Marblehead Circuit Race – Cat 4/5 field – 1st place out of 75 starters
Turn on the car engine for the first bike race of the season and the car display says 29 degrees. Great… Fortunately it warmed up to high 30s by the start time with plenty of sun and very little wind.
I’d been both looking forward and nervous about this race since I had dozens of customers, friends and riding buddies in the 4/5 field. In the weeks leading up to the race I heard plenty of gossip from “friends” that the other local teams were planning team strategies and tactics to deploy in the race against me. Whether these “leaks” were intentional or not, it sure added to the anticipation and excitement of the race!
The race involved 11 laps of a 2.2 mile clockwise circuit of Marblehead Neck. There’s a short steep climb you hit right away, then some rolling hills up to the highest point on the far end of the Neck, and finally a long gradual descent all the way back to the hairpin turn at the causeway.
Call it a Cat 4 “rookie” mistake, but I warmed up a bit too long and ended up stuck at the back of the 75-person field for the start. It took me a couple laps just to work my way up to the front of the field, which was easier said than done given the narrow roads and few opportunities to move up. I tried to stay near the front for the first half of the race, and threw in some surges a few times to see how the field would react. Sure enough it seemed any time I even thought about attacking, I quickly had a train of guys on my wheel. By the half way point I was getting a little anxious about making a bigger move that would either spring me loose or break the field up. It was a downhill finish so I figured I could hold my own if there was still a group on the final lap and it came down to a sprint.
I attacked hard right after taking the hairpin turn with 5 laps to go. Attacking here gave me a flat section of road where I hoped to get some separation before the steep hill. I wanted to get a jump on the strong climbers who I knew could hold my wheel more easily if I attacked on a hill. When I hit the steep hill I could hear a couple guys still close to me, but fortunately they fell back after I crested the hill into the minor descent past the finish line. I took a look back after rounding the bend at the far end of the neck and saw I had a decent gap to the field. From then on I went into TT mode and hoped to stay off the front until the finish. The motorcycle pulled up to me each of the last few laps and gave me time splits back to the main field: “40 seconds”, “1 minute”, “1:15”… On the final lap I sat up and relaxed a bit and enjoyed the final stretch to the finish.
It was great racing with so many customers and friends, and hearing all the stories after the race. My next scheduled race is the Tour of the Battenkill on 4/14.