Stage racing and working a day job is not something I would want to do more than once a year. Up at 6:30 and working/racing/driving until 10pm? There's no time for sleeping or doing anything else! Man, if I wanted to live like this I'd have kids and live in the suburbs (zing!).
This was my 3rd road race of the year and the shortest yet, at only 26 miles. I guess this is normal for Cat 5 races, and I've been just avoiding the short ones. In any case, we went "active" from the gun, which was much better than the usual softpedal-a-lap-or-more racing. One guy rolled around the first corner more aggressively than the rest of us, and I ended up second, five bike lengths behind him. Screw it, I was just talking about resolving not to chase anything, someone else can close that. So he started riding away. Half a mile in, some Noreast guy decides that letting him have 8 seconds was too much, so he gesticulates wildly while going to front and closes the gap down. As soon as we catch him another Noreast guy goes off the front. Ooooh a counterattack, I've heard about this stuff! Wheeee!
Another dude joined him and they hung out front for a while, before more panic from the field strung us out and reeled them in. It was a much sharper start than I was expecting, making me really regret the "pffffft who warms up for a ROAD RACE??" decision I had made earlier. But then we chilled out, just in time to bunch up for the worst pothole on the course. I saw it go by a few feet to my right at the last second and thought "yikes, don't hit that next lap" just in time to hear SLAM WSSSSSSSH WSHHHH WSHHH a few wheels back. Sounded like carbon wheels to me, although my exposure to them is pretty limited. I decided that staying in the front 10 guys was probably a really good idea from now on.
We rolled all together from there to the KOM hill. Solo's advice was that breaks tend to get started right after the KOM when the field eases, so I decided to try it on lap one. I made sure to tip my hand to Sam Evans-Brown, who was third in the TT with zero aero gear, one of the ten fastest college nordic skiers in the East, and has also kicked my ass easily in the past. Unfortunately, Sam is a super athlete and didn't know where the KOM line was, so instead of going once past it, he attacked up the hill and all the way across the false flat to the line, stringing out the field and then riding away from it. He probably had 10 seconds on us already when we crossed the line, and people sat up.
I tried to bridge over the top onto the downhill, but it didn't even start to work. I was pretty cooked from racing 3 of the last 4 days, not sleeping, and just racing up the KOM hill. Sam is a real endurance athlete and I am a guy who fakes it. I pulled out a healthy gap on the field, but barely dented the gap to him, he was riding away so fast. I sat up before the last corner of the lap and rejoined the field.
With 2 laps to go the field was unconcerned. so was I, at first, but he already had 25 seconds according to the whiteboard at the finish, and we just kept riding 23 miles an hour. Sam did the TT the day before at over 24 so I was pretty sure he could hold over 23 for two laps, which is really only 45 minutes or so. But hey, I didn't want to be that guy who burns all his matches to bring a break back so others can win, and no one else in the field did, so we poked along, and next thing you know the second lap was over, we hadn't seen him in a long time, and the board at the finish said 1:xx. Crap.
Alright guys, let's organize a chase! Said the Cat 5 rider. Okay! said the other Cat 5 rider. And then they both did one 20 second pull at 26 mph, and that was the chase. Shockingly we did not bring him back in that time.
My legs were mostly crap, but they still had 30 second bursts of effort in them, which is enough to take some pulls (and also enough to have a good sprint, I noted...) so I decided to do my share of the work. In the grand tradition of road race reports, I would like to complain that I was working hard and other guys were not pulling through nearly as hard. There were at best four of five people who were willing to get on the front, and many of them would just stay there instead of pushing hard and then swinging off. So we'd pick it up to 27 and then coast back down to 22, until someone went around the guy on the front. Maybe they were all secretly blocking for Sam, or maybe we just have no idea what we're doing. Or maybe they've all given up.
When we couldn't see him on the climb up to South Hampton, I also gave up, and decided it was time to be a total lamer and hide from the wind until 200m to go and try to get 2nd place. After all, the benefit of a stage race omnium is that time gaps don't matter, only places. So I used what little positioning smarts I have (all gleaned from sprinter della casa's blog) to stay off the front but in the top five over the KOM hill, down the descent, and around the corner onto the long drag into the finish.
For reasons unknown, the guy on the front buried himself on the false flat almost all the way to the elementary school, so my status as 3rd wheel went unchallenged. Finally he eased and quickly there were people on both sides of me -- crap, this is what "boxed in" must feel like! Crap crap crap! I started to panic, but as we went past the school onto the shallow climb (800m to go?) people surged all over the place and some gaps opened back up. We started to round the last corner and the sprint opened up (way early, I might add) and it was pretty easy to surf wheels right up to the 200m mark, where the road opened up. The guy who I knew only as "Dylan's friend" beat me to jumping across the yellow line and I had to follow him around the exploding guys in the right lane, then back across the yellow to try to pass before the finish. There was a guy on a ladder about 20 meters after the tent and orange cones, so neither of knew where the line was. We both half-threw at the cones, pedaled once, and then threw again at the ladder. It was close, and with no line for reference I had no idea what happened, but the results eventually came out showing me winning the field sprint for 2nd.
That was good enough to move me up to 2nd overall by one point, trailing only Sam. If I can swallow my fear and get some luck at tonight's points race, I could still win this -- although after Sam's 20-mile solo TT I am expecting him to lap the field at some point tonight.
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