After a false start last weekend, the 2009 racing season started with a bang. What a difference a week makes. We went from a race cancellation due to weather and a record 14" of snow in coastal Connecticut the following day, to two weekend days of sunny, almost balmy, weather.
Of course, Friday night included the now-anticipated mix of anxiety and excitement. But I tried to remember the good things I'd read earlier in the week, and maintained my motivation. I'd need it since I decided at the last minute to race not just Sunday, but Saturday as well. It was asking a lot of my training to go from no racing at all to back-to-back races, but it was certainly worth it.
Only problem is, I'm dead tired today. It's a "rest day," thankfully, so no riding. But all the great stuff that I had in mind to say about the races just doesn't seem to be gelling. So, I'll just give you a shorter version and let the pics - and video (first finish line video of the season!) - fill in the blanks.
Actually, considering how wordy I usually am, this may be a blessing in disguise. . .
My first race of the season/weekend, was at my old haunt. It was great to see all my old friends, some on different teams, some that didn't recognize me in my new kit, and some new folks - old acquaintences that are new to racing this season.
I hadn't planned on racing Plainville at all this year since I'm planning on doing Bethel instead and need at least ONE weekend day to do the "stuff of life" - house projects, errands, etc. The Bethel crit is on Sundays and the Mrs. and I are in the area anyway for church. And Saturdays - when the Plainville crits happen - are better suited for the other stuff anyway. But it WAS the first race of the year and my new team was going to be out there in force, so I figured it'd be a good way to meet the team and get my first race out of the way.
Here's how it went down . . .
Actually, that's not a great choice of words since while we were warming up we heard that an ambulance had been called for the race right before ours. Pretty bad crash. Broken collarbone. Having had that happen to me last year, I can only hope that the recovery is quick and - having gotten it out of the way so soon in the season - there's still lots of racing to be had.
So with THAT little tidbit nagging me, we lined up and were off. Perhaps due to the pent-up-race itch, the field was a record for Plainville - 62 racers joined us on the line. My usual plan is to stay as sheltered as possible and hope for a field sprint at the end. I've done pretty well with this strategy, but I'm glad my team had other things in mind. I had a BLAST thanks to teammates David, Esteban, Stan and Marty.
I attacked about a 1/3 of the way into the race & led for about a lap before I blew up. I've never tried to do that before, but it netted me the super cool pic you see at the top of this post. Yeah, that's me leading through corner #1, courtesy Steve Yau. You can see more of the day's race pics by following the link on teammate David's blog. And to the guy from new team Williams Cycling who asked: The wheels corner just fine thank you!
Not only was the field one of - if not the - largest ever there, but this race was also one of the fastest - especially for the first race of the season. Over 26mph avg, flat out almost all of the time. Apparently, everybody was feeling especially frisky with the great weather.
But we kept ourselves together pretty well, especially during the first half of the race, when we were able to lead out Dave for the first prime. That strongman contested BOTH primes, coming in 2nd in the first, and winning the second. Then he went on to outsprint all but two others, coming in 3rd place. VERY cool podium result for the team! There actually *was* a podium, but dunno whether they took podium photos.
And unfortunately, we saw the ambulance again toward the end of our race. There was another crash, and another broken collarbone. Thankfully, I was near the front when it happened - must've happened near the back since I never even heard it. There are SO many good reasons to stay near the front if you can!
Despite all my crazy attacks (ok, "both" of them) I was surprised to recover enough in time for the final sprint, but not nearly enough to contest it. I held on for 7th, just outside of points. Former teammate JoeK took the win (congrats Joe!). All in all, a great day of racing.
Now I'm beginning to rethink my decision not to do Plainville this year...
Mrs. Suitcase was disappointed to have missed the first race of the season - and her chance to display her photo & video talents. But she made up for it the next day at the Bethel crit. Nicest thing about having pics, is that they can do (most of) the talking for me.
Here's the obligatory shot of me at the line - taken mostly because I'm sporting my new kit and new wheels! Legs were tired from the previous day, so I took a little extra time warming up. Unfortunately, that put me at the back right from the start.
Here's our field - seemed about the same size as the Saturday race - maybe a little bigger. The weather forecast had been for scattered showers and low 50s. But it turned out to be close to 60 and partly/mostly sunny. Teammate Esteban, despite still being sick, joined me and we decided together to sit in, try to hang on (this crit tends to be much more competitive/difficult), and not crash. All good goals for so early in the season.
Having had so much fun attacking the previous day, I decided to try it again on the climb. I hit the top totally alone with a big gap on the field - and the Mrs (and her camera) were NOWHERE to be found!! I think I must've yelled something like "Where's my wife with the camera?!" At least it gave the spectators a good laugh (or they were just laughing at my doomed breakaway attempt).
By the time I got down the hill and went through corner #2, a Keltic(?) guy was bridging up to me - and I saw Mrs. Suitcase and Mrs. Hobgoblin. Of course I had to yell again because NO WAY were they expecting to see me out front. The shot above is what resulted from their obvious surprise.
Having got what I hoped was a good shot, I of course sat up and went back to the shelter of the pack. It was WAY too windy to stay out there any longer, and the Keltic(?) guy had brought the rest of the gang...
... which you see here.
With 7 laps to go, there was another (last) prime. I didn't expect to have much left for the final sprint, so I figured I'd take one more chance at glory. I was already near the front and was able to keep up with the increases in pace. The new wheels REALLY showed their stuff then! When we hit the bottom of the hill, I was second wheel and figured I could come around the guy ahead of me. Which I did. What I hadn't figured on was two guys coming around me - fast (and uphill!). So I hit the line 3rd. Unfortunately, Bethel primes only pay the first guy across the line. Natch.
As I went down the hill, I turned around to see Esteban on my wheel. I had NO idea where he came from, and for a second we considered trying to make a go of it. But I was pretty fried, he was still not feeling well, and there were still 6 laps to go. So, back into the field again to recover and hope to have something left at the end.
Here's a shot of the field cresting the hill. It's even more painful than it looks.
Not much left to tell. The pace was pretty fast, averaging over 25mph, even with the hill and all the wind. The wind actually worked in our favor a little, since it caused the pack to slow at about the same spot on the backside almost every lap. Knowing this, I did my best to gain position there, but on the last lap I got boxed in a little. Others had the same idea I did (big surprise).
I found I was much further back than I should have been and spent a lot of energy moving up. When we hit the bottom of the hill, there were still a lot of guys ahead of me, but I was going pretty strong, and feeling surprisingly good. I just couldn't get around a lot of them. Talk about heavy traffic! I actually had to stop pedaling a couple of times.
I crossed the line in what I thought was at least top 20. Unfortunately, since I wanted to avoid the tight gauntlet of the inside corner (and the liklihood of crashing), I went outside - opposite the finishline camera. So neither the camera, nor I, have any idea where I actually ended up. But fortunately, the Mrs. got one of her patented finish line videos. Unfortunately, once I finally found myself, I wasn't quite as far up as I'd thought. But there was one consolation, Esteban and I crossed the line within 1/2 a wheel of each other, so it was a very good finish for us.
Perhaps best of all though, the video shows friend SDC, promoter of the race, coming in 4th despite WEEKS of illness and hours upon hours of race prep and hard work. Good job Aki!
A very good day indeed. I cannot WAIT until next week!
I'll just have to remind myself that I feel this way when Friday night comes . . .