Note: I can't believe how many words I just wrote about this stupid race.
I hadn't raced in three weeks and I had nearly crippled myself due to boredom. There was a mountain bike race on Sunday, but I just couldn't hold out another 24 hours, certainly not when my buddy Justin was going to make his road racing debut up at Sunapee. An easy decision! Throw the cross bike in the car and go beat on the cat 5 field for 46 miles, because I'm a cat 2 cross rider and 2 is a much smaller number than 5. I just had to bang my head against the wall for five minutes first, to forget how badly my last foray into road racing went.
Unlike Hilltowns, Sunapee doesn't have any field-shattering climbs, so I figured I would get to hang out in traffic for a solid two hours, which is the kind of experience that rates somewhere between "good for me" and "unnecessarily risky." Whatever, I like to keep my collarbone on its toes.
The day ended up being a lot windier than I expected, which really put a damper on my plan of attacking a bunch. I already was handicapped by weighing 145 lbs and having a 46x11, combine that with a headwind and I was going to get totally overrun by the field on basically any serious downhill. Crap.
I had the super-original plan of "hanging out" for a lap and then "doing stuff" on lap two. Amazingly ever other person in the race had the same plan so we rolled out S-L-O-W. One guy accidentally rode off the front, it was that slow.
Obviously my raging ADHD could not handle this. After four miles or so we hit the first actual climb and I decided to do some stuff. So I got on the front and hammered up this hill, which was enough to shell absolutely no one, but it did get my heart rate waaaay up. Perceived effort was high also. Watts were low. I didn't have a fun tap, but if I'd had one it would have been showing a giant thumbs-down about how my legs were feeling today. The fun was nowhere to be found.
I convinced myself that I was just trying to "open them up," oh yeah, they'll probably be feeling great in an hour. Totally.
Nothing happened for a while after that. We had a contest to see who could take the laziest turn on the front on most flats. Then we'd randomly drill it up the hills, but since everyone had been resting for the last five minutes this did absolutely nothing.
Somewhere on the backside of the lake we were going up this long false flat, and I was getting bored and also feeling kind of emo about my legs and their craptitude. I realized that my plan of attacking on lap two wasn't going to work, because by then everyone would be feeling jumpy, and each little acceleration over a climb made me less and less interested in riding in the wind. I figured I better attack before I lose my nerve, so I clicked down a few gears and jumped out of the field. Someone said "heyyyyyyyyyyyyyy-o" as I went shooting up the yellow line, a phrase which doesn't exactly convey panic. About ten seconds into it I confirmed that it was a bad idea, but hey, screw it, maybe some strong people will come after me and we can do some stuff for a bit.
Apparently Rob from Cambridge Bikes made an attempt, but I was too dumb to look back and figure out that I might've had some help if I waited, so I just kept riding stedily away... until we hit a long downhill and my fledgling gap got pretty much destroyed along with my morale. I had just enough time to decide to sit up and reintegrate with the field as we hit the steepest climb on the course... ooh, this hurts. Road racing hurts. I am not doing that again.
Everyone else learned from my example, so we went back to our softpedaling contest for the rest of the lap. We were rewarded for our efforts with being overtaken by the Cat 5 35+ field, which is when the sketchiness started. First their pace car went flying past us honking, which would have been a good time for our lead car to neutralize us, but instead it just fell in behind the 35+ pace car and kept going 20+ mph. The guys on the front were stupid-ass cat 5's (just like the rest of us in back) so they didn't figure out that we were getting passed, so they kept us all the way across the road, which led to the entire 35+ field yellow-line-violating while slowly riding past us and yelling at us to move over. Which we did not do. I have no idea why.
Our lead car continued to hang out in front of their field, and as the fields started separating a bunch of our guys decided to stay with them. The rest of us fell back, then we realized that at least five guys from our field were now up the road, so we started chasing down the 35+ field again (only 15 seconds ahead of us). At this point their follow truck tried to come through, except we closed the door on it, so it started screaming at us while nearly hitting a car head-on. I was super stoked on road racing at this point.
Finally our lead car filtered back through their field, and then they decided to stop everyone anyway and sort it out manually. So we stood around on the side of the road, the fields got sorted out, and then we restarted about a minute behind them. At this point it was safe to say that everyone from both fields had been un-shelled.
Now that we had been passed and taken a nature break, everyone seemed much more interested in racing bikes. Everyone except my legs, of course. Four guys got away over the first big climb, and we all panicked at the four fastest climbers going away, so the chase picked up. We caught them and then some UNH kid made a random counterattack from like 20 wheels back that went all of five seconds up the road by the time he ran outta burst.
The end result of this "racing" business was that we were now back in sight of the 5 35+ field and our pace car was being held up by their following traffic. So this half-neutralized us for the next few miles, until we turned off the main road and the traffic cleared up.
On the rollers on the backside of the lake everyone was tired enough, and excited enough, that there was lots of little gaps opening and closing over the tops of the hills. Twice I went after someone only to realize that I could only sit on when I got up there, which led to them sitting up and us getting reabsorbed quickly. Whoops. Er, I mean, I was totally covering those moves for my teammate.
On the last big climb one guy finally got a real gap and set off down the hill solo. The road was littered with Cat 5 35+ victims at this point, who were all convinced that they needed to come sit in the front of our pack. At one point the chase was being driven by a 35+ guy for several minutes. I do not know why.
The upside of all this was that we picked up our solo attacker near the turn onto 103, but the downside was that we were now 30 seconds behind the 35+ field, tops, with multiple 35+ guys chilling in the front half of our group and more of them dangling in no mans land. People were getting more and more chippy about it, and suddenly I realized I wanted nothing to do with the upcoming sprint.
So I attacked.
My quad cramped right away, confirming my suspicion that this was absolutely not going to work. Whatever, it gives me an excuse to not contest the sprint and avoid hitting the rotary with a bunch of aggro cat 5s. Once again the field mocked me as I left, not that I can blame them.
Sadly I didn't even count the number of climbs left correctly, so instead of dying a glorious death on the Sunapee access road I got caught right before the rotary and ended up exactly where I was trying to avoid. It actually wasn't that sketchy, save for Justin missing the first two traffic cones by an inch, I think I'll pretend that my attack stretched out the field and made it safe.
After sacrificing myself for their safety, I rolled casually up to the finish line like a proper roadie, where I alternated between being very annoyed at the whole experience and very interested in trying one of these again. Maybe next time I can make an attack stick... yeah. Next time!
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