New England Worlds. The greatest nickname for the greatest race on the East Coast.
I LOVE THIS RACE!!!
My back hates the chicane/barrier get offs but it's an excellent feature. I'm feeling it today though.
The field was stacked as usual in the 35s. On top of the usual hard hitting North Easters we had the Canadian National champ along for the weekend, Peter Mogg. I like most things Canadian, and Peter was no exception. A hard nosed, strong racer, confident in his strength and a friendly guy after the races. The rest of the group was Roger Aspholm, teamates Kevin Hines, Jamie Tosca, & Bill Shattuck. Kurt Perham, Curtis Boivin, Matt Kraus, Rob Hult, Steve Proulx and lots more.
Day 1 saw an untraditional start line at the top of the hill going down, a quick horshoe off to the right and then back across the street into the sand and then lots of the usual stuff we typically see at Gloucester. They managed to create a longish lap and we only had to race 5 of them.
It was hard to get a good start and I was buried around 12th or so. I moved up a bit, then made a mistake in a tight chicane and lost a spot and a big gap. I stayed cool and rode hard, at least I had a good look at the lines while I was gapped off. I got back on near the end of the seawall section and tried to recover a bit. Jamie was just in front of me and Roger was just in fron of him. Kevin was somewhere behind me, and it was the Canadian champ on the very front, but there were a lot of bodies between me and him.
After a slight recovery I went by Jamie and Roger into a tight S turn between 2 trees. Just as I entered into it Kurt Perham and Matt Kraus tangled a bit in front of me. I braked hard and managed to sneak by them both on the inside absolutely clean. I passed a couple more before the next turn and then it was only Rob Hult and Peter Mogg in fron of me. I figured Roger hadn't snuck through the tiny door that opened for just a second like I did, so I was eager to get to the front......and off of it. I had to wait until we got through a lot of twisty stuff, so I just breathed as deeply as I could because I knew I was about to go very deep.
When we came off the "backstop chicane" the lane opened up and I drilled it. I went past both guys and into the lead right at the finish of lap 1. From there I just did what I do. I drilled it where I could, tried to recover in the more technical sections while picking good clean lines and monitoring what was happening behind me. Mogg was tough, he hung close for a while but was never in my draft. If I made a mistake he'd have been right back in business though. Eventually he faded a bit and I took a brief break from "full gas" in hopes that once I recovered I could hit it again, and hopefully be able to keep the throttle open all the way to the finish.
As Mogg faded slightly, Kev came up and put him away. I'm not sure how he had gapped Roger and all the others but he was now just clear of Mogg and about 10 seconds behind me. Roger made it up to Mogg also and a good battle ensued between those 2 guys.
I kept the gas on and so did Kev, we made it to the line in that order, me first and Kev about 10 seconds behind me. Mogg separated himself from Roger and took the last poduim spot by 5 seconds over the "Flying Finn".
That was win #5 for me at Gloucester and the only thing as perfectly satisfying as that to me, is an ice cold Sam Adams Octoberfest. Which I am presently sipping.
The podium was 3 National Champions. 2 USA and 1 Canada.
That is pretty cool! Not to mention that Roger was National Champ last year and is presently National Champ on the road.
Day 2 would be the same cast of characters plus Marky Mac (Mark McCormack, former USPRO road and cross National Champion) AKA "Mark the Shark". The course was the classic and legendary course that we've come to know so well over the years. Boilerplate fast, TOUGH run up, lots of twists and turns with varying surfaces, off camber chicanes, windy as heck with big competition and big crowds. Lately the 35s have become a bit of a show stealer in terms of spectators. They put us at noon time, right after the 45s and 55s race together. Most of those guys are our buds and we've known them for years and still race a ton of different races together. So what happens is lots of those guys finish their race and then change up and grab a cold beer or two, since it's now noon time AND they're done racing, and then they wanna watch the 35s race, which is sometimes as exciting as the PRO race that happens later in the day. Not nearly as fast, but exciting. Since there are SO many UCI races in the US these days, we don't always see a super deep field in the PRO races. But thats much later in the day anyway and lots of us have "honey-do lists", or other family obligations to get to. That being said, I myself love to watch the PROS race. I not only watch.....I study (and drink beer of course).
So anyway the whistle blows and we charge up the long paved section into the bottle neck at the top. This start is so hard, but it's my favorite because I don't get off the line like I used to, but this run out gives me time to get the engine fully involved and up after the finish line I usually start going faster while everyone else is slowing slightly. Thats exactly what happened yesterday, and I rode into the narrow entrance onto the upper field in 1st place. I never know where the big players are when I win the hole shot because I don't have eyes in the back of my head, but I have a good idea in my mind who's on my wheel.....cue the Jaws theme now.
There are several tricky corners with roots involved in the rythm section that brings us out to the seawall, and I don't allow myself to check on the competition until I get onto the cinder road and can safely look back. Just as I suspected, Mark 2nd, Roger 3rd. Onto the run up and this high speed get off is tricky.
Last year as I swung my right leg back and over my saddle I actually hit some part of Mark's bike with my foot. Thank God it wasn't his front brake lever! Somehow I think if that was about to happen to Mark, he'd just knock my foot off to the side with his hand while preserving his race and skelital system in a calm, cool manner. I was actually thinking "I hope I don't hit anything with my foot this year". I'd be willing to bet he remembered it too.
Well I poured the gas on for all I was worth for 3 laps. In that time I don't think I got Mark more than 2 feet off my wheel and down the long backstretch along the ocean he rode just inside of me on my left as the wind was from the right. I know what you're thinking, I should have pinned myself to the course tape on the left side, but I hated that line. When I'm on the front I ride my preferred lines. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, we were going pretty damn fast down there and he was getting a much easier ride, yes, but I wasn't gonna ride some piece of crap line full of loose sharp rocks. I had managed to pop everyone else off and I was pretty pleased with my day 2 legs. Roger was off, but never by much,
and as we hit the pavement at the beginning of lap 3 I asked Mark for some help. No answer. I worked hard up to the finish line and got the 4 to go card as the crowd really started to grow. It's hard not to notice this at Gloucester. I simultaneously moved to my right and flicked the elbow, but like we were on a tandem he moved right with me. OK, I sorta figured that, but I was starting to pay the price of 2 very hard laps and Roger was still very close. 1 lap later, it was about the same, but Roger had gotten closer at some point and then I stretched it out again.
We were halfway through the 6 lap race and Kevin had shaken the Canadian Champ, but a fiesty Rob Hult was still on him.
They were getting close now too, and I was obviously slowing down a little. It's really hard to ride from the front, because I'm trying to make it all the way to the finish line and the chasers are looking at me as the finish line. They can see just in front of them where they want to be. But I love it! In one race last year in RI, Roger and I were separated by 4 seconds for 4 straight laps, both guys going full gas. That. Is. Racing! But so is being in a 4 man front group that we would soon become.
Near the end of the 5th lap Roger had reattached to Mark and me, and Kev was almost there too. I knew I had to get off the front and I knew Mark wasn't gonna pull through. I also knew Roger wasn't gonna come take a nice friendly pull without attacking the shit out of us, so I kinda soft pedaled all the turns on the way back from the far end of the lower field. This let me get some oxygen that I was gonna need shortly into my lungs and also let Kevin get attached after an incredible race long bridge. When I went through the last corner near the sand pit, I moved way over to the left and slowed as I looked right. Mark didn't take the bait as expected, Roger launched a hard attack as expected. I was ready, but it still hurt like hell. He doesn't do one of these wimpy attacks where he goes hard for 10 seconds and looks back 6 times. He NEVER does that! He hits out hard, usually on a hill and dares you to try to follow it, then he just keeps going. It's great to see! If you have the legs, then shuv it down their throats and make them take what you're dishing out. It may sound corny to you, but it's some manly shit that I respect and appreciate.....and try to emulate. I pretty much had it covered and then we hit the super tight chicane after a small uphill that we actually had to hit the brakes on because we were coming in so hot. Mark was on my wheel and Kev was just slightly off. Roger kept the pressure on coming out of the chicane and directly into the backstop chicane, which was a tunnel of noise and cowbells, just like the barriers right next to the beer tent had been for the last few laps, and down onto the approach to the pavement.
On the pavement Roger lit it up again. This was SAVAGE! You can see how
he has a small gap on me and everyone is full on at this point. We flew past the line and got the bell, and I swear it seemed as loud as Nationals last year. Roger started to fade ever so slightly and after a check over his shoulder to see we were there he eased slightly. Now I'm not gonna lie, I was cross eyed and in agony, but this was a golden opportunity to counter attack. My mind was sharp, but my legs were pretty worked not to metion a maximum heart rate pounding my chest wall. Still, it had to be done. This is where I try to emulate that manly shit I was talking about...he he he.
I punched it around Roger and crushed the cranks as hard as I could trying to break them. I told myself I had to maintain it up onto the field and to the corner where it'd be easier to look back to see if I had earned the gap I wanted. I did the best I could and looked when I got there. Mark had responded and was on me and Roger was close too. Kev was still tacked on as well, but everyone looked like shit, including me. That 2 minutes that I just described is what made this one the best races I 've ever been a part of. That and the last 2 minutes of the race too.
So I didn't earn a gap, but now everyone was gassed and we were on the last lap. I was pretty sure no one was gonna try to take the front spot from me for at least a minute or two. I actually recovered and felt my adrenaline come up, because I love this shit so much. Last lap at Gloucester with 4 strong guys and a frantic crowd, and a win from the day before already tucked under my belt. I felt like I could roll the dice and no matter what happened now there wouldn't be a reason to not hold my head high when the dust settled. I kept the pace reasonable as we all recovered a bit, then I tried to work out what to do. The Jaws theme was getting louder now. I had to smack him in the mouth (obviously figuratively) before the sprint or he'd win. The barriers were absolutely deafening with people screaming at the tops of their lungs just inches from my, about to burst head. I stayed on the front through the remainder of the lap down to the far end of the field again. After all the twisty turns I tried to accelerate into the last one and take a small risk going through it faster than I had all day, clipping it with my leg as I went by. Instantly I poured on the gas and held it all the way past the pits and up the hill into the tight chicane. Mark was slightly gapped off. I should have hopped off my bike and run it there to attempt something different and faster to throw him off, but I only got that idea later when I saw Jerome Townsend do it in the PRO race. Instead I slowed to practically 0 mph to tiptoe around like we had all day and then gassed it again into the backstop chicane. When I came out of that I stole a look and the Great White was starting to lick his big pointy teeth. I hit the pavement and looked to see where he was going and he went wide right out to the fencing, I reacted well, but he was already by me. It was still a long way to go and I fought as hard as I could, while my mind played a flashback of him sprinting Jackson Stewart in the same place years ago in the Saturn Colors. Jackson actually came back on him in that sprint and pipped him at the line for 2nd place. I would have to try that, although I'm no Jackson Stewart, but......theres always a "but", he wasn't the same Marky Mac either. I needed to get along side him with 50 meters to go to have any chance, but I simply couldn't. I ended up just staying on his wheel and riding his draft to ensure a 2nd place over Roger. UPDATE: It looked like this.I patted him on the back just after the line as well as Kevin and Roger. All 4 of us were smiling ear to ear after we caught our breath. It was an awesome race to be a part of and I sent them all an email today with a picture attached thanking them for such an epic battle.
My back went up in flames from those high speed get offs so I retreated to the Corner Cycle Compound for some advil and to spin on the trainer a bit. Shortly after podium we were hanging back at the cars, having some laughs and doing some bench racing, when we got the ultimate visitor. I had gotten to know Tim Johnson a bit when we rode a bunch of hours together at Jeremy's "Grand Fundo Ride" back in July. I had asked him on Saturday if he'd take a picture with Kev and me, with all 3 of us in the Stars and Stripes kits. He said sure, but I didn't have my camera with me at the moment, so I said maybe tomorrow would be easier.
We were planning on stopping by the Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com trailer, but he did us 1 better and stopped by our spot down by the start line. He was awesome and had us laughing with just typical guy/bikeracer type stuff.
Bill had finally had enough from behind the camera and decided to jump in front of it. I told Tim that Bill was our
"Resident Wise Guy" and they shared a laugh. We all did actually. Thanks for stopping by Tim, that was way cool. You made the weekend that much better, and then better again when you mopped the floor with the entire field in the PRO race. Jeremy and Jamey were the only 2 close, making it a cannondale/cyclocrossworld.com sweep of the podium. We'll be cheering for you guys all year! go get 'em New England!
Thanks for reading, JB