Saturday's Baystate race didn't have to be the final race of the season, but after a gluttonous two days before the race I'm happy to begin hibernation. Who knows I may boot n' rally for the NE Championships, still it was nice to have a beer with John after the race, clink bottles and say "good season". And then extend the gluttony with a stop at Fat Frank's in Bellows Falls, VT.
I've got to hand it to John. He is the stalwart of the team, making it to 15 plus races this year. So when I talked to him midweek about going on Saturday, he was game. We cruised down in the Honda Element, the perfect race vehicle, and made it to Sterling, MA with a couple hours to spare.
The weather was nippy, 35 or so with a cold, cold wind, but plenty of sunshine that warmed up certain spots. I did my warm up on some beautiful roads around the Chocktney Jr. High, the site of the race. This was the first race I had the "what to wear" debate. I opted for knee and arm warmers, but no hat. I dropped gear and headed for the staging area. Greg Brown and John were there doing some prerace shivering.
Call ups began: third row! All thanks to the Maine pilgrimage (I scored my Verge points at Downeast). Alan Atwood even called my full name! I'm used to feeling anonymous at Verge races, just a number pinned to my body, and I usually can't remember what that number is. So I took my spot in the third row. There were openings in the second row and I should have been more aggressive and grabbed the slot. Someone beat me to it. Actually the kid who missed his call up tried weaseling in, but got rejected by AA and other riders. I do like the organization of Verge races. No scrum to the line, so less danger right?
Well, except at Baystate you have to race a lap and half around a dirt track. A "parade lap" it's called. More like a dangerous dirt crit with ruts and riders who don't necessarily have experience riding crits. Full lap around and I'm tucked behind a junior on the left side. WHAM! Next image in my view is an upside down junior (I believe) and an upside down bike elevated about three feet in the air. Rubber side up! The bike goes flying towards me as I slide right, I see the whole crash and yet a moment later I'm still riding. How did that happen? Greg Brown wasn't so lucky. He had been right behind me and went into the downed rider and took a bike off the back from the guy behind him (I learned this after, I thought I had beaten him fair and square, but as long as Greg isn't hurt I'm going to chalk up the W anyhow).
And finally we start racing cyclocross. I love this course (except for the scary beginning). Early on I went hard, trying to glue myself to some nemeses. But the gluttonous two days or the end of the season caught up to me. I died a few little deaths and started going backwards after two laps. I tried to be tactical and for the most part I was after that. My handling skills give me an advantage, but my power does not. So each time we went around the "parade lap" I tried to tuck in behind someone. Still that was tough. I usually gained ground on people through the circuitous stuff and there was just enough chicanes and off camber stuff to get me moving forward again. Someone was letting us know where we were placed on the run/ride up chicane thingy. This was very helpful. I like this motivation more than my wife screaming at me to "move up" and "get your ass up there George!". Instead of thinking of divorce proceedings I just thought about getting some spots back. He let me know I was 34th. Okay, not horrible, but time to move it.
I returned to smart racing. Spinning every chance I could and hitting the brakes the least I could. By the last lap and a half I was with a Cl Noonan rider and a Rockstar rider. A Colavita guy was just up the road. The Cl Noonan rider attacked and got a little gap, he was thinking of getting up to Colavita, but that was a long lonely trek on the back stretch, the windiest and straightest section. I gained ground on Cl Noonan on the off camber rollers. I caught him before the left hand turn at the edge of the field on the last lap. He hadn't caught Colavita. He slowed way down on the straight before entering the dirt track. But I didn't take the bait. This was my race. I just loped along behind him. Then the turn came onto the finishing straight. I hit it hard. The cramps came. But a thought flashed through me: only I know I'm cramping. Break the will of others, not my own. It was a longish sprint since starting from 6mph, maybe 100m. It wasn't looking good, but then a gap came and I had it. I rolled over the line alone. Small victories. 29th place out of 81 starters.
I watched Greg and John finish up. John caught several people towards the end of the race. We rolled back to the Element, got dressed and opened the beer. We drove back north, stopping for dogs at Fat Frank's. John went with the chili sausage, he'll need some space the next couple days.. I had sweet Italian. When we got back up to the Ascutney park and ride my car was covered in snow. A symbolic note to the end of the bike season.