I went out to Sterling for the road race on Saturday with no real ambitions. I race one or two road events each year to keep myself honest. I mostly avoid road racing because the Cat 4 field is sketchy, too serious (we're amateurs guys, lighten up) and I just don't get enough of a thrill out of it to do it every weekend.
I heard good things about the Sterling course and I realized riding back home from the race would make for a pretty good day in the saddle. I lined up a ride out to the start with recently minted Cat 3, Greg Whitney (who finished 9th in his first ever Cat 3 race!). Friend, and fellow long ride enthusiast Murat Tasan agreed to meet me in Sterling and ride back. The table was set for a good day. Then I woke up and saw the Doppler. Oh well.
The Cat 4 race lived up to my expectations. One guy rode off the front, the rest of the group was practicing their sprinting and random brake checking, and in general, no one seemed interested in organizing to catch the lone leader. After learning the course on the first lap, I moved towards the front for the second lap. I think I remember the race winner taking off as we rolled up the rain soaked Rt 12 on lap 2 but I'm not entirely sure. On lap 3 I tried to bridge forward in the same spot because I thought I could see him up the road and because the rest of the field was doing a whole lot of nothing. I wasted myself for half a mile, had a 15 or 20 second gap but was not making progress, nor could I see anyone that looked like the leader. Maybe it was a mirage or a 35+ straggler. I sat up and came back to the field figuring we had 2 more to go. On the back stretch of the 4th lap, I decided to mount another effort, hoping to get people motivated in riding hard along with me. Just as I led the way off the front with 7 others, the 45+ pace car was trying to neutralize us so the 45+ field could come through. I was already hammering out of the saddle and the pace car made no clear indication of what it wanted other than stopping in front of our field. No hand gestures, no yelling, no horns. So I kept riding, waiting for someone to tell me not to. So did the other 7 people that came with me.
Oops, we're either DSQ or 2-9. We all agreed we might as well ride until we're told otherwise so we kept moving at a decent pace. On Rt 12, the pace car came back to us. We asked continually if we needed to stop, if we would be DSQ, or what. The race referee couldn't seem to tell us what to do so we kept riding.
Yada yada, we got short changed a lap, were told we were finishing one lap early about 300 meters out, sprinted into the back of the 45+ field, and listened to a bunch of people complain about shoulda coulda woulda.
After the racing I met up with Mur for the ride back into Boston. Both of us were thoroughly soaked by the hail storm that had rolled through. For me it was on lap 2 of the race. For Mur, I believe it was somewhere beyond Concord. We left Sterling about 1:15 and set our sites on Boston. We picked up the Climb to the Clouds route and were making good time.
We found Bob from Cohasett in Berlin. He decided to ride the Climb to the Clouds route, starting in Concord with a friend, two CO2 cartridges and at least 3 tubes. He was sitting on the side of the road with a rear flat and no more CO2 left. We did our mitzvah and invited him to ride back into Concord with us. Bob is a 55+ year old triathlete who's done at least a few ironman events. He hung with us and then flatted again about 15 miles later. I guess he never got the piece of glass out of his Michelin Pro Race3 tire because it was another slow leak.
All total, we spent probably 45 minutes helping Bob with his flat tires. We rolled with him to Concord before parting ways under dark skies but on dry roads. Mur and I stopped to grab a quick snack and walked out of the convenience store to the beginnings of a rain shower. We eyed the commuter rail and while we tucked under the overhang, finishing snacks, we watched the rain shower turn into another deluge.
Our options were to get soaked again for the last 20 miles or wait 1.5 hours for the next train. When the rain let up enough for us to see (but still get soaked) we chose option 1. As we rolled up Comm Ave, the blue sky peaked out and the busy, noisy streets of Boston welcomed us home.
Mur got 105 for the day and I ended up with 95. Soaking wet, covered in road debris, but satisfied. Here are some things I realized along the way.
1. It often sucks to race/ride with 90 strangers in the pouring rain on unfamiliar roads.
2. If you don't want to get neutralized, ride faster. Seriously, this was the second cat 4 race in a row that I've been a part of that has been totally disrupted by the neutralizing of our field. It worked out in my benefit this time but it is still lame to have that impact the results (it's also demoralizing to get caught by the old guys who still had two laps to go).
3. Being a race official is a thankless, shitty job. It's also critical for the existence of these events. If they weren't there, we wouldn't be racing. You can respectfully disagree and talk with any of them. They are rational human beings that listen to reason but that also make mistakes like any of us. Yelling and screaming the loudest will not make you right.
4. CO2 cartridges are not intended for a rainy century ride.
5. It defeats the purpose to carry more spare tubes than CO2.
6. Riding in the rain with your friend is more fun than racing in the rain with 90 strangers.
Next up, the Gentlemanly Adventure, v2 in northwestern CT. It promises to be another looong day in the saddle.