The 64-mile hilly Quabbin road race was last on my Spring race schedule. I drove out with Ben Koyle, and we’d meet teammates Eric Magnuson and Tom Dodge in the field. Team Fit Werx was 4 riders strong – our biggest masters showing yet. The plan was similar to earlier races, I wanted to help get Ben in a breakaway and control things where I could outside that. Ideally I’d spend all the other time chasing breaks until we were in one. We targeted the selective mile 22 climb to launch Ben in a break that always seems to go off on that long climb. I’d pull the field to chase down all breaks before then. I even told a couple local teams our plan so they’d get somebody in that break too. There were a few big teams – CVC had a big presence and would be defending the overall lead in the Velotooler Cup. This added a nice touch to the race and in talking to the CVC guys it gave them extra motivation to race. Finkraft was there and they’re always clogging the podium in big regional masters road races. 545 Velo had a solid team an there were plenty of other strong guys to watch.
I chased down some small breaks and controlled the pace on the early climb. Mile 22 climb came and I rode a steady pace on the front until the attacks started again. Ben joined a guy in a break about halfway up the climb and another went with him making three riders about 10 seconds up the climb. Finkraft was there so this looked good. I blocked the front with Finkraft and waited. The break moved away steadily, but not well enough. I could see Ben was frustrated the others weren’t committing. Perhaps they decided they didn’t like the make up of the break. Oh well, you can only pedal your own bike. The top of the climb approached and Ben went off the front again with Finkraft and a different rider. This time a chase of 5 bridged across. This would be outstanding if they came together and drove it away. They didn’t. I saw some looking around and it drifted back. CVC was chasing on the front now too which didn’t help.
I was frustrated with the big teams not wanting a break, so it was time to play our own games – the first game being come chase me down the descents. I attacked a couple descents in a row and forced chase. I have a blast doing this and the descents on this course are long and safe. What hurts me on climbing speed, helps me on descending speed. We then turned the corner on the north side of the course where we’d have a tailwind. Another break of 6 separated with Ben in it, but again there was too much looking around and it came back. It was like Ben was only rider committed to a break. I asked Ben how he felt since he’d been attacking constantly and he said he felt good. I didn’t see a hill break going until the bigger hills later so said just sit in and rest for now. Worst case scenario he could stay fresh for the finishing climb.
At this point there was a lone rider well off the front with the field waiting for the next move. I sensed a lull in the field, and instinctively knew it was a good place to attack. You literally make thousands of decisions in bike races, and most are reactive to what you see. If the big teams wouldn’t commit to a break, then it was time to try something different. If I could get separation I’d ride as long as I could to make the field chase. It was time trial training season anyway.
I attacked hard up to full speed, then tucked down and hammered until I caught up to the lone rider off the front. I yelled “Ride!” as I went past him – I didn’t want a rider dangling between me and the field and could use his help. I pushed the pace for what felt like a couple minutes, then pulling off the front saw Nate Kemp from 545 had stayed on my wheel when I attacked. Both Nate and Steve pulled through. I looked back and we had a big gap. CVC and Finkraft didn’t chase? A few minutes later a bridge of 5 was trying to come across perhaps 15 seconds back. I hoped Ben was in it. It broke up and left a lone rider still coming across – Brian Campbell from 545. Brian’s about the strongest 40+ hill racer in the region, and I’ve ridden and raced with him a lot. I told Nate to just ride steady, so Brian could finish coming across. He’d already seen him coming. We were now 4 motivated riders strong and opening the gap quickly. Break was on!
I was having a bit of a dilemma during this whole breakaway sequence as I hadn’t planned to get in one. In fact I’d specifically told my teammates I wouldn’t, so I could focus on controlling the field to help them with better finishes. On the other hand I hadn’t been in a break for 3 years – unless you count buzzing around velodromes in team pursuit formation, wheels inches apart with no brakes. This break was too strong to let go, so naturally the decision to push it was an easy one. The big teams that wouldn’t go in earlier breaks weren’t here either, so it would be fun to make them chase. My teammates could also sit in the main field while other teams were forced to chase, leaving them fresher for the finish.
We’d ride the last 30 miles in the break. Brian checking with me on his pace in the hills, and I’d ride the front as much as I could on the descents and fast flats. Nate – who was a Fit Werx fitting customer last year and I knew was really strong – was driving the break so hard that he cramped and had to drop back leaving just 3 of us. He was frustrated, but his strong teamwork was complete. Steve kept rotating through, but his pulls were getting shorter. He was hurting, and heck I sure was hurting too. We’d stay together until the finish without even discussing it. We’d enter the finishing climb 3 minutes up on the field behind us.
The finish is a 3 mile gradual climb that gets steeper at the end. I figured Brian would win, so at this point just wanted to get there and hope for 2nd. I surged when I saw the incline, right away realizing it flattened out and this wasn’t the real finish. I small ringed it and peeled off, nearly off the road to get them off my wheel, and they came up beside me. We all sat side by side, twisting our bikes and crawling, the final incline approached, each of us kept looking back, not knowing we had 3 minutes on the field entering the climb. I wanted the longest surge possible, so I again was first to hit the gas seated as the grade turned up 200 meters from the finish line. As I was surging I looked back and Brian was on my wheel but Steve had dropped. 100 meters to go Brian came around easily to win. I was happy I could soft pedal, smile, and roll through from there for 2nd place.
Ben had a strong finish for 12th, staying with what was left of the main field until the end. Tom rode strong and stayed with the main field to the end. Eric would have but flatted late in the race. It was a great day overall for the Red and Black masters team. My next event is the masters road nationals on June 1st where I’ll race the time trial and road race.
Thanks for reading!