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