A bad race was bound to happen sooner or later. Everything has gone so well on the bike this year that I was starting to think that I was going to kill it every time I threw my leg over the top tube. Unfortunately a few factors came together yesterday that resulted in getting shot out the back like a club rider in the tour.
Tim and I headed out from my house around 9:45 and made the short drive down to Fitchburg. The drive was a snap and we were even able to find a parking space relatively close to the start finish line away from the major crowds. We picked up our numbers and did a short walk around the course before setting up for the action. I decided to warm-up on the trainer because I have a much easier time controlling my hear rate while working through the zones in a controlled manner. After fifteen minutes I was adequately warmed up and despite the heat I was feeling pretty good. I could tell I wasn’t great but I was feeling good enough to be in contention. As I was making my final preparations at the car Darren and Maddie joined us and informed us that the race was red flagged because of a major crash in the fifty plus race. I guess it was pretty bad and they even had to bring in a fire truck to wash the blood off the road. Scary, scary stuff! I hope everyone is ok!
This delay really threw me for a loop. I went from being really locked in to unfocused over the course of the thirty minute delay. In hindsight I should have stayed at the car longer and done more work on the trainer. This was probably the big disadvantage of being parked further away than everyone else. I did get away for some riding on the road but I was hesitant to really open up the legs given the amount of traffic that was weaving around the city.
At staging I got a good spot on the outside of the front row and was as ready to rock as I was going to be. At the start I botched my mount and had to do a little work to get back to the front to regain my position. This was the biggest criterium that I have been in so far which was very exciting. I had no real problems managing my position, and the crowds in the fast turns didn’t bother me in the slightest. Early on I took a few small digs off the front but nothing serious. I was just stretching the legs. While I wasn’t great I was still making good power and I seemed to have the ability to separate in the right company. I chased back a few moves and was establishing myself as a presence at the front of the group. The heat was a pretty major factor but I seemed to be managing it over the course of the short race.
Somewhere around mid race I was sitting eight to ten wheels off the front coming down the fast part of the course. The rider directly in front of me made a fast move to his right. In the blink of an eye at thirty miles per hour I had to make a decision. I could jerk out to the right and cut some wheels or I could ride out the storm. Opting for safety I rode out the storm. The storm consisted of a triangle of cobblestones that led right into a bark mulched traffic island. I negotiated the cobbles like a pro and bunny hopped the traffic island but was still carrying too much speed to make the sharp turn back onto the course. I was heading directly toward the big sidewalk curb and a group of spectators so I had to get on the breaks hard. I was at a complete stop and had to unclip, change directions, and restart. By the time I was rolling again I was twenty seconds off the back of the race and thirty seconds from the leaders. The thought of stopping never really crept into my mind and I instantly went into chase mode. I chased as hard as I could for two laps solo. After the first lap I was able to overtake to motto. The second lap I was back in the group. Three laps later I was back at the front of the group. The cost of the effort was huge and I was having serious doubts about my ability to finish effectively. With nine laps to go I made an acceleration through the start finish and totally blew up. The warm-up, the chase, and the heat working in combination got the best of my. Three hundred meters later I was struggling to hold wheels at the back. By the downhill I was popped out the back struggling to survive. It was really weird because it seemed like my body totally quit. After I was dropped I kept fighting and was hammering the corners out of the saddle on the drops but I was going nowhere. My heart rate dropped into the 160’s and I couldn’t get it back to where it needed to be. It was like my body was saying game over but my brain wouldn’t agree. The heat really took over the last seven laps. I was able to overtake one rider which provided the slightest twinge of satisfaction. Richard Fries, the famous cycling announcer even noticed anomaly of me being off the back. As I was coming through with five to go I could hear Fries say. “The heat is really having an impact today. Guys that are usually off the front making races are totally exploding off the back.” For my part I gave a little wave on my way though. I kept trying my hardest but I was going slower and slower. The writing was on the wall and at the bell the USA Cycling official pulled me from the field.
I rode over to the barriers and passed my bike to my teammate Brad. As I was attempting to climb the barriers I slipped and fell flat on my ass on the sidewalk. The final insult. Brad’s wife, Jen, thought I was having a major heat related emergency and went into pro recovery mode and got me all the water I could handle over the next few minutes. I managed to get myself to a bench and my frustration swelled to the surface. Darren was a pro talking me down and reminded me that I had very little racing experience in the heat thus far. Within then minutes Tim and I were back at the car packing up. Within fifteen minutes we were on the road trying to put the day behind us. Tim stayed in the group the whole day capping a week of four races in five days. Not the best day ever on two wheels but not the worst either.
Time to build with some huge mileage in preparation for the Tour of the Hilltowns at the end of July.