This week is bittersweet. It's my last week of racing for the season, but I've got THREE races this week(!)
But first, I had to change my rear tire. That little mishap in corner 2 at the Rent' last week took more of a toll than I expected. I knew I'd locked up the rear wheel, so after the race I checked the tire "just to be safe." Good thing I did - there was a large spot almost worn down to the threads, and at 130 psi, I didn't want to take any chances of a blowout. Sure, the tires are tubular and more supple and all that. But wow - I didn't think they were THAT delicate.
One of these days I'm going to learn to glue tubular tires myself - really! I even had a new tire on-hand. But having only a few races left and not wanting to rely on the job I'd do, I asked SDC if he'd be willing to do mine when he did his (he'd flatted at New London). Thankfully, he saved my bacon and the tire was ready in time for Ninigret the following Sunday. Thanks SDC!
Now, on to the first race of this busy week . . .
Masters Championships 40+, Ninigret - August 19
As a Masters race, and especially a Masters Championship, I didn't have high expectations for this race. I figured I'd do what I haven't been doing too much lately - race conservatively, try to sit in, hope for a field sprint.
When I lined up with SDC at the start and he pointed out the local strong men, even my conservative expectations seemed shooting a little high. But I figured it'd be a good workout, and I always love racing Ninigret, so as long as there were no crashes, it'd be a great race.
My plan worked well. I did end up bridging to one break, but when it got caught, I quickly melted back into the pack and resolved not to burn any more matches. So for most of the race, it was actually easier than I expected. I was staying sheltered, conserving energy, and not in too much difficulty.
When a break went up the road with about 6 guys in it, I didn't worry too much. With only SDC as a teammate, we didn't have any obligation to bring it back - there were plenty of other, larger teams I expected could do that. But the break wasn't coming back and as the lap cards wound down and the gap grew, I figured that was that. I concentrated on my pack riding skills & staying sheltered. If a miracle happened and there was a field sprint, I'd certainly have plenty of matches to burn then.
So I was feeling pretty good and even a little itchy when SDC rolled by and motioned me to get on his wheel. We were heading into the final corner with about 8 or so laps to go. Once he saw I was on his wheel, he launched.
And MAN what an attack! I felt like I was in a dragster that just got a green light - it was all I could do to hold on. We passed the front third of the field and just past the corner we went wide right and passed the front guys at a speed that they didn't even bother to challenge.
At that point, we had the road to ourselves and the break was within sight up ahead. WAY up ahead, unfortunately, but SDC was going to try and get me as close as he could so I could bridge. The train was about out of the station and he was going to try and toss me onto the back car before it was totally gone.
We went through the start/finish at what seemed like Mach 1 - me still on the wheel and SDC laying it down like I haven't seen in a long time, burying himself with the effort. When we hit corner one, I came around him and launched my own effort to get to the break - a break that was unfortunately still quite a ways away.
I dug as deep as I could for over two laps, at one point getting within about 50 meters, but the break didn't let up and I exploded before I could get to them. I felt like I'd let SDC down, but I'd done everything I could to get there and it just wasn't enough. I had a little time to lick my wounds before the pack caught me, and then I had a new priority - don't get dropped.
I'd burned up all my matches and it was all I could do to hang off the back of the pack and try to recover as quickly as possible. There were less than 5 laps left at this point, the break was gone and I at least wanted to try and get in a decent position for the field sprint.
I started to move up with 3 laps to go and, fortunately, with nothing but pride to sprint for, the pack had eased. At the bell I was back in the front 1/3 and was able to sprint for a little glory at the end.
After the race, I didn't bother checking where I'd ended up, figuring it was somewhere in the top 20 overall (and with 6 guys up the road, it'd be "top 14" in the field). The next day, I discovered they broke the results down by age in 5yr increments. I'd come in 5th in my 40-45 age group!
But I couldn't get that big a head about it - if I'm reading the results right, there were only like 10 guys in that bracket.
That wasn't the real surprise though - that happened as SDC and I were chatting with our Missus' (Missuses?) after the race. We were just saying how we'd at least gotten our names announced (due to the big attack) when my name came over the PA. What?! I went over to the booth and found out I'd won a prime!
Apparently, we launched at the same time the announcer announced a field prime. Because I hadn't caught the break and was still ahead of the field when I came through the start/finish, I'd won it. I told the guy how surprised I was - "Not as surprised as the guy in the field that thought HE'D won."
It was only $10 bucks, but certainly more than expected. What was priceless was SDC and I imagining what must've been going through the minds of the pack as we attacked and committed to an all-out effort: "Man! They must really need that prime for gas money or something!"
Last Race at the Rent' - August 21
It wouldn't take much effort to wax poetic about the last Tuesday Night World Championship of 2012 - about how low the sun is in the sky, how much cooler the temperature is, etc. etc. But I'm afraid such a description would be laden with too many cliches about the end of summer. Suffice it to say that the Missus and I love these races and really appreciate the Capitol Velo Club for putting them on. Special thanks to the Mullaly family and the other volunteers who were there every week, making sure registration and everything else went smoothly - and always with a smile. Everything from the promoters to the volunteers to the racers make these races the great series it is. We're always sad to see them end each year, but always look forward to them and the promise of another summer.
For the first time I remember, the last race this year was made a little extra special by an idea that (seemed anyway) to be tossed out offhand the previous week - why not have everybody race in retro/vintage jerseys instead of their regular team kit? Over the course of the next bunch of days leading up to the last race, emails flew back & forth among racers trying to decide what to wear and - in some cases of new racers - whether they could borrow something. It started to sound like we were a bunch of anxious teenagers before The Big Dance. But it certainly added to the fun of the last race.
I haven't been racing that long myself (oops! just calculated - this is my 7th season already?!), but I have one old team jersey in my collection....
(Quick funny story: My first race was the Hartford crit and like any newbie I obsessed over training, equipment and everything in between. It never occurred to me to worry about what to wear - I figured I'd just wear what I always did to ride: black shorts and a red Team SAECO jersey. I did well in that race by staying near the front, sucking wheel for all I was worth, and not taking a pull - avoiding wind like the plague. Fast forward a couple years.... I'm in Central Wheel bike shop - the old sponsor of the Hartford Crit - and I notice their screensaver has photos from the crit - THAT crit, my first race! I mentioned the fact to the guy behind the counter who then asked me to point myself out. When I did, he exclaimed: "So YOU'RE the guy in the SAECO jersey - you wouldn't take a freakin' pull all race! I always wondered why they let you race in that jersey." I was too embarrassed to visit that shop for a while, but (re)learned a valuable lesson: if you're going to look ridiculous, at least don't act ridiculous!)
Sadly, I'd gotten rid of all but one of my old jerseys in a closet purge (including the infamous one), but still have this SAECO jersey left. It was cool seeing all the different jerseys, but unfortunately some folks missed the memo & wore their usual kit. It was a bit harder to tell teammates apart too, but it was a lot of fun seeing what folks picked to wear.
The casual clothing didn't affect the race at all, which was all business. It started fast and just kept getting faster. Everybody must've wanted to have one last chance at glory before the series ended since every attack was covered and even tiny breaks got a very short leash.
Here's a rare during-race video of one such effort:
The race was shortened due to the shortage of daylight and they started counting down laps with just 3 to go. I did my best to get to the front, but it was already strung out and blazing. I got close enough to do a credible sprint, but I wasn't in contention at all.
All in all, a great - safe - fast way to end the series. It wasn't until afterwards when I checked my Garmin and found out that it was my fastest race ever - 27.4 mph average - and, inexplicably, I'd won the Strava KOM on the Lap @ TheRent segment. At least until the Cat 1s & 2s upload their data....
So there's just one more race left this week - tonight's "Kermis" sponsored by AETNA/CCNS. The forecast is awesome and the course is totally different from anything I've race on before (including a sharp 180 U-turn corner onto a sidewalk(?!) so it'll be a fun race to report on.