Michael Schott Memorial Marblehead Circuit Race – P123 field – 84 starters – 1st Place!
The course was 19 laps of the 2.2 mile Marblehead Neck circuit. The weather turned out great – sunny and breezy conditions but still chilly enough where I covered by arms and legs. I’ve had a solid winter of training but kept expectations under control – my goal was to stay right on that fine line between smart and aggressive riding and hopefully get away in a breakaway at some point. While this was only my 2nd outdoor ride this season, my first ride was a nice recon of the course with the local hammers on the Marblehead Tuesday Night Ride earlier this week, so I felt prepared.
The attacks started right away and in the first couple laps a solid break was established with a few of the bigger teams in it – Dealer.com, ENGVT, and Greenline Velo from what I could see. I made a few bridging attempts as the break was forming, and then soon shifted to helping with some chasing without overdoing it. Once the break got 30 seconds up the road it was time to stop chasing and slide back into the field and let the bigger teams chase. CCB was not in the early break, so when their bridging attempts didn’t pan out, the whole team went to the front and started an organized chase. CCB runs the race, and they really showed up to play today. I hadn’t seen a chase that organized before by a single team so kudos to them for taking charge and not even asking for support. The gap had opened to 50 seconds by the time they started chasing, and they slowly worked it down a few seconds per lap. The breakaway group was a serious threat and was really motoring. Marty was calling out gaps to the break every lap – and he was honestly the only person I could hear so that was helpful to everybody in the chasing peleton. CCB’s Dylan McNicholas – who won the race last year – quarterbacked the chase by riding behind what was basically a 9-person rotating team time trial of pink CCB jerseys. I sat 10-20 riders back in the field watching the chase and feeling good. On one hand I was relieved a big team was taking care of the chase, but on the other hand it was tough to contain the urge to help chase what was clearly a strong breakaway that would stay away if the chase let up.
The organized CCB chase went on for about 40 minutes. The gap decreased a few seconds per lap from 55 seconds down 30 seconds where it stalled for 2 laps. I could see several of the CCB riders tiring from all the chasing and decided it was time to help. I went to the front of the CCB train as we rounded the turn on the north end of the neck and took a long pull. I felt fresh from all the sitting in and decided to keep it going until the hairpin causeway turn. Still feeling good and careful not to burn too many matches, I stayed on the front for the rest of the lap towing the field through the finish line and Marty called the gap down at 20 seconds. The break had started sitting up and coming apart at this point when they saw us coming so the catch would come soon. I slipped back into the field and prepared for the inevitable counter-attacks. Fortunately the descent on the backside of the neck provided some recovery.
The next lap I chased several counter attacks, pushed breaks, got caught, and chased more counter attacks. I forgot my HR monitor, but I’m sure it was pinned for this entire progression. As the saying goes – when the last thing your body wants to do is respond to an attack, that’s the attack you need to chase! As we rounded the turn on the north end of the course the field was strung out single file as far as I could see. Attacks went again on that last annoying hill before the descent and in chasing and pushing the break I looked back and finally saw gaps forming 10-20 riders back. I went to the front and took a long pull on the descent calling for everybody left to ride hard. I swung off when I hit the nasty headwind on the way back to the causeway and saw we had a clear break of 7 riders – perhaps a 10 seconds to the field. There were 6 laps to go.
I recognized several strong guys in the break and nearly everybody road hard and rotated through. There was little need for talking. There was at least one guy that sat on the back of the group, but I later learned we had a couple guys that were also in the earlier break, so they get a pass for a while. I didn’t waste any time looking back and focused on the guys that were riding hard.
I never heard a time gap to the chasing field, but with 2 laps to go they were still in sight perhaps 30 seconds back. I used some precious energy encouraging everybody to keep riding hard and rotating since the field will start coming fast and there was no room for backing off. Last year I was in smaller 3-man break that got caught after having a smaller gap with a lap to go and I didn’t want a repeat.
Our escape was looking successful on the final lap and we rounded the hairpin causeway turn toward the finish. I’d like to say I spent a lot of time thinking about the finish during the last half hour in the breakaway, but that wasn’t the case. The finish involves a fast flat from the causeway that leads into a 20-second big ring climb followed by a gradual 30 second descending/flat fast finish in front of the Eastern Yacht Club. You need to be in good position on the top of the hill for the sprint, but nobody wants to the rider at the front on the top of the hill – essentially leading out the sprint.
As we came away from the causeway I found myself rotating through to the front as we neared the hill. I could have sat on a wheel and not gone to the front, but then the pace would have slowed which would only hurt me before the climb. I took the front and then shook my elbow for the next guy to come through and I had no such luck. The only move I had left was to punch the hill as hard as I could and hope the tired guys would fall back and limit the number of guys that could come around me before the finish. I did just that – hammering out of the saddle on the hoods, crested the hill, and kept hammering and shifting gears as the crowd around the finish line got closer. It was around this time I realized I hadn’t paid attention to exactly where the small white finishing line stripe in the road was on prior laps. It didn’t matter much as I road every pedal stroke like it was the last one of the race and finally saw the blur of a white line coming into view between the crowds. Also coming into my blurred peripheral view were Peter Bell and AJ Moran sprinting up on both sides of me. I lunged my bike forward as we crossed the line and thought I held onto at least 2nd place, but not sure about first. AJ was passing me fast and I actually figured he had it. The finish line judges use an incredible 2000fps camera that captures the exact moment our front tires cross the line. They reviewed the photo, called me in 1st place, and I was thrilled! The judge showed me the camera shot inside the van and I couldn’t tell until he zoomed in and dropped the vertical line to the 2 tires. It was literally just a camera pixel of daylight between our front tires. My finish line lunge and long arms saved me. I would have been happy with a podium for such a big race, but to win it meant so much more to me. It was the perfect start to a fun season.
Thank you Brian Johnson from Speed Sport Timing for the finish line photo!
A.J. Moran was 2nd, Peter Bell rounded out the podium in 3rd, followed by the rest of the breakaway strongmen Glenn Ferreira, Adam Carr, Todd Bowden, and Jeff Gelt. Great racing guys.
Thanks to CCB and the race staff for putting on such a great race for so many years.
Also, my Cat 1 upgrade got approved today so more reason to celebrate!