Monday marked the third and final race in the Somerville area, the Tour of Somerville. I had missed the Raritan Classic (for it falling on the sabbath) and took 9th on Sunday at the Bound Brook criterium. Translation: I was hungry.
Yehudah drove Chanee and me down early enough for us to arrive before the juniors took off. Juniors split up into categories and age groups early on in their race, which left me plenty of opportunity to cheer for Greg, Andreas, Sam and Dan. Chanee pinned me up (2 numbers, so #PRO!!1!!one!) and we got to the line.
With 135 starters, this was to be the largest race I had ever competed in.
We were to race 20 miles, or 14 laps at 1.4 miles a lap. We lined up, waited for any juniors who were doubling up, and then we were off. Looking around, I noticed the teams with the largest representation. Green line, for the second day in a row. Kissena, for the second day in a row. Some others…but it didn’t really matter. All the reports I had heard about breakaways was that they simply didn’t work on this course.
That didn’t mean I wouldn’t try.
In the 4th or 5th lap, the race announcer announced a prime. Rene went off the front to win it easily as I capitalized on the draft. Finding myself off the front once we passed the finish line, I decided to test my legs.
For a half of a lap, I sat by myself.
Easing up a bit, a Colvita rider bridged up, then another. After a lap, we were done.
With 30 minutes left to race, I decided to conserve some matches. It was a very hot day and there were a LOT of people vying for the top 20 payouts.
We continued to ride around in circles. Different riders attempted to put in attacks, and different moves were brought back, one by one. Nothing looked promising, except for a small split. I bridged up, but nothing came of the effort. Staying aggressive and towards the front, I felt comfortable with my position leading into the final 6 laps. The average speed (verified by my Garmin) was a blistering 27 mph, but as long as I raced smart, I felt fine.
Losing positioning was a constant worry for me, so I changed lines frequently to stay towards and near the front. With 3 to go, on the backstretch, konrad rolled away from the field. Unnerved, but only slightly, I whistled. The pace was ramped up only slightly as another joined him. Nobody was as nervous as I was and they let him go. For a bit.
He was reeled in before long by a few random dudes who wanted to ride fast. I rode fast, behind them, and let them do what they wanted to do. My plan was simple: find someone faster, stronger and/or smarter than I was, and do whatever they did. Fortunately, I remembered the kit of the second-place finisher at Bound Brook – Ford Murphy. The brown/blue combo was one that stuck in my mind, for whatever reason. Seen here, I am sucking his wheel with one to go, far right:
With 1 to go, we were top 10. Any time we risked swarming, I would yell to Murphy, “UP, UP, UP” or “FASTER, FASTER!” and just like that, he would oblige. He knew where he needed to be and I knew he knew, based on yesterday’s race. Simple as that.
Coming into the 3rd corner (the not-so-dangerous one that everyone reads as super dangerous), we were sitting pretty, still top 10. We sailed through the 4th corner and then suddenly, we had a lane.
I yelled. Murphy heeded my warning. Craig moved up on the inside, but Murphy moved up on the outside. I chose the right wheel.
Green line was leading us out, probably thinking he was leading Green line out. Murphy held on for a little while longer and then he pulled wide. He began sprinting. Immediately out of his saddle, my first thought was that he had an ugly sprint. Followed closely by thoughts of, “I’m about to lose his wheel” and “Oh my GOD, I’M ABOUT TO LOSE HIS WHEEL!”
Out of my saddle, I stepped on the gas. Too hard, too soon. I was making a beeline for Murphy, and swerved just in time to avoid him. Not wanting to risk losing my momentum, I wound up and left it all on the course. Too early, way too early, but it was my move. The long sprint. I opened it up and there was no turning back. Thoughts rolled through my mind, inconsequential compared to what was happening. I heard nothing and I saw everything. Out of the saddle, my legs pumped. Faster and faster until I reached speed.
And then, as quickly as it had began, they began to give out. I sat in and continued pushing a huge gear, hoping to stave off the competition.
Suddenly, I see a wheel creep up on my left. I push just a tiny bit harder. The crosswalk is in focus now. How many crosswalks? 1? 2? Is that the finish line? Before the crosswalks? After? Between them? Where is it?!
We cross the first crosswalk. The second. Or we enter the second. Rene inches past me.
That’s it. First is gone. I don’t have enough time to react. I give it one last shot.
I throw my bike…
and I take second.
A #professionallyamateur finish for a #professionallyamateur rider.