Sunday, April 19, 2009
So, I've spent all day writing about the Pro men's race at the Tour of the Battenkill. You can now read the full report on Velo News.
On to the important stuff; my race.
As you probably already know, if you've been following this blog or facebook, I finished seventh in the cat 3 green race yesterday. Although a top-10 result at a major race like this is very good, I can't help but feel a little disappointed.
Here's why: The race was hard, but it wasn't as hard as I could have been. More specifically, I should have made it harder. Instead of riding my own race, I let others dictate the race's end game, and as a result it played out to others' hands instead of mine. Specifically, it played out to Kyle Peppo's hands, and I don't mean to take anything away from him; it was a tough race, and he raced to win -- congrats! But, I would feel much more satisfied with my seventh place if I feel like I had given everything for the win and come up short. Instead, I held back and coasted to seventh place.
Here's the whole story.
I lined up in Cambridge with team mates Austin and Erik. The game plan was to have Austin line the race out going into the narrow Eagleville Bridge, and to then have Erik and I hold position in the lead group, monitoring break aways, and looking either for break opportunities or for a sprint.
Things went well for us over the race's early miles, although I would call the racing a little on the negative side, which was frustrating at times. I was the first over the bridge, and put in an acceleration coming over the far end, thinking the group might string out a bit, but it didn't work and I wound up popping off the front, which I didn't want.
So I sat up a bit and got back into the main field. We continued to roll along at a modest pace. We went up the little kicker on Perry Hill Road at a faster clip, and I could start to see riders popping off the back of the 90-rider field. My proudest moment of local knowledge came when I railed the hard left through loose gravel onto Juniper Swamp Road, leading onto the dirt section, while everyone else braked harder than needed. My tubbies stuck the turn just fine.
The field went at a hard pace up the 18-percent climb on Juniper Swamp, shelling still more riders. It was a cool, cloudy day, but there were still a good number of spectators cheering on top of the climb. On the way up, I did a perfect "drift," giving up about ten wheels, but feeling calm and smooth coming over the top and onto the decent, well within my comfort zone, not red lining like some riders around me.
With a rain starting to fall, we ripped through Shushan at warp speed, and then continued toward Salem, where Ethan Atkins went off the front. He was still off the front as we started the climb up Joe Bean Road. Although the pace was harder than it had been early in the race, I was having no trouble staying near the front of the field.
There was a bad crash as we flew down Bunker Hill Road (straight, smooth pavement, still haven't got a read on what happened, but a few people got banged up, including BVFer Brian Breach -- I hope everyone heals quickly) and Ferguson Road onto 29, with Ethan still of the front.
Things were pretty uneventful for a while until we got to the feedzone at Burton Hill Road, where I got the clutch hand off from Steve (thanks!), and we caught Ethan. The group was now reduced to about 50, and we were set to hammer the three dirt section that come in quick succession: Mountain Road, Becker Road, and Meeting House Road.
I got close to the front on the start of Mountain Road, but still let others dictate the pace. Knowing that the decent down Becker Road was a little tricky, I came to the front, riding a couple seconds behind a rider who had slipped away on Mountain Road. I was one of the first to take the hard left onto Meeting House Road.
This is a series of three dirt rollers. Taken individually, none of these would be much of a challenge, but the combination of the three of them proved tough to handle. Matt Cutler, of Adler, came to he front and put the hammer down. I jumped on his wheel with a few others following along. I pulled through a few times, but Cutler definitely did most of the work, dropping nearly everybody left in the field.
Jeremy Dunn, of Team Embrocation, had been riding strong all day, but got a front flat in the middle of the dirt section, tragically ending his ride.
By the time we descended down the paved portion of Meeting House Road and took the hard right onto County Route 74, the race was down to seven riders. Cutler and Peppo were representing Adler, while the rest of us were solo (I think, the results aren't clear in this regard). We had a reasonably efficient rotation on 74 and on County Route 59.
After passing the Buskirk covered bridge, we turned left onto the day's last dirt section, the gravel climb up Stage Road. This is where I let the race go.
I led onto the climb, and accidentally found myself gapping the group on the climb. I looked back to hear Peppo say something to the effect of "don't be a hero." Although my pre-race plan had been to attack any group I was with on this climb, in an effort to either reduce the size of the group or to get off the front, I was suddenly scared that I didn't have "hero" legs -- that I would go off the front, only to collapse completely on the six-mile run into the finish.
I should have gone for it anyway, I've had good results from breakaways this season.
Instead, I sat up, waited for the group, and rode tempo up the hill, passing riders dropped from other fields as we went. This would have been a chance for me to -- at the very least -- to try to drop anyone in the group who wasn't climbing at their best. Instead, the quick, but not fast, pace up the climb ensured that everyone hung on.
Eventually, the seven of us popped out onto the top of the climb onto Turnpike Road, a paved stretch. At this point, the pace in the group was almost painfully slow. It was so slow that at points we were riding four-across, charity ride style. At one point, a guy dropped from another race that we had passed on the climb, who happened to be wearing a Primal Wear Spider Man jersey, rode past us. Good grief.
So, at this point, it was pretty much Adler's race to loose. Kyle is a fast sprinter, and has been doing well in the Bethel crits, and with Cuttler to lead him out, their victory was almost assured. I tried one last attack with about two miles to go, but when no one came with me, I sat up and went back to the group, having now convinced myself that I wouldn't be able to stay away if the group decided to turn on the gas -- again, there's that self-defeating attitude. With no sprint of my own, this decision was pretty much the nail in my coffin.
In the last kilometer, we were still going at a snail's pace. Finally, with only 400 meters to go, an acceleration came from the right side of the road. I was, of course, way on the left. I started my sprint coming out of the right hand turn onto Main Street, but I didn't have a chance at beating Kyle at his own race.
To add insult to injury, the one rider that I had managed to pass in the sprint stabbed his bike by me on the line, putting me into seventh place.
So, if I had tried attacking, like I'd planed, would I still have ended up seventh? Possibly. Maybe even probably. But at least then I would feel like I'd gone for the victory, and had left everything on the course. But that's racing, and the season's only just begun. And seventh 'aint too shabby.
Congrats again to Kyle, Alder, and everyone else who rode a great race Saturday -- even if I wish I'd done better, it was a ton of fun, suffering, and everything else that a bike race should be.
I had great support at this race from family and friends (and all of you probably think I'm crazy for letting myself feel disappointed with seventh place):
In no particular order:
-Jamie, for driving me to the race, all the training rides, and generally being a good guy. Sorry your race didn't go better, perhaps the Zertz were too compliant?
-Steve, for the ride home, for the clutch hand off, and for standing in the cold rain waiting for me to collect $25 -- drinks are on me next time! (in the feedzone, or at the bar.)
-Mom and Dad for coming up from Brooklyn to watch and cheer. Glad I could give you a good show, and I'm so glad you had fun exploring Washington County.
-Stacey for your support and for the photos (to come).
-Tom, Dante, Travis, Eric, and everyone else to wished me lucked and checked in afterwards. You guys make any result that much better.
-Billy, Dave, Keith, and James for helping equip me, and getting my bike into some semblance of working order.
-My team mates -- I think this is going to be a great first season for Anthem Sports!
-Dieter Drake, for giving us all a race to race.
-A special thanks to everyone who tuned in to my live updates during Sunday's pro men's invitational -- 800 page views in just a few hours, a huge record for this blog!
In other Battenkill-related notes, there's a lot of Internet chatter today about 1) problems with the race results, and 2) about people complaining about the dirt roads.
1) I understand why it's frustrating to not be listed on the results (hell, I was in the top ten in my race and somehow not listed), but have patience, grasshopper. It takes time to score and place 2,000 cyclists.
2) If you came to Battenkill and didn't know that there were going to be dirt roads, and didn't come prepared for them you have no one to blame but yourself. It's not about HTFU, and it's about designing a course that only has dirt climbs but not descents, it's about personal responsibility and knowing ahead of time what your getting yourself into -- and not getting yourself into a situation that makes you uncomfortable.
Posted by Andrew J. Bernstein at 8:49 PM