BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP ….. 3:00am and we in bike racing awake to one of life’s hard decisions. Darkness, rain pelting on the windows, 52 degrees for a high, 5 hours in the car and slick descents with 50 other guys on the bike, or roll over to a warm wife, warm pancakes .. no wait .. hot wife, hot pancakes, hot coffee, Portland Press Herald and Pink Floyd in the background. Hummmm … let me think about that. Of course the decision is easy. We OA/CM-ers hop out of bed in full kit (you all sleep in your uniform, right?) and scurry to the Exit 46 Park & Ride – Eric Weinrich, Eric Larsson, Jeff Fisher, John Grenier and me – all ready to go. Down the turnpike we speed (sorry, Brian) toward Sutton, MA as we gaily munch on Pop Tarts, PB & Js and bananas, all of which is slurped down with UCAN lemon protein mix. Yes, we employ the mass positive energy vibe trick to dissipate the gloomy weather. Eric L. assures that the weather maps have things moving in our favor.
Sutton, gray skies, 52 degrees, windy, drizzle – clearly something isn’t working. Fisher and Grenier start to shake as flashbacks to Quabbin take over. Poor guys. Sign in, hit the powder room, pin the numbers on, work some icy-hot & Vaseline into the legs, arm warmers, vest under the short sleeve shirt, one last plaintive look towards the sky, line up – we are ready to go. Normally the hot wife and hot pancakes would win out on a day like this, but the Purgatory road race course is truly the most fun course we ride all year. It’s a 5 x 11 mile circuit with a number of outstanding features – crit like high speed corners when you exit one road and enter another, an exhilarating one mile full road closure high speed twisting descent through the Purgatory State Forest, and a finishing stretch that has a 1K climb with two 10% pitches followed by a 500 meter big ring dash to the finish line. The course probably favors climbers, but if a sprinter makes it over the last pitch, watch out. One other thing to note, this year there was a strong right to left side wind across the finishing 500 meters – trouble for the unwary.
The first lap was contested in a persistent drizzle but that didn’t prevent the descent through the forest from being fast. As has been stated before, the 45+ riders can all handle their bikes, which partially can be attributed to the fact that they all have to work on Monday. Well, most all. Across the flats we go with a bunch of fun sections thrown in, up a big ring hill that precedes the real deal, and then a hard right turn onto the hill. The first time up the hill brings out excited legs and up, up we go. From a climbers perspective, hills are enjoyable as they offer an opportunity to turn the screws and have fun at others’ expense. In a short race and short climb like this every opportunity should be maximized to tire the opposition. That kind of assures that no sprinters will be left at the end to ruin a potentially good day. Of the 48 starters, only 23 were left after the first lap. High speed on the hill followed by a quick pace across the windy top flat split the field and keep the chase from latching back on.
Three more times up the hill and we managed to lose but 3 more guys. Nineteen of us were left to duke out the last lap – Eric W., Jeff and me included. A number of teams had multiple representation left with one of them being Arc-En-Ciel. These guys still had Randy Rusk (great time trialer), Todd Buckley (multiple time national age group TT champion) and David Kellogg (good climber with a quick finish). Their strategy was to send the time trailers out until one could stick a break and then have David sit in to rest for the hill. The multiple hills and the multiple attacks, as is many times the case, wore down the field and Randy Rusk was able to make a solo flier successfully stick with about 7 miles to go. In the field 18 of us sat – thinking. Should we marshal a team chase? No, that will weaken us and advantage everyone else. So we sat. Can we catch him on the hill since he’s not that great a climber? Maybe. Let me sit in the pack and think more about that. Do I have the legs to bridge over and go for the win? Not me. Not me. Not me, said 16 of us. I can said a 545 rider and he tried to speed across. Will it work? We all sat and watched as he stalled out. All of us that is except Eric. Yep. Our Eric. Off he went – right by the stalled out 545 guy and quickly up to the back of Randy’s wheel. That was a stud move and now Jeff and I could sit in with good conscience and wait for the hill.
Eric and Randy hit the hill with a 400 meter head start. That’s safe – Eric will stay away. We now charged up the hill trying one last time to reduce the field to as small a number as possible. Eric dropped Randy and was powering to the finish line. Randy was dangling. Faster we went especially up the last few meters of the 10% climb, and then full bore across the raging side wind. Six of us made it over together. Tips to tail we went fanned to the left as we sought relief from the wind. Even though the organizers said we had full road up the hill to the finish, they placed divider cones across half the road 200 meters from the line blocking the left lane. Say what?? Of course guys drilled it 2” from the cones so as to knock anyone off their wheel and disrupt drafting advantage. It worked as it was tough to skirt the cones, get back into the draft and come around the guy in front. So, you know how it finished – Eric won (love you, man!), Jeff 4th and me 7th. Oh, and the drizzle stopped after one lap and the roads were fully dry for laps four and five. Collective positive thinking does work.
Results will be posted soon on www.Bikereg.com but the top eight in the 45+ field was:
1st: Eric Weinrich
2nd: Randy Rusk (+11 seconds)
3rd: John Funk (+11)
4th: Jeff Fisher (+11)
5th: Dave Kellogg (+11)
6th: 545 guy (+11)
7th: Hank Pfeifle (+11)
8th: Thomas Francis (+11)
There was a 10 second gap to 9th. A good day in the saddle.