Sometimes you're too busy living life to stop and write about it.
On the road again now, for what's probably the most important 2-week period of the season. We started last Saturday with Kelly Cup in Baltimore, then Tour of Somerville on Monday, Ricola Twilight in Basking Ridge, NJ, on Wednesday, CSC Invitational in Arlington, VA on Sunday, and then the Triple Crown, AKA "Philly week" this Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. I was lucky (or unlucky?) enough to be selected for all the races, so it's a concentrated dose of pain. (Ironically, it even started with a root canal on Thursday before I left town!)
Kelly Cup is a deceivingly hard race. It seems like just a little oval circuit race with a small hill. But add NRC status, a field of pro teams, and a nasty crosswind, and it gets H A R D. We missed the move late in the race, prompting co-captain Jon Hamblen to bring the entire team to the front to chase and saving me for the sprint. We never caught the break, but the pressure caused it to split, sending a few riders back to the field and only leaving 4 up front at the finish. I was 5th in the field sprint for 9th place, getting us out of there with an impressive chase and an NRC top 10 for the team.
Somerville is one of my favorite races. I've been 2nd there twice over the years and top 10 on numerous occasions. It's a race I would love to take down at some point. We decided to turn all the chasing the team's been doing lately into a productive lead out, and we couldn't have done a better job. 8 guys on the front from 9 to go until 2 to go, taking a $500 gambler's prime in the process. After that, we had 3 guys left for the sprint. I nearly crashed twice in the last 2 laps, with my foot out of the pedals both times, and the two riders I was leading out both went down. We put on a great show and the team was spectacular, but came up empty handed.
The Ricola Twilight was a mid-week, $10,000 criterium, and what a great race it was. It felt like a cyclo-cross race on road bikes. Really tight, downtown circuit through neighborhoods and narrow streets, with lots of elevation change. It was hard, hard, hard, but in a way that's within my skill set. Lots of speed changes, lots of clever riding, lots of bike "driving," not just hard pedaling. The team was active all night, with lots of attacking and counter-attacking, and I was there to set up Erik Barlevav in the last few laps. At some point in the melee my rear brake ended up against my wheel, and I sat up out of the last corner, losing places fast, thinking it was a "bio-mechanical," not a regular mechanical. Erik saved us with a 10th place, but it was another night of "if only."
The CSC Invitational has a reputation for being the hardest crit in America, and it's a race I have to admit I'm deathly afraid of. I've been dropped or crashed here a number of times, and I believe I've only made it to the finish on one occasion. Even then, I recall sitting up with 1 to go, unable to even hold the wheel in front of me, never mind sprint. This year was notably better. I had good legs from the start, was able to float around in the pack and ride around people who were coming off the back, and had enough confidence to move to the front and consider going with attacks. Unfortunately by that point in the race, a group of 13 had already gone clear and was 20 seconds up the road, eventually lapping the field. That made the field sprint a bit confusion, since etiquette dictates not impeding the guys sprinting to win when you're only sprinting for 14th. Mike Stoop, Dave Guttenplan, and I rolled in for 23rd, 24th, and 25th respectively, calling it par for the day.
Tuesday we race the first leg of Philly week, a new race in Allentown. They said this one was for the sprinters, and I suppose in the end it was. But the race was surprisingly hilly, incredibly fast, and only 60 people managed to make the front group. I was the last rider left from the team as we came into the finish, but after averaging nearly 30 mph for 2:45, I was on my last legs as we hit the final hill with 2k to go. I rolled in with some other sprinters who had come off, as well as many of the guys who had been doing leadouts. I wouldn't call it a good day, but it seemed like an accomplishment just to get to the finish of such a fast race, when half of the riders who started weren't able to.
Tomorrow is Reading, a hilly race where my job will likely be to go with early moves and race for 100K or so before the final 3 circuits over the Mt. Penn climb. And then of course, Sunday is Philly, my 6th time starting the race. It's supposed to be very hot, in the 90's, which isn't so great for me. Regardless, I'll give it my all and keep you posted.
Special thanks to Adam Szczepanski and his wife Christina for hosting me this week at their place in Center City. Adam's the only one who reads my blog anyway.