Sterling Day 1 was one of those. I should probably confirm with crossresults, but I feel like I've NEVER had a good race at Sterling Day 1 in my life, because it's a windy power course and I'm a soft man. Soooo... I rode around deep in the scrub zone, and when I bobbled twice and got dropped by the last group on the course, it mentally broke me and I packed it the eff in. WAH.
The good thing about that kind of lameness is having to live with your own cranky and regretful self for 24 hours, which meant when we were huddling for warmth before the race on Sunday I had a SIGNIFICANT motivation advantage over my peers.
Aaaand Day 2 had turns. Like, back-to-back turns! Mandatory recovery turns! So then you could go haaaaaaaaahd when you got outta there!
The random staging gods smiled upon me and I drew literally the best starting spot you could get, after the UCI points. Third row. I picked the right side, which ended up not being correct -- because of the "unique" start "straight" at Sterling, the early pinch is on the left but the late pinch is on the right, and when you're getting pinched on the right all those guys who blew their starts coming piling up the left side to pass you/dive bomb each other into the first turn. Or at least that's what the seat cam told me.
In any case, I did manage to stick an adequate start, and more importantly I was HUNGRY. So I was keeping that gap SLAMMED SHUT, and when you're glued to the wheel ahead of you dudes are a lot less interested in coming around, even if those dudes know you're a scrub who doesn't belong up there (hi Adam St Germain!).
Of course Adam got around eventually, but still, there was remarkable little place-bleeding on my lap one as the field splintered, which meant I ended up with STRONG DUDES.
Strong Quebecois dude to be exact, as I settled in with my favorite internet Frenchy, JP T-R. Geoff Bouchard and Brad Perley were also hanging out, initially, but they soon went their separate ways.
The problem was that JPTR was WAY STRONGER than me and I had very, very little to contribute to our efforts. I was basically on the rivet drafting him. The "crowd" (ok, everyone except negacoach had gone home, but he's loud) mercilessly abused me for not contributing. At all. It was suggested that I "buy him [JPTR] breakfast tomorrow morning, at least."
|The "Myspace angle" of cross. Behind Jean Phillipe, of course. Via Caitlin Wissell|
Luckily Jean-Phillipe is a Canadian, and therefore unfailingly polite, so not only did he never attack me, he never even tried to flick me through to take a pull.
Side note: if Canadians are ACTUALLY polite, how come the argiest-bargiest dudes in the scrub zone at Gloucester every year are Quebecois riders? Those guys would chop their mom into a stone wall for 50th place. MY STEREOTYPES ARE CONFLICTING AND IT BURNS!
Eventually, after like 40 minutes of suffering on his wheel, he eased enough on the track that I felt like doing my part for international relations and went to the front, for ALMOST A WHOLE LAP.
This turned out to be the slowest lap we rode all day, 7:36. So yeah. There's a reason I'm not pulling. It's not that I enjoy being a leech.
The situation had gotten so embarrassing that I was actually starting to feel bad about what I knew was coming -- me attacking him with 2 minutes left to race and beating him by one spot. What if it was for the last paying spot? Even I would feel compelled to split the payout with him at that point, even though "that's bike racing."
LUCKILY, Jesse Keough flatted (twice, actually) and came out of the pit just ahead of us with two laps to go. And when you're a good bike racer on a double-flat day, you could care less about race tactics in the scrub zone, so you're just riding your bike.
Jesse did a lap on the front (7:33, also slower than the laps Jean Phillipe was leading, dammit!) and made a very effective derny. With neither JP or myself in the wind, I figured we both got enough of a rest that we could have a final-lap #northamericanclash on reasonably fair terms.
JP opened the festivities with an attack on the track that Jesse was entirely disinterested in, which left me sprinting wildly after him and cut our group to two. He got the gap, but with an extended technical section between the track and the lower parking lot, I got back on terms.
Retrospective: The long climb from the parking lot to the top of the course is the last extended pedaling section. If you want to dump me on the last lap, that's your spot.
My plan had been to attack over the top of the last climb, and it worked, in that it gapped JP and also got both my quads to cramp -- so at least I don't have to wonder if I could have gone harder. Making the turn into the woods with a locking-up left quad was an adventure, but I kept my act together just enough to make it to the finish straight with an un-sprintable gap, good for 23rd place and an interview with Ryan the intern.
Then JP gave me pie, which I assume was poisoned.
Bonus content from last weekend, which I never blogged about! Velo Cross Bar Cam! The EUROEST course in New England: