Monday, April 14, 2008

"Ryan, look at your stem."

Usually the first few miles of a road race are somewhat tame, giving everyone a chance to get their legs moving before the race becomes more active. I was looking forward to this, so I could talk to Austin and Jon Awerbuch, figure out a plan for the day and get my legs warmed up.

Not this weekend at Turtle Pond. Nope. Brendan "Stretch Leader" Cornett shot off the front up the opening climb, in an effort that was obviously not going to do anything aside from making the race active waaaay too early for my taste. But that's how it goes.

Once the group caught up with him, I rode next to him and said "Hey, thanks a lot, clown." To which he replied in an overly-enthusiastic voice "I WAS GONNA WIN!" At that moment, I forgot how much I missed riding around with him before cross races as he stole food from unlocked cars.

So from there, the activity of the race continued. I decided to just sort of watch what Josh Dillon and Matt White from Fiordifrutta were doing, because they're super strong and would probably be active in anything that had a hope of staying away. And the way the group was going at this point, I felt like something was going to get off the front. And I wanted to be in it.

After a few miles me being towards the front jumping on wheels and what not, Austin came up to me and shouted "HEY. RYAN. READ YOUR STEM." I looked at him, sort of shrugged, my body language saying "Hey, well, you know how I roll." But I wasn't on the front in the stupid way that I usually am...I was at least watching the guys that were going to do something worthwhile in the race. I eased back for a bit and Austin and Jon covered some stuff as well.

Eventually, halfway through the first lap, a little split occurred that included Josh Dillon, Aidan Charles (Nerac), a Kenda/Raleigh rider, a CCB rider, a NEBC rider and Gavin Mannion from Hot Tubes.

Now, that was something to watch out for.

So I jumped the split up to those guys, and was lucky enough to get there before they started hammering. Meanwhile, at the front of the group, Austin and a Fiordifrutta guy just sat up, giving us a little bit of a gap.

As our little split started motoring away, another Kenda/Raleigh rider and Dylan O'Sullivan from Sakkonet bridged up to us. And from there, it was on. We got a solid double paceline going. And aside from looking back occasionally - and seeing nothing but the wheel car - we continued for the rest of the race, opening up a healthy gap on the main field.

And, at this point, I realized that I would probably be spending 65 miles of a 70 mile race in a break.

Awesome. I didn't tell my legs this, though. I thought I'd let them continue on in blissful ignorance.

For a few laps, nothing terribly exciting happened. I pulled through. I pulled off. I ate. I sang Afroman songs out loud to Dylan.

Then, on the finish climb with two to go, Aidan Charles lifted the pace a little bit. But just enough for me to hurt a lot...and for two guys to pop off the back. Over and down the hill, the pace picked up quite a bit. And at this point I realized that a few factors were conspiring to destroy me the next time up the hill:
1. The fact that this was a 70 mile road race without any feeds. So, I'd only had about 2.5 bottles thus far.
2. Aidan Charles was going to do EXACTLY THE SAME THING, and it was going to hurt a hell of a lot more.
3. Perhaps Josh Dillon was going to tire of us, and totally drop the hammer. Which would hurt. Very much.

So we're continuing along, and we hit the hill. I'm sort of spinning up it, hoping for the best, towards the back of the group behind Josh Dillon so I can go when he goes.

And then we're almost to the top of the hill. I can see the crest. There is only one more rise, and I'm still with the group.

Then Aidan Charles puts it in his big ring. And at that point, my eyes do not go to my brain, they feed directly to my legs, and my legs see this and they think "Oh, shit."

Dillon goes around the rest of the guys to get with Aidan, I try to go with them/stick with the group. No luck. A gap opens up. I'm gasping for air and my legs are burning. I see the gap slowly get bigger as we hit the very top of the hill.

And I'm really, really hoping my 175 pounds would help me on this descent.

So I put my head down, put it in my big ring, and go. Trying to close the gap. And I was getting so close. So damn close. I saw them sit up for a bit...then I saw Aidan get to the front and lift the pace.

But I was still trying to catch them, because I knew if I got dropped back to the main group, I was going to be very pissed off. And Austin was probably going to kill me. The wheel car went between me and them, and I knew that I was probably not going to catch them.

I put my forearms out on my bars, dropped my hands, put my head down, and got ready for a eight or so mile ITT.

Not very fun. I would occasionally look behind me to see if the field was there. Every few miles.

Thankfully, nothing.

I reached the bottom of the climb, and no one was in sight, but I still wasn't convinced that I wouldn't get swallowed up. I got up the hill as fast as my destroyed legs would let me, getting sixth.

Thankfully, a few minutes later, the field rolled in. The group was all split up, but I saw Jon come in somewhere in the top 15, and Austin maybe ten places behind him.

So, not a bad second race for NorEast in New England this year. I was glad that I went with the break, and that I managed to stay away even after Aidan decided he wanted to destroy my legs.

After the race, I was talking to Josh Dillon. "Yeah, we thought you were going to catch us," he said. "But then Aidan got to the front and said 'We don't need him'...and that was that." Apparently Dillon launched a solo move halfway through the last lap and stayed away. I'm pretty sure that if my legs managed to survive Aidan's assault, Dillon would have totally demolished them.

Next up - Battenkill-Roubaix.

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