The Wheelhouse Racing Team had an exceptional weekend of racing at races 3 and 4 of the NYCross.com series at the Uncle Sam GP in Troy, NY. Day one in the elite men’s race saw Jeremy Durrin take the win with Al Donahue in second and Anthony Clark in 5th. In the elite women’s race Frances Morrison finished 4th.
The elite men’s race on day two saw Al take a hard fought win while Jeremy suffered a mechanical and fought his way back to 7th. Anthony Clark had a great race improving on his day one finish by one spot and finishing 4th. Missing from day one was Mukunda Feldman who raced to a strong 8th place finish.
The updated series standings now have Al in 1st place and Jeremy in 2nd.
Alec Donahue has a great race at the Night Weasels Cometh and takes 3′rd spot on the podium. Watch the post race video below.
We had an incredibly good time at the 2009 version of the Tour of Quebec so we headed up again for the 2010 edition. Unfortunately the TOQ organizers were a little preoccupied this year preparing for the UCI races in September, so everything was a little paired down compared to the 2009 version. What previously was a 4 day, 5 stage race was only 3 stages in 2 days. The prize money was similarly pared down, and the field size was only about 70 compared to 120+ last year. We even had to make our own numbers and scrounge around for safety pins this year. They did add a women’s field though, so Team Wheelhouse consisted of Mainer, Tremble, Brad, and Frances. The race hotel was also relocated to downtown Quebec city, so even if the racing wasn’t quite up to snuff, at least we got to hang out in Quebec City for the weekend.
Stage 1 (Saturday morning) was a new stage for 2010, street sprints in old town Quebec. Head to head 250 meter sprints from a dead stop on a very gradual uphill coblestone street. The preliminary races were head to head, but the important thing was time as the top 10 moved on to the finals. Frances put in a good effort but just missed out on qualifying by finishing an unlucky 11th. The guys didn’t fare as well with Brad and Tremble taking 37th and 38th, and Mainer loosing to most of the women.
Stage 2 (Saturday evening) was the same difficult crit as last year. Half uphill and half down with a sweeping downhill off-camber final corner and quite a bit of rough pavement. Just like last year, both races absolutely shattered. Frances held tough and finished an impressive 5th. The men did not fare as well. The racing was hot from the gun and Charles Dionne (Fly V) and two Spidertech guys got away almost immediately. Brad made a desperate attempt to get across to them, came up just short and was immediately dropped along with 3/4 of the field (including Tremble). Mainer hung on to the “peleton” which was only about 16 guys. He was looking pretty good until he got gapped off by a shaky cornering Canadian. So none of us finished the crit… not good.
Stage 3 was the same circuit race as last year. Beginning in a suburban neighborhood the course wound its way through 3 tight, crit style turns out onto a stretch of open highway, then made a left to a fast descent, a bit of horrible pavement, a 2k flat stretch, and then a 300 meter, 15+% climb back to the flat finishing stretch. 13 laps, 143k for the men and 7 laps, 77k for the women. Last year the distinctive feature was the 15% climb, this year it was the wind. The wind was a relentless 20+ MPH north wind that seemed to hit you from all angles and allow nowhere to hide. Once again, Frances had a great ride finishing 7th and wrapping up 7th overall on GC. In the mens race, the first 4 laps were extremely slow except for everyone hammering up the climb. On the 5th lap people started rolling off the front, but there was a lot of looking around in the field as were intimidated by the wind and waiting for the three fast pros from the crit to start riding. Mainer finally took the initiative and bridged up to what would become the winning break. A while later Tremble rolled away and spent the next two hours suffering in the wind going nowhere. Brad stayed in the field which never really got going and actually ended up getting lapped. Up front Mainer rode like a champ following attacks, bridging up to others, and even attacking the hill himself on one occasion. Unfortunately nothing worked and it came down to a field sprint (not Mainer’s specialty), so he had to settle for 17th.
Cambridge, NY; Auburn, ME; Bethel, CT; New York City. What do all of these places have in common? Spooky / NCC / Kenda was there this past weekend, racing hard, and getting results. The Spooky, it wanders.
Saturday was the Balloon Festival Classic in Cambridge, NY of Battenkill fame, and the Lake Auburn Road Race up in Maine. We fielded a full squad of 7 at Balloon Fest and a mini squad consisting of just Colin and Adam at Lake Auburn. Since we’re still waiting for a full report on Maine from one of our field correspondents, this report will focus on Balloon Fest.
Al, Mukunda, Purdy, Mainer, Jason, Nathaniel and new Spooky recruit, Neil Coleman (formerly of the UK Plowman/Craven squad) lined up in Cambridge for a typically sunny and hot day, though not quite the scorcher of years past. This race has only one significant climb, but it faces due South without a single leaf for shade, and it has been known to produce heat stroke and heart arhythmia in more than one hardy soul before now. Fortunately with temp’s in the high 70′s and Purdy’s dad ably slinging bottles in the feed zone, we had nothing to worry about. The atmosphere at this race is always groovy, and the community has really fallen in behind promoter Dieter Drake in the last few years and now really seems to look forward to the couple of times each Spring and Summer when the bike racers come to town. While it ain’t quite Europe, this course offers a rare opportunity for a trip through the town’s Main street on every lap, along with a couple of tight corners to add a bit of a crit feel to the finish of a long, hard road race. As for the rest of the course, this year some last minute road construction forced a change back to the original course used in 2004-’o5 which is a relatively flat, 13.5 mile loop with some minor rollers, and one nasty, steep climb called O’donnnell hill. This year we would be doing 6 laps for 81 miles, or what Al described as “the worst 6×2 minute workout ever” which is about what that climb feels like–it is essentially two 150 meter kickers around 12% gradient, separated by a false flat, in total less than half a mile, but it’s a real full value half mile. This is followed by a fun, fast descent, a sharp right turn, and a flat 5 mile run back into Cambridge, interrupted by only one highway grade roller of 3% or so that you hardly notice.
The race began more aggressively than in some years and with a small but stacked field of only 38 riders. There were several notable hardmen in attendance, including Jake Hollenbach (Empire); Josh Dillon and Justin Lindine (Bikereg/Cannondale); Mike Barton (Strava Velo); Roger Aspholm (Westwood Velo), and Will Dugan and Dan Cassidy (CCB), so there was plenty of horsepower to keep the pace high and not much of anywhere to hide. Early attempts were fast but not super threatening and most of the favorites seemed to be simpy feeling each other out. The field stayed together over the first trip up the hill at a hard, but not brutal pace, and remained together for a mile or two down route 22. This sort of thing bores Purdy absolutely to tears, so he attacked while the field was slacking, started nursing a small gap and was quickly joined by our new recruit, Neil. The two of them began pouring it on immediately and the race heated up in a hurry. They gained a gap of about 1 minute before anyone reacted, and then Dillon went to the front and rode tempo for 4 or 5 miles in an effort to minimize the damage. Coming through town on the first lap our pair was out of sight, CCB put two riders on the front and the field stretched out single file on the approach to the climb. This continued for the remainder of lap 2, with some more help from Dillon and some from other teams and individuals, as well, but the newly acquainted Spooky duet kept at it and stayed away for the next two trips up the hill, before being reabsorbed by the dwindling peloton somewhere along route 22 at the end of the 3rd lap. As the result of a large bridge attempt/second break, there was a period of about 10k on this lap when the peloton was split into two unequal halves with Al, Purdy, Neil, Mukunda and Mainer up front with all of the dangerous guys, and Nathaniel and Baer tailgunning in the second group. Due to efforts from various folks, the field regrouped coming back into town on the 3rd lap and the pace remained high.
Lap 4 was tough, but not decisive with the typical regrouping after the climb, but lap 5 produced a classic good-news/bad-news break with Mainer hanging in with the big acceleration from Dillon, Dugan and Aspholm over the top of the climb. By the time the field hit route 22, these 4 were long gone, and Mainer had his work cut out for him. Demoralized, hot, thirsty, and with the three major teams each having a rider in the break, the field lost any motivation to chase and slowed considerably for the first time all day. Not entirely loving the idea of leaving Mainer to fend for himself alone against three of the strongest guys on the East coast, we decided to try to get someone across to even the odds a bit. Following a sneak attack by Embrocation’s Peter Bradshaw that saw him slip away, permanently, Jason put in a good acceleration that strung things out a bit, and this was followed by Nathaniel going hard over the innocuous looking roller, looking less innocuous almost 3 hours into the race. He steadily put time on the field and came through the start finish about a minute and a half behind the break and the same distance in front of the field. Approaching the climb for the last time Nathaniel was joined by Mr. Adrenal Function himself, Matt Purdy, and CCNS rider Ron Larose, who had managed to get away coming through town.
These three worked well together and continued to put time on the field but never managed to get the break within site. Meanwhile, up front, Mainer had held on like the tough guy he is and survived the attacks within the break until the bitter end, where he ran out of gas in the sprint behind winner Dugan, with Dillon 2nd and Aspholm 3rd. Bradshaw looked catchable on the climb but turned on his afterburners on the run in and was never caught, claiming 5th place, though it was a near thing at the end. With 1k to go Purdy attacked, Larose obligingly covered, and Nathaniel did the only decent thing and countered to solo in for 6th place. While Purdy and Larose were setting up to sprint, Purdy got derailed by some dropped riders from the women’s field, one of whom lost traction in the corner and nearly crashed. So while Larose was sprinting, Purdy was rolling through someone’s lawn and cruised in for 8th, later promoted to 7th when Larose was DQ’d for a yellow line violation. Further back, Al jumped out of the field to solo in, and Neil and Mukunda won their respective group sprints from the now decimated field, with Jason not far behind.
At the end of the day, we would have been hard pressed to find better guys to get beaten by, and with 5 of our riders in money spots in the top 10, and the whole team finsihing in the top 14, we were pleased with ourselves for shaping the race. Hats off to CCB for some solid teamwork of their own and an impressive win by Dugan.
On Sunday, Nathaniel decided on impulse to head down to Bethel, CT and race the Connecticut Coast Criterium for a little speed work, and hopefully a little pocket money. He wound up teaming up with part-time Spooky adjunct, Dan Greenfield who is coming back into form these days, and scoring 3rd in the chaotic field sprint after a monster leadout from big Dan. Another Spooky win was in sight but a traffic stall on the inside curb botched things up a bit, and by the time he found a gap to jump through, up-and-comer Filip Capala from Brooklyn had the race won, and Chad Butts (Champion System) snuck past by a tire width for second.
While all of this was going on, Al was racing Mountain Bikes in a park in Harlem. His report was truly breathtaking, and inspiring:
“The MTB race was awesome, and like no other. Very technical single track in way uptown Harlem, not gentrified Gap outlet Harlem. There were 5 flights of stairs with a 90 degree turn after going down three of them, more glass than a cathedral, car parts and sharp, off-camber slippery rocks. There was a lot of running in the lap due to the technical difficulty, but it was fun, and hot. Zico coconut water was a sponsor, so I drank one per lap and won the expert 30-39 by a small margin. There was a ton of road climbing on the course. There were old homeless guys cheering me on and a pitbull. Some parts of the the woods smelled like piss, some like weed, and the dump that we rode through smelled oddly like trash. After the race we ate shaved ice from a lady selling it out of a shopping cart, and the transaction went down in my broken Spanish. Then we got kebabs a few blocks later. I passed out at a Mexican place before heading to SoHo for Spanish and Kati rolls. Beard Papa cream puffs for dessert round one, then the famous Magnolia bakery, at 10 PM with a line out the door, for round two.
One of the best races and days in memory.”
Nobody throws down like our Al, before or after the race. Remember this the next time he drops you in a road race. Word.
Criterium season is upon us once again, and while we love our road races–some of us more than others–we really love our speed, primes and excitement.
Nathaniel went to Toronto last Friday night to race a twilight crit at St. Lawrence Market, which turned out well.
Then on Sunday, Purdy, Mukunda, Al and Nathaniel descended on the horse racing mecca of Saratoga Springs, NY for the 1st annual Marshall & Sterling Racing City Grand Prix Criterium, which promised 6 corners of awesome neighborhood critin’ action. The course was superb, but proved a bit sketchy in the rain with some trixy corners. In the masters combined 30+/40+ race, we practiced (prematurely, perhaps, but if the rules say 30+ cat 1-4, we’re there) honing our Fast Old Guy ™ chops. After various experimental attacks in the early laps, we put Al and Nathaniel in the break to finish 3rd and 1st, respectively, with Mukunda schooling the bunch in the field sprint to pick up 6th. Winning is always fun, we were happy, and Al and Nathaniel debated on the podium about who has more gray hair. (Answer: Al has more on his head, Nathaniel has more in his beard.)
Sadly a tragedy in the women’s race resulted in the death of local cyclist Natalia Hogan. The cat 1/2/3 race was canceled out of respect, and promoter Dieter Drake arranged to donate the prize purse from this race to a fund being arranged to benefit Hogan’s son. The elite men’s field unanimously agreed to decline the refund of our entry fees and donate them as well. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Hogan’s family. Here is a link to a story about a memorial ride done for her yesterday, and here is another for a remembrance book being put together by her friends and loved ones.
There are crits and there are crits. The Tour of Somerville is definitely in the latter category. Speed, corners, crowds, good primes, crashes, big payout, beer hand-ups, it’s got everything you could want in a crit and some things you don’t. Mainer, Purdy and I lined up for the little boys’ (cat 2) race, while Tremble, who won the cat 2 race here in serious style last year, was tackling the big show all on his own.
The cat 2 race here is short, being only 15 laps for 20 miles, and as such it tends to be a particularly twitchy and nervous race. There tends to be a lot of yelling and macho posturing from guys feeling like a big deal with no cat 1′s around, and that’s always entertaining. There also tends to be a lot of handlebar banging for 30th place, which is also a hoot. At one point in the race I was sitting on the front slow-rolling it while Mainer was up the road with another rider in search of primes. Some genius informed me that I should have a teammate up the road if I was going to sit on the front (um, yes?), and he told another guy who wasn’t pulling (and why should he with 10 laps to go, and no teammates to work for?) “you’re not going to win anyway”. When I asked him if he was going to win he said “no, but my teammate is.” I love it!! So apparently you don’t even have to be The Man to talk smack, you just need to know him. Which is a lot like the way I remember 6th grade playground fights starting. But I digress.
Our hope was for Purdy and Mainer to do some good ol’ rope-a-dope stuff to the field early on and this would either result in a successful break or leave me in good position for the field sprint. Ultimately neither happened, but Mainer and Purdy spent a lot of time off the front and Mainer in particular rode like 3 guys, chasing after primes, winning one, attacking like a tough guy, and shuttling me around the field perfectly. I also won a prime, which was good and took some of the pressure off as we had at least won back our collective entree fees for the day, but of course we wanted more.
With two laps to go I hit the front too early and the pace slacked. In the inevitable swarm that followed I stayed top 20ish, hit the front again on the backstretch on the bell lap, fought the swarm some more, and finished just inside the top 20, in the money but disappointed. Purdy got caught behind some foolishness and pavement divers, and Mainer was pretty spent after shepadring yours truly around and attacking all day. Apologies to him for being timid at the end and not coming through with a better result, he certainly workled for it.
Tremble, for his part, kept it upright in the pro race and and rode strong to finish just outside the money. And a good time was had by all.
Meanwhile, back in New England, Al, Mukunda and Sullivan were doing some crittin’ of their own. On Saturday at the Stafford Springs racetrack crit Al lapped the field with a strong group and narrowly missed out on the win to Luke Keough in some confusion over which group was on the lead lap. New Spooky recruit and former Louis Garneau Green Goblin legend, Dan Greenfield, fresh out of a 2 year retirement, rounded out the top ten in 9th. On Sunday the same crew raced aggressively in the Hartford round-the-park crit, which has to be one of the most breakaway-hostile criterium courses anywhere, and missed out on the placings in the inevitable field sprint due to crashes in the closing laps. Fortunately all our guys kept all their skin and lived to fight another day.
Look for the team at the Marshall & Sterling Racing City Grand Prix in Saratoga Springs, NY this comingSunday 5/31, and at the Balloon Festival Classic in Cambridge, NY on 6/6.
Keep it Spooky.
Sunday’s Bound Brook criterium takes place on quiet suburban streets just outside of Somerville. No longer held on the downtown, rectangular course of years ago, the current course is a 1.1 mile, 6 corner affair with a fast right/left chicane, a 700 meter drag race of a backstretch, and 2 sets of close corners at the top and bottom of the course, with less than 200 meters out of the final turn to the finish line–essentially a long, skinny rectangle with the chicane interrupting one side of it. 36 laps for 40 miles promised roughly an hour and twenty minutes worth of serious fun. And as a side note, the residents of the neighborhood seem to be taking their cues from the citizens of Somerville and have completely embraced the event, with barbecues galore, excited kids cheering, and a core of volunteers from the sponsoring Middle Earth youth program making things run smoothly. They even had one of these kids calling the race from the announcer’s stand and he did such a good job that they brought him back on Monday to team up with the legendary Richard Fries at Somerville! Not more than 11 years old and the kid is a pro.
The field of 80 or so riders was essentially the same as Saturday’s, with a few absentees and the addition of notables such as Jonatan Page, incognito and racing on the road once again for the Battley Harley Davidson team out of Maryland, and Cody O’Reilly of team Bissell. Type 1 once again lined up a full squad and looked determined to get revenge on us amateurs for Saturday.
The first 10 laps of the race were predictably fast and aggressive with lots of attacks, including a couple of good ones from our own Matt Mainer, but the field was still antsy and nothing was staying away.
And then it started to rain. While rain in a crit makes everyone nervous, it also creates opportunities, especially on a course with some closely-spaced turns, as a solo rider or small breakaway can negotiate fast, wet corners at a much higher speed than the peloton, thus making a gap hard to close once established. At 15 laps to go Purdy worked his way to the front, as the rest of the field started to tire and he was just getting warmed up. Coming through the start/finish he launched a powerful attack into the chicane, got a sizeable gap and dropped the hammer down the next straightaway. Team Type 1 reacted immediately and set up a train to bring him back, stretching the field out single file.
Coming into the second-to-last corner, Purdy was caught, the rain started to fall harder, and opportunity knocked: Nathaniel jumped the field into turn 5, kept his speed through turn 6 and sprinted down the finish straight. Matt Wilson (kind of a big deal) from Team Type 1 and Vincent Quiron from the Canadian Louis Garneau team quickly followed, and with some timely brake checking through the chicane from Purdy and Wilson’s teammates on the front of the field, the trio quickly established a 20-second lead as the rain turned into a proper downpour.
While Wilson and Ward were hell-bent on making the move stick and traded even half-lap pulls at 30mph, Quiron seemed to be hanging on for dear awful life and didn’t come through at all until at 9 laps to go when, with the gap firmly established and no apparent chase from the field, Wilson gave him a friendly but firm “come on, Mate” and the kid finally started taking some pulls. Over the closing laps the pace remained high but steady and Type 1, Spooky / NCC / Kenda and Garneau covered all bridge attempts from the field to ensure the break’s success. At 2-to-go Wilson followed a hard pull by Ward with a strong attack and got himself a slight but convincing gap.
At this point Quiron and Ward looked at each other and decided that with Wilson looking so strong and the field upping the pace behind, racing for 2nd place was as good as it was going to get. Quiron then offered the classic truce of the long-suffering breakaway rider who only wants to get to the finish and said “just don’t attack me and I won’t sprint, I promise.”. Uh huh. Over the closing two laps, Ward continued to do the majority of the work, but made sure to have his remaining break mate come through just enough to keep the speed up and ensure success. As Quiron finished his last pull into the final corner, Ward jumped hard and sprinted for the line, just to be safe. Looking under his arm, about 20 meters from the line, the gap seemed assured and he sat up, only to have the little sneak jump around and pip him for second by a tire width. In his defense, Quiron said “I did the same work as you, so since you didn’t pull me, it’s ok that I sprinted”. When reminded that he had not pulled at all for 5 laps and had since taken sissy pulls only after being yelled at by his breakaway companions…he looked guilty and apologized. Call it a step backward for international relations, something like Quebec’s revenge for NAFTA, and a lesson learned.
But a podium is a podium, and we had to be pleased with ourselves for stellar teamwork, and for making a meal out of a small squad in a sketchy, and stacked race.
*Photos courtesy of Team Type 1
Every year, Memorial Day weekend heralds the beginning of the East Coast Summer crit racing season. There are criteriums in Several New England and Mid Atlantic states, but the eye of this particular storm unquestionably swirls around Somerville, NJ. The Tour of Somerville is the longest continuously running bike race in the U.S. and has been held since 1940. It is a truly historic event that the town really gets behind, and for that reason alone it is worth the trip. Most domestic US racers, accustomed to annoyed motorists and cranky suburban neighborhood dwellers, peeved at the minor inconvenience of having their roads partially closed for a day, or part of a day, get something of a treat in Somerville where the locals have embraced the fact that closed streets and no traffic can be fun for everybody. In addition to the lawn parties, barbecues, sidewalk dining and general festive atmosphere that prevails, there are hordes of kids and families playing basketball, or doing gymnastic routines on gym mats dragged out into the middle of the street, and every kid with a skateboard or a BMX bike seems to be fully living the dream, right under the noses of the preoccupied local constabulary. But that’s Monday, and before we get to Somerville, we have to get through the other, less historical but budding classics that make up the US Bicycling Hall of Fame/Tour of Sommerville weekend: Saturday’s Frank “Nap” Torpey Memorial Hills of Somerset County Road Race (now that’s a mouthful!) and Sunday’s Bound Brook Criterium.
Team New Jersey from the Spooky / NCC / Kenda camp were just a squad of four this weekend: twice Matts, Mainer and Purdy, Eric, and Nathaniel, with the rest of the gang reppin’ local back in New England. We converged on the Somerville Middle School at around 7:45 Saturday morning not knowing entirely what to expect. Eric had done this race last year, but according to him and everyone else we talked to, this race teaches you to expect not to know what to expect. Our first taste of this was when we got to registration and found that the race organizers, after having chosen not to publish any kind of a course map online, or advertise a feed zone, had compiled multi-page, highlighted, full sized race maps and were handing them out to riders. Grateful, and wondering how to attach them to our handlebars, we wandered back to the parking lot to pin on our numbers. To be clear, this is an excellent race, with a great course, solid organization, stellar marshaling and a good payout. Every race has its own mystique, however, and in this case part of that mystique is accepting a course route complicated enough that dropped riders are ordered (not asked) into sag-wagons (buses, literally) to ensure that everyone gets home safely. In addition to that, the brigade of motorcycles leap-frogging the field to stop oncoming traffic and provide riders with a relatively safe full rolling enclosure did a fine job, as did the local police departments. All of that being said, however, rider consensus is that the race would be pretty near perfect with 3 minor adjustments: 1) a course map available online 2) posted directions to the feed zone, both online and at registration 3) signage from about 5k to go indicating distance remaining in the labyrinthine finishing circuit.
Following the traditional opening prayer, which was difficult to hear over the thrum of the motorcycles and diesel engines of the motorcade, the stacked field of 120 got rolling through the streets of Somerville at an immediately quick pace. Team Type 1 had about 10 riders in the race and OUCH/Maxxis had 2, along with full squads from regional amateur powerhouse teams Empire, CCB and IF, and the usual smattering of strong French Canadians, tri-state area amateurs, and a number of last season’s domestic pro’s, now racing for amateur teams.
It seemed clear that Type 1 would be in control, and sure enough, an early break established itself containing 2 of their riders, along with an Empire rider, and it was quickly followed by a chase group containing another Type 1, Will Dugan from CCB, and Robbie King from IF. 10 miles into the race and this potentially race-winning move was well gone, with Type 1 sitting on everything that moved, and the rest of the field happily wielding welding torches to ensure that nothing got away. While slightly frustrated at having missed the move, we didn’t panic as everything we had heard about this race suggested that early moves tended to be doomed, and the last 20 miles of the race was the decisive portion. Long story shorter, the race route had been altered slightly since last year to eliminate the hardest of the climbs, which meant that the conventional wisdom that strong riders from the field could sweep up the early break, as in years past was no longer correct. Jon Chodroff, Roger Aspholm, Aidan Charles and every Spooky / NCC / Kenda rider, along with several others, attacked more or less constantly from the field for the final 15 miles but the high pace negated everything, and a field sprint for the minor placings was guaranteed.
Coming into town for the finish, Purdy did an excellent job of positioning Nathaniel for the sprint, while Tremble fended for himself and attacked about 100 times, and Mainer chased hard, but ultimately unsuccessfully after a flat tire. Alas, knowing the finish is key in chaotic sprints, and as the field crested the final rise before the final turn, Ward found himself surprised, and caught out of position, stuck to the curb and hitting the brakes while Tremble won the race to the final turn and hung on over the quick 150 meters to the line for a strong 3rd in the field sprint (won by Metlife’s Ryan Fleming) and 11th overall. The race was won by Robbie King, with Dugan 2nd after breaking his shifter cable and racing the last 20 miles on a two speed (39×11/53×11) bike, and Team Type 1 frustrated. We were a bit disappointed, but the race was a blast all the same, and a 2 hour and forty minute, 75 mile motorpacing workout seemed the perfect opener to the weekend, hopefully leaving our legs ready to do something big in the next two races…
Yours truly (Nathaniel) got 3rd place at the Bound Brook crit in NJ, today, thanks to some clever teamwork. Somerville tomorrow, race reports to follow. Not sure about the nonplussed look on my face. I’m happy, I swear!
That almost can’t possibly be an original post heading, can it? Nevertheless, it is an apt description of our approach to the Lake Sunapee road race this past Saturday.
Of the six Spooky / NCC / Kenda riders who toed the line this weekend, some of us (Jason, Al) have been doing this race at least since quill stems were still popular, while others of us (Nathaniel) were racing it for the first time. The rest of us (Mainer, Tremble, Sullivan) may not be quite as familiar with this New Hampshire classic, legendary for its epic weather and quality all-arounder’s course as Al, who has won the race twice, but are nonetheless old New England hands and have done the race a time or three. So it seemed at the outset that if–racing as 6 in a small but strong field of 45–we couldn’t get our tactics right, we would have only ourselves to blame.
The field stayed relaxed through the first 10k or so with most of the likely contenders hanging out at the back. As we began the first of a series of highway-grade rollers on route 11, attacks started to fly and Spooky / NCC / Kenda seemed to have two riders in every split. All eyes were on Dan Vaillancourt, and the always dangerous Mike Barton was active as well. The first convincing break got away over the last of the highway grade stuff on route 11 and contained Vaillancourt, Barton, Ward and Mainer from Spooky, one of the Nativo Concepts riders from Quebec and a Metlife rider. This move rolled smoothly for a couple of miles but never gained more than 15 seconds or so and with some hard accelerations from the field, the group was back together over the top of the last steep kicker on the back side of the course. Most of the riders from the first split simply stayed on the front riding a hard tempo hoping for the rest of the field to slack and let a gap go, and then Vaillancourt set a nasty pace up one of those oh-so-painful but innocent looking rollers which got things pretty much single file. At this point, Al snuck up the inside through a right-hander at the top of the hill and attacked hard right when everyone was hoping for a break. Vaillancourt and Barton followed and the trio gained an immediate and convincing gap. With the field momentarily beaten into submission and apparently either content to let the move go or simply unable to prevent it, it was now-or-never for anyone hoping to make the winning break. Metlife‘s Brad Sheehan jumped out into no man’s land, making time on the field but not quite gaining on the break, and he was quickly followed by Nathaniel with Sheehan’s teammate, Charles McCarthy, hot on his heels.
This chasing trio rolled it hard, and rounding the turn onto route 103 to pick up the tailwind they had put close to a minute on the field and were only 10 seconds or so behind the break. The gaps, fore and aft, stayed about like this for the next 5k or so, and the Metlife duo seemed to be struggling a bit. After taking a couple of hard pulls up the rollers, Ward saw an opportunity and jumped across the gap solo, leaving his chase companions to the mercy of the wind and the chasing field.
With the break established and now two of our guys in it, we found ourselves in the classic good news-bad news pro-am bike racing scenario: the good news was that we had two riders in a four-man move that was well-suited to go the distance, and the bad news was that the other two guys were really good. Vaillancourt is unreasonably strong, and Barton, who is also unreasonably strong, has a pretty wicked sprint. Having burned many matches in getting across to the break, Nathaniel’s sprint was in question, and Al’s prospects for riding away from the other two were looking slim, as Vaillancourt seemed able to cover each of Al’s uphill surges while nose breathing. Nice.
The breakaway truce lasted until about 15k to go when little surges began, along with slight squabbling about who was or wasn’t pulling through hard enough, and Al reminding Barton that he has kicked all of our asses enough times that we simply don’t believe him when he says he really hasn’t been riding his bike that much. Just the usual end-of-race breakaway antics. With something like three minutes worth of empty road back to the field, there was no real hurry to sort things out, so Vaillancourt waited until the last nasty steep kicker about 10k out before doing what we were all waiting for him to do. Barton followed, Nathaniel started to cramp and let the gap go, and Al patiently closed it with encouraging words for his drooling, suffering teammate as he rode past. Unbeknownst to any of those in the break, a 10 man chase group containing Spooky man Tremble (so Spooky he shakes…) was rapidly closing in on the front end of the race…
The finish was pretty predictable with Vaillancourt soloing in for the W, and Barton narrowly besting Al in the sprint for second. Ward soloed on in a never-say-die effort until about 300 meters to go when, within sight of the finish line, he was swept up by the chase group. After a brief temper tantrum over not getting 4th he got his head back in the game, passed some tired guys, and finished 8th, behind Tremble in 5th.
While a bit disappointed with not being able to turn our numbers in the break into a W, the team was pleased with placing 3 riders in the top 10, and having ridden what was collectively a tactically smart race. Sometimes you simply get beat, but it’s nice to know you made good choices in the race.