Our Cat 3 squad decided to represent at the first annual CT Stage Race. The stages were, 1st a 8 mile ITT on Saturday morning, 2nd a 24 mile circuit race later Saturday afternoon and a 91 mile Road Race on Sunday. The race was scored based on accumulated time and there were no time bonuses for sprints or stage wins.
We came deep: Kyler, Spaits, Jordan, Cary, Jackson, The Filthy Rosenberg and of course myself. Our plan was to each perform as well as we could in the TT and then make a team strategy for the circuit and the road race based on who we had in the GC and how close they were to the leader.
Our car left Cambridge too late. An hour before my start, I was in the front seat of Jordan’s car, kitting up. I had the first TT start out of the CB riders and we arrived about 35 minutes before my start. Riders who were going off an hour after me were already on trainers and sweating when we exploded from the station wagon in a whirlwind of panic, carbon and lycra. Excuse number one for my crappy results: 15 minute warmup.
Excuse number 2: I didn’t bother with aero bars. Excuse number 3: I didn’t have a PowerTap to monitor my power output.
I was about 50th in the TT. Jackson was 10th and less than a minute off of the leader. The rest of us fell in between. Since there were no time bonuses offered for the circuit race finish our team plan was to sit in. We didn’t feel like we could get Jackson far enough up the road to make a significant dent in the leader’s gap. Kyler was gunning for the stage win. The circuit was fast with 4 corners and a couple of grinding hills.
Jackson’s Sarah, had a car accident while driving somewhere between the stages. Her airbags deployed and she was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. We figured that Jackson was out of the race, since he was being a good boyfriend and attending her in the hospital. On the starting line of the race, we started replanning, since we figured that our GC guy had to drop out.
With less than 15 minutes to go, Jackson rolled up to the start line and was promptly and roundly balled out for not having his frame number attached. A brief recount of his afternoon elicited no sympathy from the official. This was to become a theme for the rest of the race.
The pace was fairly low, since most other teams seemed to have the same plan as us, sit in and wait for the road race. A few small breaks shook free, me in one, Spaits in another, but nothing committed. In fact, we may have gotten in splits, but we didn’t really work once there, since we were saving ourselves for the intimidating 91 mile stage that went off in 18 hours.
Cary led Kyle out and he got 3rd. We are confident if we had put another rider in front of Kyler that he would have won the stage, which is what we should have done.
We all ate heartily after the stage and were in bed by 10. We awoke rested, though I was dehydrated (Excuse number 4). We had huge breakfasts and kitted up at the hotel. Coffee was a problem, since CT diner coffee does not pack the punch that Cambridge French press or espresso does. The lack of caffeine made me feel flat (Excuse number 5).
Even though we had lots of time before our 11 am start, I had last minute panic when my valve on my front tubular became stuck down inside the valve extender about 25 minutes before our start. Since the Challenge tubular uses a latex tube, it had deflated to around 80 psi overnight, which is too low to race on. I had no spare wheel. I spent 10 feverish minutes sweating in the sun trying to fix it. Finally Spaits had me remove the valve extender and use it to unscrew the valve, which worked surprisingly well. Thanks Spaits (excuse number 6 averted).
The pace was slow rolling out, punctuated by attacks. A Cadence rider kept chasing everything down, which caused the peloton to accelerate. Riders were grumbling about “Can’t we agree to let a group go, since there are 85 miles left, they aren’t staying away?” But none were allowed to go and we all were forced to put in efforts and burn little matches. Josh was animating the front of the race, flying the colors and trying to get into breaks.
There were no decisive hills, only rollers and long grinding hills little more than false flats. The pack stayed together over everything for the first 40 miles. The attacks stopped after about mile 30 when everyone realized that they would be chased down.
The first feed zone between 40 and 50 miles. It was located on a flattish stretch of road with a wide shoulder. The peloton exploded into chaos at the sight of the oasis. I was near the front and I was swarmed by riders jostling for their food. I ended up having to sprint out into the front so that I could get our bag. Sarah, the day after her car accident, was dutifully holding our feed near the end of the feed zone. I almost stacked it trying to get the strap of the mussette over my head.
After the feed is a long desolate highway with wide shoulders and some flora. I had publically spoken to the race leader on the start line about having him agree to call a nature break somewhere in the middle of the race. I had mentioned this to the race official and she said nothing. Well wooded, no houses, desolate, this seemed like a good spot to answer the call of nature. I went to the front of the field and began building support for a nature break, kibitzing with the race leader. It took us about ½ a kilo to slow down as everyone was nervous that a group of people would ride away and take a few minutes out of us as we relieved ourselves. Finally we all stopped and pulled out our junk. Unfortunately, the cars that had been backed up behind us were allowed to pass. So our nature break was more public than had originally been planned. The peloton was good about waiting for everyone to get done before rolling.
The pace stayed low. An Adler rider attacked decisively on a multi kilo false flat. Within a few minutes, he was out of sight. While I was confident that he wasn’t going hold us off for 45 miles, I also was uncomfortable with how slowly we were going up the “climb.” Since we had the biggest team, I got on the front and rode tempo in order to keep the break on a reasonable leash. No one else seemed willing to work, so I stayed up front all the way up the false flat, allowing others to pull, but doing more than my share of the work (excuse 7).
Jackson asked me for a bottle. I had two left and knew that I needed them to finish the race. Since Jackson was in line for a big result, I handed it over without question (excuse 8).
After rolling through the staging at mile 50ish the pace picked up. I found myself chasing after feeling dead on a short climb. I thought that my race was over. But Cort Cramer came by me and I hopped on his wheel, digging fairly deep to hold on. By the time we were within 100 meters, I had recovered enough to pull us the rest of the way. I rode straight to the front, knowing that I was going to struggle again.
Sure enough, I was dropped again on the next short climb. Again, Cort came up from behind we had a hair raising chase through the follow vehicles, weaving in and out, catching drafts where possible.
A light rain fell, coating the pavement. Steam and fog clung to the road obscuring the longitudinal cracks and huge pot holes.
My race ended on a sketchy descent. I started near the front but lacked the balls to rail into corners on the rough pavement. I couldn’t see the ground and I was freaked out. On the previous time through here, my PowerTap computer flew off and shattered.
Literally, I watched the peloton ride away from me on a descent. I worked with Cort and others to chase back on, but gave up around mile 75.
The peloton dangled out in front for a few miles and I got closer. Along the way, it grew hot and I ran out of water. I started cramping and had to give up. The last 10 miles of the race was the most painful experience that I have had on a bicycle. I was dehydrated and alone. I rode in alone and broken.
David Chui came up behind me with 1 or 2 miles to go. We rode in together. At the finish our respective teammates started cheering for a sprint. Neither of us accelerated, but we did throw our bikes at the line.
Meanwhile the rest of the peloton stayed together since there were no decisive sections to launch a break or create a split.
Jackson won the sprint. Well actually, A Harvard rider won the sprint after attacking over the yellow line multiple times. The official had personally warned him. Despite that, he attacked over the yellow line again. Despite his protests, Harvard was DQ’ed out of first. Hopefully, dude learns his lesson, since he is a noted yellow line violator. Either way, Jackson gets a well earned stage win.
While I sat on the grass shaking, our official came over and asked the group of cat 3’s “who called the nature break?” I didn’t hesitate to accept responsibility and the tongue lashing that followed. The official told me that I could have found a more appropriate spot for the stop. I pointed out that I didn’t know the course and that she had a chance to tell us where to stop while we were planning the stop on the start line. Strangely, as the official and I were discussing the issue, more than one rider came by to thank me for calling it. I sheepishly accepted the thanks while simultaneously accepting the official’s criticism, all the while, I had only been off the bike for 5 minutes after killing myself jut to ride in. Surreal.
This was a good race. The only thing that could have improved the race would be time bonuses for stage placings. This would animate the circuit race and make people more willing to take risks in the road race. As it stood without the time bonuses, the GC was decided largely by the TT. All the race leader needed to do to win after the TT was sit on for the other two stages and have his team prevent a break from putting multiple minutes into him. As for the sprints, he just needed to maintain contact with the main group so that he would be given the same time.
While we weren’t able to move Jackson up too much on the GC, we did a great job of working the stage wins. If we could do it over, I would suggest that we could have sacrificed another rider in the circuit race in order to take the stage.