Before taking off for vacation, I decided to sample the Working Man's Stage Race. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts.
1. You definitely need to leave Boston by 3:30 each day to make it in time for the 5:30 sign-ins.
2. The group running the event (mostly Armand but also a group of well organized volunteers) are quite friendly and accommodating. Perhaps because the attitudes of the participants was more relaxed and friendly compared to your typical weekend road race with 80+ participant fields.
3. The first stage was the TT. It's a lot of effort to get up to Amesbury for what ends up being a 15-17 minute effort but the course is fun and definitely rewards people with TT equipment. A few people missed turns or were even directed incorrectly by the nonchalant police officers directing traffic but in Armand's defense, he did mark the course with green blazes that I was able to follow (it would have been nice if they mentioned this, as well as the final right turn to the finish line in the rider's meeting though).
4. Having clip on aero bars and exactly one other TT ride with said equipment this year is not enough to actually do well. I was satisfied with my 10th place but I think I could have been in the top 6 if I practiced my TT more.
5. The road race uses much of the same route as the TT, slightly extending the route to make for 8.5 mile laps. Again, I liked the course and with the smaller than average field (40) it felt safe despite the narrow roads.
6. The ECV boys had 4 or 5 in the top 10 after the TT so they tried to control the road race. They failed, lost the leader's jersey and had a few riders rightfully relegated for blatant disregard of the yellow line rule. There was also a CCB rider who seemed oblivious to the yellow line rule (maybe because he didn't speak English?). I don't understand why that one is so hard to follow.
7. I know I am never going to win a sprint finish so I decided to go for some KOM points. The climb suited me well and I picked up enough points for 3rd place (shoulda contested the first lap) and a whopping $10.
8. I tried to stay away a few times after the KOM but the field pretty easily gobbled me up on the fast descent so I resigned myself to finishing with the group, taking home 12th place and avoiding the almost-crash caused by an ECV rider making a diagonal sprint from left to right of the field in the last 100m. That was good enough to move me into 8th place with just the points race left.
9. The points race was a comedy of errors. My wife and mother-in-law picked me up at work so we could all go together. I had just installed my father's old roof rack that morning and it was not looking good.
10. Fast forward about 45 miles and I'm zipping up 95, fearing a late arrival when the rack lets go and flies off the roof with the bike! Slam on my brakes while watching cars avoid it in my rear view. I run down the left lane of the highway and scramble to pick up the pieces, most of which were still attached, including the bike. Since we had a car load already with baby seat, 3 passengers, and stroller, I had to shove parts all over the place to make it fit. The bike seemed fine except for a torn seat, brake hood, and tire/tube.
11. Once everything was packed in the car, I floored it, knowing I had some repair work to do. We got to the race track about 30 minutes before our start. I happened to have a spare tire with me and the wheel was only a little out of true. I fixed both and taped the hood back together enough to ride. The bike seemed fine (thanks aluminum handlebars!) and I did some hard efforts to make sure nothing was cracked.
12. The points race was a blur. I told myself I needed 8-10 total points to move up on the GC into the top 5. My strategy was to go for every other sprint (once every 10 laps out of 60). I pretty quickly realized it was mayhem and I had no clear wheel to follow so I repeatedly pulled up in 5th or 6th. I managed to score 1 point (4th place) before the half way sprint.
13. Almost immediately after the half way sprint I felt my rear tire going soft. Of course I was towards the front, on the inside of the track and could not easily get out of the way so I stuck my hand up and yelled out FLAT and hoped people would come around me safely which they did.
14. The Threshold crew had pit wheels and told me to grab one which was very nice of them (side bar: have you noticed the Threshold squad is the nicest group at the races? Seriously, they may want to crush you but they also want to be your friend and help you out in unfortunate situations). In my frantic state, while trying to change the wheel I noticed it was rubbing but figured I could make it work and at least hang in the field.
15. I hopped back in mid pack and rode comfortably for 4 or 5 laps, noting that the rubbing brake was definitely slowing me down. After 9 or 10 laps I was drifting further and further back until finally, with about 10 to go I was one wheel, two wheel, three wheel off the back with no hope of re-attaching. From then on, I just tried to stay on the lead lap. Unfortunately with 2 to go, one of the 36 Goguens that was racing attacked off the front and slowly started reeling me in. He caught me with 1.5 to go and the rest of the field caught me with .5 to go.
16. I dropped two places in the overall (finishing 10th) and spent way more in gas than I did on the entry fee. It was a fun experience, one that I might even consider doing again if the starts align again.
Oh yeah, while on vacation this week I submitted an upgrade request and was approved for my Cat 3 license. It just goes to show that podiums and wins are not required to move up a step to Cat 3. In fact, I only have 10 road race starts in the last three years, so that doesn't matter either. Of course, I'm retiring from road racing now so that Cat 3 sticker will just be collecting dust...