This course is quites simply BRUTAL. Tough extended climbs and lots of little kickers in between. We knew we were gonna be racing Roger Aspholm on this course and he's already won 5 different versions. He always tough to beat, but especially here.
We decided to be agressive, and John Mosher followed the early move of the day allowing us to sit tight and see what happens. They didn't look too comitted up there, never getting out of sight and didn't last long. We rolled fairly easy up the first climb of the day and then another roller.
At the sight of the old feed zone, a long false flat, I launched a serious attack. The response was quick, but I think I caught everyone off guard with this early move and so I had a decent gap. Sean Groom almost got there, and I wish he had, but Rob Lattanzi was the only one to make it which was very good, because he's Roger's teammate and so Westwood wouldn't be chasing....for now. I wish 2 or 3 more riders got on because we had a long way to go, about 48 hilly miles.
I know Rob well as a rider as we often end up near each other at the end of grueling races like the App Gap road race stage at GMSR, plus I had had lots of dealings with him just recently at the CT Stage Race. He's an honest hard worker and a good bloke.
So, 2 it was and we got on with the business of snapping the cord. I was feeling really strong and was going pretty hard. Rob seemed to be able to pull through and hold the speed briefly, but each time there was a fade. Thats when I took the initiative again. I was also going uphill a bit better and just stayed on the front for the climbs, which was quite a few. I accidently tried to go the way the old course went and Rob quickly alerted me that I was going the wrong way. That didn't help, but we were still outa sight.
It wasn't long after that, that Rob said he had to ease off. He wasn't bullshitting me, because I had watched him work as hard as he could for a bunch of miles and his breathing was very heavy. You can't really get upset with a guy in that situation. All you can ask is for a guy to try, and if does that for as long as he can, then he's cool in my book. I just told him to sit on my wheel and get some energy gels into his body. I figured he was just as helpful sitting on, because Roger and Troy wouldn't chase their teammate. I hoped he'd recover and get back into a good rythm at some point. This is why it would have been nice to have 4 or 5 guys. We would have been stronger and more durable.
We came into what was obviously the new climb that we hadn't been up before and I asked Rob if he knew the climb. "Nope". I just rode it at a hard tempo and I could tell it was about right, because Rob's breathing was pretty loud. This stinkin' thing was long with lots of different punchy steps. The worst being the last one. Finally a bit of flat road and a sweet 55 mph descent. I didn't know it yet, but we took a hard left hander at the bottom onto another tough climb, the KOM climb. I looked up and thought, "Wow this is a long hill, if I look back at the top and the field isn't in sight, then we're in good shape". Half way up I couldn't resist and looked back. The field was around the corner and it looked like a small group was in the process of breaking off the front of it. So much for that.
When I fixed my eyes up the road again I noticed a KOM sign and that made perfect sense to me. Rob was off a bit at that point and I decided to go now and not worry about the other stuff, because the big players were rollin' up the hill now. I was happy to take the KOM in such a tough race. A prestigious title on it's own, but a part of me wished I was as fresh as the guys coming up behind me. I had been on the absolute front for at least 10 of the 18 miles we had covered. I bombed down the other side and Rob actually got back on, we took a few really fun corners on a beauty of a road and then I noticed a shadow on the grond next to me. Roger, no doubt. I looked back just to see who else was there. It was Sean Groom, a great rider that also races Cross, David Taylor, and another rider that I didn't know. We started to rotate, but Taylor was doing his typical crap....sitting on. I yelled at him and he said some ridiculous bullshit about the field being right there. I had been drilling it for 45 minutes while he sat in the field, and now 3 minutes after breaking free of the bunch he's telling me they're right there. Naturally I didn't want to hear this rubbish, and just said...OK yelled, "They won't be if you just F'ing try". He got in line and rotated through almost hitting the wheel of his previous rider each time he pulled off while the rest of us took 20- 30 second pulls. Of course I ended up behind him, since I forced him to work and his bail out pulls were leaving me in the wind before I had really recovered. I suppose that was just what he wanted, so I guess good job, but no "atta boy" from me. The thing is, he's a very talented rider, so it makes it hard to swallow.
We came to the end of the lap and I was pretty maxed. The start/finish climb was gonna be tough and it was also the new feed zone. Shortly after the feed I looked up at Rob's wheel I realized he had let a small gap open. Oh NO! Ever try to make up ground on Roger on a long extended hard climb? I don't advise it. It hurts.....a lot! Somehow I clawed back on by the top and Rob blew sky high. Near the top out of nowhere Joe Reagan showed up. WOW! Very impressive bridge. I know this guy to be a great climber, and he just refreshed my memory. I was pretty smoked and I had a good reason to be, and if I nursed myself at the back of the bunch it would have been sort of justified, after all I had been out there a lot longer than anyone else. But after giving Taylor a hard time, and knowing how Roger operates, I felt like I needed to show that I was there to work and kept trying to pull, even though my strength was seriously compromised and my pulls were more or less week.
I did my best at the beginning of the next climb but started to get dropped. The gap grew and I was at my limit. I stayed at my limit and even upshifted when the hill lessened a bit, and drove it hard over the old KOM hill. They were right there still, but starting the descent while I was suffering through the false flat before it. When I got to the downhill they were at the bottom of it already which was long way. At the bottom they looked closer again as it went up hill for a long way to the old feed zone. I was suffering and cramping. I told myself not to die a useless death chasing the guys that just dropped me on yet another climb. I thought maybe I could settle in and hang on till the end. I stayed steady.
I decided to have a look back to check on the field and to my surprise they were already closing on me, but it was a pretty small group. I surrendered and actually rode a turn around loop in the road toward them, for a brief second, just to get a break from the climbing. Kevin was the only teammate I had left in there and there was only about 20 guys or so total. I was toast!
So that was it more or less. Roger eventually dropped all those guys one by one and he was already doing most of the work when I got dropped. The guy is a true BEAST, and I mean that as the highest of compliments. There's no one in this sport that I respect more than Roger. He's won everything there is to win and then some. And he's won them all the right way! Plus he races in the dirt too, and oh ya.....also won Cross Nationals. He's one of those guys that really makes a win a lot more legit if you should ever be lucky enough to take one from him. Lots of people say he should race PRO, and he does that very often, but the guy is well over 40 and to me, at that age you shouldn't have to race guys half your age. What really needs to happen is for the rest of old geezers to step it up a bit and challenge him.
The rest of us battled our way in and were glad to get the suffering over with. Kevin rode super well, dropping me off the back of the survivor group several times in the last few miles, but I always managed to claw back on. We must have gone through 20 or more guys from the Pro, 1, 2 race that started 10 minutes in front of us. There was carnage all over the place.
Fitchburg here we come.....after a little fun in the dirt at Putney of course!