Another year, another Poolesville. You can take it for granted that the race will be well run, and that it will be an adventure, and that a lot of people will have their day prematurely ended by mechanical or pneumatic happenstance. I have fallen victim to pneumatic happenstance on 3 separate occasions.
One twist for this year was having the women's 1/2 race start with the men's 3. I'd thought that this might be a neat thing, but there wound up being very few women racers (likely having more than a little to do with having to share a race with us, I think). The logistics of road racing are going to force compromises. It's probably a self-defeating thing now, though - a compromised scenario for the women's elite race put fewer women in the race, which means that their race will likely be less prioritized in the future. However you slice it, a race that long with 5 people in it is going to suck eggs anyhow. No chance of it being that fun. It turned out to have less impact on the 3 race than I thought it might. I didn't sense or hear of any negative will on behalf of the 3s about it, I was fine with it and it seemed like all the other guys were, but I'd bet the women felt very slighted. Chicken and egg deal, as is so often the case with women's fields. I think the final answer is that races have to either have a completely dedicated women's race and accept that there might be few to no racers, or if they can't be in a position to do that, then don't damn them with compromises. This is in no way an indictment of how NCVC played Poolesville, it is just my comment on how I see it with hindsight.
Anyhow, the gun fired and... not much happened. Robb went off the front, we went through the dirt, a friend of mine and I were riding next to each other through the dirt and simultaneously thought we broke our bars in potholes, then Robb got caught and... not much happened. Lots of half-hearted moves, which I wound up wasting a lot of chips on. I think that's the real danger when you realize that you're racing not to lose: I spent a ton of energy in tiny little increments going with a bunch of little accelerations that probably weren't going to amount to much. I kept fooling myself by saying that I'd go with moves if I could do so "for free." Basically I think I was doing what is often referred to as "covering" moves. If someone wanted to rip a gap open or slam across a gap to a nascent move, great, I'd take the tow and rotate if it seemed to have any legs, but I wasn't going to be the guy on the attack. I didn't have the big legs I had at All American, so wasn't going to be too much with the crazy attacks. Unfortunately I think my strategy diluted whatever juju I did have in my legs and despite being relatively strong compared to the field, I pissed away my chances trying too hard not to miss out. And then the break went and I missed out. Tried to go across a few times and there didn't really seem to be any worm holes to sneak through. Mostly I would go real hard and get a tiny gap and then look back and see the field lined out and no progress made. I was far from the only person to experience this.
My bars and shifters finished the day in different places than where they started it, which caused my rear brake to nearly lock (good thing I could open the quick release) and unfixed the fix (in fact worsened the problem by quite a bit) I thought had worked following a somewhat recent and regrettable "Quarq magnet running through the drivetrain incident" - the putty they supply is useless.
At the end, I got a great reminder I don't really do the field sprint thing in situations like that. The ding dong who got seventh hooked my bars coming through a hole that didn't exist but that he was determined to create, lifting my front wheel off the ground and nearly causing a huge pileup. In order to get fifth in the field sprint. Good choice guy, but like you said "that's racing!" Dangerous, stupid, and bad racing, but racing no less.
After the race I saw the guy who got second pretty much dry heaving on the ground and thought how great it is when you pour it all on like that. Yes he didn't win and in cycling if you ain't first you're last but both those guys rode very admirably, and props to both.