Boston's finally back to its normal temperatures, so you know what that means -- Tuesday Night Icy Granular Ski Criterium! No more of this powder business, no more using my hated cold skate skis, time to break out the Madshus aquatreads and fly!
I was still sore from Sunday and nursing a lingering head cold, but the draw of Weston was just too strong, so much for "don't race when you're tired and sick."
Last time I was way too casual off the line, today was different, I flipped out like a ninja from the first skate stride, passed the row in front of me and fought my way into the train in 5th position as we headed out into the flats right behind Andy. So far, so good.
I ended up averaging 27 kph for the race, we were well over 30 kph on the flats at the start. While there was plenty of draft to be had, putting the power down on ice at that speed was difficult. As a result, Bret Bedard didn't pull his usual disappearing act, he went out fast but we all tried to stay with him.
Obviously that express train was going to break somewhere, and it ended up breaking just in front of Andy -- he's has a V1-singlespeeder style of racing and at 20 mph on slightly downhill ice, he kind of gets spun out. I was torn between "playing it safe" and "trying to go with the move," so I made a stupid compromise with myself that instead of trying to pass and get across the gap right away, I'd wait until the first hill and try to slingshot it.
Of course as soon as we were out of Bret's draft the pace slowed a bit and the gap started growing fast, by the time I started my bridge attempt it was probably almost 50 yards. Nevertheless, the adrenaline rush of being able to go crazy fast on ice was pretty powerful, I just turned off my brain and went to 1k-sprint-jump-skate mode. Halfway across the gap I knew I was going to pay mightily for the effort, but it was too late to go back to safe racing, and I wasn't gonna get hung out in no-man's-land like last week.
I made contact with the front three group and all I could think was "holy crap you have to recover." Unfortunately it was still being driven by Bret, who wins these every week and is much faster than I, so I can't really recover when I'm going above my race pace just to hang on. Luckily I got popped at the same time as Rob Bradlee, so I had someone to keep trying to work with to maintain the 5-10 second lead we now had over the everyone who'd been on the wrong side of the split.
I was still in damage control mode when Rob asked me to take a pull, and being an honorable guy I did, plus if I had just stood up and done nothing we would have been even closer to getting reeled back in. Rob came back around soon after because I was pretty obviously cooked, and he did it going into Mt Weston, gapped me over the top, and that was the end of that.
Thus ended my rockstar bridging attempt. I got picked up by a 7-strong chase group being driven by Kris (crap!) and went straight to the back. Commence groveling.
After a lap of trying to recover on the tail end of an eight-person accordion I was feeling just enough better to realize that the tail end of an eight-man accordion is a terrible place to be skiing. Since we were nearing the finish, moving up wasn't easy, but some draft-overshoots and boxing out on the corners got me up to fifth in time to enter the octagon, er, final set of fairway climbs.
As usual we were flying through lapped traffic and everybody was scrambling to move up, and as usual I kept putting off making "the move." This really hurts, can't I just try to win by going anaerobic in the last sixty seconds, why do I have to move up now, yadda yadda yadda?
Duh, the reason you have to move up is because when you hit the final climb and go three-abreast around lapped traffic there is NOWHERE TO GO from fifth place. So I really wanted to flip out and make some places, but everyone else was flipping out too and the trail is only so wide, then we got crunched down to single file on the last hairpin and I was still in fifth. A lapped guy fell, so I went super wide off the corner, into the classic tracks, yeah this is exactly where you want to start a sprint from, fifth place and barely on the course (you idiot). All the trashing in the world only gained me one place, so I crossed the line fourth in the group and 7th overall.
Kris, meanwhile, played it much smarter, never worse than second or third on the last lap, second off the last corner, and won the sprint for fourth. Nicely played...
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