By Mike Burris, Burris Logistics-Fit Werx Team Director
Last weekend Claude Raineault and I made the trek down to Rhode Island to race the Chris Hinds Criterium. Claude loves this race and I love the area, having spent the majority of my childhood summers nearby.
After traveling for 6 hours, we arrived in North Stonington, CT. I let Claude make our hotel reservation. I asked him what he booked. He replied, “A Budget Inn.” I said, “You mean the chain? The Budget Inn chain?” He said, “Yes, of course.” We looked carefully around the area where our hotel was supposed to be located and we did not see a big glowing sign. Instead we saw a little hand-made sign that read, Bud et Inn.”Oh no,” I mumbled. “This can’t be good.”
Claude rubbed his chin as one does when a few important details may have been overlooked. We drove up to the hotel. Or was it a motel? Or was it… We walked into the lobby which was straight out of a movie, or rather a psycho thriller complete with flashing neon vacancy signs. In fact there were no other cars in the parking lot except for an old Caddie parked at the end. Never a good sign.
We rang the bell at the front desk, which was a slab of old, peeling Formica covered with tourist paraphernalia from the last 30 years. Out comes a young girl of maybe 13-14 years of age to welcome us. She said we could have any room we wanted. Really? Any room?
After deliberating as to whether we would be safer on the first or second floor, we took the keys and headed to our room. I did my best to grin and bare it, but there was no way I was going to sleep in that room. “Claude,” I said in the kindest way possible, “I appreciate you taking care of the accommodations, but we ain’t staying here.”
We had passed a number of hotels on the way offering excellent discounted rates most definitely due to the recent decline in enthusiasm for all things Foxwoods. We back tracked and found a much more reasonable place to lay our heads. Ahhhh sleep.
Five hours a traveling is a bit much for one 50 minute criterium, so Claude and I registered for the Pro 1-3 race in addition to the 3/4 race. This would be 2 solid efforts and a good hit of training stress. The 3/4 race went off first. My goal was to stay at the front, stay out of trouble, and try to get in a breakaway. This is the only way I can get a result due to the fact that I can’t sprint very well. I met my goal of staying at the front. I initiated a few breaks, chased a few down, but ultimately couldn’t make anything stick. If only I had a little of the “Dean” power.
As the race unfolded, Claude made a go with 2 laps left, but was swallowed up as we made the final turn. I think I was in 3rd or 4th place coming into the final straight and literally lost 20 places in the span of 3 seconds. We rolled in mid-pack, took a few laps to cool down, and then headed back to the van to refuel.
Our goal for the Pro race was just to “hang on” and try not to get dropped. The field was stacked with the usual ex-pros that beat the hell out of the rest of us every season. To be specific, the McCormack brothers and Adam Myerson were there, so we knew it would be a difficult 90 minutes. It would be an absolute victory for me just to make it to the finish with the group.
As I suspected the first 15 minutes were absolutely brutal. The big boys got on the front and just killed it. I was in the back with my heart rate pegged at near max. I knew I would not be able to hang unless things settled down. Thankfully they did. There was much damage done though. About 20 riders had been dropped and a few others went down in a crash at the back. The field was now reduced to about 55.
After this momentary reprieve, the race promoter rang the bell to signify the first prime (pronounced preeme). Like a bunch of hungry dogs chasing down dinner, the big boys went after it. This would be the routine for the rest of the race. I felt like I was riding a bull just trying to “last a little longer.” There were a few moments of reprieve, but not many. It was pretty much full tilt.
In the end, there was a group of 6 riders that got a 9 second gap on the rest of the field. I finished with the field. I accomplished my goal of not getting dropped. To me not getting dropped by pro riders is a big freaking deal. Even if I come in 49th in the sprint finish.
I met my goals on the day, racked up a fair amount of training stress, and had a good time. We packed up and headed back to Vermont stopping for gas and a few burritos along the way which of course caused us to stop again, and again, and again.