As we headed north to East Hartford for Sunday morning's race, we had the car packed, the top down, the VeloCast playing on the radio, and I thought to myself - "Summer starts this week." After far too many race cancellations due to weather, and an unseasonably cool & rainy spring, it's seemed like EndlessApril. But with two races and the Summer Solstice in the last six days, things finally seem to be turning around.
Last Tuesday the 19th was only the second time I've been able to do the Tuesday Night Crit at the Rent' so far this season and Sunday's race at the Keith Berger Memorial Criterium was my first "actual" race since the Bethel Spring Series way back on April 15. Between the funky weather and house/yard projects, I've been riding less lately than during the height of my work season - about twice a week on average since April. Fortunately, despite this lack of riding, I was able to finish both races. Unfortunately, each race was, for me, pretty unremarkable. I still have some snap, but don't have the legs to back it up.
Tuesday's race was all about getting reacclimated, but it was hard to practice pack racing when things were so often strung out.
I chased down a few attacks and was even in the mix - albeit at the back of the mix - for the field sprint. A break had gotten away with Dave and Todd in it, so we were able to just do our best to cover attacks and hold on.
The break eventually lapped us and Dave (I think?) got the win.
Here's the finishline video - though it's a bit confusing between the lapped riders and the break going through the pack.
So that was Tuesday.
Wednesday night was non-bike related, but lots of fun. The Mrs got together a picnic and we went to our town beach to watch the sunset. But not just ANY sunset - THE sunset. We were able to watch the sun go down at the end of the Longest Day of the Year. Summer - at least according to the calendar - started last Wednesday.
Thursday morning I got another nice taste of summer, literally. Friend Otto is in town from Amsterdam (we actually grew up together in the same hometown, but only met a few years ago) and we were able to get out for a nice ride along the coast, out to Blackpoint and Niantic. What for? Well, not only for the ride itself and the company, but to try out a little breakfast place by the beach.
I'm finding that I'm enjoying rides that include a bacon, egg & cheese sandwich at least as much as racing. I wonder if it's not only lack of miles that explains my lack of fitness lately...
I had planned on getting some major miles on Friday, doing the Friday Morning Throwdown and then riding on into Hartford, but it didn't quite work out that way. Good thing friend SteveB said he'd meet me in my driveway at 5:50am, otherwise I might have just rolled over when the alarm went off. As it was, though I did do the FMTD, I bailed on riding into work. Interestingly though, I got to work about 15 minutes after I would have by riding my bike. Note for future reference.
Saturday dawned with rain, so I bailed on the bike again opting to help my friend Randy with a home improvement project. By the time I finished and got home (of course by then it was beautiful out %^), I had just enough time to get the grass cut before family arrived for dinner. I chalked it up as a "rest day" - as if I really needed one.
So when I woke up Sunday, with the sun shining and a race looming, I have to admit I wasn't really looking all that forward to it. The race I mean. I may someday do a post on "Racing Ennui" especially because it's been such a hallmark of this year's season. But the routine is - thankfully - becoming pretty apparent: not be in mood to race, go to race to at least to see friends, kit up and race, feel great at the end (even if only for having done a workout). Sunday fit this mould, but with a few differences.
First off, it was finally warm enough to debut "MY" t-shirt - a Christmas present from Mrs. Suitcase (courtesy StomachOfAnger.com).
Secondly, the Keith Berger Crit is an exceptionally well-run, and well-attended race - a staple of the Connecticut racing scene and a fitting summer opener. This year it also hosted the state crit championships and even though I had absolutely no aspirations or expectations for that, it added a lot of extra buzz to the race.
Thirdly, and of course, it was nice to see friends that I don't see all that much except during the summer. Not only my great teammates (who I'll see throughout the year), and former CVC teammates (CVC hosts the race), but R&R, Esteban, AnthonyE, and even the officials (who do the Bethel Series too).
Yes, once I get going, no matter how much I'm not-all-that-looking-forward-to-racing, my mood changes.
So, the race. As I said, it's one of the "must dos" of the season and just about every crit racer from southern New England is there. Last year, the P123 race sold out. I don't know the numbers yet for this year, but they looked very good.
Of course, the spectacular weather helped and just about 60 of us lined up at the start.
Teammates Joe & SDC
The race itself played out about as I expected, though I found that I was ATB more. Yes, At. The. Back. I just didn't want to use up any precious energy moving up, opting to sit in as much as possible. It didn't help that going through corner 2 the first couple of laps, my rear wheel kept slipping out. I eventually realized that it was the melted tar patch that was so slick, but the thought that my tires were losing air nagged me the entire race. I treated the corners gingerly - and paid with lost position and having to sprint to catch back on each time.
This, along with my lack-of-miles, fed my low race expectations.
But when you're on a team and have teammates in the race, no matter how you feel or how little a chance for personal glory you have, you can always do SOMEthing to contribute. My contribution came a little past the half-way point after a break had gotten up the road - and none of our guys were in it.
It was time to chase.
Fortunately, the Mrs. caught me starting up the left side through the start/finish, committed to getting to the front and driving the pace. Once I got to the front, the pain - though still demanding my attention - didn't seem so bad. I could choose my own line through the corners, and took all the road I needed.
Bonus on the backstretch - teammate BJ yelled "I'm right behind you Chris." Fortunately, I recognized his voice and, knowing that getting BJ into a break was Plan A for the day, I put my head down and tried to get him as close as I could.
Through corner 3, through corner 4 - I was still on the front going through the start/finish. But after corner 1, I was cooked, having gone full gas for almost a lap-and-a-half. BJ came around me and scampered forward to the break.
He made it - and it looked for a (long) while like the break would stick. But as the laps cards flipped down to the single digits, the strong men that were left behind chased hard to bring it back together. And bring it back they did.
We were gruppo compatto with five laps to go and I was feeling ok, but not great. I figured I could sprint - but being around for the sprint would be a bigger ask. So when teammate Jeff motioned me to get on his wheel, I declined. No way could I go hard for 5 laps, trying to hold his wheel. But regretting that decision - and getting a second chance when SDC came around with only 2 laps to go - I jumped on. He led me up the right side down the back stretch and by the time we hit corner 3 we were within striking distance of the front.
But my race ended on corner 3. No, fortunately, not THAT way. I was on SDC's wheel, hitting the corner hard, and my earlier corner-phobia got to me again - so when a guy came in hard on my left just as we hit the apex of the turn, I eased off so he wouldn't run into me. Sure, it was self-preservation, but I lost the wheel. (Note to self: practice bumping & holding wheels. And pump up your tires harder.)
After that, things just got faster, I'd lost my motivation along with whatever legs I may have had left, and just hung in for the finish.
Here's what it looked like at the front:
Congratulations to CCB for winning the race and to CLR for capturing the CT Crit Championships (again?).
As we cooled down and changed in prep for the (absolutely required) after-race meal, we watched the Masters race. Now, I don't mind saying that if I had the form I had back in March or April, I probably would have done this race too, even though it started right after the Cat 3 race. But no way was I going to put myself through that on this day. I was content to just watch.
It was pretty amazing. A breakaway group of 6 formed - including our own EXPO teammate DaveH - and got a sizeable gap. And I mean SIZEABLE. They were away for most of the race and even with the, perhaps inevitable, cat & mouse games at the end, they still had almost a minute on the field at the end.
Speaking of the end...
Congratulations to Team Danbury Audi for the win and to Dave for his podium placement (and first CT racer to cross the line).
Lunch with A&A(&K!) and R&R afterwards, and then dinner with mom for her 65th birthday, capped off a pretty awesome day.
As I gear up, literally and figuratively for another race at the Rent' tonight, I think I may have discovered at least a partial remedy for lack-of-racing motivation: race more races. Tonight's race will be my third in a week and I'm happy to report that, unlike last week, I'm really pretty psyched. It's funny how inertia works, and all too often to our detriment. An object - including a person - at rest tends to stay at rest. But an object/person in motion, tends to stay in motion. If Isaac Newton were a racer, he'd probably offer as a corrollary to his First Law - "a person who races will tend to keep racing."
My lack of racing these past couple of months has had its effect. Whether this "rest" will actually end up being a good thing remains to be seen. But suffice it to say, with the start of summer - and the kickstart provided by regular races - I know I'm already looking forward to more.