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”.
On the 30th of June I traveled down to Exeter, NH for the 29th annual Hospital Crit. I had heard a lot about this race and was very excited to test my legs against some of the best names in the east. After watching an OA podium finish in the preceding masters race, I jumped on the road to claim my spot in the start pack for the Pro/1/2/3 race.
The call-ups were quick and before I knew it, I was digging in to the pack on the first corner. The course was a fast and technical crit course featuring three 90 degree turns, one more gradual bend on a fast downhill section, and a little climb through the finish and up through the first corner. With some big primes and strong riders, I had a hard time moving towards the front in the first part of the race. Racing from the back of the pack always seems kind of strange. I could hear what was going on from the announcer, but by the time I would hear about the early attacks, it seemed they would already be back. Luckily, besides a few small crashes, the first half of the race was relatively uneventful.
Eventually I fought my way towards the front where I could finally relax. I stayed up in the first quarter of the pack and maintained good position until about 8 laps to go when I was hit by a rider on what seemed to be the crash corner. Fortunately, neither of us went down, but the rider casually mentioned as he went by that my back wheel looked a little “wobbly.” Frustrated, I drifted back a few wheels to see if I could further asses the situation. After asking around about the condition of my rear wheel (the best answer being “yes, but I didn’t really look. Ask someone else.”), I decided that I would stay in the race.
The race seemed more difficult at this point. I was pretty close to the back of the pack and there were about 5 laps left. I dug as hard as I could and made it about halfway up the peloton. The legs started to hurt with about 3 laps to go as a crash split the field and forced those who missed it to chase back on. This, combined with the high pace and the fight for position caused my legs to really hurt. It felt like someone was holding me back and my power wasn’t translating into speed as it had been. I realized that something with my bike was up, but it was too late to do anything about it. 1 lap to go and I was digging with all I had.
I finished in the pack at 44th place. I looked at my back wheel after the race and the late race pain made sense. My back wheel was pretty badly out of true and I couldn’t make it spin a full revolution by hand due to the fact that the warped rim couldn’t pass by the rear brake. I was happy that I was able to finish in the pack with this problem.
Exeter was an awesome race. The course and crowds were amazing. It was definitely one of the most fun crits I have raced in. A big thank you goes out to the event organizers for a great event. I will certainly be back again next year.