Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fitchburg, Massachusetts

I'm in that routine again. The one that leaves you with a really long look in your eyes afterward and causes your body to act out against itself. Road stage racing is the culprit and it's no wonder, after purging one's self of every ounce of life sustaining energy day after day, that "one" begins to creep backward toward a seemingly infantile state. And since this post is being written on the morning of the 3rd day, I ask myself, how is it that the anguish begins after only two days? I've done 10 day stage races in Europe in the past and a host of equally soul sucking monsters here in the US and my bodily reactions have always followed fairly predictable cycles. Day one, excitement and subsequent wasting of energy. Day two, feeling it but more relaxed and primed. Day three, over it, sore, and tired - emotionally unattached. Day four, acceptance of my downfalls as an athlete but back in the game. Now, at this point, most "stage" races in the US are over so it no longer matters and has in fact not mattered since the last Road stage anyway since Time Trials and Criteriums are no friends of mine. Now, wouldn't this jaded and verging on whinny post be more interesting if I were writing it from the Giro or TDF? Maybe the Vuelta?

I'm in Fitchburg, Massachusetts racing in the four day, four stage, Fitchburg, Longsjo Classic. This is an event that I've never done before and because it's in New England, it's green and the climbs, although short, are steep. The road surfaces are a little sketchy but I'm used to that having grown up riding the back country coal roads in WV.

Stage one was a 75 mile circuit race with a short, steep, stair stepping climb. I hit the ground near the end of stage when friend of mine went down in front of me. It was a bummer but through no fault of anyone really, since crashing is part of this peculiar sport. I was not smashed by the other hundred riders behind me, so after a quick bone/bike check, I was off. I don't often hit the ground, but the few times it has happened, I always feel pretty cool afterward while chasing back on all bloody and battered. It really is the only card you can pull that takes almost all the pressure off the rest of the race. People no longer see you as dropped. Instead they see a soldier working his way back into the battle. The wound wrappings look super fesh, too, and are completely worth the days of stinging showers. Anything good you can manage to pull out of a crash is usually looked at as a heroic effort of sorts.

Stage two, essentially a 98 mile circuit "road" race, had a nice popper of a hill in it that was broken up by the finish half way up with the feed zone at the top. We did 9 laps. Moves went. I marked some, missed some. With a few to go a group of six went up the road and it contained exactly no one from Kenda Pro Cycling. Before I elaborate further, I'd like to point out the obvious: I'm not adding much to the excitement of this post as far as racing is concerned. The state of mind of someone in the event speaks as loudly as the fireworks of the racing itself. Boring. Since Kenda had no one, we chased. When we hit the bottom of the climb, the breakaway was in sight about halfway up it. A rider jumped from the peloton and I sprung to catch his wheel in an attempt to bridge the gap to the break. My effort was strained. My efforts earlier in the day made the acceleration a struggle and I had to rely on a chasing group of eight coming from the field to actually make it into the break a half lap later. Once the chase made contact to the main break, swelling it to 25 riders, it settled into a smoother pace until the final lap where the demons of pain and speed returned to wreak havoc on the weary bunch. I was on the proverbial rivet at least seven times as the group attacked itself relentlessly in the final 10 KM of racing. I propelled myself across the line with an anemic sprint for 16th place 30ish seconds behind the jubilant winner. The peloton, having given up, finished 15 minutes back. Andy Guptill, who I grew up racing in the dirt with on Team Devo, was 4th. He lives in VA now so we've been able to team up for some riding over the past few months. It was awesome to see him rally.