Team Quad sent up a contingent of riders for both the Men’s and Women’s cat 4 races in Auburn, Maine over the weekend. The weather was perfect — sunny, upper 60s and little wind. Reports from Jeremy Katz and Kate Leppanen for the Men’s and Women’s races follow. Photos below courtesy of Charles Wescott. Overall results for the day were a 7th place finish for Andy Tucker and pack finishes for Nessim Mezrahi and Jeremy Katz in the Men’s field and 5th for Nancy Labbe-Giguere and 6th for Kate Leppanen.
We got to the course start with lots of time to spare and actually had the time to pre-ride a lap of the route. So we headed off as a team to recon the course and jog our memories from last year. It was good to do as little things like “landmark for the turn before the hill” doesn’t stick with you for a year… but half an hour before the race start it certainly does.
The race itself was to be three laps of an 11.5 mile circuit. It started with a quick downhill followed by a little bump and then a steeper little climb. Then a few turns and a mile or so with a slight downward grade to the back half of the course which was about six miles and pretty much flat. This was thus a bit on the fast side. The course then took another turn and began going back up towards the finish with one steeper and then one longer and more shallow section to a bit of false flats for the final kilometer or so. Total of about 600 feet of climbing a lap. Pretty much good pavement for the entirety of it, well marshalled, etc. Honestly, it’s a great course and I was looking forward to coming back and doing better.
In the Men’s Cat 4 field, we had six people in the field out of a total of somewhere between fifty and sixty — myself, Jim Gomez, Charles Wescott, Nessim Mezrahi, Kenton Eash and Andy Tucker. My personal goal was to finish with whatever the main pack ended up being and from a team perspective, we were hoping to get someone at least in the top ten. The race started on time and it started out pretty quick. I was at the front and was able to maintain my position through the fast descent in a nice improvement from last year. The first lap continued pretty quickly; I know I saw an average speed of above 25 mph at one point on the back stretch. When we hit the big hill up to the finish, that dropped a bit. We had definitely started to drop some riders off the back, though.
The second lap was much of the same and I realized that hanging on was really about all I was going to be good for. I did get in some good work with moving up in the pack and raising my comfort in doing so. It helped that the peloton for the field was pretty smooth overall. The exception was that for every corner, the speed dropped somewhat dramatically and then people accelerated like hell on the other side of the corner only to let up after 100-200 meters. A little annoying, but I kept with it. Andy and Nessim spent some time during the lap attacking and trying to weaken some of the stronger riders in the field. I was content to just sit in and let things happen.
By the third lap, I realized that the only Quaddies who were left were Nessim, Andy and myself. I talked briefly with Andy and he said that Nessim was going to try to set him up with a lead-out. I didn’t really have anything to add to the effort, so just was going to keep my head down. I also noticed at this point (not far into the lap really), that there was a rider a little ways up the road and that the pace car seemed a little further away. Not that I was going to be able to do anything about it. As we started up the hill for the finish, though, the gap dropped — by the time we were cresting the second hill up to the finishing flats, we passed the guy who had jumped off the front and this was when people really cranked it up a notch.
With a little more than a 1km ago, someone decided to start pushing for the sprint and I decided I had done enough to accomplish my goal. So I sat up and got passed by 6 or 8 people coming across the line about 26th although I did make it look like I was sprinting for something. Andy ended up with 7th and Nessim was somewhere in the pack between 15th and 20th. All in all, not a bad day
Another race, another couple of lessons learned on what turned out to be an exquisite day to ride the bike. As an improvement over last year, I got an early start and rode up to Maine with Jeremy rather than getting hammered in Maine with college friends. Also improved was the weather, the lack of pounding rain or oppressive humidity was quite nice. After putting in a warm up lap with what turned out to be a rather impressive turn-out of Quaddies and mentally marking how many times the final hill false flats and which is the turn before the hill, I cruised around near the start line to keep my legs warmed up. While I got to the start line a solid ten minutes early, I found that I was among the last person to line up which put me solidly at the back of the pack, not the place I wanted to be going down the first big hill.
Although we were ranked separately, the Women’s 1/2/3 field started with the Women 4s.
We roll out down the hill and I rue my crappy position in the back of the pack as I watch the leaders flatten themself into an organized aerodynamic position and those of us in the back fiddle with our position and nervously tap brakes to avoid slamming into less aerodynamic riders. It did put me in a fabulous place to watch Talia slip herself from the absolute rear of the pack to the very front. Amazing pack handling skills.
We hit the little wall and I make the critical mistake of fumbling to get into the small chainring at the appropriate time. Chasing from the back of the pack, I yell at the riders that I pass that we need to work together, that we can catch the peloton rapidly speeding away. I fall in with a group of largely PVC riders and try to organize a chase. I take a pull at the front at a solid 25mph and flick my elbow to go to the back. The pace drops to 18mph. I yell more and move back up to take another pull. I pull off and the pace dips again. The wheel car pulls past us. This is not working. I move back and look at our group; Kim Z. of Green Line Velo is riding very steadily and seems very strong. Continuing my theme of yelling at people, I tell her that we’ve got to hammer if we have any hope of catching the leaders, I’m going to go and I hope that she follows my wheel. I go, watching the leaders now disappear distant over a hill. Together Kim and I chase. No one else from the group follows us.
As a two woman chase group up against a good sized peloton of very strong riders, a lot of them 1/2/3s, we do not make contact with the peloton again. We do not see the peloton again nor do we pick up any of the riders that inevitably fall off the back. Working rather well together, we trade off taking pulls for the remaining 35 miles. I slow up to keep Kim with me on the hills, she neutralizes when I drop my chain (again!) as we enter the 3rd lap. As is the nature of bike racing, the glorious partnership we’ve had for three laps dissolves as we reach the final climb. I’m pretty sure that Kim can outsprint me so I give every last thing I have on the climb and spin my way up the hill. I sprint to the finish line, although there is absolutely no one around me. I find out later that the main field finished an intimidating 16 minutes ahead of me. Sixth place for the day, not too bad but I wish I’d actually maintained contact with the group for more than 1k. The big lesson learned (or rather the big lesson reiterated) is that you should never wait to close down a gap. Gaps just get bigger with time.
Post-race, we stayed around to the start of the Pro 1/2 men’s race–I do so love the whoosh sound the pro race makes as they roll through. There were also post-race free massages and I enjoyed a glorious 12 hours without pain in my left shoulder for the first time in just about a year. Very briefly, I considered trying to convince someone to drive me to Auburn the next day for the crit. I tell myself that the legs could have probably endured it well enough but I was not mentally up for another 5 hour car trip.