We’re finally at the end of the season. It ended last week.
But before I go ahead and stop training and eat a crapton of fatty foods (i.e. poutine) and drinking beer because I’ve been depriving myself of indulging in the taste of the day, there’s next year to think about. What better way to think about next year but to review the past couple of months.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog, because I’ve been training and racing with my team, Tall Sock Racing. We’ve had some epic rides and races lately. We rode the Loon Echo Trek and did a team camp at Rangeley. I also completed the Cadillac Century for the first time since my first attempt back in 2007. I completed the metric and didn’t get to go up the mountain due to lack of fitness. What a stark contrast that was from this year.
The last two races we completed were the Maine Apple Classic in Vasselboro and just recently, Jamestown Classic in Rhode Island.
Maine Apple Classic
One gentleman commented when he saw our team, seven of us hanging out at the registration area, in our matching red kits,
“You guys are like a [professional] tour team.”
Well, that inflated our egos somewhat. But that only gave others a signal that we’re a tight team. And it showed in the race. We were together from the beginning, riding with each other in a tightly-knit formation. It was an amazing sight to see a sea of red in the peloton. The course was undulating and a bit short. I was nearly shelled off the back a couple of times because of the notorious end-of season fatigue but caught back up riding at threshold. It was two laps on an eleven mile circuit with one major climb each lap. It was “Purgatory-lite” because the pace was fast and unrelenting (but no souls were depleted), especially on the short, punchy climbs. I made it a point to stick with Chris and Kent as they were the closest to the front most of the race. But somewhere along the way, I lost concentration and drifted back a couple of positions.
No points were awarded because it wasn’t a USAC sanctioned event. However, up for grabs were a bag full of apples and bragging rights. The finish was a bunch sprint for those who survived. Chris Poulin just missed the podium finishing fourth. Do note that beyond the top three places, the results recorded for our team were all wrong. We probably confused the officials because there were so many of us.
Jamestown Classic on the other hand was a different story. A few of us headed down a day early for a mini-vacation in Rhode Island and to pre-ride the course. Needless to say, it was absolutely perfect, until I got a bit of a chill with the gusts of ocean winds on the recce. Heading down early made a big difference in our demeanor – extremely relaxed and pleasant, cracking jokes left, right and center. Bobby had these knee-high, striped socks that were comparable to those on the legs of the wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz, after she was crushed by a house. They were so bright, it would have confused competitors whether or not to sprint. I need to get myself a pair of truly tall socks like that!
Even eating was a pleasantry not to be missed:
Lunch – salmon sandwich with Parmesan risotto;
Dinner – clam chowder, cod fish tacos, quinoa and kale salad with crushed nuts and ahi tuna;
Breakfast – chocolate chip pancakes, oatmeal with maple syrup and cinnamon, orange juice and espresso for impulse power.
A perfect amount of savoury protein and carbohydrates to fuel the body without overloading the digestive system.
The weather too, was perfect on race day, with a slight breeze of 5 to 10 mph – a big difference from the 25mph gusts on the recce. Temperatures were hovering around 65F. It was going to be fast for all categories.
But it wasn’t. At least not for the CAT4’s. With the young and old fields combined, the race became a circus and a few riders got wheels tangled immediately in the first few miles, crashing out with a hiss of a blown tire. We kept speeding up and slowing down and it didn’t help the riders’ nerves. You could feel the tension pile on.
Over the course of the race, the middle became the back as several riders were shelled. I gained a few positions halfway through the last lap, sprinting out of the turn around that we’ve practiced so many times on our Saturday morning rides. Each element of the course, the climbs and dips, the wind, the turns and the straights felt like it was replicated from our usual club rides.
On the lead up to the sprint, there was a climb. I had thoughts of winning this race and I could only do so with better positioning. I tried moving up while others struggled. They were breathing harder than me so I knew they were suffering a lot more. I had to navigate through the pack to get to the front, threading several needles. I went into a bigger gear before the peak of the climb and just powered on, eventually hitting 42.1mph at some point, stomping on 53×12 gearing in aero mode. I passed a few riders on the descent making up a couple of places, but it wasn’t to be.
I had bought the ticket, but missed the train by a few seconds. I ended up 13th in my age category – which isn’t bad, but I knew I could have done better. This race wasn’t nearly as hard as our club rides. I felt I could have given more.
The silver lining was that in the final sprint, I had passed one of my fellow racers, Steve, while trying to keep up with another, Matt, both from the Downeast Racing team.
…Steve exclaimed as he slapped my leg, rolling to recover after the sprint. What a gentleman was he! Such encouragement! I told him at one point on our coffee rides that when I beat him in a sprint, I know I’m getting better. It took me more than a year to do that. Even among competing cyclists, there’s camaraderie.
And that’s what it’s all about. Our Tall Sock Racing team finished the CAT5 races with two second places by Chris Poulin and Pete Talbot, and one third by Kent Ryan.
We’re starting to make a name for ourselves.
Eight of us raced that day and it was one of the best showings we had for the year. We’ve come a long way. It started with an idea mixed well with passion. It showed in the team parties we attended, the epic rides, and the training camp at Rangeley.
Next year, for spring training, we’re thinking about heading to Florida for some proper sun and fun.
I can’t wait.