I’m on the plane right now, trying to get some sleep but the 6-hour layover will kill me later (it’ll be like pulling an all-nighter, right?). So I figure now is a good time to document my thoughts on Fitchburg.
After spending about $350 to race CTSR (boat fees, gas, registration, food, supplies etc.) I convinced myself I could not drive off-island to race Fitchburg. Luckily, I have some great friends and teammates, notably Steven Hopengarten for coming down to Woods Hole to grab me, put me up at his place in Lincoln for the long weekend, drive out and provide race support for GLV, and lend me his car to drive back to Woods Hole with Keith. We would have liked to have him racing with us in the Cat.3 field, but he was logging a long season already and needed a break (which some of you might have read already). I would also like to extend a thanks to Steve’s parents, who were great hosts for the weekend providing the team plenty of sleeping room and breakfast/dinner after the long and hard days.
Day one: ITT – I forgot my aero equipment in CT, which only consisted of clip-on bars and helmet, but in general those were huge benefits I wish I had. The weather was misty and cool, the roads a little slick but I had hoped to perform better than I did in the CTSR TT. I of course (again) went out a little too hard, and noticed that the course would be mostly false flat/small rollers after the turnaround. I was passed right before the turnaround by a fellow who goes by the name Austin Moran (no relation) but its always cool to see someone with pretty close names be racing the same field at a NRC event (and he was also rocking a nice TT setup as well). I struggled on the way back, placing late-seventies, 20 seconds in back of Keith and 25 in back of Lachance. As a lot of us expected, the Soul Train blasted through the course to grab the TT win. We thought he maybe should have been a 2 beforehand, but why not sandbag a big stage race, win some money and upgrade after? Genius.
Day two: Circuit race – This race ended on a nasty little drag up to the line, rumored at about 15% for the last 400 meters of the circuit. I had no ambitions with that climb at the end; just hoping to not get gapped and finish with the pack would be fine by me. I found it hard to maintain position for this race (not that I can climb anyway, but I can hold my own powering up it if it only lasted a few hundred meters. On the backstretch you could make up some considerable position and move up on the left side of the divider, though there was a decent headwind and some sketchy riders making me nervous. In the end I stayed out of trouble, finished with the pack and conserved some energy for the next day.
Day Three: Road Race – After driving this course the day before, I knew this was not the road race for me. The major climb leading up to the finished kicked up three times without any real place to recover, but I was going to give it a good shot nonetheless. Keith nabbed some point in the Circuit race, and was only 5 points off the jersey lead, so I was going to try and help him get some more to see if he could be in contention for it going into the crit the next day. On the first of six laps, I got to the front with Keith and kept an eye on things, taking turns with the pace making. As the climb started, I felt good until the last kick before the finish turn. I started dropping back a bit, but I noticed Keith ahead of me, but dropping back fast than me. I went alongside him, saw if he was alright but he seemed to be in a lot of discomfort. I tried to pace him to keep up with the pack but we were gapped going into the feed zone, and after a downhill saw the field pulling away from us. We continued to go at it together, picking up and dropping stragglers, hoping to catch back on but we knew it was a bit too late. Even the field getting neutralized wasn’t enough for us to get back on. I was taking the long descent conservatively, with the speed wobbles becoming a nuisance I didn’t want to risk losing control like I did at CTSR. On the lap 4 climb coming into the finish line, Keith noticed my rear tire was losing air. I hadn’t felt it while climbing but he easily could see it. When we got to the top of the hill before the descent, I told Keith to go it alone because I was going to take absolutely no risk on the descent (with no neutral service behind you, you might as well keep going, right?). So I took the descent at like 25-28mph and by the bottom, the tire felt pretty low, and I was just praying for some neutral service to come and save my day. By the time I started climbing it was pretty much flat, and I had some nice words for the race officials at the finish line when they informed me I still had to complete the final lap despite my flat. Whatever I said must have garnered some reaction, because by the time I got to the end of the feed zone, the SRAM car came speeding up behind me, gave me a new 404 and I bolted down the descent and the rest of the final lap to finish only 25 minutes down. Great. Keith finished maybe 10 or 15 minutes ahead of me, and Lachance managed to stay in the pack the whole race (great showing for him in his first Cat.3 race). At least I was in the time cut, but I got thrown towards the back of the GC. Afterwards Steve took me to a post-race BBQ at Frances’ (Mt. Holyoke) place in Fitchburg. There were many collegiate racers on hand, most notably the UVM guys, so it was a good end to a good day, despite the poor finish.
Day four: Crit – This crit course was fast and furious, with a lot of jostling for position and a brutal headwind in the finishing straight. Keith had a very active race up from netting a few prime points here and there. I was up there at the beginning, but a crash in turn 3 coming out of a long downhill caused me to hit the guy in front of me while slowing down, and the guy behind me also hit me but we were back enough that we stayed upright, and rolled over to take our free lap. I took a rear pit wheel for safety, and once I said I had campy, the guy pulled out an 808 from the piled, what an awesome wheel to race on! I felt like I could accelerate a lot better (probably because my 404s are older), and I made my way back to towards the front again. I saw Lachance long enough to have him flat right in front of me, but I got around him just fine, at least it happened in a straight part off to the side. I got to the front with 4 to go and prime lap, and chased down an attack from a Westwood Velo guy on the downhill with Keith on my wheel. Keith proceeded to counter attack right before turn 3, but took it a little too hot, hit a bump, knocked his seat off the rails and went down. I was third wheel, so I slowed down as much as I could to hit the hay bails and keep moving , but by the time I regrouped, the pack was gone, people were pissed off with no free lap and I rolled in behind the pack after three cool-down laps to get awarded the same time as the finish. So at the end of the day, we weren’t in any position to hold our heads high, but it was fun for my first Fitchburg nonetheless and I hope to come back next year in better form and with a big Cat.3 GLV turnout.
I’m gonna try and get some sleep now, lots of buildings to see in a few hours.