Blue Hills Classic – Cat 3 field – 1st place
The Blue Hill Classic involved 6 laps of a 7 mile circuit. It consists of big ring 200 ft moderate climb up to the finish, and is rolling to downhill the remainder of each lap. It was my first race with in the Category 3 field, and I vowed to sit in and save my matches for the later stages.
Besides a few surges on the finishing hill the first few laps, there wasn’t much to report. Small breakaways would go off the front, and eventually get caught on the downhill stretch. My goal was to get away at some point in a move with some strong guys so the race wouldn’t come down to a sketchy bunch finish. I had about a dozen customers in the field that I’d done bike fittings with, and had made a mental note of some of the other big guns to keep an eye on.
On the 4th lap, a few of guys made a move off the front after the climb, but it wasn’t decisive enough to cause separation from the peleton. I rotated with a handful of guys hammering on the backstretch and downhill, but after a few looks back it was clear the field was hanging on. The guys on the front kept working, so I did my turns helping out with pulls hoping to at least weaken the field behind us for the final couple laps. By the time we turned the corner toward the finishing climb the group was back together and I took it easy to prepare for the final lap.
I positioned myself toward the front of the field as we climbed the hill before the final lap. There was a break about 15 seconds up the road at that point, and the main group was starting to bunch up as it always did on the climb. I made a surge up the right side of the road, and then sensing the slight hesitation of the riders on the front of the group I decided it was time to go. I stood up and hammered up the rest of the climb – fueled by the sounds of yelling and gear shifting just behind me – and quickly bridged up to the 3 breakaway riders. A quick look behind me revealed 2-3 guys bridging up and then a gap behind them. I yelled to the break that I was coming through and the breakaway guys jumped in behind me with the other guys that had bridged up. I continued to push the pace on the descent to make sure we had separation from the field, and eventually pulled off to the delightful sight of the other guys pulling through at a fast pace. There were 6 of us in the break, but after we turned onto 138 to start the long downhill and there were only 5 of us left with a big gap to the main field. One of the guys that followed my attack and made it to the breakaway group was Tim Ahearn – who I knew from the Mt Washington hill climb last summer. (He was 3rd overall at 58 minutes – I made a mental note that I might want to keep an eye on him). He was a great guy to have in the break, and of course it was comforting to know he wasn’t in the main group chasing us. I was on the front of the group most of the time on the downhill section where I was fastest, and Tim and a couple of the other guys took some pulls as well. At this point we had a big enough gap where the top 5 places seemed locked up, but this was not going to be an ordinary finish…
We ran into a surprise on the final descent before turning toward the finish – suddenly the Masters 40+ field is in front of us and we need to overtake them. While this was only my 5th bike race, I knew the rules stated the overtaken group is supposed to be neutralized. Well, let’s just say that wasn’t happening or there wasn’t ample time for it to happen and next thing we know we’re forced to ride around the 40+ group – plenty of yelling and cursing filled the air – and we get back to the right side of the road ahead of the 40+ group before the final turn to the finish. I believe they were somewhat neutralized because we took the final turn and our 5-man break looked to have a good 20 second gap on them.
The finishing portion of the race consisted of a flat section for a couple minutes, and then the steady 2-minute big ring climb to the finish line. Despite the terrific work as a breakaway group up to that point, we nearly flushed it all away. We still had another 1-2 minutes of this flat road to cover before the climb and suddenly 3 guys in our group decided it was time to sit up and play cat and mouse refusing to pull through. I was left at the front trying to encourage anybody else to take a pull as I looked back and saw the main field (Masters 40+ or Cat 3? I didn’t know at this point) closing fast. I completely understand the gambles, risk, and tactics at this point of a bike race, but this was simply too early for this. All we needed was to keep the steady pace rotating for another minute and then we’d be on the finishing hill. I was still on the front when the climb finally started and I started to pick up the intensity. I was done asking for help as the field was only 5-10 seconds behind us and it was clear this was turning into a bunch finish. A rider passed us on my left side, and at that point I went into all-out mode giving it everything I had left trying to chase him down. My anger from the negative tactics in our group helped fuel my final surge and I crossed the line 2nd, but then learned the rider in front of me was a 40+ rider in the other race. I was the Cat 3 winner! Dave Warner was 2nd and Tim Ahearn third. Karma may have seen to it that 1 or 2 of the guys in our breakaway – who five minutes from the finish were guaranteed a top 5 finish – ended up dropping out of the top 5 at the finish as the combined Cat 3 / 40+ field caught us.
Congrats to the other guys in the race and those guys in the final breakaway with me for all the hard work. Let’s just finish it right next time! J
Results are posted here: http://www.bikereg.com/Results/2012/05/06-Blue-Hills-Classic.asp
Strava race file reveals all here: http://app.strava.com/rides/7985075