by John Naegle
I’d been looking forward to the ITT for a long time; my goal was to go
under 20 minutes and set myself up for a top 20 overall on GC. Last
year, I clocked 20:38 with a dropped chain, so I felt like this was a
realistic goal. I was riding the same equipment as last year: clip on
aero bars, rudy project aero helment, and 53/39 chainring paired with
a 12-27 cassette. I pre-drove the course and decided to make liberal
use of my 39 this year. Last year I tried to ride the whole course in
the big chainring but couldn’t handle the steep kick at around 4.5
I got a good 30-40 minute warm up on the trainer finishing up about 10
minutes before my start. I took a little too much time getting out of
the parking lot for the mile+ ride to the start line and rolled up to
the start line 40 seconds before my start. This worked out well as I
didn’t have time to think about the race and get my nerves up.
Since this year I had a good idea of what my time would be, I set the
count down timer on my watch to 6 minutes and 30 seconds. I recently
used the counter at Charlie Baker to divide the course into 3 sections
with the goal of going harder as the race progressed. Ideally, the
first section would be done a little easier, the middle a little
harder and the last all out. I started my watch and counter when my
30 second man started, got my hold and clipped in on the start ramp.
I started out a little too hard, but realized it pretty quickly and
settled into a good rhythm. I caught my 30 second man after about 2-3
kilometers and had a glimpse of the next two riders up the road. With
a little over 5 kilometers to go, my hopes of a good TT time and good
overall GC position came to an end as I got a rear flat. I ended up
riding the rim for the last 5+ kilometers and came in fourth to last
(123rd) with a 23:07:30 (the last place rider missed his start).
Thursday’s ITT disaster changed my plans for the road race.
Originally, I had planned to sit in, conserve and go all out up the
final climb. I’m not a great climber — I wouldn’t have a chance at
top 10 – but I wanted to see how I had improved from last year and
compare myself to the rest of the cat 4 field.
Since I was already 4+ minutes down on GC I decided to try and see if
I could get some KOM points. I chatted with Jason Sears from MIT who
was 2nd in last years points competition in the cat 3 race. He had
been in a 6 person breakaway in the road race that swept up a lot of
the KOM points and set him up well for the points competition. That
breakaway had gone on the first lap, right after the first corner so I
thought I would try to instigate something similar. On the first lap
I put in 4 separate attacks, each of which came to naught – no other
teams were feeling aggressive and my last attack ended about 7 miles
into the first lap – right before the long grind into Princeton.
The rest of the race was about survival for me. Despite sag climbing
on the first lap, I almost got dropped from the group and had to chase
back on after the feed zone. The second lap felt better, but I still
questioned why I was doing this and thought that it might not be so
bad to stop. By the third lap, I was well recovered and able to stay
near the front on the climbs. The fourth time through Princeton, my
legs were screaming, but I wasn’t loosing position. I came to the
start of the final climb in about 20th position, but I didn’t have
legs for anything. I ended up 66th on the day, about 2 minutes down.
Thanks to Ken Han and Bill Maidment for organizing the feed zone and
keeping up hydrated during the race.
With the Circuit Race coming after the road race this year, I wondered
if people would be more aggressive in attacking up the hill and trying
to establish breakaways. The course doesn’t lend itself well to small
breaks — a 300 meter uphill sprint, followed by 3 miles of fast non-
technical downhill makes it very tough for small groups to stay away.
I got a decent warm up – 20 or 30 minutes on the trainer before the
start and felt pretty relaxed. Knowing that nothing was likely to
stay away, I planned to sit in, stay out of the wind and do as little
work as possible until the last two laps. I started mid-pack and
didn’t make an effort to move up on the first lap. My legs felt
pretty heavy the first time up the hill.
The uphill is really two sections – a short section right after a fast
90-degree corner, followed by a flat section, then another kick up. I
settled into a pretty good rhythm: take the corner wide, ride the
first section in the big ring, shift into the small ring for the
second section, then back to the big ring at the top of the hill. My
legs felt better each lap, but the race was very nervous. There were a
few crashes, some bumping, some bunny hopping of pot holes (!?!?) and
a fast pace (average speed: 26 mph).
With 2 to go, I made an effort to move up from my mid-pack position
towards the front. This was a tough position to hold as every time on
the downhill, people would swarm up the outside. On the downhill,
Toby and I had a quick chat and he would try to lead me out for the
finish. A traffic island split the 4-lane road about 1 mile (less
than 2 minutes from the finish) and Toby and I decided we would try to
go left while the pack mostly went to the right.
On the last lap, Toby and I were able to find each other and go left
of the traffic island as planned, but we couldn’t really get to the
front of the race. It was too fast for a two person train to drill
the pace and stay at the front for the finish, so we ended up coming
through the last corner in around 25th to 30th position. We punched
it up the hill and Toby took 9th while I ended up in 16th. If we had
been in better position going into the final corner I think we would
have ended up even higher, we both passed a lot of people in the
I think people either love Crits or hate them. I love them and I’d
been looking forward to this race all year. I got another decent warm
up and lined up on the sidewalk as the category 2 race finished up.
While we were waiting for the 30+ people involved in a last lap pile
up to limp across the line, I chatted with the leader of the race and
found out he was a mountain biker and not a fan of criteriums. I got
the impression it was his first criterium, but I later found out he
has done a few before — only at stage races. Due to the sheer number
of racers, this is not a good course for nervous riders or a lack of
confidence. We had 105 starters, only 3 fewer than the Pro race, but
only about 50% of the bike handling skills.
We did 20 laps for around 22 miles. I got a 4th or 5th row starting
position in the race to the line. My plan for this race was relax,
stay near the front where there is less braking in the corners and put
myself at the front (top 10) with 6 laps to go and stay there.
Hopefully between Toby, Ian and I, we would have some sort of lead out
for the finish. The race was very sketchy – lots of crashes, lots of
bumping, lots of abrupt line changes. For instance, two people rolled
off the front on the downhill and one of them ended up crashing on a
straightaway. If we went through the two 90-degree corners with 20
people, there would be 25 different lines taken through the corners.
For the first 14 laps, I just tried to stay out of trouble, stay away
from riders who looked unforgettable or braked too much. It was tough
to settle into any sort of rhythm with the nervous, twitchy bunch, but
I found I could pretty easily move up at the 180 at the top of the
course by shifting earlier and peddling earlier than everyone else.
With 6 to go, I put myself at the front of the race. From here on, I
just tried to stay at the front, watching for people swarming and
jumping on their wheels as they did. I was sitting in 6th to 10th
wheel on the outside with about 1/2 mile to go when Toby found me and
offered a lead out. I slowed slightly to let him move in front and
got on his wheel. Toby drilled it on the downhill into the two
corners and when I looked back, we had put a slight gap into the
field. Toby took me though the last two corners, but I ended up
taking the second corner on a slightly different line and ended up
first with 250 to go. This was basically a repeat of last year when
I led Eric through the final two corners and to about 250 meters to
go. That proved to be a little far for a lead out as Eric got swarmed
in the finish and ended up 11th. I started my sprint early and stayed
at the side of the road, so anybody passing me would have to come by
on the left. I got passed with about 75 meters to go and ended up 8th
– a good result that wouldn’t have been possible without being in the
top 10 through the last corner. Despite doing a huge pull and leading
me for a good 400 meters, Toby drove it home and ended up 12th.
* Get your tires in order well before the race. Due to a wheel
failure, I ended up racing different wheels than planned. I had to
change my rear tire 3 days before my TT and I only had a chance to
ride this once for about 30 minutes. I feel like it was a contributing
factor to my flat.
* Two person lead out trains are really hard to time correctly.
* Category 4 fields are very passive. Don’t expect people to attack
and establish breakaways.
* Category 4 fields tend to attack off the front. Its hard to attack
effectively off the front – its much better to sit 20 riders back, and
pass the front of the field at high speed, rather than trying to jump
off the front. Jumping off the front just ups the pace for the whole
* Mountain bikers do very well in the cat4 race at Fitchburg (last two
winners were semi-pro/expert level racers).