Sunday marked the tentative culmination of my 2013 season. In review, I had completed both of my primary goals (upgrading from Category 4 to Category 3 and winning the Rockleigh Cirterium series) and was left directionless for the last 1.5 months of the season. Note to self: create goals for July/August.
I’d like to thank my sponsors and various supporters for all of their help and support over the season. Yehudah for his tireless trips to the races and stellar photography. Zach Koop & Co. for their cheering. Michael Zak and his familia for their support. Ron Short for his pictures on Sunday. Everyone who’s ever ridden with me. Brendan for always pushing me. Those of you who believed in me, but most of all, those of you who didn’t.
Sunday’s race came after my massage with Juan
Laying there facedown on Juan’s massage table, I was serene. The race on Sunday, the NJ State Criterium Championships, had become somewhat of a rushed goal, after finding myself racing, but goalless. So, a massage – my FIRST massage – was in order. No deep tissue, simply a pre-race tune-up massage therapy was called for. Juan masterfully released pressure in my back first, then shoulders before he got to work on my legs. The stresses inherent in difficult training were apparent, Juan told me, but I was in fine shape. The massage cost me $75 and lasted somewhere around 1hr. 20min. Let me tell you, it was worth every penny. I left feeling fresh, poppy, springy and confident going into the weekend. If I had unlimited funds, this would certainly be worked into my weekly routine.
The field split. That was no surprise. Zach called his troops, and Greg called his. Blue Ribbon and Champion Systems accounted for roughly 25% of the entire field, by my count. It didn’t seem odd then, that I would be called upon to close the gap with Matthew Vandivort. Matt was sick with a common cold and was out of breath when I circled around him. I hope he feels better soon. By the time we bridged up, a break of 8 had scurried up the road, unbeknownst to us. All of the champ-sys guys, with the exception of Mitch Jacaruso made it up there, along with Cesar Marte, Skoop and some others. We rode around until it was time to sprint. I got on Juan Aracena’s wheel and passed him in the sprint. Finishing just behind THE Amy Cutler, I took 5th in the sprint for 13th. No points meant I would finish tied for 6th with Ted Horwitz.
Which meant, I was fresh. Or at least, I should have been.
And I was. Arriving at the race, my legs felt poppy. Springy, even. We arrived in time to watch Skoop obliterate the P123 field and seize the NJ State Champion’s jersey while his leadout grabbed a VERY respectable 6th.
I finished warming up and got off my legs to get some last second blood flushing in.
We lined up and then we raced. The pace was fast at first, then very slow…which meant, time for a break. The attacks were many and the time between them were few. The result? A very fast race. Our average pace was just over 42 km/h.
Even though my legs were feeling super fresh and very poppy, the constant changes in pace meant a lot of pain for me. I tried to stay towards the front in case a promising move materialized but there were SO many moves, and I knew so few of the racers that it stopped making sense very quickly.
Eventually, I saw Brendan go, and I went with him.
That was short lived though. I’m not sure if it was because Brendan was too strong, I was too weak, or because of the talk I had with Brendan before the race (Eli. Nothing’s going to stick here. Look for a late race break or just wait for the sprint. Just don’t be fooled by early breaks), but it was probably a combination of all 3. I dropped off, and Brendan was brought back later that lap. Out of breath, I circled to the middle to recover.
I watched move after move go, and move after move be brought back promptly. The result was fire in my legs. My newly-massaged legs. They were ruining them. I figured if it’s going to hurt, I may as well make it worthwhile. So I went to the front.
It wasn’t long before Eric Noonan became restless, and he jumped. Seeing him up there with a Van Dessel rider, I figured that with 19 minutes to go, now was as good a time as any. I jumped too, dragging a CadV HeartHouse rider with me – Ted’s teammate.
I would pull for 15 seconds to the point where I began to slow down, really giving it everything, then pull off. CadV boy came after me, immediately rolling off more often than not. His lack of pulling really annoyed me – I assumed that because he was on Ted’s “elite” team, he would be strong and a great breakmate…but alas.
Once we’d dropped Van Dessel, it was Eric Noonan, the Brauer rider, myself, and the CadV wheelsucker. It wasn’t long before the CadV rider began skipping turns altogether and just messed up the rotation.
We continued this way, rotating, hurting, gasping, cheering each other on for some time. The fire in my legs grew hotter and hotter, the pain rising above that which I’d grown accustom to. It was a slow, steady increase, the pain. All of a sudden, I just wasn’t able to push as hard, and I found myself rolling off the front every other turn, following CadV’s footsteps.
As soon as Colavita made it up to us, just after the 2 to go line, complete pandimonium overtook the breakaway.
I can only hope it was his intention. As we realized he was there, one by one, we tried to pull off behind him, but he would sit in the back, refusing to do anything.
I remember pulling around all 4 other riders to get to the front after some frustration, but by then it was too late. The field was upon us and getting closer. We were within 2 laps to go and were about to be shut down.
As we came around the final corner, we came down the finishing stretch crawling to the finish line that would demarcate 1 to go. And as the saying goes, that was all folks. We were caught. Our move was shut down. We were finished. Over. Done.
Just like that, we were finished. I recovered in the back for a little while, trying to gasp for whatever air I could manage, which wasn’t much.
My legs screamed at me as I created inside lines, trying to move up. I told myself positioning is more important than speed in the sprint, and maybe that would be enough. I was sitting top 20, just behind the “Cat 3 cup Leader” jersey, following his line, going and stopping when he did when I followed him on the inside of turn 4. As Dan told me earlier,
Stay away from the outside of turn 4, Eli. Those who have no handling skills will turn wide and force you into the curb. Stay inside.
But I was pinched. I was shut out, and shut down. I sprinted to get back into position, but everyone was already going. It was too early, but they were going. They were going and I wasn’t. They had legs, I did not. They had energy, I had heaviness where the springiness in my legs had been only 30 minutes earlier.
I resigned and rolled in for 41st place. I took consolation in knowing that being in a break all day, our sprinter, William, would be able to unleash fury on the field. But William took 30th place. Fortunately, Brendan took 3rd, so all wasn’t so bad in the end.
I’d rather be in a break all day long to be caught at the line than sit in and wait for the sprint. I guess that I’ll just need to work on my engine this off season.
Watch out, 2014. I’m coming for you.