Stage 3 is a 60 mile loop featuring about a bazillion and sixty two feet of climbing, finishing at the base of the K-1 lift. The road up is a MONSTAH - it's not the main road, it's a far steeper side road.
New England guys are funny. Bonds and grudges are deep. Everyone knows everyone. It was fun to be the anonymous guy. In MABRA races, I sometimes get hung up knowing the certain people are really good, and feeling like I'll never get on terms with competing with some of these guys. If there was one solid takeaway from this weekend, it's that it of course pays to know who's strong and get the team dynamic, but otherwise just race people, not their palmares. I don't know the plural of palmares.
The race started and climb 1 started shortly afterward. This was a leg opener more than anything else. We'd ridden it on Friday at close to threshold and I was in a bigger cog (raced w/o powertap all weekend) yesterday. But it was quick. My cadence is usually higher in races than otherwise. So the field strings out, I'm not in trouble, and then we go downhill for a long time. Lots of small bumps, all taken at Mach speed. Two notables on this section - first time I've ever peed in a race and did the best, longest bridge I've ever done, only to discover that gc leader's team then wanted to shut it down. First look back - huge gap. Second look back - huge gap. Third look back - Rabobank-looking steam train bearing down on me. I went back into the field, peed, and then some guy says to me in the most New England way possible 'so guy, is it safe fa me ta get a drink a wawta now or ah ya gunna go back up theah and drill it again?' That wasfunny.
A break went up the road shortly thereafter. I was not in it. We got to climb two, the first real climb, about 2'40 down to the break. The break went fast and the field relaxed. The climb was a bitch. 4 steep pitches to start and thank God I moved toward the front before it because there was some anchor dropping going on there. The last few miles (yes you read that right) up to the KOM spot were less steep but aforementioned NE grudges were being played out which meant we were HAULING. The break was at 50" over the top. Then a FAST and long descent after the fabulous Ruth gave me the best bottle feed I've ever gotten. Thank you!
I'd forgotten (probably mentally blocked) the upcoming gravel section. It was by a large smooth but I'd hit one thing so hard that my back brake got out of alignment and started rubbing. That was distressing until I figured it out, because it was REALLY hard to go fast for a minute there. Opening the brake solved it right away. Whew. And we caught the break, which either meant we were going to a) chill out b) go bat shit crazy or c) go spasmodic as a bunch of tired old dudes tried to get themselves clear. We chose c.
Back on Route 4, about maybe 12 miles from the base of the climb, the games really began. I forced myself to be up front but didn't launch anything. Then all of a sudden I was on the front. Then off the front. Then not off the front. Then not on the front. Then two guys had the same cycle, but when they were still off the front I rode up to them and said let's go. Anyone who had the will to be up there at that point was probably good to go. Soon, three dudes joined and we were off to the races. Two guys started skipping pulls right away, one of whom has more credentials than most will ever know. I wonder if he's earned them all that way because the guy was a douche. Seriously, you have stars and stripes shit on your kit and you're skipping turns from me? Yes I know race smart and all but take the f'ing stars and stripes crap off if that's the sauce you bring. Weak. Then when a guy called him out on it he tried to start a fight. Rhymes with Lloyd Page, maybe?
We soldier on, balancing the equation of how much we are screwing ourselves to the wall with how big of a gap we can manage to build before the climb. One guy and I snuck off for a bit to punish the non-workers but shocker they had plenty to come back to us. Then we got to the climb. No one ever gave us a time split, which sucked.
The finish climb, withe two count 'em two KOM's, is like the backside of the Lost River Barn climb only 40' long instead of 25' or whatever. It's long. It starts of STEEP, and four guys from our six really hit it hard. The guy in the KoM jersey (excellent excellent guy, a treat to race with) and I say f that noise and go a manageable tempo. Two of the four, and the KOM guy, blow sky high and wind up WAY back on the stage. Mr No Pulls and another guy who took plenty of pulls are now about 150' in front of me, and I'm not allowing myself to think about any result other than another turn of the pedals. Before too long, one of the favorites from the field blows by. Then the GC leader along with a small group. Then some more. We sort of formed a blob, and despite beyond so damn dead I couldn't believe I force an acceleration to stay with these guys. An upcoming false summit means speedy downhills and rollers that will suck nuts to do alone. We turned onto the main access road for the final k, and I look behind and see absolutely nothing. We'd been passing large sections of preceeding fields so it was tough to know where I was in the field (plus, math skills had disappeared some time ago) so the game was purely to stick it with this group as long as possible.
I wound up 15th on the stage, nearly 2' down to the GC leader and the first guy from the field who went by. People were spread out in 3 to 5 second gaps from there. My gap was bigger, I was cooked. The guy behind me must have been a minute back and the guy behind him might have been 4' behind me. What I later learned was that we had gotten a pretty big gap, and the GC guy's team killed it to bring us to a less threatening gap. This demolished the field.
I moved back up to 16th on GC. Given the way I raced Saturday and Monday, I'm pleased with it. The field was tough and it was fun as all. Obviously a bit morose about the time trial. Just being mediocre there instead of awful means top ten GC. Oh well. I felt like, aside from that, my training and prep were very well done. I also feel like I became a better racer this weekend, mostly through just racing so much but also from being at the pointy end when it mattered. You don't learn too much when you're sitting in the middle of the field. Last, I've always had the suspicion that the longer and the harder the race, the better chance I'd have, and that proved true.
That was really really a fun weekend.