Roger Williams Park. I'd forgotten or rather hadn't really recognized how amazingly beautiful that park is. My hope is to go there at some point for fun and hit the Zoo and gardens and swan boats and so much more.
The day started early so we could get to the venue while there were still parking spots available, as parking there can be a challenge. We ended up with a fine spot at then did the rounds to registration and then chatting with the endless parade of cyclocross friends. At some point I changed up to pre-ride the course. Early in the day it was slick but with dry sunny and warm weather predicted, the course was sure top tack up quickly. By the end of the Cat4 35+ race, the second race of the day, the course was much improved. It was also warming quickly and was sure to be a factor.
Once again we had a big field of men in the 45+ race, with most of the crew of masters racers in attendance minus a couple who either opted for a weekend off or to do the 35+ race instead. I had the luxury of a front row start and tried to use it well. My starts have gotten much better lately, oddly enough, in part because I switched to shoes that I seem to have great luck clipping in with. Today I was feeling a little tired and wanted to play it safe, especially given that it was warm. With a little chaos we staged and soon we had Diane giving instructions and then we were off. I settled in about fifth wheel making sure I kept tabs but not wanting to set pace when others were happy to do so. I lost a couple more spots as Mark, Don and then John came by me to join Sam and Jeff who were chasing the guy off the front. I was OK with that and never slipped too far back. Quietly, I was waiting and trying to to conserve as long as possible before I had to go really hard, a point that I knew was inevitable. Effectively I was being lazy but I suspected we were going to be in for a long race.
Within a lap we had a solid group of about five or six. Things thinned a bit and then I found myself nearer the front so decided to have a dig and close the gap on the lead a bit. Quickly I realized that it was too hot for a solo effort and asked Sam if he had the suds to work together. Not one to be afraid of work, Sam came to the front and charged hard, bringing us up to the leader. Coming back onto the start/finish pavement I went hard and we broke clear of the leader and thinned the group a bit more. From there we took turns riding steady, hard and clean. It was Sam, John and I at that point. My concern that we would have a long day was well founded as we do many laps, baking in the sun and trying to stave off the effects of the heat. With a few to go John popped off the back a bit as steady power was continually applied. Sam and I have very similar styles and today was a good race for us.
As the laps ticked off it became about attrition. Small gaps when you are on the limit translate to being impossible to close down. I managed to get a small gap on Sam riding up over the run-up section, which we were all doing, and that proved to be the decisive factor. With one lap to go I had slim margin so rode the final lap as hard as possible while still playing it super cautious. It was a good day and I was lucky. The bike worked flawlessly and the the tire choice was perfect. Cathy diligently worked the pit for me, shouting encouragement all the while. As Matt reminded me, I am so very fortunate. Another Great Day.
I am proud and honored to race against such quality gentlemen. It is unfortunate though, that my good friend Mark had an incident with an overly aggressive rider today during our race, resulting in a crash and injury. That's just plain wrong and uncalled for and I am truly sorry for his misfortune. Hopefully Marky heals up and is back tomorrow.
Many thanks for an awesome day and to the promoters of the event who gave one of the best medals ever, a set of bells from the Bevin Brothers Bell Company in East Hampton, CT. Incredible product and a touching story. We should cherish, honor and patronize these types of hometown, made in the USA businesses.