My plan to bounce back was focused around a hotel room five minutes from the venue. This cut out 2 hours of driving (or more, knowing Boston traffic), and let me control my own sleep schedule in a way that's just not possible when you're bumming someone's floorspace. Saturday night I wrangled some of the proverbial data, had dinner with Meg and JD, and was in bed by 11. Nothing special...until I didn't get up until 9:45 AM. And even then, it was only because the hotel breakfast closed at 10.
SLEEPING A LOT IS PRO! You should try it. Assuming you're not in my field.
Another positive indicator was that Linnea had a good race right before mine. Things were lookin' up. I went to ride a hot lap and go to the start line, and suddenly... SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
(That's onomatopoeia for howling brakes)
I had brilliantly decided to swap in some nice, yellow, grabby, swiss stop pads with an hour to go, because I wanted to be able to stop my bike. Of course, my TRP brakes aren't toe-in-able and thus my awesome braking power was tempered by deafening squealing. Some people are able to block that kind of stuff out and race, but I am not one of them. With only 5 minutes until the start, I grabbed my pit bike and told Linnea my tale of woe.
Starting on the pit bike meant no seat cam, which is a real bummer because I crushed the start. The official was right next to me and I saw his cheeks expand to blow the whistle, I think I was already clipped in by the time it actually blew. I jumped the gun so perfectly I had to back off halfway through the holeshot so I didn't end up mixed in with the real fast people. Go me.
Certainly legends of New England course design had made turns #2 and #3 off the pavement tight 180s, so we bottlenecked to the aroma of brake pads. Tom Sampson decided to dive bomb the inside line of the first one (marked out by a tree), bounced off me, and then bounced off the tree. While I was laughing at this he squeezed through and was never seen again. Damn.
The first lap was crazy fast, probably because I was riding in the mid-20s instead of 40th. I was flat out and just could not hold a wheel, it was bizarre, I felt good, everyone was just going SO DAMN FAST. My inability to keep it tight eventually led to me hitting the pavement with a 15-meter gap ahead of me, and that was the end of my time near the front. At the top of the finish straight no less than six guys streamed past, I got on the back, and it was time to settle in.
I settled pretty well, but a the back of a seven man group is an ugly place to be on a course with this much accelerating and braking. After two laps and change, Linnea had swapped out my brake pads back to the lightly-squealing ones and I came in to switch bikes.
On the way out of the pit I picked up a train being driven by Adam Sullivan and it was even harder to stay on than my old group, which made no sense since it was one group back in the race. I was starting to wonder if something was wrong with my new bike when I tried looking up instead of staring at a wheel -- oh look, Adam just pulled us back to my old group. That's why it was hard.
It was nice to be "back" but now I was tailgunning a 10-rider (or more!) pack. You know where this is going, right? After a lap of hanging out I started to feel a bit too comfortable, and of course, that's because the group broke in half and I'm on the back of the slow half. Crap.
I tried to move up as fast as I could but the course is surprisingly hard to pass on. I passed Pete Rubi on a gravel turn by being a total sketchball, and then divebombed the next to get by Ricky. This only served to enrage the beast, as Ricky sprinted me all the way to the next corner and took the position back, but it's all good -- I just wanted some urgency from the group.
The front half of the old group continued to dangle up the road, and as we splintered under pressure I decided to make another attempt at getting to it. After a lap behind Ricky I made a pretty decent attack by my standards and was rewarded with a lot of pain face opportunities. Ricky eventually clawed his way back, bringing Manny Goguen with him, but then something happened and he disappeared completely, leaving only and impressively tenacious Manny chasing.
[ I thought I dropped Manny so many times (doublehop) ]
I didn't even realize that Manny had gotten back on terms while I was slowly gaining on a packsliding Highland Hermes rider. With three to go I finally caught the Highland guy and looked to grab some draft on the finish straight -- oh hey, there goes Manny attacking me like we're sprinting for the finish. Damn kids these days.
Highland guy was definitely letting him go so it was back out in the wind for me. Cary yelled from the pit "You're getting beat by an 18 year old," which is one of those heckles that doesn't hold up to scrutiny. 18-year olds are fully grown, man. Heck, I get beat by 16-year old girls on skis if I'm not careful. Age is just a number!
Manny was going full gas and I had him dangling at three seconds, but I couldn't close it. He was going full gas because we were down to 2 to go, and with six minute laps that means it's time for Timmy J to be paying us a visit on his way to the win. I was closer to the front than Gloucester Day 2, but the laps were much shorter, and Tim was close behind. Too close.
I knew he was close because the cheers had all started including the phrase "don't get lapped." Not good. The problem is, Tim and Jamey are so fast that by the time the crowd realizes they're close to you, you have a lap, tops, until you're lapped. With half a lap to freedom, Tim was only 2 turns behind me in the "bowl" section of the course. Argh. So close, but I wasn't going to make it. I sat up and let him and Jamey through, despite my numerous pre-race threats to cause an "incident" if I got lapped.
Missing the lead lap by half lap sucked, but the racing was so much better on Sunday -- I was attacking people, getting attacked, worrying about "the group" instead of just riding hard -- and that's what it's about. If anything, the urgency and impending doom of getting lapped got me to ride harder with three/two laps to go than I'd ever go without it -- and instead of racing for 37th place (no one cares) I was racing for lead lap (people kinda cared). So it's all good. A UCI race with a six-minute lap and Tim Johnson has two winners -- Tim, and the last guy on the lead lap. I was 4th place in the second competition. Almost a podium!
[ Chilling with 2 out of the roughly infinite number of Goguens who race bikes (doublehop) ]