The weather has turned to crap. It's Monday night and I'm in the basement on the trainer doing a 90 minute active recovery spin. May as well multi-task and tell you about Sunday's action. I have a nice Youtube playlist on the computer showing me Giro highlights. I've watched so many race videos this winter.. Anyway.. Matt K and I headed to Ninigret in spite of the iffy weather. In fact it was raining at my house when I left, but the radar was showing a band of rain already past Charlestown. I crossed my fingers and headed out in plenty of time to give Matt his team-issue socks courtesy of our new sponsor, SoxySox. (WeeBIKE will soon be a stocking dealer.) Matt had 1/2 hour to warm up and I had 90 minutes to get ready. At the course, it was dry but overcast. Winds were surprisingly light. The usual chill in the south county air was enough for most to wear arm warmers, but I warmed up on the trainer for 30 minutes and went with bare arms- but I did have a merino wool base under my skinsuit, which proved to be the perfect choice..
Matt rolled off with a smallish 45 field at 2:00 while I continued to warm up. I could see right away that the local Arc team was not going to make it easy for anyone. Matt was gritting his teeth on the very first lap as he covered strong attacks by the Arcs. Then a terrible crash happened at the beginning of the final straightaway - I think it was the end of lap 2 or 3. I was on my trainer and couldn't see much. The race was neutralized while the fallen were attended to. Apparently Tony Hill's fork disintegrated from under him and sent him into a violent face plant. Makes you wonder if it's worth it to buy a frameset made from 2 pounds of plastic doesn't it? This was a relatively new frameset with no apparent defects. Tony was out cold, as I'm told, and an ambulance picked him up from the blood soaked course and to the hospital. He suffered some very bad road rash and a fractured face! It looks like there are no life threatening injuries, but I'm certain that it was scary as hell to hit the deck like that. Speeds were very high. His ArcenCiel Team attended to him like true soldiers of our sport, making sure he was taken care of, making sure his family was notified, his car and bike accounted for, and I'm sure he felt a lot of relief at the site of his teammates fussing over him. We should all highlight the Arc Team's crisis management as exemplary. Bravo.. And may Tony's pain pass quickly.
With the course cleared, except for about a 1/2 pint of blood, it was announced that the 45s would be reistarting their race combined with the 35s. This made perfect sense because all of the Arcs withdrew and followed the ambulance to the hospital. Only about 8 guys registered for the 35 race. Combined, I think we added up to about 20 guys, if that. We were going to be scored separately, meaning that I needed to take care not to let any 7-- bibs out of my sight. A small field means there is really nowhere to hide. All of your weaknesses are exposed. The usual attacks were launched pretty much every lap- Billy Mark, Gary Aspnes, Wade Summers, Zane Wenzel and John Gadrow all gave us some wicked accelerations to match. I took up chasing duties for a lot of these attacks, and it wore me down.. When the first prime was announced, I took pole position and picked up the pace a bit. I wanted to see either Thad or Matt come around and it ended up being Matt. He took the prime and kept going, solo. The small field watched him get smaller and smaller for about 2 laps, after which he got bigger and bigger. It was a bit early to drive it home solo. After we caught up to Matt, I took to the front and kept the pace a little bit high to discourage a counter attack. Without meaning to, I was making it needlessly hard for Matt to recover from the 4 lap time trial he had just completed. Poor judgment on my part. A few laps later we were offered prime number two. Again I made an effort to get the speed up by sprinting into the penultimate corner and putting myself on the rivet all the way to the final corner. Again, Matt easily comes around and takes it. Now there's about 9 or 10 laps left. The field slowed to a crawl and I decided to attack. Not the smartest move on my part, but I was feeling really good and willing to go ALL-IN. I opened a modest slim 10 second gap and held it for about 3 laps. I needed to hold that 25 mph speed for 6 more laps, and I could tell I was fading and didn't have it. I cooled it and let the field sweep me up, though I recall this to be the most difficulty I'd felt all day- accelerating on to the back of the skinny field after my attack. Now I knew how Matt felt.. But these situations are exactly what we train ourselves for, these moments of do or die. I look down at my shiny new team kit where it reads "FORTITUDINE VINCIMUS" and the pain lessens. Determination takes over. A lap or so later, I'm fully recovered. About 5 to go, Wade attacks again, and chasing duties fall to just a few of us, mainly Thad Lavallee, Gary and myself, though I could swear Gary was soft pedaling a little bit for his former teammate. We came right to Wade's wheel with 2-1/2 to go, but the gap opened slightly again. Someone attacked and got across to him. We crossed the line at 2 to go and I could be heard encouraging others to help close the gap. We crossed the finish for the bell lap and then speeds really ramped up to eye-popping. We caught the two escapees right before the penultimate left hander and just kept accelerating. I was not leading this out- I was very tired. Two lines seemed to form right before the final corner- Matt followed by Billy Mark followed by me, and on the right, Gary Aspnes followed by Thad followed by others. Gary dropped his chain, effectively shutting Thad down and costing him dearly. I hung on to Billy's wheel the best I could, hit it HARD for the last 100m, always accelerating. No one came around me, and I was the 3rd overall to finish, 1st of the 35s. The finish line camera shows me crossing alone so I think I metered my very last effort nicely.
The 1-2-3s lined up almost immediately while Matt and I scrambled with race numbers and topping off bottles. Another 35 laps of this?! My confidence was juiced from the last race, but this field was filled with the usual cat 1s, many of them half our age. Resolving to finish no matter what, I took my place in the sweet spot of the field and just made sure to position myself in the correct places, on the correct wheels. The field of 40 split at one point, and Matt got himself across to the break of about 11-12 guys. One of the younger Arc riders, Ian, took to the front and, with myself and another CF blocker on his wheel, proceeded to take a violent pull of about 2-1/2 laps, and all it took was a couple of more attacks by others to finish off the catch and make sure that this came down to a field sprint. I will admit the first 20 laps were hard, even in the protection of the field, but I was feeling better and better towards the end. I could see that Matt was moving up towards the front with two to go and I tried very hard to get close to him. At one lap to go in a 1-2-3 race there are a lot of [sacrificial] bodies seemingly going reverse. Maneuvering through such traffic takes some skill and experience- I like to think I have some of that. To my delight I found enough daylight to sprint to 9th place while Matt took 5th in a very fast 37+ mph sprint. We celebrated afterwards with a pair of ice cold Stellas I brought with me. I collected our prize money and Matt collected his 3 primes, including one from the 1-2-3 race. Hindsight is 20/20, but I already knew that I would have a good day if I did big volume Wednesday (with a crit inthrown in the middle), which was 85 miles to the Ninigret Crit and back. With all of Sunday's racing, I cracked 300 miles last week. And it was very pleasing to see in the 1-2-3 results that I actually finished 9th, when I was expecting 10th. This has been long winded, but hey my 90 minute spin is just about complete. Hope you enjoyed reading. Thanks.