Submitted by Hank Pfeifle
Here is a race report on the 45+ Norwell Circuit Race in Norwell, MA. Ron Bourgoin, Jeff Fisher, Graydon Stevens and I made the trip to race 10 laps around a closed course 2.3 mile loop. The loop was well protected, good road surface, clockwise circular that featured a 90 degree right hand corner onto a 200 meter big ring hill (finish at the top) with cascading descent from there and then flat to the hill again. Up, down, flat – up down, flat – 10 times.
About 50 guys showed up to race and it was a very competitive field. Historically, the race has been won by a break-away group. Because of the right hand turn onto the immediate hill, it is imperative to be at the front to make the dash for a break on the hill or to win it at the end. We start from the Norwell town hall and ride neutral for a few corners until we get on the course. With the green light the pace immediately accelerates and everyone drives for the front as it appears all are concerned about getting dropped the first time up the hill. Most people have not previewed the course (OA/CM’ers included). The non-severity of the hill disappoints many as it is just not that big and there are too many participants who are good and can handle it no sweat. But we have to go up it 10 times and efforts do add up and there are different ways of engineering a break, so teams try all kinds of ways to shake things up. This keeps things spirited and the tempo high (about a 26 mph average).
As stated earlier it is imperative to be at the front in order to make a clean assault of the hill. With 10 laps of practice, one has enough shots at the corner & hill to figure out how to handle it. Stay at the front and hold position is one way to assure a good run at the hill. It was also noticed that the group would ride to the left of the road (to have a good angle at the corner), and this kept the right side of the road open for moving up – easy to do. The race all comes down to the last lap as all escape attempts were foiled. The repeated efforts up the hill (hard every time) did little to reduce the field of 50 (maybe 5 guys got dropped). And everyone who was left felt they could win – confident & tough bunch these 45+ guys.
In the last lap our OA/CM team demonstrated two ways to finish a bunch finish circuit race – good and bad. I’ll get the bad part out of the way first. In a circuit race you have to be comfortable riding close quarters in the bunch. Bomb down the hills, keep your spot. Jam through the corners, keep your spot. If you don’t like doing that, you need to be strong in order to make up ground. Humm … I don’t like the jamming part but I am strong and I can make up ground. However, I soon learned that while passing on the right on the flats during laps 2 thru 9 was easy, it becomes a whole different matter on the money lap. My plan was to move hard up the right side and attack from behind and get to first about 200 meters from the corner as I had done on a number of earlier laps to have a clean shot at the hill. Graydon was on my wheel. Unfortunately, movement up the right was not clean in lap 10 as everyone jammed the road trying to move up. No longer were racers content to ride in line and wait for the hill. Now if a lane opened up, it was soon filled with eager riders gunning to the front. Hectic and frustrating – but predictable. A clean line to the corner was not there and hitting it from the far right just invited people to cut you off in the corner stalling your momentum up the hill. Meanwhile, the winners jump away. Yes, winners like Jeff Fisher (5th) and Ron Bourgoin (6th) who doggedly held their spots on the last lap, took a clean line into the last corner and were in the hunt till the last pedal stroke.
Going into the race I knew I had shortcoming with handling bunched circuit races. That’s one of the reasons I entered – to get practice and hopefully become more comfortable with the bunch finish situation. It was frustrating to have the legs and not finish the race off as hoped. But it also reinforced the knowledge that you HAVE to be able to ride at the front and hold your spot in competitive fields. That gives you a 100% chance at a shot at the win. Doing the sneak attack can work, but its chance at success is probably 20%. My advise – sharpen your elbow and learn to hold your spot. It is a handy skill that will produce good results time after time.
Additional Words from Jeff Fischer:
What was cool about this race was that they gave us the whole road. It was funny because it took maybe two laps before everyone actually decided to use the whole road. As to Hank’s point, there were a lot of attacks. I was in a three up break, but it only lasted one lap. Ron was out by himself for a while and got reeled in. Hank was driving the pace up the hill, but it wasn’t hard enough to snap the rubber band.
Coming into the las lap, Hank did a great job of chasing down two escapees. It was Hank, Ron, and me at the very front looking like a real team. I knew at that point, it was stay at the front no matter what. Graydon was at the front as we passed the start finish for the last time and I asked if he could get me to the corner first on the last lap. Graydon had the legs, but he figured he wouldn’t be able to mix up at the end and would be out contention. Ok, time for plan “B”
This is where riding crits really helps. (hint, hint). About half way through the last lap I got a little out of position, maybe 15 guys back and I knew I needed to be up there closer. There was a fast dog leg right into the final marginally uphill section before the sharp right turn dash for the line. We were going pretty fast but I made a great inside move, passed all but two guys and pushed Curly off of Tobi Schultze’s wheel. I knew Tobi was going to try and lead John Grenier out so I figured that was the wheel to be on. Tobi couldn’t find John so he pulled out which left me behind a lone CCB guy. To his credit he kept the pace high. I wanted to yell at him to go faster but that would be bad form. 🙂 About 50 meters from the corner Johnny Bold jumped clear and I went next. He had about 15 meters over me and I don’t know what I had on anyone else. No looking back now. I made up 10 meters on the first 75 of the climb, but that’s where I stalled out. With about 75 meters to go I saw Curly and Kressy come by. Then Tobi came by at about the 50 meter mark. It was happening in slow motion and I was just hoping I had the juice to not lose any more spots.
Ughh, I just don’t quite have that last little bit to finish off the sprints. Still, it was a pretty good showing by us Mainers.