Showing up at the race, I saw lots of familiar faces at registration, but most of them were racing in the 4's, which left me with only one other guy that I knew, in Phil from the Stampede team. Pinning up in the lot, I tried to size up my competition, but the only thing I was able to gather, was that most of them had no idea how to pin a number on their jersey. Even if I had no idea what I was doing in a road race, at least I would look like I did, and make JD happy.
I spun around the parking area for a bit to loosen up the legs, and headed to staging area. It was getting pretty warm out, so I took the chance to enjoy a little shade until they called the Cat. 5's to the line. It was a neutral roll out through the large traffic circle, but the pace didn't pick up that much once we cleared it. It wasn't until we turned onto rt. 11, that the pace started to increase. I was determined to stay near the front in the top 10-15, in case there was a break. I didn't want to get caught midpack, and try to bridge up like my first race. There were 3 guys from the same team driving the pace at the front, and they made attempt at a break as we crested the first large climb, but I was able to tuck in with them on the downhill, and they shut it down. Through the rest of the first lap, I was feeling really good. I was hitting the climbs well, actually coming out at the front a few times, just by doing a pace I was comfortable with.
Everything was going well, until we started the second lap. Descending 103 towards Rt.11, a stick got kicked up into my front wheel, and damaged a spoke. It wasn't until the end of the race, that I realized that I was getting brake rub the whole second lap. This may have been a partial factor in my total meltdown as we hit the big climb on 11. I was with the lead group of almost 30 guys, and stood up to push my way near the front again for the climb, when my left calf cramped up. I sat back down, and shifted into a lower gear to try and control the damage, but then my right calf joined in the twitchy fun. I shot out the back of the group, like a little mustachioed cannonball, and watched the group quickly pull away. The chase car paused as they went by me, since it must have looked like I had a mechanical. When they saw the mixed looked of pain, anguish, and frustration on my face, they correctly assumed that I blew up, and sped on up the hill. I was pretty bummed, since I had felt so good up until that point. I thought that I was taking in enough fluids/electrolytes, but apparently not.
With 20 miles to go, and some continually cramping legs to nurse, I went into survival mode. I was out alone in the wind, with no one even close in my rear view to drop back to. I spent the rest of the time balancing on the edge of having my legs cramp up if I went any harder, but wanting to go fast enough that I didn't get swallowed up by the women's field. I barely accomplished this, finishing just a few minutes ahead of the women. That last lap was torture though, and it was a little disheartening to know that I lost 11 mins on the group I had been easily hanging with up until the cramplosion. In the end I was all the way back in 29th/45 finishers. A far cry from the top 15 I felt like I could have managed.
|A perfectly pinned number, the most pro part of my day. Photo: Mike McCabe|
Rather than leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth, I now want to try some more road racing to redeem myself. It should also be noted that even though I was looking at it through a pain induced haze, the course at Sunapee was gorgeous, and the volunteers along the course were all great, and super supportive of the riders. I'll make sure to hit this one again next year, although I'll be hoping for some colder, sloppier conditions.
Post race observations:
-Didn't die in any Cat. 5 sketchiness.
-I felt very comfortable, and was one of the faster people on the descents.
-Felt strong on the hills.