Tour of the Catskills – 2014

Tour of the Catskills – 2014

Day 1: Time Trial

The time trial was around noon on Friday, and we chose to drive up early from the city instead of staying over night. We arrived with enough time for a normal person to register and get ready, however, when it comes to getting ready, I am, let’s say, special. I wandered around registration for a while before getting my number, went to the bathroom, waltzed back to the car, put on some sunblock, rummaged for my shoe covers and energy gels, and lost my race numbers in my bag (yes, lost them, in my bag). After finally retrieving the stealthy numbers (thanks, Ken) and pinning them on my kit (thanks, Ali), I hopped on my road-converted TT bike and joked about getting lost before my start time. I rode down the hill, took a right, rode past my first left turn to the start of the TT and proceeded to ride a solid 10 minutes away from the start. By the time I realized I was 10 minutes away, I had about 10 minutes left before my start time. Lucky for me I was in full TT aero set up and mashed my pedals toward where I now understood the start to be. Along the way I frantically yelled at riders, casually warming up, for directions to the start. By the time I finally made it, I was about 40 seconds late, and they cued my dumb ass up behind the guy who should have been taking off 30 seconds after me.

When they sent me off, I was pretty wound up from my detour and proceeded to stamp out a wildly unsustainable pace over the first hill. Logic eventually settled in and I forced myself to calm down and steady my rhythm. I kept an eye on my power numbers out toward the halfway marker and had a hard time putting out the watts I had planned. I eased back on the pace hoping I would recover so I could bring the power back up where I wanted. The recovery never really came, and by the halfway turnaround, I was slower than I wanted. To make matters worse, the second half was mostly downhill and I couldn’t seem to generate power at the higher speeds. I was passed by one rider about 1km from the finish, and I forced myself to stay only a few bike lengths away until the finish. I have never been a very good time trialist, so I wasn’t too concerned about the whole fiasco, and kind of laughed to myself as I recovered from a pretty painful and stressful 24.5 minutes.

Day 2: Circuit Race

After a disappointing stage 1 TT, I was after some redemption on the stage 2 circuit race. My confidence was bolstered with a win on the similar Hunter-Greene course about a month prior. The plan was to ride as conservatively as possible and save what I could for the final 5km worth of jockeying for position and the final uphill sprint. That plan turned out to be a perfect choice given the way the race played out.

Very little action happened before 5km to go with only a couple breakaway attempts going off the front and getting reeled back in. Once the 5km to go marker finally came around, a breakaway of 2 or 3 riders went off the front. I had to restrain myself from either trying to bridge up to them or working to pull them back as I knew my best chance was to save everything for the sprint. As I let others work to keep the break in sight, I also worked to get into a better position. I wouldn’t say I was being aggressive, but I wasn’t letting anyone push me around either. At one point, I inadvertently put pressure on a W&D rider’s handlebars. I eased off and tried to make amends, but he was none too happy about me almost taking out his front wheel in the middle of the pack (sorry, Alyosha!).

At about 1km to go the breakaway was close but had a dangerous gap on us. I was also starting to get boxed out of where I wanted to be. I moved to the outside left to give myself a little room to move before a sweeping right turn onto the short finishing climb. I wanted to be in the top 5 going into the final stretch, so I put in a big effort to swing myself around the outside of the right-hand turn. When we merged back together I was second wheel behind the yellow jersey. At this point, I wanted nothing more than to get out of the saddle and open up, but I knew I was a little too far from the finish to sustain an all out effort, so I waited for another 100 meters or so. The yellow jersey left just a little too much inside room on the final section of the uphill s-turn, and I took advantage by diving into the turn. Once I straightened back out I got out of the saddle and went into full beast mode. There was still a breakaway rider in front of me, and I had about 200 meters to close the gap before the finish. Luckily he was blowing up, so I didn’t have too much difficulty getting around him. I briefly looked behind me to assess the damage, and despite the stated rules, I couldn’t help but sit up and put my arms out for a second as I crossed the finish line for the win.

Day 3: Road Race (Devil’s Kitchen)

The day 3 road race is arguably what everyone comes to the Tour of the Catskills for. It is the longest stage at just under 80 miles and includes quite possibly the hardest climb east of the Mississippi, affectionately named “Devil’s Kitchen.” With grades topping 20%, racers will buy bike parts that provide the lowest gearing possible, specifically, and oftentimes only, to deal with this monstrosity.

While Devil’s Kitchen was looming in the back of my mind, at the forefront was the new-for-2014 Sprint Competition. Before stage 3, I had given it just about zero consideration, however, winning stage 3 meant I now had 5 points, which put me in second behind the green jersey wearing sprint leader, who had 6. Thanks to some strategic planning with the team the night prior, I had a few contingency plans in place that would give me the best shot at winning the competition. The sprint competition was a mere 7 miles into the race, so I was on alert from the start whistle. The Bold plan was to have teammate Egor take a too-early flyer for the Sprint line and force the green jersey to counter. Ideally I would be on his wheel and use his draft to slingshot around him before the line. Teammate Corey was on sweeping duty, meaning he would be on my wheel to come in just behind me and sweep up any other Sprint points from the competition.

Unfortunately, our well-laid plan rode off the front with the third placed rider in the sprint competition, who took off as soon as the moto sped us out of neutral status. I hesitated for a few seconds before looking back at my teammates and taking off after my competition. I rode well above my threshold to catch up, but when I did, we worked together to build a bigger gap against our sprint competition. Eventually two other riders bridged up to us. The 4 of us were a pretty serious breakaway group riding at a much higher pace than the peloton, which still contained all of our teammates and the thus misfortunate green jersey.

As it turned out, only myself and the first breakaway rider were interested in the sprint points. As the final sprint got closer, I started to decrease the time and effort that I was spending at the front. When my final pull came around, I made sure to stay on the front at a relaxed pace until about 1k to go. This allowed me to slink to the back of the train and keep and eye on my competition. As the line got closer and closer, I decided to jump first. I caught the other rider by surprise and had a bike length or two on him. He had a strong sprint, but I saved a little for the final 50 meters to be sure I stayed in front across the line. With that, I had just won the ToC Sprint Competition.

After winning the sprint, my job was done for the day, so I planned on drifting back to the main group. However, my two non-sprint breakaway companions had no interest in giving up our time gap. As they came cruising by us, I put in a big effort to get back onto their wheels. My sprint competitor seemed pretty dejected and didn’t make much effort to get back on. He drifted back to the group and we continued on as 3 with about 70 miles to go.

Our first obstacle after the sprint was the KOM climb. None of us had any KOM points, so we had no interest in fighting each other for it. I told the other two that I was content with having just won the sprint, so they rode ahead of me and took 1st and 2nd. After the KOM, we had another 10 miles or so of “rollers,” which would have been more appropriately named “relentless road-walls.” Fortunately, our breakaway had a synergistic nature in that I was light enough to climb at a decent pace up the hills, and the other 2, especially JD from Brickwell, were big enough to hammer down the descents. We took turns climbing and descending until the “rollers” were finally over and then descended at speeds of nearly 60mph down to the flat, middle section of the course.

We kept the pace steady on the flat. I made sure to eat and drink to replenish the fluid and calories I had just expended in the breakaway, sprint and climbs. More importantly, I needed to stock up for the Devil. As we took turns pulling across the flats, our pace car gave us our time gap back to the field, which grew from 5 minutes to 7 minutes to “we’re out of radio range.” That gave me enough confidence to slow down a bit and ride and more of a recovery pace. My breakaway companions were still chomping at the bit, but I stressed that we would be throwing everything away if we cracked on Devil’s Kitchen.

As we finally rolled up to the start of the climb, it was just as terrifying as when I first dragged myself over it a year prior. I wished my fellow racers good luck and rode at an effort that felt right for my ability and gearing (my gearing was way too high: 34/26 for those in the know). I quickly rode away from the other two, and the realization sunk in that I was soloing up Devil’s Kitchen for the second stage win in 2 days. The pressure mounted, so I focused on breaking the climb up into sections: steep, steeper and how is this seriously a paved road? I used the steep sections to churn out an effort just a bit below my threshold (on a good day, not after 70 miles in a breakaway), and on the steepest sections I ratcheted up the watts to 130% of threshold or more just to keep from coming to a standstill and getting off my bike to walk. I eventually climbed to the first group of spectators and saw Bold Racing’s lead supporter, Ali, cheering for me. My mind was so happy to have a familiar face cheering me up the climb, but my body was saturated with pain, and I am positive that no sign of joy or appreciation made it past my death-march facial expression. The next group of spectators included my former teammate Nik Koblov, who was missing out on the racing due to a broken collarbone the week prior. I took in his positive vibes and pushed past the last couple sections, then finally over the infamous devil (note: if I had taken the first KOM earlier in the day, I would have won the climbers’ polka dot jersey as well. In fact, JD from Brickwell ended up winning it despite getting off his bike and walking up sections of Devil’s Kitchen, which should speak less to his inability as a climber and more to his massive power in the breakaway, which also earned him the overall win). I now had only 7 miles of relatively flat road standing between me and the win. The pace car gave me a time gap of only 2 minutes at this point, but told me it was plenty of time if I could just time trial to the finish. At this point, my legs were close to useless, but I put my head down and pushed out what power I had left in me. On even the slightest descents, I was getting off my saddle and lying on my top tube to stay aero and save energy. When I finally got to 5km to go, I assessed my current state and decided on an effort that I could sustain all the way to the finish. I finally made a turn onto Main Street and saw the finish banner and spectators. I put in one last effort to try to increase my overall standings and rolled across the line.

What a weekend. 2 stage wins and the sprinters’ green jersey. It’s still hard to believe. Definitely made possible by my Bold teammates Egor and Corey who where blocking in the race, but also all my teammates on training rides, cheering from the sidelines, or just nerding out about bike racing over some beers. There is still one more stage race left to go, but whatever the result, I will certainly be considering 2014 a successful season.

Chris Young – Cat 3 Road Racer

How the Race was Won: NYS Champs

How the Race was Won: NYS Champs

This was the second installment of the three-part Hunter-Greene race. Having not raced the spring version, I felt like I was at a bit of a disadvantage. I didn’t know the course or the climbs, and had only a rough course profile as my guide.

I realized shortly after arriving that the start line was more than two miles from registration. I hadn’t factored the extra time needed to ride there into my schedule, so I rode at close to TT effort to get myself to the start in time. Not the warmup I had in mind for the day’s 75-mile course, which was no warmup at all. 

When I finally arrived at the start, I took a few deep breaths and turned my attention toward racing. The start was a neutral roll out down the finishing climb, and that was doubly helpful in that I got a chance to feel out the finish, albeit in reverse, and take a little more time to calm the rushed nerves. Both tasks were somewhat sabotaged, though, by the insane potholes littering the descent. 

When we finally cleared the minefield and started racing on the flat, the field rode at a conservative, almost casual pace. I had no interest in riding at the front, so I chilled out in the back and tried to keep the real start of my race from happening as long as possible. Eventually some half-hearted attacks started to go off the front, but very few riders had more than a couple teammates, so everything was getting reeled back in pretty quickly. 

About 30 miles in or so, a more promising attack of four riders rode off the front. The body language of the riders in the attack communicated an urgency that was not at all met by the small peloton, and I started to sweat a bit, both literally and figuratively. I decided I would put in a strong pull to energize the group and speed up the rate of catching the break, but that turned into me riding straight off the front. Partially out of frustration and partially out of a belief that this first half break could actually stay away to the final climb, I bridged up to the break. I joined the rotation and took a few turns, but before long the field was showing an appropriate level of panic about letting an even larger breakaway off the front. 

We were reeled back in, and I was mentally kicking myself for using up so much energy. I rode the rest of the race determined not to use any unnecessary energy. When the first climb came along, everyone seemed pretty content to get over it without any major fireworks. This is more or less how the second half of the race played out, with the exception of only a couple riders eventually breaking away in a two-man group. 

I was worried the group could stay away after watching the seconds between us and them steadily increase, so I did my part to try to make sure they didn’t get too much time on us before the climb, banking on both riders cracking on the climb if they did manage to beat us to it. I was visually and orally frustrated with my fellow racers as we all tried to pretend to put in work while not really doing anything to bring the break back. Luckily there were still a lot of miles left in the road. 

When the second climb came around, only 10 miles or so from the finish, I picked up the pace and separated from the group with another rider. We let the field catch back up while we recovered and the pace seemed to pick up a bit, fortunately. Unfortunately, I realized I had to pee…pretty badly. The idea of holding it for another half hour as well as carrying it up the entire climb was enough to convince myself that I should slink away to the back and try to get rid of it on the road. 

This was one of the more uncomfortable moments on a bike for me as I tried to relax and let nature take its course. Some sweet old grandmother was forced to watch what she could only hope was a spare water bottle pour over the side of my bike as I tried to keep up with the group on a slight downhill. Eventually the ordeal was over for both of us, and I rejoined the group feeling lighter and with a strange sense of personal accomplishment. 

At this point, there wasn’t much time left before the final climb, so I moved quickly through the pack toward the front so that I wouldn’t be caught on the climb behind heavier riders going backward. One of two breakaway riders were caught before we reached the climb, which was promising. When the real climbing started, I saw a “1km to go” sign and started to think that my non-pure-climber body might actually have a chance if the pace didn’t get out of control. 

A few hundred meters later, we saw the final breakaway rider and the pace vehicle. Adrenaline started rushing as I knew I was racing for first place and the State Championship again. I rode in second wheel waiting to go with any attacks that might come around the outside. The meters counted down from 500 all the way to 100 without any change in pace and no attacks from other riders. I knew I had to attack before it was too late. With 100 to go, I got out of the saddle and gave it everything I had. I either caught him by surprise or he didn’t have anything left, because the rider in front of me didn’t put up much of a fight. I rode across the line well clear of the field. I could hardly believe that I just won the Category 3 State Championship!

This was an awesome way to end my racing block before going on vacation to see friends and family over the 4th of July week. I definitely couldn’t have done it without the support of my BOLD Racing Team, getting me out of bed at ungodly hours to train in the park, joining me at races, and keeping a super positive attitude. I also want to shout to EnduranceWerx for designing an excellent training plan that took into account the team’s abilities, available time, and racing focus. I’m looking forward to getting back on the road and working toward the next big race.

Chris Young – Cat 3 Road Racer

 

 

2014 Killington Stage Race Recap

2014 Killington Stage Race Recap

Now in its fourth year since its restart, The Killington Stage Race has proven itself as one of the toughest amateur stage races in the northeast. This year’s edition saw nearly 500 racers turn out to challenge themselves in the Green Mountains of Vermont—myself and fellow BOLD racers Brian Cristiano and Chris Young included. Having competed in the 2013 edition, I was looking for some redemption in this year’s race.

The 2013 KSR was my first stage race, so I was wrought with nerves, doubts, and pretty much every other psychological barrier an amateur cyclist could have—not to mention the atrocious weather that sometimes plagues mountainous regions. Despite being Memorial Day weekend, Mother Nature had decided to dump several inches of rain and snow on us for the duration of the weekend. Needless to say, I decided early on this season that in 2014, KSR would come correct.For this year’s race I was armed with goals.

–       Win stage one

–       Take home the green sprinter’s jersey

–       Ride hard—ride really hard

The Killington Stage Race is broken down into three separate stages: a circuit race, a road race, and an individual time trial. On day one, we were presented with the circuit race: an 18-mile loop with a very gentle 5.7 mile uphill section leading to the KOM, followed by a lightning-fast back section dropping you into an almost downhill sprint finish. Although there are KOM points available, this was a day where the sprinters would shine.

Lookout & First Stop Bike Shop Circuit Race

Brimming with confidence from some decent results of late, coupled with the fact that it had rained the night before, Brian and I decided to line up at the front both for safety reasons and to dish out some early pain. Once out of neutral, we cranked it up several notches to set a serious tone. The plan was simple: Stay up front, guard against any attacks at the top of the hill, or if there is an attack, go with it. Once we got going upward, Brian and I hovered near the front, not bothering with the KOM but keeping close watch on any attacks—but they didn’t come. It seemed as though we were going to hash it out in the sprint, and the climbers were quite happy to let us do so. At 5K to go, the pace began to ratchet up and the jockeying for position was furious. Guys were dipping and diving for a wheel at 35 mph. Brian and I fought for and maintained good position at the front, and with 500 meters to go shots fired! I sat on the wheel of Nicholas Tam, a sprinter from MIT Cycling, and with 200 to go slid around, taking Brian with me, snagging 1st and 3rd in the sprint. Simple really—so we thought we’d have another go at the finish. Lap 2 unfolded in similar fashion, with Brian and I hovering just near the front. Unfortunately, with about 500 meters to go, Brian got boxed in and I got pushed to the side almost off the road. Brian decided not to contest and I managed to retain 6th despite not being able to really open up my sprint. With a finish too close to call on sight, the officials needed to turn to the camera to see that it was Ryan Fawley of Rosdale, NY, who edged the group by mere centimeters! As decent a result as that was, it still left me wanting more—especially knowing the torture that was to ensue in stage two.

Champion System Road Race

If stage one was a day for the sprinters, stage two would be a day where the climbers came to play. With two beastly climbs and 61 miles to think about them, it was going to be a hard day any way I looked at it. With neither Brian nor myself categorizing ourselves as climbers, and both of us missing out on the green jersey, our initial plan was to just sit in and save everything we had to try and get over the first climb with the lead group. The aim for this stage was survival.

It took me all of about eight miles to throw everything out the window. After an initial climb of just over one mile at 7% grade, we made a right turn onto VT 100 North and began a long, gradual descent with one or two light rollers lasting nearly 20 miles. Only a couple miles after the turn, I got it into my head that the only way I could get over the climb was via a breakaway and with a few minutes buffer on the peloton.

So I attacked…hard!

I went with the hope of sparking some life into the peloton, hoping that two or three riders would latch on and we could form a cohesive break. I put my head down and hammered, and hammered, and hammered, and when I looked back…nothing! No reaction from the field, not even in sight. I found myself in sort of a worst-case scenario, soloing off the front, with more than a minute advantage on the field and a mere 55 miles to the finish. I figured, “I’m out here anyway, I may as well just push on and see how far I get.”

It wasn’t for another 15 miles after I was through the sprint hot spot and onto the climb that I was caught and subsequently dropped. Unfortunately, being dropped doesn’t mean you can just soft-pedal to the finish line. I gave myself a mile or two after the first KOM to recover, and then it was time to go hard again. I rode quite hard for the next 20 miles or so, about one minute back of a chase group that was also trying to get back to the leaders, but with about 15K to the finish, I decided to sit up and save what little energy I had left to try and get over the wall that is East Mountain Road.

The crown jewel of the Killington Stage Race, East Mountain Road, is a long, hard slog up to the finish. They had the nerve to throw a KOM in there at three miles to go just to tease us, but the actual race finish is two miles (uphill still) past that at the base of the Killington Ski Resort. While I was grinding it out on the lower slopes trying not to let my Garmin auto-pause, the leaders were coasting with a seemingly effortless rhythm up the side of this beast, with Thomas Conti of CRCA/TBWA/LMT Cycling taking the win by just 17 seconds. Needless to say it was a hard day for us, but we both survived and now had the honor of riding the final stage, an 11-mile uphill time trial.

Long Trail Brewery Individual Time Trial

“The race of truth”: one of a multitude of nicknames given to a time trial is arguably the most difficult discipline in the sport of cycling, and it is one we would be forced to tackle on the back end of a hard weekend of racing. While typically held at the start of a stage race in order to determine the leader for the first day on the road, KSR is unique in that the TT is held on the last day, begging the question, “How much do you have left in the tank?” For me, there wasn’t much.  I had been particularly hard done by my solo effort in stage two, so I was in no mood to look at, much less ride a bike. However, being a bike racer, it was against my nature to go out of anything with a whimper, so I summoned the strength for one last hard effort. Despite having tired legs, I bested my time from last year’s TT by more than three minutes. I wound up finishing 22nd out of the 52 remaining riders, with Kyle Rancourt of Rancourt and Co. / Rainbow Bike Cycling turning out a blistering time of 26:30 to overcome a 49-second deficit and take the GC win. Well done, mate.

Despite losing a massive amount of time after what must have seemed to the rest of the peloton as a suicidal move, and despite missing out on that elusive green jersey and stage win, I’d still have to classify this weekend as a great success. It was a great showing by BOLD riders Brian Cristiano and Chris Young, to compete on challenging new courses, and it felt great to demonstrate on a large scale that we as a team have the strength and talent to impact any race we participate in. As a team we are certainly looking forward to doing some damage in Vermont’s other stage race and perhaps the crown jewel of all bike racing in the northeast: The Green Mountain Stage Race, as well as a return to Killington in 2015!

Ken Vadnais – Cat 4 Road Racer

My Own Mini Speed Weekend

My Own Mini Speed Weekend

Day 1: Raritan Cycling Classic – Race Recap

With several members of the BOLD team off racing in the hills of Vermont, I opted to tackle a series of three crits in the “wilds” (as in anything outside of NYC) of New Jersey. Somehow, despite not touching my bike since Tuesday of this week, I convinced myself over a couple of drinks on Friday afternoon that registering for these crits would be a totally sane thing to do.

Lessons of the day:

1)     When races are listed “to follow,” show up much earlier than you think you should. I arrived to the race this morning as the field immediately before mine was getting underway. I had completely underestimated the speed of the earlier categories.

2)     Pre-ride. I consider myself a fairly competent racer and a decent bike driver. But this course was far more technical than I could have imagined. The turns seemed to pop up out of nowhere.

3)     Warm up. Moving up from a back row start on the course was in no small part hampered by the lack of cooperation/preparedness of my legs. The first few laps felt like death before I settled down and slowly started clawing my way up through the field. Ten laps in, I made it to where I wanted to be and was able to semi-recover.

4)     Expect chaos. Decent weather, a large field, and an advertised payout to seven places meant a lot of people were trying to win the race. Despite all the early troubles—and foolishness of registering to begin with—I found myself racing decently well near where I wanted to be in the field in anticipation of a pending field sprint. Then all hell broke loose. With five laps to go, two riders pinballed off each other on turn two (as the field was attempting to negotiate it six-wide) putting several riders on the ground. I skirted around the carnage and stuck near the front of the pack, but as we came back through that turn, a rider was in the process of being back-boarded in the middle of the road and our pace car stopped to assess the situation. A couple of neutral laps followed and allowed many riders to make their way back to the front of the race. When the race began again in earnest, a few of those fresher-legged riders launched attacks. Things got re-sorted a few laps later until, as the field was about to see two laps to go, there was another wipeout of riders. This bounced me way out of position as I was forced to close around people slamming brakes and peeing their pants (I may have let out a slight tinkle myself). And as the field bunched up into the chicane on the last lap, I decided that death on day one of a three-crit weekend would not be a good thing…ultimately finishing 21st on the day.

Day 2: Bound Brook Criterium – Race Recap

A few lessons learned from the day before, I woke up ready to tackle the second leg of my three-crit weekend. Realizing the race started several hours later than I originally thought, I snuck out for a short ride in the morning before driving out to NJ. I made it to the race well ahead of the start time and quickly realized I was going in for a warm day—and that I should’ve brought more water.

After a small bit of additional warm-up (riding in the morning helped cut down on the necessity of doing so), I found a semi-shady spot near the start line to pre-stage and wait for the race to begin. This time, I managed to sneak onto the front row of the start grid, but on the wrong side of the road because, of course, I hadn’t pre-ridden the course. When we were sent off, I zoomed off the line toward the first turn only to realize that I was set up completely wrong since it was a tight chicane. I attempted to shift to the other side of the road, but was met by a wall of riders. I don’t really know how I made it through that turn, but thankfully I did and kept it upright.

After the initial couple laps of responding to surges while still figuring out the lines through the turns, I settled into a comfortable spot near the front of the field. The bigger teams in the race seemed either disorganized or unwilling to do too much work, as I watched a few do very little to control the pace at the front of the field. The only true attempt at wrangling the field occurred when a rider made it to the front in a small move of five riders and two of his teammates moved to the front to slow the field through the chicane, resulting in some field-bunching and sketchiness. I zipped around them and closed the gap, dedicated for the rest of the race to shut down any big moves. A few times throughout the race, I took to the front to up the pace of the field and try to make things a bit safer, but when I pulled off, no one followed.

With the writing on the wall for a field sprint, I tried to hold position going into the final couple laps. There was a crash in the chicane with two laps to go that jostled me a little bit out of contention, but I fought back as best I could. Going into the final two turns, riders were taking bold risks diving into the corners and throwing me off my line. As we hit the finishing straight (a long way to the line), I was maybe 25th and decided to hunt down as many people as I could. I dragged back 10 people by the line to finish 15th on the day. If only I could’ve entered that sprint in the top 15 or so wheels…oh well. One more to go.

Day 3: Tour of Somerville – Race Recap

I guess I should’ve known something might go wrong when I wasn’t remotely nervous going into this race. After an uneventful morning and an easy trip out to Somerville, I went about the business of preparing to race. Numbers: check. Pee break: check. Kit on: check. Warm up: check. My legs were feeling good and I was at least confident I would be able to crack into the top 20 (yea super-deep payouts!), if not better, on the day.

When I made it to the line, I found myself sitting in the 3rd row on the start grid, worse than the day before, but not as bad as it could’ve been. As we were sent off, I was able to quickly find my way to the front of the field with a plan to sit in for a few laps and maybe chance taking down a prime sprint. Then, as the race passed through the finish line after our first lap, riders were suddenly bouncing off each other and some were hitting the ground. Not one to panic, I saw a possible path around the carnage and aimed my bike for it—just as the rider in front of me slid into that path. I hit the ground hard. Game over. Thinking I was supremely messed up, I laid on the ground for at least a lap as the field came back around before gaining the courage to walk off the course. Road rash, torn shorts (my poor Castelli!), and a possibly broken bike. My legs were feeling so good, but I guess the bike racing gods were not with me this time.

Corey Williams – Cat 3 Road Racer

CRCA Bear Mountain Spring Classic 2014

CRCA Bear Mountain Spring Classic 2014

Bear Mountain is a race I had heard about—and one I assumed I would never race, since it was canceled in recent years. When I heard it was back on for 2014, I had to sign up, but mostly just to take part. I had relatively low expectations as I didn’t have great form. Most of the early season was spent appeasing patellar tendinitis, and a crash at the Philly Naval Yard Crit three weeks prior was still showing on a large portion of my right side. Fortunately, I got some welcome guidance a few days before the race from my boss and your favorite local race promoter, Charlie Issendorf, who won the race in 1987. Here’s a brief recap—feel free to save this to your calendar for next year:

  • Line up at the front. The course starts on a long, fast downhill, which ends in a 180 degree U-turn that spits you out into the start of a 10-minute climb. The pack stretches out hard coming out of the turn, and early race nerves tend to cause crashes, so you don’t want to be stuck out back.
  • Get in your small ring before the U-turn. It’s easy to forget when you’re flying downhill at 50 mph that you’re about to scrub about 35 mph and start climbing.
  • Go with any attacks on the first climb. If anything gets away early, it has the potential to stay away for the rest of the race. If it doesn’t, at least you’re in front of the fireworks as riders try to bridge up to the break or pull it back.
  • The climb isn’t over until the last steep pitch and you see Lake Tiorati. Tiorati Road is a stair-step climb. It levels off at least four or five times before you’re at the top.
  • Chill out after the climb as you round the lake and be sure to refuel. Common sense, the first thing to go out the window during a bike race.
  • Tuck away on the rolling straights through the windy backside of the course. It’s too windy for breakaways to get away easily, so it’s unlikely. It’s also too windy to be a hero and try to take any heroic pulls at the front.
  • Stay to the front again when you hit the backside S-turn. Same logic at turn 1, but this time it’s less defensive and more offensive. The finish is only about 5k to go, so you want to be in the right position.
  • Push over the harder, steeper climb, and you’re on the finishing straight. Don’t skimp on wattage here. The climb isn’t that long, and it’s steep enough to do some damage and get a gap on the field.

 

Keeping that advice in mind, I lined up toward the front early with fellow BOLD racers Egor Astakov and Corey Williams. Although it was a neutral roll out, we were told we could ride the descent at our own pace, which kept us off our brakes and kept us from burning through our rims. The first turn came into view with little time for a reaction, so we all put our brakes on pretty hard and you could smell the rubber burning. I couldn’t slow down fast enough before the turn and ended up going wide through the grass. Panicking, I put the power down to catch back up with the lead group, but despite my mentoring, I forgot to drop my chain to the small ring, and I ended up fiddling with my gears, heart rate racing, before putting in a huge effort to get back to the front. Luckily for me, there were no early attacks to respond to, so I was able to recover at a moderate pace.

The field continued conservatively up the rest of the climb. Riders were watching each other due to the KOM at the top of the climb, so no early breakaways formed, and I sat in near the front. Corey took off with a handful of riders about 300 meters from the KOM. There was no response from the rest of the riders in the peloton not contesting the KOM. I wasn’t able to see the finish, but when we caught back up I learned that our very own Corey Williams snagged first spot! I rearranged my race priorities and took on the role of domestique for our KOM race leader.

As we rounded Lake Tiorati, I remembered to eat a gel and chill out. I followed Charlie’s advice for the rest of the first lap and stayed out of the wind. No one wanted to attack, so we rolled through at a moderate pace to the backside short climb. There was some jockeying for position going on for the sprint, but I ruled out my chances due to the fact that it was downhill and too fast for my compact crankset.

The group rode the descent for a second time at a little more speed. I got to the front again and remembered to shift to my small ring before the turn. The smell of burning rubber filled the air again, and we screamed around the turn. Everyone was a little more eager to race now that we knew the course, and the speed was higher going up the climb. About halfway up, John Kniesly (K-Tel) of Chari and Co. took off on a solo break that no one responded to. He put in a huge effort and looked like he would blow up before the top. I stayed back with Corey and helped pace him up the climb. The pace didn’t let up, though, and Corey didn’t have the legs to contest another KOM. He told me to go for it, but I didn’t have any KOM points and decided to hold back and conserve. Again we rounded the lake, and I took a minute to take in the sights and have another semi-liquid snack. When we got onto a straight, we could see K-Tel off in the distance with almost a minute gap on the field. There were some half-hearted attempts by sprinters or their teammates to pull the field as they watched their sprint points ride off the front

When we came around the S-turn onto the backside climb, I liked my position and felt good, so I decided to dole out a bit of suffering. Instead of dragging the field behind me as expected, I gapped off the front, so I decided to play the hand dealt and took off up the climb in my big ring. By the top of the climb I had a decent gap on the field and was about halfway to K-Tel. I figured with a teammate in the field blocking and a strong rider up front, I could make it work. Unfortunately, the sprinters were not about to let two places worth of sprint points disappear into the ether and reeled me back in before the start/finish line. Corey took advantage of having a teammate out front and countered with about 200 meters to go for a second place finish in the second sprint. K-Tel stayed away and stacked 10 points toward the $200 sprint competition on top of his 10 points toward the $200 KOM.

With the exception of a few riders contesting the third KOM and sprint, the rest of the third lap was fairly unremarkable, as everyone seemed resigned to letting the race be decided on the final climb. One more descent came and we made one more burning rubber U-turn before we hit the final climb. The pace was fast, but not unmanageable. I concentrated on the wheel in front of me as my lungs and legs stated to burn and sweat started dripping on my top tube. I was definitely in the cave, but I was secretly hoping the riders at the front would turn the screws a little harder to drop any sprint-oriented riders from the group. When we got to the top I looked back at the field and realized that hardly anyone was left. There were about 25 of us in the group, and we slowed down considerably on the backside because no one wanted to pull. Ryan McGarrity from Team Sixcycle rode up next to me and explained that he had just soloed back to the group after being dropped on the climb. I was happy he was able to catch back on, but not so happy to have another strong rider to compete against in the final stretch.

Everything stayed together until the final climb and Drew Kogan of FGX Racing put in a huge solo attack. It looked like he wasn’t going to last 100 meters, but the gap kept growing. His teammates rode at the front, sabotaging any attempts at an organized chase. I put myself in fifth wheel and waited for the sprint to unfold. I felt pretty good, but when the shots started firing, the 50/11 high gear was my knife at a gun fight, and I more or less coasted across the line for 13th place out of roughly 80 starters. Drew managed to stay just ahead of the pack to take the win. (Congrats!) I didn’t think twice about my lackluster sprint finish and was happy to cut my RoadResults.com race prediction in half. It was a beautiful, exciting course, and I will definitely sign up next year if The CRCA take it upon themselves to throw another well-organized Bear Mountain Classic.

Chris Young – Cat 3 Road Racer