I know all the races at Ninigrit Park in Charlestown, RI are considered crits, but in my opinion it's not a crit course. It's a windy, FLAT power circuit. Sure we do 25 laps or whatever, but it's all pedaling, all power, all the time.
My goal for the race was to get a serious leg opener in for the next day's race in CT, Housatonic Hills. And to also have a crack at a win.
The field was pretty small which is a good thing at Ninigrit, because that means less coverage and more exposure for the "wheel sucking, I can't pull through, sprinters"......Hate those guys!
Good friend and 45+ winner, Todd Buckley gave me the scoop before the race that there's a new kid in town. Scott something...big guy, strong as an ox, and has been riding seriously good riders off his wheel lately. This was valuable info, but it wouldn't have taken long to figure out this guy was STRONG.
Mike Rowell went from the gun....atta boy Mikey! Shortly thereafter a small group went up the road with a member from 3 of the better represented teams. I wanted them to get established before I bothered torching a match. Once they did and they had a good gap, I attempted to bridge, drawing out a few of the aforementioned wheelsuckers, who like to base their race strategy around me. When I got close, I sat up to force them to make an effort to finish it off....they did. We got on and I believe Scott (Giles) was either already up there or also bridged....either way he was there.
We absorbed Mike and then guys did the classic "I'm not a real racer" move......nothing. I didn't want to go this early (we still had probably 21 laps to go), but there were some tounges hanging out and some crossed eyes, so I drilled it into the wind and got a good gap straight away.
A lap later the gap was the same, about 10 seconds I'd say. Soon after that, Scott and David Potter separated and were bridging. This was a good sight, since I had a LONG way to go and my real focus for the weekend was Sunday. Just as they got there, Potter began to crack, and when Scott got on I drilled it a little to make sure he went out the back door. I figured all I'd need would be this new guy that was built very similar to me. We ripped around for 15 laps or so, neither of us ever letting up on the gas or missing a pull. It was awesome!
With about 5 or 6 to go we were getting pretty close to the back of the field which had remassed after Scott and I checked out. I didn't really want to lap them, but we were locked in to our effort and weren't gonna slow down now. I love the next thing that happened. During the 3 to go lap, while I was plotting to attack after Scotts next pull and bridge to the field without him, he attacked me. YES! We have a racer ladies and gentlemen. This made me so happy to see a guy in a master's race roll the dice, that I had a big smile on my face as he punished me into reacting to his move. If we weren't about to catch the field I would have countered that shit straight away. Instead I had to really think about what to do next. I stayed behind him in the bunch and he was checking my position a lot.
With 2 to go we went around the far end of the course and started into the head cross wind. I let a bunch of guys go in front of me and Scott took the sheltered spot on the left side of the field. I knew we were about to come into a righthander, so I stayed in the wind for acess. When it bunched up he was stuck in the bodies and I launched my attack straight into the headwind and dove to the inside like Calvin Borell riding Mine That Bird. he he he. OK more like an old fart in an an old man's bike race in nowhereville USA, but I'm painting a picture here....work with me.
I went as hard as I could for 20 seconds and then looked back as I went through the 2nd to last corner on the course, a left hander. I had the gap and the field hadn't really reacted since I was already a lap up. It looked good, but I still had more than a lap to go. TT time. I got the bell and that pumped me up. I checked my lead at the next corner and the Beast was coming. I knew I had to die 1000 deaths, because there's no quit in this new guy whatsoever. My good buddy and teamamte Sam Morse, was screaming at me that I could do it and I swallowed his energy as I flew by.
2 turns to go now.... headwind. Don't quit I tell myself as my body screamed for the opposite. I get through the corner and he's right there, but he has to be dying too. I try to win it by getting too big a gap to close in the final stretch. He's on me like Clubber Lange on Rocky (in the first fight).. "He's too strong, I can't get him off". With 100 meters to go a baby grand piano lands on my back, and I'm in that dream where you try to run, you must run.... but you can't move a muscle. Slow motion and quicksand are all I see and I look once more. He's coming like a freight train, but the anguish on his face is colossal. I stand and give'r everything I have left and throw the bike to the line as I sneak a look left.
I see him fly by going much faster than me....after my front wheel hits the line. Got it! Sa-Weet! When I get my breath back I yell "What a Race" to no one in particular. I'm a fan of racing, and even though I was the one racing this was still exciting to watch. I've been in some super exciting races before, but most are Cyclocross races. This is by far the most exciting bike race I've ever been in on the road.
Scott confirmed this when we spoke moments later. He said "I think that's the most manly race I've ever been in". Thats got to be one of the heaviest compliments I've ever taken. That means more to me than any result, and really it wouldn't be much different if he got me at the line....but I'm glad he didn't. What a feeling it is to meet an athlete in the full throws of competition, gain instant mutual respect and then bash each other's heads in. Most people won't understand that, and I understand that. But thats what makes me tic. The harder the battle is the more glorious the win, if it should come. If it doesn't.....at least I threw it down and wasn't a wheelsucker!