I have been in the Seattle/Tacoma airport since noon (local time) and it is now nearly 3:30. My flight leaves at 5:55. Oops. Funny how I got on a 6:05am flight out of Albany for this...have to plan the itinerary a little more carefully next time.
In any event, having explored the nether regions of the terminal to a fare-thee-well, and finally located a quiet corner with an outlet where my computer actually believes in the Wifi signal, this seems like as good a time as any to relive some recent moderate successes by way of a race report or two.
Sterling, MA Day 1, 11/28:
(Yes, I have arrived. That's me in the click-through photo for the gallery)
I always feel good and ride well on this course. And no I don't think I just jinxed myself. For some combination of reasons having to do with the holiday weekend (more sleep!) and the fact that true 'cross season is now in full effect and road fitness has faded, I always feel pretty fresh and motivated for this race, and my results over the years have been consistently solid. It doesn't hurt that Tom Stevens designs this race and as far as I am concerned he is absolutely the man. His courses are fast and flowy: you pedal a lot, generally on flat ground, but you also turn a lot, and at speed, meaning that good bike handling and smooth riding will save you energy. My kind of course, for sure. Though I was sad to be missing whatever was in store for day 2 of the race this year, I was psyched to be able to spend my one racing day this weekend on the classic Sterling course I have come to know and love, featuring the nearly-rideable run-up and the infamous horse jump.
So the race started well for me and I went through the first turn in 5th wheel or so, right behind Jeremy Powers. Somewhere on the run-up I bobbled and got passed by the horde, then passed some guys back (including a super-sketchy inside pass underneath Peter Bradshaw, sorry Pete!) and settled into 11th, with Adam Myerson, Jerome Townsend and Luke Keough right in front of me. Somewhere along here Luke had a mechanical, dropped back, passed me after he got a bike change, and then once he caught Myerson and Jerome again they all sort of stalled and nobody seemed to want to pull into the headwind on the track...except me, so I did, and I caught them.
I tried tailgunning the group a bit to recover, but inconsistent and somewhat negative riding between Luke and Jerome, vying for the u23 win, meant there were a lot of gaps to close at the back, so I started to pull instead. I was really happy to be in this group because these guys have been riding better than me all year, and we were 7th-11th on the course, which meant for one thing I was having a good ride, and for another UCI points were a more realistic possibility then they have yet this season.
Anyway, hijinx ensued, and Luke and Jerome continued to make work for Adam and I by attacking a lot. Eventually Luke paid for some of his efforts and fell off the pace, and/or quit racing for awhile, but in any event he left our group. Somewhere in here we picked up Mike Broderick who had been alone in 7th for much of the race, but our surges had reeled him in. A solo flying Justin Spinelli was just ahead and I was hoping that with cooperation in our group 6th place was still up or grabs, but it wasn't to be. Feeling optimistic, I attacked hard after the barriers on the last lap but was shut down and passed immediately by all three of my companions. Broderick basically started the sprint by surging well before the last corner, but Jerome gapped us, followed by Myerson, and I got around Broderick, and that was how we finished 7th-10th, respectively. My first UCI points of the season, some reasonable prize money and some seriously restored confidence made for a pleasant drive home, and I was in such a good mood I didn't even mind not racing on Sunday. Especially because I was missing the race to take my daughter, Silas to see the Nutcracker ballet, which was awesome. But that's another story.
Warwick RI Day 2, Verge Series Finale 12/6:
Of course following one of my best rides of the year in Sterling, I got sick. I had a nasty sore throat that turned into a sinus infection and laryngitis, and kept me off the bike Wednesday, which I had planned to be my last hard training day of the season. (And, truth be told, it would have been my first one in many weeks.) I got out on the road for 2 hours Thursday and managed brief spins on Friday and Saturday, but I was still sick and had no idea what to expect from this race. I decided once again to only race one day this weekend, partly due to being sick, but more due to the fact that My Awesome KidTM was playing the part of the Sour Kangaroo in her school's production of Seussical, and there was no way I was going to miss it. I, you see, am not the biggest blame fool in the jungle of Nool.
But sick or not sick, I was in a good mood when I got to Goddard park on Sunday. I love this race venue. It's a nice shady pine forest on a calm little bay, which reaches so far inland that the water is almost totally flat, and it looks almost more like a lake than the ocean. There is always a great community vibe at this race, too, because it's the end of the Verge series, and the end of the season save for nationals. One of my favorite times of the 'cross season is hanging around in the carousel building trying to stay warm after the race, and catching up with, and saying good-bye to, friends from all over. Even for me, this is a hard race to feel at all morose about, except maybe for the fact that it has two sand runs in it. Eeek.
So owing to my newly minted UCI points and the small, late-season field, I was graced with a front row call-up, which is a first for me in a UCI race and was pretty cool. On the start line I noticed that the buckle of one of my shoes was broken and while still fastened, could basically fall off any time. 2 minutes 'til start time, nothing to do about it now. And anyway, that wasn't as bad as the fact that at 5 minutes to start time I had crashed on my way to the start when I overcooked a slippery corner and had broken the rear shifter on my ti bike into two pieces. Really. So, broken shoe and once again no pit bike. Let 'er rip and hope the bike stays in one piece. Honestly, I have no more angst to spend on bike racing this year, so I put it out of my mind and focused on the racing.
Good start, 5th wheel, sand run #1, staying in line, pass Lindine over the barriers, and hang on we're halfway through the lap and I'm still in 5th position! Immediately I began to remind myself not to do anything stupid. The cold air was wrecking my throat but interestingly enough I had good legs, so I went with it. And, finally, there I was having the race I feel like I have had in me all year but haven't been able to get out. Rested enough? Relaxed enough? Who knows, but based on my road season and overall fitness, I really felt like I should belong up front in the local/regional C2's this year, and it's nice to finally be racing at least somewhat near my potential. Really that's all I want is to know that I'm getting everything out of my body that it has to give, whatever that may be...but it's so bloody hard to get there. Anyway.
The course was an absolute blast of slippery tacky corners, one groovy mud puddle, 2 sand runs, one of which approaches the UCI 80-meter limit--or feels like it--and some really cool woodsy sections, capped off by a long pavement stretch and a series of parking lot criterium style turns. I love this course! I managed to stay in the front group for 2 laps, which felt like a lot, and to stay within hailing distance for a 3rd. Knowing my limits and not totally trusting my lungs, I listened to the pain when it told me not to try to stay with Will Dugan as he gave chase, and now I don't know, but I think I made the right call. Eventually Dylan McNicholas popped off the front group some time on the 4th lap or so, and we settled in together in 7th and 8th spots and kept racing, consistently putting time into the guys behind us but not making anything up on Will, who would eventually catch and drop Luke Keough and finish alone in 5th place.
Dylan and I seemed evenly matched, and worked pretty hard, though I felt like I was doing more pulling. I made a couple of attacks in the last lap and a half but he didn't seem to have any trouble shutting me down. I noticed he wasn't attacking, though, and having lost the sprint out of the last corner on this course twice before, I knew that my plan had to be to lead into the last wooded section from 3 corners out. That's what I did, and it worked. I came through the last turn pretty hot and tight on the inside line to avoid getting schooled again like Jerome did to me last year, and then I sprinted like I meant it, which wound up being pretty convincing. 7th place was good for 6 UCI points and 104 bucks, and put me in another good mood for another drive home. All of a sudden I am really looking forward to nationals! Go freakin' figure.
And as a by-the-by: Dan Timmerman won both days at Warwick, thus sealing up his truly dominant win of the overall Verge series title this season. My steadfast teammate and anti-Internet hermit friend, Justin Lindine, proved that his Belgium-bound form is coming well with a strong 3rd place on Saturday and a 4th Sunday.
Nationals in Bend, OR this weekend, with the Master's 30-34 race on Saturday and the Elite race on Sunday. In some respects I wish I had another month to keep racing and building this form I seem to have going right now. But as always, I feel the year going to sleep and I am looking forward to family time, snow activities, reading lots, and staying up too late, and generally not having to pack the car and stress about being places on time on weekend mornings.
Stay tuned for updates, and thanks for reading.
6 hours ago