Took me longer to get to this post than I intended - better late than never!
So stage 3 of the Fitchburg Longsjo Stage Race was the 64 mile Wachusett Mountain Road Race. 6 laps of an 11 mile loop with the start at a ski hill in the middle of a rip roaring descent and the finish at the top of a solid little climb (maybe 500meters and fairly steep) into the small town of Princeton.
With three fields on the course at the same time and a relatively short lap this race has the potential of being messy due to riders being lapped by another field. This happened last year and we were neutralized on our 5th lap just as things were starting to hit the fan and the pro men passed. It was annoying and I forewarned the girls that it would probably happen again this year. We were also thinking the yellow line rule on narrow, twisty roads with a 110 rider field would also make things interesting. 7 KENDA riders today – with Krystal needing to head home due to a family issue.
Off we go. At about mile five a couple of girls in front of me run into each other on the edge of the road and I’m off into the brush. I have to come to a stop and nearly fall over but just unclip and sort of jump off the bike. Quickly back on and am in the caravan but luckily am back into the pack after a minute or two. A few steady rollers before town and the pack is riding well but not too aggressively yet. The first time up the climb into Princeton I’m feeling pretty bad. My position is not the greatest and I decide I’m not going for sprint points this lap. The pace is pushed and I’m still “warming up”. The worst is the slight uphill through the finish line and into the feed zone – a steady grade that seems to go on for too long. A few more rollers and then we go down . . . fast. And did I mention how windy it was? Coming down this hill going 52mph with gusty cross winds is a nerve wracking experience.
I’m riding my deep dish Edge wheels (I love these!) and my front end is shimmying. I’m freaking out a bit and try to slow down and stop my wheel and handlebars from shaking. I get down alright and make a mental note to try to put more weight on my front wheel in the future laps.
The laps go by quickly. Attacks are thrown down and breaks are forming. Most are short lived. Joelle pulls one back by herself – impressive. I try to move up for the sprint points but everyone else feels too fast and I can’t get up there for the top 3. On lap four a split is made in the field and there are maybe 50 riders in the front group – Joelle, Denise, and I in it. Another 5-10 riders, including Silke, catch on after the descent. The pace is high and soon after we start our 5th lap we hear the beeping of the motos. We are being neutralized due to the passing pro mens field . . . hmmm, déjà vu? They force us to pull over and stop for nearly a minute. And you can probably guess what happens – a group of about 30 riders catches us and when we restart the field is nearly all intact. They need to figure this situation out in this race – either pick a new longer course or learn how to neutralize two groups of riders equally. Frustrating.
Once restarted we have 1.5 laps left and girls are itching to get a break off. And I admit I didn’t even realize riders got off – 4 of them. Guess that’s what happens when you’re not up at the front enough on a narrow course. I’m pretty sure they went after the neutralization but honestly I’m not sure. With about 15 miles left in the race Denise attacks on the rollers before Princeton and it looks promising. A group of about 7 forms but no one is willing to work. We’re back together and as we come into Princeton the pack isn’t going too hard and I decide to go for the sprint points. I attack on the climb and get a gap. I turn the corner at the top of the hill and get out of the saddle for the line when I hear the announcer say there’s a break of 4 riders off. Whoops! I felt like a total idiot – no wonder why no one else went with me. But as I approach the feed zone I see a group of about 10 riders coming up on me – including yellow jersey Evelyn Stevens, Allison Powers, Jeannie Longo, and my teammate Joelle. I latch on to the group and off we go. I see the rest of the field back there and think that this is a good group and perhaps we can hold off the field for the final 11 miles. We’re a bit disorganized at first with Evelyn, Jeannie, and Alison doing the majority of the work. After the descent we begin to work together but the field is hot on our heels and we are caught with about 6 miles to go. The break is still off. The pace is fast and I’m tucked into the group. I try to move up for the climb but it’s tough. I don’t even realize that three of the 4 riders from the break are pulled back in the last 1K. I fight for the line knowing that gaps will open and that the time is extremely important. I end up 21st, and Joelle ends up 3rd! I am 17 seconds behind her and most of the riders finish alone or in small groups with lots of time gaps. Joelle is so amazingly strong and fights so well for position. And she's incredibly funny to be around - check her out prerace shouting at riders from the car.
Denise finished 25th in my small group, Silke is 2 minutes back, Jackie at 5 minutes, and Becca at 8. Results There were enough time gaps for most of our GC spots to move up – Denise and I both sneak into money spots at 17th and 20th, respectively. Velonews report
We congratulate Joelle and watch the
podium ceremony and then we ride our bikes back to the start and then head to Outback for dinner. Mmmm – burger and sweet potato fries :) Thanks Paul for being in the feed zone for us today! It’s really nice to have him here supporting us. For just one guy he does a phenomenal job of getting our bikes ready, packing up the car, and keeping us organized.
A few hours after dinner a few of us decided to check out a local ice cream place. Definitely a good idea!
So Sunday brought the final stage of the race a 25 mile criterium in downtown Fitchburg. Another windy day and with a long 300 meter sprint into the wind. There will be 7 sprints throughout the race and although I’m now down in the competition I still figure I might try for a couple. It’s 5 points between leader Kelly Benjamin and Theresa Cliff-Ryan. Three laps in the first one is called and I’m in a good spot. Both Kelly and Theresa are also up there and after we turn the final corner I decide that I’m going for it even though I know I’ll never hold anybody off for that long. I go and about 50 meters to the line both Theresa and Kelly come around me with Theresa taking the top spot. I come across for third and some token points. The race is mostly fast with lots of attacks but it also has it’s lulls when things bunch up.
Luckily everyone is riding pretty safely. As the other points sprints come I find myself a little too far back and I don’t end up going for any more. The laps tick by and as we come to the finish we’re one big group. I try to get good position but I chicken out a bit and end up finishing 26th. Joelle once again proves herself with 9th place.
Velonews crit report
After the race it’s sort of chaotic as we all pack up and try to get people on the road back home. Jackie and I hop on the train to Boston where we’ll stay at a hotel for the night and fly out Monday morning. Once we got there we walked to Revere Beach and got some overpriced food for dinner and watched the moon rise over the Atlantic. My flight the next day was uneventful and I made it into Madison late afternoon. It was so nice to see Dave and Cider and know that I’ll be home for awhile now! What a month! I’m very happy to say that I survived the 19 days of racing and all in all everything went better than I expected. Two great NRC stage races and an awesome 10 day series – it’s the most racing I’ve ever done in a month and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Great teammates and support crew, excellent events and competitors, and the opportunity to get to know lots of wonderful people.
Now I’m looking forward to a few quiet weeks although I still plan on doing some races. I’ll enter a few Superweek races next week, the Chicago Criterium at the end of July, and Elk Grove in early August. All in all about a dozen road races left, one mountain bike race (haven’t done one of those in 3 years!), and then the cyclocross season looms!! I love cross and can’t wait to be racing for Planet Bike come September!