Report submitted by Jeff Fisher
What can you say about racing in 39 degree pouring rain/snow mix? Brutal.
I actually didn’t think I was going to be racing. Through a never ending series of mishaps, John Grenier and I managed to get to the start line just after the 45+ group left the start line. Before we had even gone half a mile I hit a huge hole and lost one of my water bottles. I didn’t realize it until we had gone a couple miles through the neutral start. I was planning on quitting right there since I didn’t think I could ride 65 miles on one bottle. John talked me into continuing, so against my better judgement I continued to race.
We hit the first climb of the day and I thought I was going to get dropped. Ron came up and said we were at least going to warm up and Stuart was right near the front where he needed to be. For the next few miles I kept wondering if I made the right decision to keep going. It seemed like every mile there were riders heading back the other way having called it quits.
About 50 minutes in to the race I had just about had enough. My legs, knees, hands were so cold they were in real pain. Somehow the zipper on my jersey came apart at the bottom and started to unzip. I told John I was 90% sure I was going to head back. Ron came by and said some encouragement so once again I stayed in the race. By now I was trying to calculate what was going to be worse, staying with the pack or turning back and riding another hour back by myself.
We went down a long descent and that was it. I thought I couldn’t take any more. My jersey was know nearly open all the way and the cold air on my chest was cutting through me like a knife. The only problem was it was too difficult to stop on this descent. By the time we got to the bottom I didn’t feel like turning around and climbing back up so I stayed in. Meanwhile, Ron was up at the front trying to bring us back to the lone rider off the front. I was glad to see Ron and Stuart came to race. For me it was now simply survive to the finish.
We started up the longest climb if the day, I think, and by the time we got to the top I was at least warmer and my legs were feeling a little better. By now it was about 1:15 into the race so I figured I’d better just stay in for the duration. We still hadn’t caught the lone guy off the front, but I was worried, who could stay off the front for 60 miles?
At about the 30 mile mark I was in bad shape. I felt like I was getting hypothermic. I was shivering so hard that my neck and back were locking up. I couldn’t feel my hands so I could barely get my bottle out of the cage to drink. Since my fingers weren’t working I could barely shift. The was the darkest moment I’ve ever had while racing. Luckily we started up a series of climbs and it seemed like after each one I warmed up just a little bit more. I was still having problems shifting, but at least I wasn’t shivering so much.
Stuart was pushing the pace on a number of the climbs with Ron not too far behind. A couple of times it looked like the group was going to come apart, but the elastic just wouldn’t snap. After all this action I finally started to come back to life. For the first time I actually felt like racing. I noticed the Keltic guys were really trying to get someone off the front. I think I covered or was involved in at least 10 attacks over the next 10 miles. The harder I raced the better I felt.
Finally I saw what looked like the break forming that would stay away. I managed to bridge up to to others, a CCB rider and a Keltic rider. I figured we had a good chance and hopefully they were shutting down the pack. We kept the pace as high as we could for the next eight miles. With about five miles to go I was starting to pay the price for the earlier aggression and only having one water bottle. I knew I had to hang on since Ron and Stuart would be pissed if they saw me coming back to the group. With 5K to go I was mentally preparing myself for the finishing climb. The pace was high, but we were all tired so it wasn’t brutal. The sprint opened up with about 150 meters to go. I thought I had third, but got nipped at the line. I was happy with 4th, that’s for sure.
Stuart came in 10, but I wasn’t able to find out how the final battle up to the finish went for what was left of the group. Just finishing today would have been a reward; two OA in the top 10, not too shabby.