So close. So far.
Fitchburg Stage 1.
This thing is a 3.2 mile circuit race with a “moderate” climb section on each lap. “Moderate” in this case means something other than what you might expect (and what I expected and what Pete expected as well)
Think about the steepest stupid bunch of stair-steps all lined up in a row, one after another. When we walked the course in the morning the only thing we could say was “geez, this IS a steep hill”. Steep mashers like that tend to be my nemesis, although Pete does well with them.
We all line up and start the race at a surprisingly civil pace. I know this because, as usual, it takes me forever to clip in and I end up in the back again. However, this is thankfully no big deal, since I am able to freely move around in the pack. By the lead-in to the wall on lap one I am in a comfortable mid-pack position.
The Wall. We stand up and mash this damn thing as hard as humanly possible. I filter to the back of the pack, wondering how the heck some of these guys get their strength… EPO? Wheaties? Live baby flesh? Shark brains?
It’s going to be a long day.
When we reach the top (I’m still on board the train but pretty much in the caboose at this point) I notice Pete is standing on the curb holding his bike up. Could he have flatted? No. No way. He would have ridden the flat into the pit and got a spare. Crashed? No. He would have still been on the floor since we were all in the same field at that point. I roll by. Not liking this.
This race is made even more difficult by a long section immediately following the wall which is a very slight upward grade into the wind. As long as you hold the wheel in front of you, you should be just fine. I do this for the next three laps, but lap five was my undoing.
I held on for the climb and slotted back in to the back of the pack as I had been doing, but this time the guys in the front must have put the hammers to it since the pack was strung out going into the wind. Big gusts, stronger wind, and I am stuck behind a little split. Two other riders get popped off the back with me. The moto comes around. I shout at him “No!” He doesn’t listen. The car comes around. I don’t shout but try my damndest to get a draft from him. No dice. He speeds up and nearly puts his car right into the back of the peloton, clearly seeing what I am doing and denying me the chance to get any help. This goes on for most of the lap until I am literally gasping for air and have to give up the chase. I let them go.
Soul = crushed.
I mentally beat on myself for half a lap while thinking about all the things I would rather be doing than suffering here in Offthebackistan. This is pretty typical and usually happens for a few minutes until I settle in to TT mode. I try to remind myself that I don’t have to go super hard, since it’s a virtual guarantee that I will make the time cut, with only three laps to go.
Then a rider “joins” me. He came up on me fast and went right by at such a tempo that I figured he must have had a flat or something. There’s no way this guy would get dropped, unless he can’t climb to save his life. I jump on his wheel. He doesn’t even acknowledge my presence and just keeps hammering. I figure he’s insane. We are not going to catch back on so what is the point of mortgaging your fitness for tomorrow just saving a few minutes on GC? Whatever.
We get to the hill and he climbs like a beast. He must have flatted. This guy did not belong OTB. I settle back down into semi-TT mode and complete my final two laps to finish somewhere in the basement, down maybe four minutes or something.
As it turned out , Pete was out there all that time behind me. He got a bike change from the SRAM guys and it took a few minutes to put his pedals on. He had asked the ref if he was going to miss the time cut if he waited for the pack to come around and the ref seemed to think it was possible.
Of course, it’s not possible, since one lap is only a ninth of the time and the time cut would be a fifth, but the official must have forgotten this. Pete therefore did an unannounced 40km TT. Kind of like my day one at Killington.
After the race, he figured his bike was trashed. I saw it. The rear derailleur was jammed into the cassette and the chain was all wrapped up in the wheel. I figured his limit screws were set wrong for the low end and he threw the chain off the cassette. I talked him into going with me to the big bike shop nearby before getting too upset about trashing the frame. Sure enough, the mechanic at the bike shop was able to straighten out the derailleur hanger and replace the mech and cable. Bike works great now…
And a lot cheaper than a new frame.
On the agenda: Eat, sleep. Eat some more. Sleep. Dream about eating. Eat.
Tomorrow: Big race with roads that have the word ”mountain” in them.