals in late July, and then the same events at the Masters Track Nationals in mid-August.
Thanks for reading!