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