Monday, April 30, 2012

Decent start to season

I had book-ended a week's vacation with two Sunday races: the first was the Fat Tire Classic at Winding Trails in Farmington CT; the second, the Massasoit Lung Challenge in Taunton MA- the closest race to Cape Cod at just under an hour's drive.

I'd be riding my new (to me) Niner One9 singlespeed in the Cat 2 (open age) single speed class.  Gearing at 32x18.

Race 1: Winding Trails: my strategy going in was to not kill myself at the start as I remembered this course being the kind where the trails were wide enough that passing wasn't a problem.  I also figured that others might go out hard and then fade. 

After socializing a bit beforehand - re-acquainting with racing friends Nathan (my SS class) and Jen (geared Cat 2) and meeting a couple nice new folks, I lined up in the front row.

We're off! and I was about 7 of 14 going into the first short singletrack.  I kept a quick-but-even pace until I started feeling pretty good, and then set out to make up places if possible.  I passed all but one of the guys in my class and when I got to the leader (Mike), I said hello and made small talk.  I happened to notice that he was breathing a bit harder than me, so at the next hill I attacked and got a lead.  I put the hammer down for a couple minutes and then glanced back and I was alone.  This was about halfway through the first of three laps, and I figured that if I kept the gas on sufficiently, I'd take home the win.  Winding Trails is a singlespeeder's dream course and I really enjoyed it.  There were some new pieces of trail that flowed really well.

About halfway through lap 3, I held back for a couple minutes to catch my breath and plan a hard push for the last couple miles.  Once I started going hard again, I caught a lot of guys from the geared age groups ahead and had some fast and fun battles, including a bunch sprint at the end.  I ended up with the win by 2+ minutes, and my time would have been good enough for 1st overall in the Cat2 40-49.  Places 2, 3, and 4 (Rick, Mike, Nathan) in my class were all within a minute of each other.  This year's Cat2 SS class is a very competitive one, and I was really looking forward to going against these guys at Massasoit.  
Winding Trails - 222 is my son's bday - good luck charm! pic by eastwood9er

Massasoit: I had a different strategy for this race as last year.  Last year I had let the leader get away and didn't see him again until the 2nd lap (and only because he had his chain fall off and he was trailside fixing it.  I got the win last year, but felt it was perhaps tainted a bit by 2nd place's mechanical issue.  In my 2nd race ever- at Harding Hill in 2010 - I won the Cat2 geared 40-49 group, but only after Richard Pirro missed a turn right near the end - I called him back to the trail, but got a few-seconds lead as a result of his mistake and got the win by a few seconds).  So this year my plan was to keep the leaders in sight. 

I lined up a little late and ended up in the 2nd row, behind Nathan.  The field looked to be about 20 riders, with some strong looking new guys (slim and fit and with nice bikes).  Knowing Nathan tends to start fast, I was glad to be behind him.  The plan went well, and I drafted him right into 4th place going into the singletrack after the brief pavement start.  Nathan politely let me by and I settled in behind the two frontrunners.  They started inching away, but I let them go as I had established a bit of a gap on the rest of the group and I wanted to catch my breath a bit.  All in all, I'd say it was my best start ever and I felt like I was exactly where I wanted to be.

The two lead guys were pushing a pretty hard pace, but I kept them in sight best I could and tried to assess their strengths and figure out if they were geared bigger or smaller than me.  Guy in black was a good all-around rider and looked to put some real power down on the climbs, but his speed was a bit erratic and I wondered if he'd be able to keep that pace going for two laps.  Guy in red (David), on the other hand, was looking fit and very strong in the rough stuff .  I started feeling pretty good about halfway through the first of our two laps and passed David. I had a feeling I'd be seeing him again, though. Guy in black had a sweet singlespeed Cannondale Flash carbon - running it without a chain tensioner - I still have no idea how that setup works. Can you put an EBB in that frame???  Confused.

I kept pace with guy-in-black and watched as he took a bottle from a teammate he was passing and take a few swigs and give it back.  I caught him on a fireroad and asked if he lost a bottle or something and he said he had, and that he would likely be fading fast as a result.  I had packed an extra half-filled bottle on board and offered it to him. He accepted and then I took the lead.  A guy crashed hard in front of me and as I stopped to avoid running him over and to make sure he was ok, the guy in black passed me.  David caught back on to us as well.  This was fun - real racing!

I got back on and set about closing the gap on guy in Black.  I caught back onto him, and then passed him right away as he seemed to be fading a bit.  David was right on my ass, though, and then he passed me through some techy roots and attacked, successfully, creating a big gap very quickly.  Perfect attack by him.  

The first lap ended and we spilled out onto the pavement and I could see David up probably 100 yards ahead, a big gap, but he seemed to be working harder than I felt I was.  So I settled into a pace and remembered Cycling Dirt's vid of Seamus Powell at Hop Brook - effortlessly picking through the technical stuff - and I decided to try to keep it smooth and in control.  With that smoother effort, I slayed the first piece of singletrack and I started catching glimpses of David's red jersey through the woods.  I finally caught up and kept him in sight as I planned my attack.  Knowing that he passed me on the techy-rooty stuff near the end of the lap, I decided my only hope was to attack on the flatter-smoother stuff mid-way through, and then try to get a big enough gap to hold him off to the finish. 

I attacked when I thought it wise, but didn't get as much of a gap as I hoped.  We soon came to the first of three difficult, technical climbs, and I put in a hard effort and grinded it out over the top.  I passed a geared rider at the very top and put the hammer down.  I literally felt like my eyes were starting to go crossed.  I started thinking back to my training rides this winter/spring with the Sea Sports crew - trying to keep up with Jeff and Brian and Tim and Dan had prepared me for this, I thought.  I kept the painful pace up, attacked the rooty sections with a bit more abandon.  I passed a geared Competitive Cycling dude just after the last climb and then blasted the last downhill barely in control and then sprinted to the line with the win.

David finished about a minute behind me, then 3-4-5 came in about 4 minutes back I think.  Not sure where guy-in-black finished, but I found my bottle on the side of the trail near the finish (you're welcome, lol).

What's next: With wins in my first two races this year, and with a win last year and two 2nd places, I think it's time to apply for an upgrade to Cat 1.  Honestly, I don't think I'm Cat 1 material - mainly because the races are longer and I fear I'll fade bad at the end of those races.  I feel like I'm a Cat 1.5 racer.  I'm a tweener.  I guess I have to add a bit to my long ride each week.  Assuming I do get the upgrade, I'll miss racing the guys in my class - they're a really great, competitive bunch.  But it'll be cool racing against the dudes I only read about now.  I know they'll slaughter me, but what the hell - someone has to come in last.

That marks the end of this extremely long post.  If you've made it this far, thanks for reading!


  1. Nice job - against some strong early season fields. Fer sure - ya gotta go CAT 1.