Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Onto World Championships!

Thanks for all the great comments in my previous posts. I guess all you have to do is have an awful start to make a really exciting race report.

Kevin and I and Roger have decided to go to Mol, Belgium for the Master's Cyclocross World Championships. The race is January 23rd, 2010. We'll go 1 week early and do a couple "local" races. One in Belgium and another in The Netherlands. Then the following weekend is the Worlds. We should be well acclimated by then and we'll also be able to ride some laps on the Worlds course.

I'll do my best to keep you posted, JB

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dream Come True!!!

I literally dreampt about this. A lot! It's crazy how much emphasis and importance we crossers put on Natz. I never get nervous too much before big races, but at Natz it's a whole different thing. I guess since I took the whole week off from work, had my bikes driven across the country, flew 6500 miles round trip, rented a mini van, and booked a hotel, it should feel a little different. But I felt the same way in 2005 when the race was about an hour from my house. It's just that it's the best jersey you could ever win. I think it's because Cross is so spectator friendly, that wearing that jersey is better than the road jersey because more people show up to watch and cheer at cross races.

If you're still not doing any Cross, what are you thinking? Come out and give it a go, and you'll probably be hooked.

Anyway, let me start by saying that USAC gave me the flick. I finished 4th at Natz last year, and the top 8 from last year get the call ups. Unless you happen to move up an age group. Then you're just some other schmuck like the rest of the 150 riders in the race. (The 40-44 group had 190....more on that in a bit). The online registration was a classic West Coast fast one. They didn't announce the registration opening until the last minute and even then it was on the eve of a very big race in Providence.....and oh ya, they opened it up at midnight. Plus the site crashed. USAC did NOTHING to insure this process would be fair and practical. So even though I was on the podium at Natz last year, I was buried on the 3rd row this year. You may not think thats bad, but it's basicly a prison sentence and it makes winning an extreme long shot.

The temps had been below zero for the majority of the time we'd been there, but in the early afternoon the sun was out and it warmed into the high 30s. Some spots got pretty moist for a while, but with my race at 3:30 the sun was low and behind the mountains and trees. The temperature dropped fast and the course turned to slip and slide, boiler plate. Catastrophic crashes could happen on 100% of the course.

The gun sounded and we charged up the narrow pavement start chute. It was maybe 150 yards to turn one which was an icy plywood ramp over a curb into a 180. The front row guys got around OK and them some "online holeshot" specialist stacked it in the turn and the pileup ensued. I came to a stop, got off my bike and stood there waiting for people to get up and get going. The leaders were flying away on 3 long straight aways. I finally got through and figured there was no chance in hell of fulfilling my goal now.

Still I wasn't gonna go all this way and not try with everything I had. I later learned I was in 45th place or so at that point. I started passing when I could, but everyone was trying to do the same thing and I lost places in some spots. Everyone had beer muscles. I bumped with one guy and he was solid. I could tell he was a good rider based on how firm he was when we bumped. I looked over when I could, it was Dale Knapp. I made some more passes and took some sweet lines that I had dialed in during my 2 warm up rides. When I went by the pit someone yelled "38th place Jonny GET UP THERE". Another power section and I picked off a few more. Then we crossed the road and went onto the even more technical side of the course. I got hung up in traffic a lot and could see James Coates off the front and all alone with no one in his way. I got through a couple more and up to a hill that was a sheet of ice on the 90 degree corner leading into it. The hill wasn't too bad if you got through the icy approach, but I had to drop to the little ring to get up it since I was basicly starting from a stand still. I got 3/4 of the way up and ran into a guy that just came off his bike. CRAP!!!

I got going through the start finish, and most of the mayhem was behind me since guys were cracking now. Still I was in about 25th. I passed a big group in the next straight away and a couple more here and there. I was moving now, but still way back. I saw that Coates was still gone and Mark Noble was in 2nd also alone. These were the 2 guys I considered my strongest competition before the race. Both have won Cross Natz twice before and Noble is a former British Track Cycling Olympian. I felt awesome and was comfortable enough on the icy course to put down big power, that I just happen to have since my training has been spot on for the approach to Natz this year. Across the road someone yelled "12th Jonny GO GO GO" one more before the crazy downhill dropoff righthander, another just before the u-turn into the run up on the stairs, (I dove hard into the inside line, braked hard and moved him over), another on the stairs, and 1 more before the remount, (I just ran farther than him and passed him on foot then jumped on) Now there were only guys here and there in front of me, but one of them slid out on the icy off camber little rise up to the icy flat driveway, before the icy run/ride up. I couldn't gain any spots there because we just had to go so slowly and will our bikes around the corners.


I did get a clean run at the hill this time and rode it no problem. Onto the start finish pavement sections I had Fergy in my sights. He started on the front row. Boy that would have been nice! I got him just before the pit and Fergy being the good friend he is gave me some encouragement after I passed. Sammy was just ahead with another guy on his wheel. I went very hard to get around them as they were approaching an icy right hander under and around a tree. I let Sammy know it was me as we had talked about so he wouldn't try to block me out. I went into the corner way too hot and hit the patch of ice and drifted BIG TIME. I made it over the ice and onto some dirt with a wild foot out and kept it upright and then clipped in and charged again. A couple of icy u-turns later there was a straigt away and at the end of it another 180. I saw Noble going toward me and only a few more guys between us. I ate them up before the pit and was on Noble's wheel in 3rd place. I attacked by him and across the road. I figured it was gonna take a while to gain on Coats, but as I looked ahead, he was right in front of me getting off the ground. He had crashed in that crazy downhill right hander. It was a very tricky spot. He was able to get up and go, but I was on him going up the stairs. He didn't run fast enough for my liking up the steps and I ended up running into him. I passed him in the remount area and went into the lead....Holy Shit!

OK this is my game now I thought. "See if you can stay with me Mr." I drilled it for the next 2 laps riding everything but the steps and barriers. Lapped riders were everywhere and very much affecting our ability to actually race. I'm so pissed that USAC would rather make more $ in entry fees rather than have championship racing at the championships. I was stretching him out of every corner and he was able to scrap back on over and over. This guy is an awesome bike rider! Finally the dreaded lapper crashed in front of me on that icy rise up to the driveway and I had nowhere to go. I T-boned his bike and my front wheel got tangled in his pedal. Coates went by me there, but I got his wheel. We rode the hill OK, but it was getting much worse at the bottom (at the beginning of the climb) and I almost slid out.

We got 2 to go and nobody else was close to us. He was riding way too slow for my liking, but the way to beat him was gonna be to pass him with half a lap to go and hurt him, get him so gassed that all he do is follow....if that. I sat tight on his wheel and plotted my spot to go for the win. He seemed glad that I wasn't attacking him any more, although I'm not sure I shouldn't have. But once I make a plan, I usually decide thats my best chance to win and I stuck with my decision. I thought to myself "This is what Marky Mac would do, so it should be a decent plan". I also felt very confident in my sprint, because I was way stronger than him in the power sections.

I decided my spot was gonna be just after the pit, on the power grade before we cross onto the more technical side, on the last lap. That lap (the 2nd to last) was pretty uneventful most of the way, but the crowd was absolutely MASSIVE. The sun was pretty much down now and with my sunglasses on I actually remember thinking "it's getting dark". The beer tent, which we went right by and did the barriers with the smell of beer pouring off the fans, was absolutely deafening. Over the icy rise up clean, across the skating rink driveway clean, around the corner I followed Coats into the run/ride up. I bobbled it at the bottom and had to get off. CRAP CRAP CRAP!!!!! He rode it and everyone went nuts for him, he saw the gap and absolutely went for broke. I was gapped off bad! Through the start finish I was about 10 seconds back as the bell rang. I was surprisingly calm and I drilled it the hardest I could in the power sections gaining all the way, and also telling myself that a mistake now would be the end of my chances. I had this side of the course dialed in though, and on the 180 we looked right at each other. I was very close again, but still one section behind. I closed with every pedal stroke and found myself on his wheel at the corner before the pits. I took a brief rest and went around the left hander onto "my section" I actually left a small gap so when I went I could get a better run on him. In an instant I bolted, knowing that I was back in control and had a 10 meter gap. He closed it on the corners after the road crossing, but I knew he would. I had him right where I wanted him.....under pressure. I screamed at the lappers and they moved in time. Up the stairs, over the barriers and over the icy rise up, cleanly, over the icy driveway clean, but slow and careful. He was right on me. I tried to shift into the little ring but my finger was frozen and I couldn't feel the shifter doing anything. I fumbled with it as I rolled toward the icy approach to the run/ride up. It shifted just in time, but I was distracted and didn't find my line. I bobbled again. I didn't allow myself to panic and I knew I was in the better spot on the front. I hopped off my bike as fast as I could, but it was unplanned, so it was a true scramble. I went to run when I felt him run into me, and I could hear the fans all go "Oh!" I ran up there for all I was worth and remounted. Now I was going downhill to the last two paved sections, BUT my bike was in the little ring and my hand was frozen and worthless. I shifted the back first just to get a bigger gear, then I fought with the front, trying to get 'er into the big ring with my useless hand. The second it took felt like an eternity and I stole a look back just as I saw the chain climb up into the business gear.

He was right there and I just turned forward and drilled it. I got another gear and had the lead going into the last 90 degree right hander but was going faster than I had gone through the corner yet. I committed and had to protect the inside line. I made it with room to spare and just poured it on all the way through the line. There was no way in hell I was gonna look back again or celebrate. I could feel I had it, but wasn't gonna risk it. I could put my arms up on the podium.

I did it! My dream was realized, even though I almost screwed it up. Here I am back at the hotel with my race kit still on, and an extra jersey to boot. I didn't mean to close my eyes, but it sort of sums up the contentment I felt at that moment.

To make it an even sweeter weekend, Kevin went out the next day and made it a double for the "Dynamic Corner Cycle Duo".
Kev made easy work of it compared to me and got the holeshot and won going away, after a close 1st lap, by well over 30 seconds or so. It may not be as exciting to watch, but I would have loved to have bored everyone in my race. It just wasn't meant to be. But hey, they pretty much HAVE to give me a call up next year so we'll see what happens.

Sammy also finished up a fine 6th, just off the podium, matching his son Nate's performance earlier.

Teammate David Rath (2 time Natz Champ) stood on the podium in the 60+ category with a fine 4th. A much better way to spend a weekend in December than in a halo with a broken neck. Nice job David!

Also a big congratulations to Paul Curley for winning his 875th National Title. Very inspiring Paul!!!

Thanks for all the previous comments, and for reading. JB

Monday, December 7, 2009

Got It!

Well it seems that I have at least 4 readers, so I'll keep you all posted on the finale of the New England Verge Cyclocross Series.

As you know, this season has been a knock down, drag out street brawl in the 35+ category with the jersey jumping from back to back to back all year.

Lined up in the brisk wind at Goddard Park in RI, for the 14th and final race of the series, Roger and I were separated by 5 measly points and Kevin wasn't far behind either, but it would have taken both of us finishing out of the points or way down for him to win it. It was most likely gonna be a battle for the series between Roger and me. With the point difference between 1st and 2nd in any race being 10 points it was winner take all, or whoever finished in front of the other. Kinda like when we were kids playnig basketball in the driveway and somebody's mom said "time for dinner". We usually said "next point wins".

And so it was.....next point wins.

After our instructions and a hilarious plea for all competitors to keep one foot on the ground til the whistle blew (not mentioning any names) due to a certain "flyer" on Saturday. We were off.

I got my pedal pretty clean and the sprint was a lot less hectic and dangerous than the previous day's. I followed Roger onto the sand and up the steep run. I felt good so I went to the front through the barriers and pressed the 1st lap. Coming into the wet roots befor the pit I dumped it on my left side, Rog got around OK and I was up in an instant. My chain had come off, but I saw that before I remounted and knew I had to pedal it back on. It jumped right on, so I didn't enter the pit which was right there. I didn't lose the wheel and I followed Roger for a full lap. Marky Mac had connected and Kev was just about on now too. Roger peeled off and I went through and drilled it. I stayed there for the next 3 laps on the front with Mark sticking on me like velcro and Kevin in 3rd looking comfortable. Roger slotted in, in 4th.

The good news for me was that Roger didn't look his best and was getting gapped off on lots of turn exits. All I needed was a shred of positive feedback to motivate me more and that was it. I started crushing certain power sections after technical corners, and after he clawed back several times, I finally got him off a little more and he wasn't reconnecting at all. I was pretty pinned, but adrenaline is a beautiful thing if you can control it.

The gap continued to grow and we got the bell. I had some serious support out there in terms of screaming, lunatic, New England Cyclocross fans (Thanks Team BOB and others). The gap was there and I just had to seal the deal with my final lap in New England for 2009. So of course I caught my foot on the 2nd barrier and crashed forward. I scrambled up in a jiff and got back on......LOSER! The only damage done was losing one spot to Mark. He went real slow through the next little section and I passed him as we went by the pits for the 2nd to last time. He sort of challenged my surge, and as we went around the next corner I said "I don't care about winning the race today". What I meant was that I just wanted to be on the front driving it for another half lap or so to guarentee my series win. Then he could go for the win. I wasn't gonna risk nationals by trying to fight Marky Mac in the last few corners if I didn't have to. I think we know how that would have turned out anyway. Kev was just as happy as I was so he didn't try his hardest to beat him either. I literally sat up with a few short sections left to go and crossed the line alone in 3rd with 5 fingers on one hand and one on the other raised, to signal my 6th series win in a row.

Undoubtably the hardest one yet! I almost feel bad, because I really do like Roger that much. Picture a friend of your's in a tight battle for a big series win. You'd be pulling for him right? Well thats our deal. Of course neither of us is gonna let the other just have it, which is what makes it so exciting, but I will say this. I hope he wins Nationals again, since I don't have any teammates in his race this year. It's not gonna be easy though. Natz never is. There's phenominal guys in every category.

A huge thank you to anyone that put up a cheer for me this year. There's a lot of you. I'm glad New England rallied around one of their own this weekend and showed how much they wanted that jersey sticking around these parts for the winter. I'm thrilled to be the guy you all supported. Kevin and I must have had 40 or 50 people wish us luck Sunday morning while we made our preps.....including a classy guy named Roger Aspholm.

An even bigger THANK YOU to Jamie for helping me at every single race this year with his mechanical expertise, pit crewing, soignieur, training partner and of course friendship. Try finding someone that will train with you in the dark in 30 degree temps after you both get out of work at the end of the day, and he wasn't even racing really so that's even more generous.

To one of the best guys you ever wanna meet, and easily the most talented bike racer on the Corner Cycle team. The incredibly loyal and super fast "old" guy.... Kevin Hines. Thanks for all the help and motivation all year long Kev!

After Roger mopped the floor with us in VT on the opening weekend. Kevin came up with this slogan "The jersey is not going back to New Jersey". It may have rented space there for most of the season, but it's home now!

To Sammy, and of course Trish and Nate who gave us a great series to follow in the 45+ and narrowly missed the top step of the final podium to another New England fan favorite. Mark Gunsalis of Team FUJI. Congrats Mark!

And I'd be in big trouble if I left out Nancy. Not only is she my girlfriend, but a fellow athlete (triathlete) and a massage therapist, who just happens to live very close to Roger Williams and also Goddard Park. Let's just say that I had about as PRO treatment as anyone ever did this past weekend. With my back going up in flames in Saturday's race, and chronic chest tightness as well as some pretty sore sticks. I was in good hands.......to say the least. Thanks Babe!

Finally I'd like to dedicate this season long struggle and ultimate victory to the owner of our team and Corner Cycle. One of my closest friends for over 2 decades. A guy that supports cycling and racing at all levels, ESPECIALLY juniors. George (Lefty) Sykes. George doesn't get the opportunity to come out to the races that much, but if you've ever seen him at the races, you know there's no one that enjoys it more. It seems like one of his favorite days of the year, each year, is the final day of the Verge series in RI. He makes it a point to get down there and see his friends and his team race some cross. With the event having a beer sponsor, it's a match made in heaven.

I spoke to Georgey Saturday night to keep him posted of what had happened, and we talked about a lot of different things, but then the conversation got very serious and he explained to me that his Mom was gravely ill and was close to passing. This is a very private thing, so I don't wanna go into detail here, but he said she was with family and comfortably sleeping and everyone had time to understand what was happening and come to terms with it. He said unless she passed before the race he'd be there to cheer us on.

I was really glad to see him pull into the parking lot just as I did in the morning. Half way through our warm ups he told me he had to go.....his Mom had passed. I can't even imagine how hard this is, since my Mom is still with me, but I imagine there can't be anything more personal than losing the person that brought you into the world. The woman that carried you inside of her for 9 months and then nurtured you and raised you. My deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathy go out to you buddy.

Well that wraps up another awesome season of Cyclocross in New England. We're off to Bend, OR to try to grab a few more jersies. I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading, JB

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lucky #13

Well today was race #13 out of 14 Verges Series races. It was miserable weather. 40 degrees and pouring rain. The field was pretty damn stacked, with Kevin, me and Roger battling for the overall, we also had Matt Kraus back in the mix, as well as both Mark and Frank McCormack. Kurt Perham has been riding super lately, and home court advantage would have to go to Curtis Boivin.

The start was wierd. I didn't get my pedal too quick, but at least I kept my foot on there and didn't slip it. I think the Canadian Steve Proulx got the holeshot. Undoubtably because of his sweet Stevens Carbon race rig.

It didn't take long to see who had the juice. We hit the pavement after a pretty frantic start off and I surfed a wheel until I got up to speed and then went across the small gap to Roger and Kurt and Steve. We dove off the pavement and onto a greasy corner and I ended up taking an inside line which I didn't really want, but I hooked up thanks to the Dugast Rhinos, and blasted off on the exit.

I didn't look back right away, but I could feel that I was alone. Before hitting the long sandy beach run I snuck a peek and saw that I had a handful of seconds on Roger. There could have been 1000 people in the race today, but the 1 guy I had to beat was Roger and he was right there, wearing 2 things I want.....the leader's jersey and a National Champion's kit. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I kept drilling it. So did he. I went by the pits and Jamie yelled "4 seconds". That's not much, but when you're both going full gas, it's something worth pushing for to try and stretch it out.

A lap later.....4 seconds.

2 laps later.......4 seconds......2 laps to go.

Finally I started to see an increase in my lead on that lap and when I got the bell, there was a beautiful thing happening. Kevin was making his way up to Roger after a bad start, and I'm telling you he was way behind Roger at first. He was on him next time I looked and I told myself to focus, but I was hoping I could hang on and then see Kev take the 2nd place points.

Thats what happened, and so after 13 races, with 1 to go I have 665 points to Roger's 660. A five point lead with everything on the line for tomorrow. Very cool.

It looks like 2-4 inches of snow overnight. This is gonna be very interesting!!!

Thats it for now, gotta put my legs up. JB

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ever heard this before?

Battenkill Entry Fees

So the Battenkill Race is up on Bikereg now. It's not open yet, that happens later in the month, but there's something there that really sticks out. The entry fee is $75. SEVENTY FIVE dollars for a bike race! Are you freaking kidding me? If you wanna race the cat 2s or the PRO, 1 race you get the added pleasure of paying $85.

Hey this is America and people can do whatever they want within the laws. But that is dangerously close to a crime. I for one will not be there. I've got a season's full of off road riding, so I see no need to take a Friday off from work drive 4-1/2 hours (each way) and pay $75 to do a race with a very high percentage of flat tires. I double flatted last year about halfway through.

I think if we just go along with it and say things like "Well it's a good quality, unique race", we're asking for other promoters to start doing the same thing. This isn't Triathlon!

I strongly urge all New Englanders to stay in New England that weekend and support "our" races and "our" promoters. If you want the best, most unique ride you can do, enter the D2R2 instead. I promise you won't regret it! It's $50 and you get about $100 worth of value and the memory of a day that will blow your mind.

Do the right thing and boycott Battenkill and their gouging of us. Sure it's not the end of the world to pay that $, but it's the principle and it sets a precedent.

OK I'm done ranting.....JB

Verge Series Winding Down

Once again it's been a while since I've found the time to write here. Since my last entry we've raced Maine, Noho, and Sterling. With only the last 2 races at NBX in RI left, a lot has happened, but not much has changed.

Maine was a soggy wet mess. Saturday was pouring buckets all day and although Sunday was a great looking day, the track was destroyed and was our muddiest race in years.

Saturday was good since Kevin and I were able to ride a very cold Roger off our wheels, after he nearly dropped me earlier in the race. Kev and I rolled to the line together and we had decided to take the jersey by putting me across the line first rather than duke it out and possibly leave the jersey on Roger's back. I was now 5 points ahead of Roger and had my first series lead of the year.

Sunday should have been good for me too, but I got the worst start I've ever gotten in a cross race. I had put in new spikes for the running I expected to be doing in the mud. They were real long and it's been a while since I ran new spikes. At the start they seemed to block me from getting into my pedal, and combined with a bit too much PAM on the pedals, I slipped it 3 times in a row and honestly thought I was gonna get run over from behind. On the flip side, Kev got the holeshot. He and Roger separated immediately and I was buried in the middle of 30 guys that were talking about their lines and how it's a party back there and swerving in front of me wrecklessly. Panic! I finally got out of it and started to make my way up when I made the next big mistake of the day, there would be more too. I truly raced like a cat 5 that day and was lucky to pull off a 3rd place result. Roger muscled away from Kev on the last lap and the jersey was back on his shoulders.

Noho is one of my favorites and the weather gods smiled on us again this year, with warm sunny days both Sat. and Sun.

I had put in a decent block of training and hoped to see the rewards. Saturday brought Matt Kraus into the mix and this was a welcome sight for me. Matt rides for Richard Sachs and is hugely talented in my eyes. A true cross racer for years & years and a 2nd place finisher to Brandon Dwight last year at Natz.

The race started on the lower deck this year and I got a good start as well as Kevin who was right next to me. First time through the pits Jamie yelled to us that Roger had a bad start and was back a bit. That was all we needed to hear. We lit it up and tried to separate before he got through the masses. After 2 brutally hard laps it was me, Kev and Matt at the front with Roger alone in 4th about 9 or 10 seconds back. We all worked together to keep the gap and with one to go it was clear we had gained more time and he was gonna ride it in and save it for Sunday. That was good, because now I could try to plan how to win. When Matt pulled through on the last lap I wasn't gonna go to the front again except to win. On the bottom of the course I attacked into the sand and out of the pit and powered the last 2 field sections, Kevin was also able to get around him before we hit the pavement and we went 1,2 with Matt 3rd and Roger 4th. I now had a 10 point lead in the series. My biggest yet. After the race the Corner Cycle Crew hammed it up on the podium. Then I visited good friends in the BOB camper, these guys do it better than anyone! They treated me to chicken Catcitore and lots of laughs. Dave Foley might be the funniest guy on the circuit and I'm glad to see he's doing a little more cross this year, Tim Shea, Garabed and Eric Marro are like staples of New England Cyclocross. This scene we've got going here in New England in the Fall is a freaking blast!!!

Sunday was FAST. I almost checked out on the first two laps, but couldn't quite snap the cord. Roger made no mistakes and Matt was extremely strong all day. It was a 4 man group for most of the day. I bobbled the sand pit once and spent the better part of 2 laps trying my hardest to get back on while Kev tried to slow things down for me in the group. The last lap was wierd, I guess since I finally recovered and I was able to move up fairly easy. I decided to go a little earlier than Saturday, but it didn't work out as well. I attacked before the long straightaway before the sand, but coming out of the sand Roger and Matt had more punch and I struggled to hold them. I got up to speed on the last 2 sections of grass going onto the paved finishing stretch, but we were all going the same speed with little gaps between. Roger was 1st, Matt 2nd, Kev 3rd and I came across 4th. Lead gone. Back to 10 points behind. CRAP!

Sterling was 3 weeks away and I vowed to myself that I would show up for it more fit and ready to peak for the end of the season and Natz.

Day 1 was WINDY and surprisingly dry after a long day of rain on Friday. It was Tom's (Stevens) classic Sterling course, complete with horse jump and tricky barriers. We shot off the line and it was quickly a 4 man group. Me, Kev, Roger and Kurt Perham. Kurt is riding very well and often wins the holeshot and hangs with us for most of the race. With 2 to go Kevin and I chatted on the track about what to do next since we wern't getting anywhere. He went into the lead before the horse jump and I got into 2nd with Kurt in 3rd and Roger 4th. Kevin can ride corners better than any of us in the Master's group. So he did that while I took my sweet time getting through the 5 or 6 turn chicane. I didn't brake check anyone, just rode slowly. Theres a comfort level everyone has with this sort of tactic and although it would be foolish not to deploy it, I don't want to go over the line and be cheap. Everyone will have a different view and different ideas, but we're all friends in our group and there's no reason it can't stay that way along with some good racing at te same time. Anyway, Kev had a good gap coming out of the turns and I was surprised I didn't get passed through the next few sets of turns. On the backstretch Roger lit it up and it was SAVAGE. That was it for Kurt. It seemed like he was trying to use our tactics to his advantage by letting Kev go a bit, then dropping me while bridging to him and then have only Kev to beat in the end. He almost did just that as I was hanging by a thread. I needed to counter attack when he got to Kev, but he didn't quite close the door and left Kev sitting about 3 bikelenghts ahead. Very savvy! We got the bell. Then right before the run up he attacked past Kev and made it really hard for me to follow since we then entered the greasy corner before the hill. He ran very well up the hill, and Kev encouraged me as I ran past trying to limit the damage. I closed it down before the horse jump. I was taxed but OK. How do I finish? How do I win? Where do I go? Should I sprint him? Lead out? Or come around? Sammy let Marky G lead it out in the 45s and never got around him. Where's Kev? How's he feeling? Can we block for one and other again? Those were just a few of the thoughts that were in my head as I raced the last lap. "Cyclocross is like trying to play chess while you're drowning". Roger went just fast enough to discourage me from attacking and I ended up waiting for the sprint on the track. I would try to come around him. We hit the track with a bit of a drift but both were able to power up right away. I got in his wheel and shifted twice, he was galloping now, time to go. I went left and gained half a bike instantly. My bike was all over the place and he seemed to have another gear at the same exact time as me. I never got closer than his bottom bracket and he held me off. CRAP AGAIN!! This guy is so good and so strong. It's an honor to race a guy that just loves to crush it who is decked out in National Champion Colors. I know Kev feels the same way too. BUT I still wanna beat him!!! 20 points back now in the series and only 3 races left.

I'm happy with my form anyway, it's just that the competition is better than ever. Sunday would be a MUST WIN SITUATION. Anything less would be horrible failure.

Sunday was warm and dry again. Tom made an outstanding day 2 course and even though it was dry overnight we found ourselves in more muddy spots than Saturday. I decided to ride my brand new Dugast Rhino's on alluminum rims with rubber brake pads. A very dependable and predictable braking combination. I hoped to have good day 2 legs for the 1st time all year. I got on the bike to warm up and it was clear I had the legs today......I LOVE this feeling, as it gives me uber confidence.

I've been dicking around too much this year and haven't taken the bull by the balls enough. "So what if he's good.....OK great, but I can ride a bike too. Today is gonna hurt, and I can't wait!" That was my self prep talk during warm up. What a dork huh?

Anyway I got the hole shot and led off the track and onto the lower section. Marky Mac was on my wheel and as we approached the very slimy ride/run up, he asked me "Riding or running"? I actually had to think about it for a second and then I remembered my talk to myself, and I said "Riding". I don't know what happened behind me, but I dove hard left with a hard surge and powered up and over and then really juiced it on the top. Before I dropped into the descent I looked back and I had a big gap. From that point on I just rode as hard as I could and as smart as I could. I felt really good and got to the point where I could take a breath and recover and go hard again. My name rung out over the speakers and from friends cheering and it motivated me more. I slowly pulled away with help from Kevin. He jumped in front of Roger when he could and slowed it down, and then sat on him when he made power in the straight aways. In the end I was able to ride the last lap carefully and cruise across the line for a comfortable win with my arms raised. Roger took 2nd, so I'm 10 points behind with 2 races to go. Anything can happen.

Thats it for the race reports.....thanks for reading, JB

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bike Racing and Beer Drinking

2 of my favorite things!

It was nice to have such a high level race that wasn't too far away last weekend. With my drive time just over an hour, that would help with lots of things. My girlfriend living 10 minutes from the venue would help even more. I got down Friday afternoon early enough to get in a few laps and try to dial it all in. Saturday's course was very similar to the course that Tom Stevens laid out for Natz back in 05 and 06. It's a classic and difficult course. Lots of skills involved in getting around this track efficiently. As I rode laps with Sammy and Kev, we could see Tom hard at work, setting it up and putting the finishing touches on it. Let me just point out how lucky we are in New England to have guys like Tom with his long history in this sport and his crew, working so hard bring us such incredible courses and events.

Wrapping the whole thing around the East Coast Interbike seemed a perfect fit. The only thing that could really spoil it would be bad weather. The only bad weather came overnight on Friday, but Saturday and Sunday both turned out to be good days with no precip.

The conclusion I came to after riding lots of laps was that this was gonna be hard as hell and that the best athlete should win. Not necessarily the best cyclist or the most fit or the strongest. There were so many different things going on with off camber turns leading into run ups, tricky high speed barriers with a downhill greasy right hander directly in the remount area, greasy low speed 180s, bumpy down ups with lots of roots and brake bumps and more 180s in between, glazed mud on asphalt in corners, peanut butter get offs into concrete long run stairs, curbs and planks, big shiny tree roots, acorns, glass, and lots of elevation gain per lap, and a hard ass long uphill grade leading to the finish line. Any sprint to the finish would be very painful.

I slept well enough but not great. I was nervous after trying to amp up my training in the last few days, after my squemish week leading into Gloucester. I felt good, but unsure of my form. I got over there early since it's been really hard to get in any laps before our race this year with the new jam packed schedule. We scoped out our parking spot the day before and I arrived almost at the same moment as Kevin, who had Jamie with him. Jamie has been nice enough to play the ultimate teamate this year and act as mechanic/pit man and overall helper and supporter at the races. His help has been invaluable. Especially when he discovers every little detail about our bikes while we're taking care of our warm ups and registration and # pinning. THANKS James!

So we're on the line ready to go and the series is like this...Kevin in the lead, Roger 10 points behind him, and me 20 behind. Marky Mack is in the mix, but far back on points for the series. What we didn't know was that John Coriveu was in the field, a MOOTS rider from Steanboat Springs, CO and very talented at that.

The whistle blows and I react well, and get in my pedal on the 2nd try. I start to charge and Roger pulls along side me and shows me what it looks like to try hard, so I do. I get up to speed at about the finish line and then get the holeshot off of the pavement and into the grass. I got a good gap after the first set of turns and did what I know best......ride from the front, as hard as I can. I drilled it for a full lap, constantly checking to see where the others were. The gap was small, but you gotta start somewhere. After about 1-3/4 laps Roger makes contact and Mark is right on him. .
I'm amazed to see that there are about 5 others just behind them. On the next paved section leading down to far end of the course I sit up and let Roger pull through, Mark follows and he doesn't look good at all. He's got one of the best poker faces of all time, but he wasn't fooling anyone at that particular moment. I let Kurt Perham, Coriveu and Bill Shattuck roll through too and Kevin was next, but was still off just a few bike lengths. I filled in the spot hoping he would get on. On the next chicane I chose to run and passed Bill and Kurt again. I could see Roger was starting to ramp it up, after all he had 20 seconds to recover and thats all he needs and then some. Onto the pavement, it was Roger followed by Corvieu, then Mark then me, then Kurt, Bill and Kevin. It was all strung out. Corvieu drilled it and Roger was right on it. Mark reacted with an out of the saddle in the drops charge. I took that as a signal to try as hard as I could. I got his wheel and realized he didn't quite get to the other two. At the finish line (with 4 to go) he seemed to go backwards and I just went around him and up to the other two. It was effectively a leadout.

From that point it was just the 3 of us. Roger let Corvieu lead for over a lap and was flying and riding very well through all the different transitions. Finally Roger drilled it out of the "punch bowl" on a tough uphill grade, and I punched my own ticket and followed. Around the temple of music we went faster than we had before then and started to gap off Coriveu, and it took a while, but he faded. With 2 to go it was really hard to hold Roger and I was rethinking my first lap and a half of the race. I started thinking about how I could possibly beat him and I didn't have many good answers
Thankfully my teammate, Kevin, was in the leader's jersey and so I felt no obligation to go to the front and pull ourselves farther away from him. He was on a bad day and was battling with Bill, and Kurt in 4th, 5th and 6th. Mark had detinated and was out of contention completely. Finally we got the bell and my best chance was gonna be to try a sprint against Roger if I could survive the last lap attacks. At the top of the long wooden staired run up, Roger put his bike down and hopped on, so did I, but when I looked up he was sort of free spinning. He had thrown his chain on the outside of his chainrings. I passed him on the left as he fiddled with it and went as fast as I could through the punchbowl and up the power grade. I got some big cheers from the pits when I emeged alone and I drilled it all the way down the straight aways because I knew for certian that Roger wouldn't throw in the towel. I ran the last chicane again like I did all day and snuck a peak as I went around the corner. I had a few seconds and just had to keep it upright and get onto the pavement. I did and then sprinted a little while looking back and put two very tired arms in the air for a hard fought, albeit lucky win.

Roger was just a handful of seconds behind and I told him he didn't deserve that, which he didn't, but if anyone can sympathize about a race costing mechanical, it's me. Corveu was there shorthly after, and then Kev got messed up by one of the others in the last little technical section and couldn't execute his planned pass. He ended up 6th behind Kurt and Bill who both had outstanding rides.

I never would have thought it, but when the dust settled I was in my beloved Verge Leader's Jersey. Tied with Roger on points and Kev just 10 behind. Bittersweet again today. I got the jersey, but had to take it off a teammate's back. I had a good race, Kev had a bad one. But we don't care who takes the jersey, as long as one of takes it. Roger is giving us all we can handle at the moment!

Day 2 was gonna be even harder. The course favored me a lot less with more turns than Saturday and fewer power sections. It looked more like Kev's course to me and after a long rest he was ready for battle on Sunday. I still liked my chances too and was motivated since I was in the leader's jersey for the first time in 2009. I now have leader's jersies from 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009.... but this one is FAR from in the bag!!! It looked like a good course for Roger too who is riding his bike around corners better than I've ever seen him, and Marky Mack is always tougher on day 2. Throw in Corveu and a couple other wild cards and it was wide open.

The whistle blew and I was flat footed. My reaction was just a split second late and then I didn't get my pedal right away. Translation.....bad start. Mark bolted from the front and looked like he was gonna check out on us. He was flying and I was on Roger's wheel in about 10th or 12th place. We couldn't get out to chase with all the twists and turns. We were both gonna have to be patient for a bit. It was too hectic to look for Kevin or I'd lap a wheel, but he wasn't in front of me. We made a couple passes when we could and when we finally came back onto the pavement at the finishing straight we drilled it past everyone, and only had Mark left up the road. He was a lot closer now and that was a sigh of relief. Climbing out of the punch bowl on lap 2 we had Mark in the crosshairs, when all of a sudden he was in my lap. I had looked down for 1 second and in that time Roger must have moved over, and all of a sudden I was 10" from Marks wheel and he was parked. I shot to the left and body englished my bike around his crank and leg and just kept going like nothing ever happened, but that was close!

It didn't take long for Corveu to show up and he looked very strong. Kevin and Bill weren't far behind and they looked good too. I guess it was around lap 3 or 4 when I got shuffled to the back and was pinned on every corner exit which were many. Kevin looked awesome and was on the front gapping off everyone but Roger. I needed to be there, but couldn't go. With 1 and a half or so Kev threw his chain in a weird spot and was able to pedal it back on, but he lost Roger and I rolled up behind him after going around Bill who looked as though he may have torched his last match. Kev shot back past Corveu, but didn't get to Roger right away. We got the bell and I swear my heart rate was 200. Roger had a small gap maybe 4 seconds to Kev and Corveu and they had a smaller gap on me probably like 2 seconds. That may not seem like much but everyone was going as hard as they could. Corvieu was looking good as the only guy on a wheel. The whole last lap was excruciating. I was so close to reattaching and they were close to nailing Roger back too. Kev and Corvieu traded spots somewhere and I was gapped off by 7 or 8 seconds which was a mile at that point. They got to Roger before the last technical section and Corvieu got around him and onto the pavement first. He brought home the win with a good sprint and Kevin followed Roger across and I relented in the last meters and finished 4th with Bill Shattuck a solid 5th.

I congratulated Corvieu on his win and thanked him for winning since that helped me and Kev in the points race. So now it's Roger 300, JB 290, Kev 285. Basicly a 3 way tie with 8 races left. Man what a great and exciting series!

I went back to the cars with Jamie and did my cool down and packed everything up. We decided it would be a good idea to go grab a bite and maybe a few beers. It turned out to be a warm afternoon and Nancy had made it over to watch the race too, so we ended up swelling to a large group of Corner Cycle riders and friends and got into some fine beer drinking, as we watched the PRO races. It was nice to know that I had Columbus day off and wasn't far from home.

As we watched the PRO men's race it became obvious that lots of guys shouldn't be in the race. Forcing the cat 2s to ride the PRO race seems like a mistake to me. They were getting lapped very early and this was a race with pretty long lap times. It doesn't seem to help them to develop when they only get in 40 minutes and then get yanked from the race. I'm sure lots of them went home feeling pretty dejected. As Master's, we of course talk to the others in our group about this stuff. Like how many races are in the series and how the prize money went down while the entry fees stayed the same, and entries seem to be about the same or higher. Not sure what everyone else thinks, but most of us wish things would go back to the old way of operating.

A big shout out to my boy Sammy for winning on back to back days in the 45+ field. Doing it with a sprint on Saturday and flat out domination on Sunday, winning by over a minute.

In our group the 35s, I'd have to give the ride of the weekend to Bill Shattuck after racing with the fastest guys both days and taking back to back top 5s. I spoke to Bill after Gloucester and he said he was feeling the way I described myself in the week before. I told him I knew just how he felt and to take an easy week to recharge. I don't know if he did or not, but whatever he did.....it worked well. Great job Bill. I love to see guys making that big step up.

Thats it for tonight, Thanks for reading, JB

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mountain Biking and Crossing

I haven't had much spare time to get here lately. Green Mountain Stage Race is a huge energy consumer. Not only racing, but all the travel to and from nothern VT as well as the daily commutes to 4 different venues. It's easily worth it, but recovery is necessary.

Unfortunately this year the scheduling didn't really allow it. The following weekend was the Landmine Mountain bike race at Wompatuck state park. This had the Golden Bike competition and was also the last Rt. 66 race I was gonna do for the year since the following weekend was a one chance only opportunity to knock some rust off the Cross bikes and cross skills. I needed to close out the series in the Cat 1 40-49 Expert class and be able to skip the last race of the year at Mt. Snow.

Here's the good news. Kevin DESTROYED every rider in the field by 7 minutes and more. He won the bike, which isn't any one's favorite bike, but it has high $ value. If this promotion continues into next year, the deal is that they'll fly him and a friend (shameless plug to pick me) to the next race, which would be Sea Otter next Spring. The problem is that no one, including myself, thinks it'll continue into next year. It was a BIZARRE marketing ploy, complete with cheerleaders with strangely formed abs and belly buttons, to full page ads in many cycling mags. That being said, I hope it does continue so Kev gets to cash in like all the other earlier winners during the season.

In the 40s race. Good buddy and teammate Sammy Morse took of like a shot from the gun and I didn't see him again for 12 miles or so. I was looking forward to riding with him for a while, but just as I came up to him, he slid out on a wet asphalt corner. I assumed the lead and was pleased in knowing that if I held on to win, I would clinch the series jersey for the year. At mile 21 I flatted for the 5th time in a race this season, and for the 85th time this year. I've been plagued by flats this year like you wouldn't believe. It seems like every ride, many rides had multiple flats. I tried to stay positive and had the tire off, pretty quick and the tube I had nicely folded up in my seat pack went in pretty quick. C02 fired cleanly and I thought I was all set. One problem, tire still flat. My spare already had a pinch flat from a training ride that I had repressed. I'm not proud of what happened next, but I lost my shit all over the place. My Irish temper went sky high and I saw red. I knew I had just lost the series on my 4th straight mechanical in a mountain bike race. I gave the bike a heave into the woods and my helmet too. Then like a complete idiot, I went into the woods and retrieved my gear and began walking back to the start. A nice dnf and lost the series. I'm still pissed!

On the more good news side of it, Sammy held on for a fine win in his first complete mountain bike race of the year.

Back to the bad side of things. My pal and teammate Jamie Tosca was crushing the 30s expert field when he flatted too. I must have cursed him when I handled his wheels while unloading. I had stopped at the shop the day before and while I was there I called Kev to see if needed me to pick anything up for him. He said "Ya, grab me a Challenge Grifo cross tire 32mm". Before I left I threw it in his car while he was doing the podium waiting game. He inflated it on a rim when he got home to stretch it out. It went flat a half hour later. He checked the valve core and tightened it up good and reinflated......1/2 hour later flat again. I'm truly cursed!

Fast forward a week and we're in NH at the Waterville Valley cross race promoted for the first time by good friend and Master's cross race start specialist, Curtis Boivin. We rolled a few laps for warm up, and I specifically left clinchers on my bike so I wouldn't flat a $120 tire in warm up. When we got close to go time, I rode to the pit with my other bike along side me, just like Kevin and Jamie did. Everything was good. I put the pit bike in the pit and went to ride back away on my race bike with it's race wheels on it. Front tire was dead flat. Really? I'm so far beyond saying "WTF". For a while I was able to laugh at the curse, but not any more. I just took the pit bike back to the car and got another wheel while fully disgusted!

The race was a blast though! Short little laps, I think we did 17. Kevin and I separated from the PRO field pretty quickly and then we just took turns leading for a full lap. Lots of get offs with a sand run, a run up, and also a set of high speed barriers, on a corner no less. Good way to break in the groins and hip flexors for the year.....NOT! Coming off the sand, about to get the bell, I felt a sharp biting cramp hit my right calf......LOVELY! We got the bell and had picked up Colin Reuter, who'd had a mechanical himself, and was happy to have company. We showed him our lines and how to "not ride" the other half of the other run up in the woods. When we got through the sand on the last lap Colin bolted and crossed the line ahead of Kevin and I as we tried to brake stand each other to give the other the win. I won the brake stand contest, which meant he won the race. Colin proceeded to guzzle a Pabst Blue Ribbon, but he failed to realize that he was no longer on the same lap and needed to do 1 more since he crossed the line ahead of us. He was having a blast, and he knew his race was over either way. I need to try and remember that when bad stuff happens, and try to do the same.

Jamie finished off a hard fought battle with Curtis for 3rd and that completed a fine Corner Cycle sweep of the A-Race podium. More importantly, we had $380 worth of beer and sushi money, and we put it to good use!

The next day was the Fall Classic "Sucker Brook Cross" also in NH. We had stayed up at a friends ski condo and we all woke up pretty hurting. No we didn't get get too carried away drinking, but all those get offs in the race as well as my (still very much with me) calf cramp, and Kev's tight hammy had us rethinking hanging around til 4 in the afternoon to race again. Jamie said he was all set and wasn't gonna race again, so Kevin and I decided to switch out our entries and enter the 35s instead of the PRO race. Good decision, because the race started at 11 and was 45 minutes instead of an hour. the idea of the weekend was to get tuned up.....not beaten down. This was good news for the PRO race guys, but not so good for the Master's as we got a few moans and groans when we pulled up at the start line. We actually both qualify for the 45s, so we're racing down a full 10 years.....still the groans. Oh well! ....you moaners and groaners better step it up, cuz we're racin' 35s all year like it or not!

So we got to the line 7 or 8 minutes early to get a good spot, but at least 150 guys had gotten there sooner. But there were 3 groups there. 35s 45s and 55s. So it wasn't as bad as it looked. Still we had to barge our way through the other 2 fields up to the BACK of the 35s field. The gun goes off and we sit there for a second while the road clears. That's different! We rip around turn 1 and in the middle of turn 2 I see a barrage of pink, white and blue go flying through the air. It's my teammate Sammy beating the crap out of the ground with his face. Doh! Not good! He got up and scrapped his way back into contention only to have a couple more unplanned get offs....only to fight back to yet again to a very respectable finish, after leading a 7 hour, 100 mile charity ride the day before. Atta boy Sammy, you're nothing but classy!

I worked my way through the huge field and got to the front with Eric Gutbier from Celtic who's on some very good form right now. I did a hard tug and then checked to see where Kev was. He was still trying to unhitch from the last of the wheel suckers, so I decided to wave Eric through, while I waited for Kev. He slowed down quite a bit, so I surged after the barriers and that was it for him. Kevin got on a little while later and we rolled around taking turns again. It was my turn to win, so went 1, 2 again.

A solid weekend, but I was feeling more and more burned out every day. The following weekend was to be the 1st Verge race. The series has ballooned to 14 races this year.....ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is that there are no "drops" from the point total. Every race is uber important if you want any chance at the jersey. Can you say "PRESSURE"? On top of that I'm the 5time defending champion of the 35s, so the pressure can be overwhelming sometimes.....even irritating.

Well there we were back in Northern VT just 3 weeks after GMSR. I needed to be at work Friday, so that meant a 4-1/2 hour drive on the day of the race. Sweeet! we lined up next to Uber Stud Roger Aspholm in his National Champions Kit. The gun sounds and almost immediately it's just Roger, Kevin and me. I was in the hurt box and they looked fine, but I knew I had to try to soften Roger up so Kev could have a crack at him. Problem was that I barely had enough to be there, let alone attack. So I attacked about half way through the race. It didn't soften anyone up, but me. I limped back to 3rd spot breathing way too heavily and staring at that god awful start hill. I made it up there with them, but at the next chicane I slid my rear wheel while trying to keep high momentum since I was so taxed. I came to a dead stop with a foot out at the bottom of a hard little climb. No other choice but to run up now. Kevin did his best to let me get back on, but Roger seized the opportunity and bolted, Kevin had to follow. I was close for a while and put in one last all out effort, and almost got there, but Roger kept the gas on and I blew up. I shut it down to recovery speed and just rode it in for 3rd, thinking about tomorrow. Roger out kicked Kev at the line and earned the first series jersey of the year and his first ever.

It rained all night Saturday, and I decided to take advantage of my teammate David Rath's garage for a trainer warm up. Jamie and I had stayed with David who lives 2 miles from the venue....that was NICE! I got pretty frothy on the trainer, and was starting to do my hard effort when I flatted my tire....of course I flatted on the trainer......why wouldn't I?

The course was greasy, but not too bad. I got the worst start I've ever gotten in a race and was out of it right there. That's never happened to me before. I never saw Roger unless it was on a switch back or something. Kev had a bad start too, but worked out of it much sooner than I could and got clear of everyone else pretty early. I was in 20th place or so coming to a complete standstill in the corners. Race over. Kevin caught Roger when he crashed in a corner and the 2 of them outclassed the entire field with Roger winning again on a late race attack that got him 5 seconds or so. I rode around in 3rd all day alone and hapless. My spirit was broken and I was not feeling like I wanted to be there or like I wanted to bother racing all over New England for the next 3 months chasing after a jersey that I've already won 5 times in a row.

It's hard to get to the top, but it's a lot harder to stay there!

When I got home from the 4-1/2 hour drive from VT, with 3 filthy bikes, I was thoroughly disgusted, physically and more importantly mentally exhausted. I got my stinky muddy gear out of the car and decided to leave the bikes til after work on Monday. I didn't sleep much Sunday night while my mind toiled with all this crap. Monday was bleak! to say the least. I went PRO and sucked up my depression and did what I'm paid to do at work, even though my energy level was pathetic. When I got home it was an easy decision to let the bikes sit one more night. I didn't even wanna see a bike! Tuesday I didn't feel a lot better, and by the end of the day, I was sure I didn't want to do this anymore. I got home and drank a beer and sat on the couch.

Registration for Gloucester closed mid day on Wednesday and by 1 o'clock my phone was ringing up a storm. "Aren't you racing New England Worlds"? "That's your course"! "Whats going on"? Most of it I ignored, but I couldn't ignore Sammy and Kev. I told them what I was going through and how I felt and a funny thing happened. Both of them were so cool about it all (not that they wouldn't be) they understood what I was saying and they listened. OK here's the funny part. They motivated me by not trying to motivate me. They let the teammate thing go and dealt with me as a friend going through a bad patch. Almost instantly I felt a weight lifted. Still I didn't touch the bikes, but I did look at them when I decided I better open a couple windows in my car to air it out a bit. 3 days in the sun with all that VT mud was sure to be reeking a bit. I still didn't unload them though. Thursday I felt a lot more myself and I spoke to Sammy again who just wanted to talk tactics for his 45 plus race. He was in the jersey and had every intention to defend it. I told him I could still register "day of" if I had a change of heart. He said "Do whats best for you". I rode my road bike Thursday after work for an hour easy. It made me tired. I slept well. Friday had a different feel. I was myself again and couldn't wait to get out of work to ride. I had a great little road ride after work with a few openers and pick ups. During the ride I got the hunger back and then my body filled with adrenaline. Not only was I gonna race, but i was gonna crack some heads! I texted Kev and said "I'll be there, ready to rip"! He was very pleased, and that motivated me more.

I'm very fortunate to have such good friends in this life. I owe that to cycling also. Without cycling I wouldn't even know these guys or anyone reading this endless drivel.

I'm sure you can all relate to a week like this, when you just want to be "normal" and go home from work and just do whatever. Rather than have this guilt or sense of responsibility to stick to your dedication to this sport. Well I tried. I lasted 3 days. Now my dysfunction is back in line and I feel my "normal" again. We just all have different definitions of "normal". You gotta go with yours while I go with mine.

Anyway, it poured stinking canned hams on Saturday, and the famous dry sandy shores of Stage Fort Park turned into the muddiest race I've seen in years. I got the hole shot and put the bit between my teeth and rode with a weeks worth of emotion and unleashed all my anger on the cranks. All the flat tires, all the exhausted Mondays, all the tire gluing, all the travel, and all the training just melted away as I devoured the famous course that I love so much. I only looked back once, and it was early in the first lap before the incredible run up. Roger was the only guy close, but he wasn't that close. I decided I was gonna go as hard as I could weather I got caught or not. It was like a dream. I could hear my name being shouted all over the place and it just fueled me more. Even better was that Kevin separated himself from everyone else and also rode solo in 2nd place for an impressive 1, 2 sweep. I was back!

Kev and I were tied with 150 points to Roger's 155, so he hung onto the jersey going into Sunday.

Sunday was partly sunny and the course was starting to dry out. I chose to go with the same wheels and tires as Saturday since we were gonna ride some of the same sections and lots of saturated ground. BAD decision. By the time we raced it was more or less dry and tacky with the exception of a couple of spots we reused from the day before. I got the hole shot again and tried to escape, but I didn't have the same power as Saturday. I guess my 2 hour training week didn't do too much for my depth. I had a good gap, but Roger and Marky Mack caught me after the cinder road by the ocean. Kevin was on shortly after that. Time to employ our team tactics. I won't go into it, but it went something like this. Kevin attacks with me in 2nd wheel. Kev rides the next few tight corners like he can (very well, and very fast) JB brake checks the same corners. Kevin checks out. Roger passes in the next straightaway and chases, JB sits on the chase, Mark laughs as he's seen it all and done it all before. OK I guess I will get into it. It wasn't exactly rocket science or some great hand we need to hold tight to our chest. It was just group racing with a teammate in the group. We'd be stupid not to incorporate it. However....Kevin was ON and he had the legs to hold us off until Mark attacked Roger and me going into the power chicane and powered away up to Kevin. I tried to go but couldn't make it and had to get back behind Roger to make him defend his jersey and chase my teammate. He did just that, and dropped me straight away on the last lap and almost got back, but Kev put in a solid last lap and got through the important spots in front and crossed the line 1st with Mark a close 2nd and Roger 3rd.

I had a bittersweet day, because it was my pal's first ever Verge win in the 35s (he's 4 time defending champ of the 45s), and he took the leader's jersey off of Roger's back while winning Gloucester. But I made some bad mistakes on this day and wasn't able to finish any higher than 4th. I know it's not a bad result, but I had a nice little podium streak going at Verge races. The last time I wasn't on the podium at a Verge race that I started was at Chainbiter in CT in 2003. I think it's around 40 races. George W was in his first term as president. Oh well boo effin hoo. Time to start a new streak, and keep that jersey at least within the team. It won't be easy, that's for sure!!!
Thanks for reading, if you actually made it this far, JB

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Secret Training Booster

For years I've been racing and kind of training. By that I mean, I wish I had more time to ride, and then when I do ride, I wish I felt fresher so I could really let 'er rip.

My work and work schedule take a lot out of me and I'm tired and sore at the end of the day. Work starts very early so riding before work is not an option. I'm a builder and work requires lots of tools and different clothing options so riding to work isn't a real option either.

What I'm left with is scraps of time, mostly from 5 to 7 pm to make it happen. Some days it just doesn't go. If I'm too whipped from a particularly hard day or if I need to run an errand or two, I'm basicly out for that night.

I hate the trainer with great passion, so don't suggest that one!

What I often end up doing is going super hard for an hour or hour and a half. It's not optimum, but I've made it work over the years. The problem is that it leaves my legs full of lactic acid and I'm a lot more sore than if I were to have the time to do it right.

The thing I've discovered to work the best for me is to have regular massage. That way I can go hard for a couple days, get the massage mid week and then ease into the weekend when I race....usually both days.

And so that is why I'm here today. My good friend and massage therapist is in Providence, on the East side, but I'm lucky enough that she does out calls too. Recently with the downturn in the economy she's seen a tail off in her business and she also incurred a bunch of unexpected homeowner's costs. We were talking about ways to try and drum up more business for her, when we realized there's a huge amount of cyclists out there that could really benefit from her excellent work.

I jokingly said I should put a plug for you on my blog and we laughed. Then we got to thinking...... I don't have any idea how many people read this dribble, but I've gotten a fair amount of comments about it at the races. So what the heck?

Here's the deal. She has an office in Providence, on the East side, which is convenient to LOTS of people who race bikes. Here's her web site www.nancygillooly.com


She'll give anyone who says they found her on this blog a discount.

Thats it. Thats my shameless plug for today.
Thanks, JB

Friday, September 11, 2009

Green Mountain Stage Race

GMSR is the best race you can do in New England. It's 4 stages include a super tough TT, a hard circuit race (53 miles for the Master's), a BRUTAL road race 77 miles crossing over Brandon gap, Notch road gap, and finishing at the top of the notorious App Gap, and finally a super technical, super fast downtown crit in Burlington VT. Burlington is one of the coolest towns in all of New England. The college kids (girls) are back in town and the summer is still holding on. There are lots of outdoor cafe's and we race right through several on the brick laid Church street, which is really more of a walking street and not normally open to traffic.

I had a great ride in 2008 in the TT and took the leader's jersey into the 2nd stage. I was hoping for a repeat, but Roger Aspholm is on some serious form and I'm honestly a bit off from the same time last year. Roger had his way with the course and me and took the jersey by a handy 21 sconds. A solid ass kicking! I was in second.

Day 2 is the circuit race and we had dual objectives. Kevin was in 6th, and I was 2nd. We wanted to preserve our high GC positions and try to get Dave Connery into the Green Jersey (Sprint leader). The first sprint of three was absolute textbook. The plan was to have Sammy lead out Dave with me sweeping his wheel. Sammy toughed it out through the trenches for 3k and at about 300 meters to go he drilled it from about 5th or 6th wheel. Dave was glued to him and I was right on Dave. Sammy left it at about 100 meters where Dave accelerated strongly and made it look easy as he went over the line first and I stayed on his wheel for 2nd. Tobi Schultz was 3rd.

Second time around after a hard climb, we set it up the same way. This time Westwood had 3 guys in formation for Troy and so Sammy had to hit it early at about 4oo meters. He got Dave to about 200, and Dave pulled through, with me on his wheel. I instantly felt the slow down and realized Dave didn't have it, so I went around him and charged for the line. I thought I had it but ran out of gear and and got passed by a wheel by Tobi, with Troy in third. I had two 2nds and didn't realize there were even bigger points available at the finish. We all made it up the big climb after the feed zone except Dave and had about 10 miles to go to the finish. On the last little rise, we were all too far back when a small group got off the front. We screwed up on that one and had no one to blame but ourselves. The small group contained 6 strong riders including Roger.

We chased, but it was futile since the teams with guys in the break did a good job of not cooperating and the other guys had no interest in working. We lost 27 seconds and the first 3 got time bonuses too. In the end we lost a lot. I went from 2nd to 6th on GC, Kev went from 6th to 8th, and Roger had the leader's jersey, the sprinter's jersey, and the king of the mountains jersey. A GMSR first and an impressive display of dominance.

Day 3 is the BEAST! 77 miles over 2 major gaps and lots of little leg breakers along the way. I was in third place in the sprint competition and Tobi had the green jersey on by default since Roger wears the leader's jersey. There's only 1 points sprint in this stage so we needed to make it count. It was at 14.5 miles. We had a good plan. Tobi saw what happened in the 1st sprint the day before and pimped our train on the 2nd sprint....winning it, so we figured he'd look to duplicate that today. So we set it up exactly the same way...Sammy leading it out, Dave in second and me sweeping in third. The plan....Fake it and leave Tobi in the wind. BRILLIANT! Sammy got all keyed up and in position. He even tightened up his shoes to sell it. Tobi was in a good spot as he watched his former lead out man do his thing. As we got close Sammy drifted slightly right leaving 1 line out by the yellow line. He started to increase speed, but we were getting close. Tobi held tight. Troy took the line on the left and opened it up, I blasted off behind him. I thought I was gonna get around him but the line came quick. There was actually 1 guy away on a solo break 3 minutes up, so he took 1st place points (6), Troy took 2nd (4), and I got third (3). Tobi was 4th with zero points. The green jersey was mine. Now I had to get on with the rest of the stage.

We went over Brandon Gap pretty hard, but no worries. I was in the 1st group as were Sammy and Kev, Dave was close behind in the next bunch. We descended Brandon which is pretty straight forward, but if you take foolish risks there are a few bends in the road that you can kill yourself on.....yes KILL YOURSELF! One guy from a different field was in the ditch after a very nasty crash and was in a bad bad way. We heard later that he had undergone 7 hours of surgery. Don't know what on or how he is, but I hope he makes a full recovery. Cycling is hard. You can be riding along fine one second and a second later you're f#&@ed up bad. It's too far from the finish to even bother trying to get away, so you should just chill and ride down sensibly. I did that and still topped out at 58.4 mph. Being heavy is good for some things. At the bottom we turn right onto a flat road and everyone starts eating and drinking. It's sorta an unofficial lunchtime.

The next big obstacle is Notch Rd. and the dirt section that follows, but thats not for a while. It was mostly uneventful until then and even after really. Everyone was well aware of what was looming. We went over Baby Gap (the lower part of App Gap) fairly easy, and I was surprised at how many guys were still on. App Gap starts at 4k to go and it's brutal. Kevin made the 1st group as he's climbing as good as anyone right now. I faded off with a few others and found my own rythm. Roger crushed it again and won the 3rd stage in a row. Kev almost climbed onto the podium but had to settle for 4th 24 seconds down. I came in 14th with Troy Kimball 1:19 down. Sammy was just a little further down and Dave was in the "way back machine". Kevin and I flip flopped. He was now in 6th and I was in 8th. Still good.

Day 4. The downtown crit. I was in the green sprinter's jersey and wanted to stay in it, but it was extremely close with lots of good sprinters after it. Last year I won this race and did the "bookend" winning the 1st and last stages of the stage race. I was really wanting to try to win the stage and I should have been in a better spot when that came around, but I made judgement errors again and was out of position at the end. The 1st sprint preem however was a different story. With everyone fresh and wanting the green jersey it was gonna be hard! Good old Sammy brought me to the promise land though. Half way through the sprint lap he collected me and brought me right to the front. Coming into the last corner, a FAST downhill left hander through some rough pavement and onto the uphill finishing straight, I went around him. I knew no one else would jump through the hole that was now closing and Sam could just coast the corner allowing me a gap. I got the bike around the potholes and righted it and started to charge. I shifted as I heard someone (Dave Connery) shout "Go Jonny Go!" I did, and it was a long way to go, but I never saw a wheel on either side and nailed it to the line. Max Lippolis was 2nd and Dave 3rd. My lead was now much bigger as I took maximum points. Troy and Tobi were closest in points and neither of them was 2nd or 3rd so that was good.

The next sprint (the last one before the finish) came up and I was near the front when we were coming into the bell for the preem lap. I knew exactly where and when it was, but I decided to attack a lap early and see if I could catch them with their pants down. I sprinted for the line and I was guessing that they'd think I had the laps wrong. I got the instant gap and as I went over the line I got the bell for the preem. I had a big gap at the next corner and even bigger after that. I settled in and cruised to the preem win and clinched the jersey. Only I didn't know that then. The group was far back, but when they sprinted they gained on me. I decided to sit up and go back into the field. Stupid? Maybe, but it was a big risk to try to go from there. If it didn't work I was screwed. From there I should have gotten into a good spot in the top 7 or 8 and just surfed wheels, but for some reason I thought it was gonna split. It felt like it as the pressure was constant and hot. I tried to break it after Tobi did a hard pull, but there were just too many strong guys. I lost the race right there by cashing that check.

Mark Gunsalis drifted off the front and everyone looked around. Roger came to the front with 2 to go and brought him almost back. With half a lap to go he was right there, but he still had a small gap. The sprint started and Max got there by about 7 inches, taking his second Burlington Crit victory. A good win for him since he had some bad luck for a few days.

I finished up 10th or 11th. The GC stayed the same. Kevin 6th, me 8th. The big thing for me was winning the sprinter's competition. It's no secret (especially if you're a regular reader here) that I sort of despise sprinters. But let me clarify. I love watching Mark Cavendish crush field sprints as much as the next guy, but thats the PRO game. This is not. I like to race, not sit around all day.....using and abusing, and then with fresher legs than the guys who raced, outsprint them. You may think it's smart, but there's no honor in it for me. So I think I showed I can do that too if I want to, but I'd rather throw down in a nice 20 or 30 mile break. It was kinda sweet, because I'm thumbing my nose at all the usual suspects (you know who you are).

Well it's time for a couple more Mountain bike races, a short break, and a full Cyclocross season. See Ya in the mud, JB

Sunday, August 16, 2009

CRAZY !!!

This is about the D2R2 Ride in Western, MA. I saw it on bikereg back in the winter and thought it sounded like a ride for me. I like to race my bike and all, but I didn't just buy a bike one day and head off to the races. Like all of us, I fell in love with bikes many many years ago. The beauty of this blog is that I don't have to try to explain the soulful connection we have with our machines and the act of riding/suffering, and all things related.

This was gonna be different from a race, and yet not so much. I know what you're thinking......a bunch of us hooked up out there at the front of this thing and turned it into a race. Wrong. It was similar in that we all had to go very deep inside ourselves to summon the fortitude to keep turning the pedals over. That may sound corny, but I promise you it was that hard. I suggest any doubters show up next year and giver' a go.

A long, long time ago I did my first bike race. It was in Lynnefield, MA. I was 21 years old. It was called the CYCHO. It was a 24 hour, no drafting allowed road race. I had been doing quite a bit of riding back in those days including 225 mile treks (each way) out to see friends at the Yahoo fest (pre-internet) at North Adams State College, so I figured it was a good race for me. Actually the Sykes brothers had just bought the shop in Falmouth, MA and transformed it into the 2nd Corner Cycle shop. It was George that befriended me instantly and saw this race in one of the cycling publications we had to use back then to find races and register. Anyway after my "party rides" he decided I should do this race. So I said "Sure". He told me how I should probably stop riding 1000s of miles in running shoes, and maybe buy a floor pump instead of going to a gas station for air. He told me about bike shorts and jerseys, and water bottles and everything, but mostly he became my friend. He set me up with a bro deal on everything I needed and promised that if I won the race I could have anything I wanted from the shop.

I attacked from the gun and never looked back. I rode 423 miles around a 9 mile loop and won going away. It was hard and 15 hours into it, I had to go back to my running shoes, since my feet hurt from my new adidas Eddy Mercyx shoes. That hurt, but it was tolerable enough. I ended up taking a cool poster from him at the shop instead of some pricey thing, since he'd given me such a good deal on everything before the race. I have raced for him from that day since.....22 years!

I did Ironman races where you couldn't walk very well for 3 or 4 days after. That hurt, but it was different too. The D2R2 (which I had been calling the R2D2 all week) trumped them all!

Have a look around on this website to see more of the gorey details. Read some of the rider's testimonials.

http://www.franklinlandtrust.org/randonee.htm

On to the ride itself. It was going to be hot and we were hoping to get to the line for the early bird special at 6 am. You could start at any time between 6 and 7 am, or later if that's when you got there. Kevin and I drove out Friday afternoon after work and stayed at the luxurious Red Roof Inn. We got lost in the fog trying to find this place in the morning and we ended up a touch late, but no worries. We got all our stuff at check in including a 7 page cue sheet in a big Ziploc bag. A quick look around at the different bikes and we realized it was gonna be a friggen treasure hunt out there following cue sheets and not marked roads. The bikes had RIDICULOUS easels on them for their cue sheets and all sorts of silly handlebar arrangements. Kevin and I looked at each other and laughed. We took the cue sheets folded them up and tucked them into our jersey pockets.

We rolled at 6:30 am and we quickly hooked up with Jim Nash of ccb and a few others. We struggled with turn 1 and trying to find it and then turn 2 too. (not tutu) This was gonna SUCK I thought, but we pulled it together and started to get the distances down between cues and got better at navigating. An hour into it I felt like my entire group was pedaling too hard. It was still relatively cool and we were in the shade of the trees most of the time (an occurance that would continue all day thankfully). Some of the guys were breathing extremely hard and sweating profusely through puffy red faces. I even told them they were gonna die a slow and painful death. Kevin however looked effortless and has never cramped in his life. He was gonna make this hard for me. We eventually rode away from those guys on one of the MANY MANY MANY MANY MANY climbs.

We rode up steep pitches on loose dirt, up to 27%. The climbs were anywhere from 200 meters to 5 miles. It was just CRAZY. We didn't know the roads and never knew what laid around the corner. With that kind of climbing, there has to be some nutty descents. There were!!! Bombing down fully canopied dirt roads ripping around corners was Kevin's idea of fun. He was after all one of the best enduro riders in the world and is as comfortable with cornering a 2 wheeled machine around a loose dirt corner at 45 mph as anyone. Try following THAT! I was having fun too as I'm known as a bit of a descender, but he was outa my league and I decided that self preservation was a real good way to go. I let him ride in front of me by about 70-80 meters and that helped me with the lines quite a bit. We had no crashes all day, although I was close a couple times.

Right about now you're probably wondering what bikes we decided to ride. We had lots of options. We went with our Steven's Cross Bikes with clincher Challenge tires. (the pipistrello imitation tread) at 60 psi. It was an EXCELLENT equipment choice.

We managed to go off course twice which caused us to add some extra training miles to the ride. (just what we needed) We ended up adding about 10 miles to the ride before the lunch stop. We were sitting on a stone wall with some of the IF boys when we saw Solobreak at the lunch stop and this was our savior. Dave had been my main consultant before the ride since he'd done it 2 other times. He was about to split with his food in his pockets, because he said there's (another) huge climb just after the feed. He said he'd ride with us and we saddled up and said a few goodbyes and rolled. ahem err grinded up a 3 mile climb I should say.

Dave was awesome! He had a little scrolling gizmo that he concocted/fabricated out of paper towel cardboard and a couple of chopstick like dowels taped to his shifter and brake cables on the handlebars that kept him rolling along and not trying to ride no hands down a bumpy, dirt, hair raising descent while reading a foolish cue sheet. We need a Garmin! We gapped him on a climb or two, but he always scrapped back on the descents and I think there was 70 or 80 feet of flat out there too.

Dave only got stronger as the ride carried on and since he actually started at 7:19 and since we went the wrong way so much we were together. That was a good thing! At some point on one of the very late climbs (after the absolutely BRUTAL Patton Hill District climb) he looked down at his polar and decided he had a chance to crack 9 hours (the record is 8:15). He said "I really need to put the effort in now and try to crack 9". From that point on, it was our mission to get Dave under 9 hours. We drilled it even though we were fractions of the men that started this thing. We actually pacelined it in and were drilling it pretty damn hard. I gotta tell you the sight of the finish was something I was really ready for. We got Dave in at 8:51! Sa-Weeet!

Kevin and I had been pedaling our brains out for 9 hours and 45 minutes. I've done Ironman races in that time. Where the bike leg is the same length that we rode at R2D2, and oh ya.....first you have to swim 2.4 miles, and THEN do the ride of that distance.....and THEN run a freakin' MARATHON (26.2 miles). R2D2 took the same time.....think about that! We covered 116 miles which doesn't seem like much in that time, and climbed 17,000 feet. Yes 17,000!

This is the hardest bike ride I've ever done by FAR, and as I've said, I've done some big rides in my days. It's $50 entry fee and you get breakfast before the race, 6 supported aid stations, showers at the end as well as a full dinner and a cold beer. The money left over goes to a good cause.... The Franklin Land Trust. The aid stations were over the top helpful and the volunteers were way too kind to us. We covered much of MA and VT and as sore as I am today I think I'll be back next year!

Thats all for now, JB

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Norwell Circuit Race

This is a great little race. Some grades, some punchy climbs, and a rolling closure that allows us to use the whole road. Kudos to MBRC for this one!

So last year with a similar field I sat back and waited for something to go up the road, finally it did late and I bridged up and was able to work over the other 2 guys for a nice win.

I figured they'd think I'd do that again, so I attacked hard before the first lap was over. Got a huge gap, but also no mates. Got caught a lap later. Marky Mac countered with his entire team on his wheel along with several others. I sat back and recovered. It was pretty much every strong rider up there so it was imperative that I get there.

On the big downhill I dropped it into the 11 and crushed it. Got there. Some looking around ensued. I attacked again at the finish climb. No legs this time. I wonder why?

Several lame attacks followed that never got any real gap.

At about 5 or 6 to go Mark Gunsalis, well known good guy from Fuji attacked. I followed since I needed to be in with a Fuji rider for any chance at all. I got to him and gave him a small push forward to keep him motoring while I took a second to recover, then I pulled through. Near the finish climb I looked back and all the usual wheel suckers were in place.

I was pretty tapped and figured I'd better keep my speed up in order to respond to the inevitable counter attack. I was on the front and kept a good tempo and waited for the move to come. 200 meters to go, nothing, 100 meters....nothing. I looked back and I had a big gap. Really???

I looked back again after I drilled it over the top, having seen the opportunity. Marky Mac was coming alone. I pulled for a while and was flicking my elbow for some help. Mark came through, but I think he wanted one of his other guys to get there, so it wasn't everything he had. But hey, he was helping and that was all I needed to continue. We gapped them pretty good and I was doing the majority of the work, but Mark is the smartest racer around so I just figured even 2nd place is pretty good. Better than letting the spineless sprinters have a crack at it anyway.

At 2 to go I attacked Mark on the finish climb, but guess what? He covered it. I seriously think the highest compliment you can pay a rider of that stature is to attack him. I've never been big on hero worship.....giving or taking.

So having attacked and not getting a gap, it was now my job to drive it for the last 2 laps where Mark would then blow my tired doors off in the final kick. Thats fine, I knew this before I attacked, but I was gonna keep making him suffer if I possibly could. he he he

With a lap and a 1/3 to go I flatted my front tire. AWESOME! I limped it up the grade as the last little breath of air left my tire, and Mark was nice enough to try to get the people at the line to have a wheel waiting for me when I got there. Have you ever seen 5 lumps on a log? Thats what I saw when I came through. But I think they did radio Mark in the wheel car and he was behind the field, the field has the whole road remember.

So anyway I saw him coming and put my hand up as he pulled up behind me. I had the wheel off and he did an awesome wheel change and gave me a push.....as my teamate Sam Morse flew by 5 seconds up on the field. I was caught instantly as I wasn't up to speed. Mark G was on the front trying to bring back Sammy, but Sam was burying himself 100% committed. He Made it!!! By about 2 feet. I received a nice chop from old friend Leo Devallian just before the last corner, Thanks Leo. I gave the sprint a try and was right on Leo and Billy Y when the wheels came off at about 100 yards to go.

I hate bike racing.

I love bike racing.

Sammy saved it for the team. Atta boy Sammy!

Kevin raced up in VT this weekend at Mt. Snow. He won the hill climb on Saturday. He won the cyclocross race Saturday afternoon. And he finished 2nd in the cross country PRO race today. Great work Kev!

Thats it, JB

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fitchburg Stage Race

Fitchburg is always a tough choice for me. It has an opening stage Time Trial which I love and it offers an opportunity to gain a prestigious leader's jersey. The goal is to get it and hold it all the way to the end. In 2007 I came the closest I've ever come by finishing 7 seconds back on GC to Roger A. A last lap attempt to steal the crit from the sprinters and the 10 second time bonus that would have won me the overall fell just 40 - 50 feet short.

I've been turning pretty good TTs in training and I have my weight down to my lowest in years, but still 175 lbs. is a far cry from the 135 pounders (and less) that I'll be battling with in the hills.

The drive up to the TT was a complete torrential downpour. The kind of rain that usually only lasts a few minutes, but I drove in it for well more than an hour. The rain let up as I got there and got my #s at the hotel. I pinned up and did a nice warm up on the road with good pal Sammy. When we finished, we were both wearing game faces, and I told him to meet me on the podium.

The conditions were ideal. Cool temps, wet roads but not raining, and a pretty steady breeze. I drilled it and felt strong. Turns out I was strongest and won the TT by 24 seconds over former Saturn PRO rider, Chris Fisher. Roger slotted in 4th, 54seconds back, Sammy was 5th at 1 minute. That was painful as all hell, and a huge load was now off my shoulders.....replaced by a snazzy new leader's jersey with the classic Longso logo emblazened across the front of it.

The circuit race is one of the resons I sometimes decide not to race Fitchburg. I hate it. It's always dangerous, and full of crashes and ambulances. This year was no different. Actually it was different....the road condition has deteriorated badly making the back stretch in the woods a horrible section of potholes and bumpy, sloppy cold patches. The road lends itself to swarming at the bottom of the hill leading into the last corner. The climb is a little beast and the sprinters wage war every other lap. This stage needs to be replaced with something else. On the last lap it swarmed at the run in as described and I went from being in a good spot to have a run up the hill to slamming on the brakes and hoping not to hit the deck. I didn't crash, but watched Chris Fisher who caused the mayhem with a very sketchy chop of the entire field, sprint up the hill with a lot of snap in his legs and take the stage win as well as the 10 second bonus. My lead was now 14 seconds. Crap!

This is gonna hurt! I knew the road race was gonna be harder than usual for me, because Roger needed a lot of time and Fisher wanted the jersey ASAP. I was willing to fight for it and got a light warm up in before hitting the line. The call up as the leader at Fitchburg in the Mt. Wachussett parking lot is sweet. I want to have it in the crit some day!

The 1st lap would be civil right? Wrong! The pace was brisk right around to Princeton where Roger and Fisher put the pressure on, on the wall leading up to the right hander. I was right there and so were lots of the big sprinters looking for points 100 yds up the road. They surged and I let it go as I was pretty pinned as it was, but Chris and Roger surged with them. I thought "ut oh", but I also figured it was way too early to go any deeper than this. Richard Fries annonced to all that I was gapped off from the leaders and when the sprinters sat up after the line there was a lot of real estate between the 4 leader's and myself. Whats worse was that Roger had a teammate (3rd place overall David Friefelder), and Fisher had a teammate too. How could I let this happen so early? well I didn't let it happen, they came out and killed it and put me into difficulty. Long story short, Friefelder got dropped after a lap while we chased our brains out. The other 3 rode like the class of the field, which they were, and CREAMED us. I owe a big thanks to lots of guys that helped in an effort to bring them back especially during laps 2 & 3. My teammates, Sammy, John Mosher, and Ronny Jacobs. George Opria who absolutely sacrificed himself and dnf'ed as a result. Patrick Ruanne, and his teammate Bruce Diehl, Eric Marro, Doug Thompson, Fabio Pergentilli and more. Even though we never got back we tried as best we could and I'd be happy to buy any of you guys a beer or two.

Of course a few guys sat on the chase the whole time, Ed Beamon, Paul Richard and Dzimity Buben being the biggest offenders. That was smart on their part I suppose.....whatever!

At the end of the day we lost about 10 minutes. We had been neautralized multiple times and later learned that the break never was, but it didn't matter. Our 70 man field was down to about 25 at the end of the race in the main group with 3 up the road. Lots of attrition! Everyone thought it would be so great to do the road race without having to go up the mountain.....Ya Right! Hardest Fitchburg road race I ever did!!! Roger took it with Fisher grabbing the jersey and his teammate (Andreas Gil from Stckton CA) taking the green jersey and 3rd overall on GC.

The crit is mostly a parade. I threw down a serious attack about 3 laps into it as I was feeling full of piss & vinegar. I was hoping for a couple strongmen to join me, but my jump caught them all off guard and I had a nice big gap, but no mates. I drilled it TT style for 3-1/2 - 4 laps hoping someone would bridge, but it wasn't to be. That was painful, but I figured I owed it to myself. The whole field caught me and then they threw up a $150 preme. I never understand why they offer more prize money for 1 lap of a crit than the overall GC. It's kind of lame. Maybe have 3 premes at $50 apiece and keep the action going for the whole race. Anyway, Patrick Ruanne killed it and took the $150. That made me happy after what he did on Saturday. The last lap was too fast to attack, so I surfed up to the front. On the back stretch, I was in a good spot when it slowed down again. I wasn't gonna see a redo of the circuit race, so I surged into the corner 1st, Chris Fisher was on my wheel. I knew I wouldn't win from here, but with Chris on my wheel he was gonna be dropped off in the wind and one of the other guys that I owe a favor could come around him. We (Corner Cycle) really lack a race winning sprinter, so it was about the best way I could spend my energy. Turns out it was old friend Troy Kimball that had just enough to get around Fisher after I pulled it as far as I could. At least I kept it fast and safe through the corners and onto the finishing straight.

Another Fitchburg in the books. One stage win and 4th overall. Not bad in this field. Stressful race though. I'll see you guys at Pat's Peak for some no pressure mountain bike racing through the beautiful woods and ski trails. That'll be good for the head, then maybe a little break from the bike.....no Mountain Bike Natz for me this year. I'm afraid of the altitude completely spoiling the trip, and I also fear USAC will screw it up, and I can't really afford it anyway.

Thats it for now, JB