A few weeks ago Skip Thomas floated the idea: Wouldn’t it be great to race Quabbin with you me and Mike Bolio-we might be able to get away and team time trial to the podium? Then, as Rasputitsa tore my legs off, and Skip won the fat bike, leaving me curled up in Cyberia’s snow….it began to dawn on me that he had a plan for pain.
Leading up, I began to remember I’d raced here as a CAT 5 unnattached newbie just after my first son (now almost 9) was born – where the final 3.5 miles’ 600′ climb left me tied to a tree. Skip’s team time trial idea seemed pretty good as I didn’t want any part of a sprint finish.
Arriving at the Tower, Mr. Harris shivered up to the car, bundled for the 50+ field. Somehow seeing a fellow teammate was both welcoming and reassuring. And while it felt colder than Rasputitsa, there was sun and it wasn’t snowing.
During kit up, I realized that we were truly a CAT 4/5 road racing group: Mike needed help pinning, Greg Bosworth (a friend from Velo Underground) had ridden the Battenkill Fondo but was unaware of USCycling licensing, I admitted to googling “how to win a bike race” the night before, and Skip lost his safety pins, again.
Time seemed to accelerate as I made final adjustments to my Bikeway Source Giant TCR for her first race . . . call to the line, the sun hotted up, mad scramble to de-clothe, instructions to never pass the motorcycles and to only turn right, and then all 50 of us were off. Led out by a Blue Indian (literally the name on the back of his vest and the color of his awesome motorcycle) and a flag waving trimotorcycle we dropped through the cold on brand new road to Rt 9 on a neutral start.
The first 30 miles were pretty windy and slow on the hills with a couple of near-misses with a cell-phone suburban and a dropped chain/solo crash, and nobody showed a lot of inclination to pull – Skip clearly had legs as several times he just climbed away from the pack gapping out of sight at least once, and several hundred yards a couple other times. Mike, Greg, and I did the same but to a lesser degree. Individuals in the pack seemed to be saving themselves. This was fun!
Coming around the top of the Quabbin at 30 miles the BSBL guys seemed comfortable, but Skip’s cassette had worked loose (those safety pins again), and he was riding on 5 gears. At 47.5 miles, a hard sandy right turn led to a steep climb over Greenwich Rd where I’d been forced to claw back before, I thought to stretch things out a bit and was first over the top onto a steep long narrow twisty descent. Through blurry eyes, I passed the Indian and surreally, the Flag Waving Trimotorcycle (at the finish, the Blue Indian said he was sideways on the sand…and the triman said he couldn’t corner at all).
Turning onto Rt 9, with 7.5 miles and only two climbs left, I heard one guy mutter, “This is where it starts to hurt.” And then Skip turned the screws, gently, but the pack didn’t follow. And when he was gone, out of sight, I thought, maybe he has a chance? Time for Plan B team tactics?
Mike and I blocked mercilessly and Skip stayed away, even on a windy descent and long flat he was still 200 yards ahead at the turn to the final 9 minute climb. I was in the top 5 getting twitchy, thinking don’t go, don’t tie yourself to a tree, wait for someone else, wait, don’t bridge the group to Skip, stay smart, somebody is going . . . punch it! Suddenly I found myself 100 yards ahead with only 50 to Skip – WTF did I do? I was alone, in limbo, redlined, 8 minutes to go. Crap. Looking around I can’t really see the pack and my only hope is ahead.
After soloing for almost 5 miles, Skip amazingly traded pulls, and gave hope, “I think we can stay away Joshie” This was the perfect play, the one I’ve heard Phil Liggett say every year during the TdF . . . two teamates have joined up and the pack is closing, can they make it?
3 minutes left, one guy bridging, road kicking up, everything getting fuzzy. I heard Skip pop and knew that I had to go. And my bike responded. I wasn’t tied to a tree! 200 M sign, snot flying, foaming, and an eternity. And then, Mr. Harris welcoming us at the line. My first road race win!
Skip hung in for 3rd, Mike finished his first road race with the pack and Greg completing the Battenkill/Quabbin double.