Submitted by Chris Darling
New Gloucester proved to be a true test of bike handling skills with the amount of mud and grass accumulation on the bike. Equipment failure seemed to be standard for the day with close to 25% of the cat 4 field DNF with broken dérailleur and hanger combination. The weight of most bikes was 10-12 pounds heavier than when the race began. Even after a post-race wash there was still 1/2 pound of grass in my drive train.
Anyway, the weather was typical fall condition, a tad on the warm side (55 degrees) but very wet in the field sections. The cat 4 race began up the paved hill into a right hand turn. I had started the day with close to 40 psi in both tires, not thinking the early grass sections would be slippery. This hypothesis proved incorrect as I was first into the turn onto grass and proceeded to crash into the first off-camber hill. Reacting quickly I was able to get back on the bike without losing my position. After a brief exchange of positions with a rider from Colby/Kissena Cycling club, I took the lead again and tried to open a gap.
I was able to put 30 seconds between myself and Chris Syer from Bikeman.com for the next few laps. As I was coming around for another lap I saw that the officials were in the process of changing lap cards and I was unsure where we were in the race. I heard the bell lap over my shoulder and tried to focus on not “fading” on the last lap.
It was really encouraging to hear all the OA riders behind the tape cheering and encouraging their teammates. Paul Weiss was offering some great advice as I was passing by “only critical shifts, only when necessary”. Seeing the amount of bike attrition that day, this was definitely important. I was able to spin the remainder of the last lap with minimal shifting and was able to enjoy the gap I created and coasted home in first place. My first place finish yet this year. After taking two second places at Gloucester and CascoBay races, this was a much enjoyed bonus.
I hope this qualifies for an upgrade so that I can join the ranks of the Masters 35+ field. Thanks again OA folks for coming and watching and cheering for the “early race”.