Norwell Circuit Race – Pro-1-2-3 field
The race was 13 laps of a 2.3 mile circuit on closed roads with nice pavement. There’s a quick decisive big-ring finishing climb, but the rest of the circuit is rolling and downhill. We only had 30 starters in the field, so we expected an aggressive race from the gun. I had a brief strategy discussion with Kel (teammate Keith Kelly) as we lined up for the start. Kel had trained through the race with a big workload the past week, so if there was opportunity to help me in the race he would. Even if he wasn’t 100% today, he was probably still the strongest rider in the field and everybody would be watching him as usual. This was going to be a good time.
Right away attacks started when we hit the first climb. Nothing stuck the first couple laps which resulted in a lot of stop and go with everybody watching eachother – the poker game that is bike racing. Everybody wanted to be in a break when it went, and nobody wanted to be left behind. Kel is one of the most marked riders in the field, so anytime his “Fit Werx” jersey was seen charging off the front – which was frequently – a quick line of chasers were behind him. We wanted to get in a breakaway together if possible, but it was going to be tough.
On the 3rd lap (strava makes it easy to see what happened when) a break of 3 guys went off on the hill, and I bridged up and helped push the pace. We worked for about a lap and were going fast, but eventually sat up when we couldn’t get enough separation from the field. Around the time we were caught, another break of 2 riders went off the front and with nobody chasing they quickly got 25 seconds on the field. Johan Gibcus was in the break and I knew he was a strong rider and time trialist so if they stayed away it would be a good break to get into.
On the 6th lap I attacked again hoping to get another break going and was joined with a few other guys who all pulled through hard. We only lasted a minute or so since the remaining field was strung out chasing right behind us. Kel followed that move by attacking the 7th lap hill with a small group following. I made it into the group and helped drive the pace on the descent, but again we didn’t get away from the fast chasing field and after a couple minutes had to sit up again. We were burning a lot of matches, but in a small field there’s no place to hide and hopefully everybody else was too. I sat in the next couple laps as Kel spent lots of time near the front keeping the pace high and soon we saw the 2 breakaway riders coming back.
On the 9th lap I was able to get away. The field split on the hill with the usual attack, but then came together on the descent. There was a lull in speed when the two groups came together, so I attacked. I got away alone and built about a 10-second lead before the hill with 4 laps to go. I went up the hill hard enough to stay clear, and then saw Kel and another rider bridging across with a gap on the field. Stephen Hyde (2nd in the pro race at Beverly last week) got to me first, and as we rotated I looked back and Kel had dropped back to the field. The two of us then went to work – eventually dividing up the pulling with him riding the uphill and me riding downhill each lap. We leveraged strengths perfectly and we went fast. We put time into the field each lap and then when the neutral support car pulled in behind us with a lap to go we knew we knew we were home free. It was clear he’d take the uphill finish, so I was happy to work the break hard and finish 2nd – my first podium this season. We finished 1:30 up on the rest of the field.
Kel spent the last 4 laps in the field covering attacks and frustrating the chasers. He still pulled a 10th place finish despite all the work he did during the race which is impressive. He then got back on his bike to ride home and cap off back to back 80-mile days! Good luck at Catskills next week and thanks for the great teamwork Kel!
I’m happy with the result and felt great in the race. I’m looking forward to Green Mountain Stage Race next month, and will also race the Witches Cup crit in Salem next week.
Thanks for Reading!