I spent the week prior to this race watching the weather and weighing options. Based on those forecasts, I was relatively certain that the weekend conditions were not going to be pleasant, with 70% chance of rain on Saturday and four days of steady rains making things a mess for Sunday. With that I decided that MTB racing was out, given primarily that I’d just finally gotten my MTB fixed up from the beating it took at Pat’s Peak. The team, that being the newly formed NEBC Junior Development Team, which I’m helping out with, had decided to commit to the White Mountains Classic race at Loon Mountain Ski Area in Lincoln, NH. I’d been keeping my eye on the race all season as it is a good location, convenient and a great cause. That said, racing in the rain wasn’t appealing.
After helping the team with last minute prep and gearing Friday and telling them I’d try to make it, I decided secretly to suck it up and go. After all, I knew some of the guys racing the master’s race and knew it would be fun and challenging and also pretty darn safe. This was the right decision. The venue was great, the course was a good fun mix, the volunteers were super and the rain held off all day. I can honestly say that this was one of the best days and experiences racing ever.
Cathy reluctantly decided to race as well, despite having retired from road racing earlier in the season. The fact that the course was "lumpy" and that there were a number of really strong ladies signed up wound ensure that the race would be a challenge. After a number of tough laps with Cathy positioned perfectly in the ever attacking group of three Sunapee women and one other ultra-strong climbing specialist, Cathy cracked. The rest of the race for his was a TT of misery, which she completed with pride.
My race started with my friend Patrick and I sitting at the back chatting at the rollout and for the first few minutes. Maybe a mile in things started to heat a bit so I moved to within the top 5 or so to watch carefully. There were some minor attacks and some very animated racers, like Marvin, but I knew Sunapee had four guys in the pack and would be a part of anything going down. My plan for the day was to just sit and not do anything at all stupid. So half way into lap two on RT112, Bruce was at the front leading things and I rotated to the front and bumped it a bit. Nobody at all took the bait and I had a 20 yard gap immediately. Was that stupid? I thought I wasn’t going to do anything stupid this time. Too late now, keep the pace and see what happens. The gap went out. Coming into Loon Village and through the start/finish for the completion of the second of ten laps, I just kept plodding along, not really drilling it at all but keeping a steady, comfortable pace. The gap remained for the entire lap.
At this point, starting the third lap, I knew it was time to make a decision, do I make an honest go at it or do I cut bait and wisely drift back to the shelter of the pack. I decided to make one hard bid up the hills after the start/finish on lap three and see what that bought me. I went hard and steady the whole way and the gap went out. On RT112, which by the way sucked as it was a miserable false flat, I could see that I had a couple hundred yards on the field but that someone was coming across, finally. I slowed my pace a bit, conserving and waiting for the catch. Just before the catch I accelerated to match the speed of the oncoming rider and gave him some shelter and a chance to recover. It turned out to be Patrick from Sunapee and we started working together immediately. The first couple laps there after were brutal as we worked hard to keep a now desperate field at bay. The gap was as low as 20 seconds but after the initial surges and attacks the pack settled down and the gap ran out to 50 seconds, a minute and fifteen and beyond. This made for a really, really tough ride as we felt compelled to keep the fire lit the entire race.
By the end of the 9th lap we knew we were away barring an incident and so the real race started. Honestly, it wasn’t much of a race. We both continued to work hard the entire time and neither of us slouched. I stupidly stayed in the back through the turn over the bridge to Loon off RT112 and that was the race. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hold a sprint all the way from there but in reality, you needed to start it back there and be the first through the turns. In the end I was second, but I was satisfied with that. It had been a great race, probably the best road race I’d had in years and the first time I’d had a successful break away. Patrick is a wise racer with much more road experience than I and I respect that. It was a good day.