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