With Labor Day Weekend on the horizon, it's not too soon to recap Summer 2013 - at least with regard to bike racing. Which is to say, there hasn't been much. Between a new part-time summer job, vacation, and SO MANY cancellations, I've only raced 5(!) times all summer. Compared to 14 times for the same period last year, Summer 2013 has been very different.
But it's been different in a good way. I have been riding just about every morning (as evidenced by my "Morning Ride" photos - the most regular activity lately on this here blog). And after an almost 25 year hiatus, I requalified as Steam Locomotive Fireman on the Valley Railroad. It's strange and wonderful how certain sounds and smells can transport you back in time. "Workin' on the Railroad" I feel like I'm 18 again. Until the next morning, usually... Finally, the Missus has been back in the ranks of the employed for a while now so we were also able to get away for a little vacation. Though we were gone for only a few days, those days conflicted with a couple of races.
And So Many races were cancelled too! Longtime summer staples Naugatuck, New London, and Fall River were all cancelled for various reasons. Although I don't do them, I know of a couple of road races that were cancelled for lack of pre-reg. A few - including a couple Rent' races - were cancelled due to scheduling conflicts at the venue. But how about the weather?! Summer 2013 will be remembered by many Central Connecticut racers as the Summer of Rain. Five Rent' races cancelled due to rain - that's almost a third of the entire season! One even got cancelled half-way through (when the dumpsters start flying, you know you have to seek cover).
My 2013 season started off regularly enough, with the Bethel Spring Series and even a couple of Plainvilles and a Ninigret thrown in. By the end of April, I had the usual amount of racing in my legs - and then some. But as per usual, my late spring work schedule preempted any racing in May and the first week of June, so by June 11 I was rarin' to go. Then the weather started happening. Tuesday June 11 - CANCELLED. The next Tuesday race - CANCELLED. The NEXT Tuesday A race - CANCELLED. I raced the Keith Berger Crit in East Hartford on June 23 - my first race since mid-April - but it was nothing to write home about. I didn't even do a race report (click here for SDC's race video & report).
And I only raced once - ONCE! - in all of July. July is usually my busiest race month, but the Naugy crit got cancelled, the New London crit got cancelled and so did ALL but two Rent' races. I raced the Rent' on July 2, but missed the one on July 9th while on vacation. All the other Rent' races in July ? CANCELLED
By August, I have to admit I was pretty much out of the mood for racing. Just 2 races - and one of them a training race - in 3 months doesn't do much for one's racing psyche, not to mention one's legs. So I skipped the first two Rent' races of the month (when the weather was nice), as well as the inaugural Rocky Hill Crit (for shame!).
But then a funny thing started to happen..... I actually missed racing and seeing the Usual Suspects at the races. Sure, if the races are cancelled, there's not much any of us can do. But to actually SKIP races I regularly race? Now that's just not like me.
So I looked at the calendar to see what was left. Fortunately, just like last year, the Summer Racing Season was going to end with a bang some great racing - in just one week, I'd do more races than I had all summer!
Masters Championships, Ninigret Park, Charlestown, RI - Sunday, August 18
Fortunately for my motivation, this jam-packed week started at my favorite track - Ninigret. And extra bonus for motivation, not only would friend and teammate SDC be there, but so would DaveH and StanL - 4 EXPOs in a race together is always fun. Actually having a plan - and then executing it pretty well perfectly - made it even better.
I'm afraid I don't have a really detailed, play-by-play report of how this race went. For that, be sure to check out SDC's report here. He always has LOADS of detail in his reports - likely (though I'm sure not exclusively) due to the fact he can pretty much recreate the entire race from his helmet cam.
I have to say though, things didn't start off so well. After I went to pay & get my number (I'd admittedly still been on the fence til the last minute, so I hadn't pre-reg'd), I mosied moseyed mosey'd sauntered over to the start/finish to watch the end of the 55+ race. There was a bunch sprint for the line, but inexplicably about 20 meters past said line, two bikes came together with bad consequences. One guy hurt his back really badly, and the other guy faceplanted & was unconscious. He finally came to, but it was pretty messy and he got hauled off in an ambulance. Not a great thing to see right before (re)starting one's racing season. I heard later he'll be fine. Just glad for him it happened toward the end of the season. And I thought the 55+ guys were pretty safe...
Ok - on to the race. Plan was for Dave and Stan to try to get in a break & if successful, SDC and I would cover the field to let them stay away. And - surprisingly - that's exactly what happened. We covered everything we could and what we couldn't, we got help from other teams that had guys up the road. My apologies for anybody whose wheel I just sat on. I don't mind admitting I was a pretty consistent presence at/near the front for most of the race, but my job was clear. It worked out best for us though - Dave got the win for our team. Stan came in 8th, also from the break. SDC won the field sprint, coming in 12th (it was a pretty big break). I sat up out of the final corner, having burned my matches covering what moves I could & came in 24th.
Here's the finish, courtesy Mrs. SOC:
As an afternoon race, Mrs. SDC and SDC Jr were able to join us & we had a nice dinner at Aunt Carrie's afterwards. Ah, the apres race meal - always another great motivation for racing...
Last Race a la Rent' - Tuesday, August 20
So that was Sunday afternoon. I didn't even bother taking my race wheels off for my "Morning Ride" to the old dump. That's one of the greatest things about summer racing - you just race and rest. No having to keep changing equipment around.
Tuesday came and, even though it'd be only my second Rent' race all year, I had all the usual anticipation and nerves - even a little more so. Unlike Sunday, I resolved to not just sit up if I had a chance to sprint at the end. Not that it would matter. As a training race (no matter how hotly contested), the only placing that counts is 1st - either in a prime or in the final.
There's not much to tell about this race, other than I survived and only got lapped once(!). Like the previous Sunday, the plan was the same. This time ToddB got into the break with some other local leg breakers. Eventually, the break lapped us. But in the meantime, the race was just about as close to motorpacing as I can imagine - strung out & single file most of the time. If you lost the wheel in front of you, you might just as well sit up, "lap" up your medicine, and (try to) jump back in as the pack comes back around.
Fortunately, I didn't need to do that - being able to hang on and only get lapped the one time by the break, along with what was left of the field. But boy did I pay for it: afterwards I could hardly walk. We meet Matt & Sharon for the traditional after race meal, but it was all I could do to even get myself in the restaurant - I'd really blown out my hip pretty badly. I guess all that hard pushing and always turning in one direction (it's a four-ish corner crit) took its toll.
Well, that and the speed. When I got home and uploaded the data, I realized I'd just been in probably my Fastest Race Ever - 27.3 mph average speed for almost an hour. Yikes.
And BONUS: My Strava KOM for "Lap @ the Rent" that I set last year will stay intact for another year. Unless somebody still hasn't uploaded their data . . .
2nd Annual CCNS Kermis - Friday, August 23
Click here if you're wondering "what's a kermis?"
For someone who hadn't done much racing all summer, I was doing a good job of impersonating an actual racer this week. The CCNS Kermis is fast becoming the Grand Finale of the Rentschler Field racing season. Granted, the last "Rent'" was on Tuesday, but we go back to the same venue one more time. Same venue, different track. Much longer, turns going both ways, and a wicked 180 degree hairpin onto a sidewalk.
And the Kermis has a much different vibe than the Rent' races: not only is it a real (as opposed to a training) race - with real money on the line, but there are food trucks, beer trucks, vendor tents, etc. This year, we even got Richard Fries - "The Voice of New England Cycling" there announcing. It'd be the biggest race of my (admittedly short) season.
For the Cat3 race, I was joined by SDC (natch), Stan again, JoelP (coming back for his first race after crashing earlier in the season), and TedC. The plan was the same as it had been all week - and, fortunately, the race played out according to plan. Pretty much.
The first lap of the race was relatively sedate as we all tested each other going around the hairpin, but as we came through the start/finish for the first time - spurred on by Fries' goading no doubt - the race ignited. Joel jumped on one of the first big attacks and he and his growing number of companions got a little bit of a gap. But the field must not have liked the makeup of that particular break and brought it back before many of us even had a chance to warm up to the idea.
Counterattacks were launched, and reeled in - everybody playing nicey nice around the hairpin. Mostly. Finally, I noticed that a group of 6 had gotten a little gap and - fortunately - there was an EXPO rider in it. Strongman Stan had made it, so now we had to do what we could to give him a chance to stay away. Cyclonauts and Cheshire Cycling each also had a guy in the break, so they also had an interest in keeping the field under control too.
And that's what we did, lap after lap. Each time we got to the long straighaway heading toward the hairpin, we'd see the break coming toward us on the sidewalk, so we could see our work was paying off.
With a few laps left to the race, it was clear the break was going to stay away. I overheard somebody ask a well-known local sprinter whether he was going to sprint - "Why? All the money's up the road" was the response. But that didn't keep him from getting his team together to organize a leadout train - and it didn't dissuade those of us who wanted one last sprint to end the season (and who, in my case, sat up on Sunday settling for 24th when he might have done better).
Going into the bell lap, the sprinter's team got together and increased the pace. It was actually pretty impressive to watch them work together so well - rare for a Cat3 race, I think. Especially at the end, when so many folks are spent. They drilled hard at the front, but amazingly some folks tried going even harder down the long straight toward the hairpin. Just like last year, I thought for sure there was going to be a big crash there - everybody was gunning for that 180 like it was the finish line. But - despite the squealing brakes, smell of burning carbon, and a few clipped pedals - everybody stayed upright. And unlike last year, I wasn't one of the last guys out of the turn - cornering hard on the inside and then jumping in my biggest cog.
It was pretty sketchy from there through the next two corners, everybody fighting for position. It was especially tough to move up safely on the narrow sidewalk. But once we were back on familiar territory - the 3rd corner of the regular Tuesday night Rent' race - I knew I had a chance. I don't know if the sprinter's team was (finally) tiring, but it seemed to me that the field slowed - almost imperceptively. I took that as my cue to launch my sprint, even if it was still pretty far from the line.
I went hard up the side, committed to the effort, and must've take at least a few by surprise. I must've looked like a hopped-up hamster spinning on a wheel - my butt never left the saddle and my feet were turning at a sustained 120rpm. It may not have looked pretty, but it was effective - I won the field sprint coming in 7th place. Strongman Stan had taken 5th from the field - still in the money. We'd all done our jobs and stayed upright - TedC despite a blown skewer that caused his rear wheel to lift off the ground and nail his tire to his chainstay, smoking it up like a dragster. I hope SDC got it on his helmet cam.
So, all in all, quite a week of racing. It feels like summer is just starting, even as it comes to an end.
I'd planned on the Kermis being my last race of 2013 (except for Jamestown, which doesn't count because I really, actually, honestly, truly, always do that race "just for fun"), but I hear tell that CCNS is starting yet another new race - this time in Downtown Hartford. Wow - there hasn't been a race in Hartford for years now and the old Hartford crit was my first real race. Hmmmm.....
Teammates SDC and TedC are definitely going, and want me to go too - despite my ambivalence. Oh - the race is in the morning and we can go to brunch after? Well now. Who said peer pressure is just for high school . . .
Maybe the 2013 Summer Racing Season isn't quite over after all!