Well, I had fun and probably put down a valuable training ride, right? So not all is lost. But, I finished last of the Prov Velo crew in the 4s and had a pretty slow day in the saddle. I had good intentions for this race. Back in the winter, I decided that, since (and now’s probably as good a time to mention it as any) my hill climbing season will likely be completely shot by the scheduled arrival of baby #2 sometime around June 26, I should give myself some sort of early season goal, and try to get into decent shape for Battenkill. That was December. I dutifully signed up for the race, and almost immediately came down with a nasty cold (adenovirus, it seems) that lasted from Jan 1 until the beginning of February. At which point some tickets to Germany to work do some research at Darmstadt fell in my lap, and – believe it or not – that proved to be more important than training. In Feb and March I mananged to get out about twice a week tops, and had one ride that was as long as Battenkill. So I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.
From the line, I couldn’t get into my big ring, which was funny, since I was fretting about the condition of my rear shifter, but there wasn’t any sign of a problem with the front. After fidgeting for a bit, I got it to work, but I was at the back of the pack. And let’s face it, that’s where I was headed anyway. Given that I hadn’t done a road race since Tokeneke 2 years ago, I decided not to fight it and just hang out there until things got going. The first hill is Perry Hill Road. I actually felt pretty good on that one, and a lot of people were already dangling off the back. I finished smack at the back of the main group, which meant I actually climbed the hill pretty quickly, relative to the rest of the pack.
Doug doesn’t find the next one (Juniper Swamp) too hard, but this is the second time I ran into trouble going up it. Somehow this hill just doesn’t suit me or something. Both times I managed to lose the main pack and get in with a group of people who aren’t as strong on the climbs as I was. (in 2009, I was with a decent group, but they couldn’t stay with me on Joe Bean, which is a hill that does seem to suit me.) This year, I dropped most of the group I was riding with on the rolling hills heading into Joe Bean. First I left my group on a climb and bridged to a solo rider. We worked for a while until it started going up again and he drifted back and I bridged to another rider. He was stronger and we got really close to a big group before he cracked, and I wasn’t going to bridge on my own. My hope was that I’d catch them easily on Joe Bean. But by the time I got to Joe Bean this time my legs were already starting to crap out. I had almost bridged to another group, and figured I’d catch them on Joe Bean, but the group was also coming from behind. One of that group (someone who I think must have flatted, because he wasn’t in the group I had been with and he was pretty strong) caught me and I held his wheel to the top, but then things started to fall apart on the way down. I was beat by the time I hit Meetinghouse Road and really couldn’t hold anyone’s wheel. I wouldn’t say I was bonking like I was in 2009, but my legs were cramping and it was all I could do to turn over the gears. Around this point I was sort of riding with a pair from Rutgers, who seemed to have also thrown in the towel. They were mostly riding side-by-side and let me ride away on the downhill section after Meetinghouse. I managed to catch one more person from my group going up Stage Road, but he passed me again on the descent. Rolled into town and found Curtis in the finishing area.
It was at this point that I said to Curtis, “I wonder if I should try to stick around for the finish of the 5s, to see if Donny or Keith won.” It had been something of a running bet as to who of these two was going to win their cat 5 field. It was both of their first road races, but they are both strong as hell, and had been regular fixtures at the smack downs last year. Donny had been racing cross all fall and had been training like a mad man all spring. Keith was coming off knee surgery and there were some concerns about his descending skills. I think most people were picking Donny. I was routing for Keith, but if I were a betting man (for sums larger than the 5 I put on Keith) I probably would have gone with Donny.
I had no sooner finished my comment to Curtis than I saw Keith weaving through the crowds. He started 40 minutes behind me. Mother f$#ker. I asked him how he did. He won it. He and Donny had apparently ditched the rest of their field at about 20 miles in (at which point they had only gone an average speed of about 16 mph) and cruised together for the next 20 miles or so. I don’t know any specifics of the attack, if there were one, but Keith rode the last 20 on his own, only starting to cramp a bit at the top of Stage Road. His finishing time was 3:01. I don’t know mine exactly, but it was probably 3:35 or something. His 3:01 is extra-amazing given that he did the first 20 at 16 mph where I did the same stretch at around 21 in the 4s. Anyway, in addition to being very happy for him, I feel somewhat vindicated, because I’ve been talking that guy up all year, and I really think he may be the strongest rider I’ve ever ridden with, which includes several Cat 1’s and 2’s. If he decides to try out some of the hill climbs this year, people better watch out. I think top-10 at Washington is within his reach.