Monday, October 15, 2007

Gloucester delivers...

Awesome friends. Perfect weather. First-class promotion, organization and officiating. A super-fast course. What more could one hope for? New Belgium Worlds delivered on all of the hype with two spectacular days of the hardest racing so far this year. And to be honest, I'm glad it wasn't a GP this year. Less hype and more down-home-tooth-and-nail-racing. I think racers in every category had some large tales of rubbin' elbows and tradin' paint. And the pain caves? Deeper than ever. Forget the pitch forks and shovels. We're talking blasting out entire new caverns and veins into the cave. OK, enough of the that. Let's talk racing.

First, just a quick overview of the course. It was similar to years past, but with a few tweaks. The start/finish road is a long drag race up a hill that feels like Alpe D'Huez 7 laps in but something you wouldn't even notice out on a road ride. The start is at the bottom and the finish is at the top. So, drag race up the road, funnel into grass, but still 3 or 4 wide. Down a hill, 180 left back up, hard right traverse, hard right back down the hill into some sweeping right turns and out onto the cinder seawall road. Super fast on the seawall, up a little bit of broken pavement and then a hard, loose right back onto the grass. A quick right and up a short sandy steep hill into two left turns and thne back onto the grass for some more sweeping rights. Then, into the chicane and run up. I really liked the way they set this up this year. Up the hill, hard right 180 and down, hard left 180 and up into two planks. There were many different approaches on how to get over these fast and smooth. I focused more on the fast part than the smooth. It was just hard and there was no way to look like you knew what you were doing. So just freakin' do it, right? At the top of the run, you went down to the backside of the course. This section featured some long hard ridin' sections with some 180s and lots of wind. Then a sand pit that was easily rideable by the time our race hit it. Then another long straight section into another cool chicane and ride up and zip zag down. Then out onto the baseball field, hard right into the finish straight and another drag race into the finish. Most of the spectators were hanging out at the two chicanes and the start/finish hill. It was exactly where you needed to dig deep. Lap times were in the 6-7 minute range.

The good doctor had a couple of fantastic days in the 3/4 womens races. It was the fastest groups of ladies we have seen yet. I am going to try to get her to write something up, but she finished 24th out of the 47 finishers on day one and 21st out of 39 finishers on day two.

Day 1. Wake up the legs.

For day one, they called up the top ten on overall points from last year's Verge series. Some of the guys have moved up to the elites, so that left five call ups. And then they stacked us by order of registration. Due to my lack luster registration skills a few weeks back, that meant a fifth row start spot. The start road bends left and the field tends to hug the bend. So Scott, Kenny and I lined up on the right and went as hard as we could up the right side. I made up some places before going onto the grass. The first two laps were ridiculously fast and everything was a blur. The one thing that I remember distinctly though was I felt pretty blocked up. It was really hard to accelerate and I felt like I was going backwards. Someone said I came through the first lap in 25th or so wiht Kenny, and then I lost contact with him and started to do the slide. It was brutal. At the end of the 3rd lap, we saw 4 to go. I heard a lady say "41st and 42nd" to me and the guy I was with. Something clicked. Anger? Physiology? Determination? No clue. But I started to open up and go harder. I made a couple of spots on lap 4 and went super hard on 5 and 6 and went through some groups and caught Kenny. We were hovering right around 30th, but lost a couple of places to some hard charging guys. Kenny beat me in the sprint for 32nd, so I ended up 33rd. I think I went as hard as I could for 45 minutes, because my hands and arms locked up in a death grip on the drops as I sprinted up the finish hill. I could not open my hands for a minute or two. It was awesome racing with Kenny and we had our own epic battle going on. The speed and depth of the field was incredible. Less than 2 minutes seperated me in 33rd from 2nd place. More importantly, I was just 1 minute out of 15th and the Verge points that I want. About 9 seconds a lap. Within reach? Yup.

Day 2.
My legs felt much better Sunday morning during my warmup. Today, the top 15 from Saturday were called up based on their newly earned Verge points. So that meant another fifth row start for me. But I felt much better going up the right today and made up more spots. Today, Kenny, Rosey and I were sporting the zank blue kits and at one point, the three of us were riding together. I got some nice comments on the blue train after the race. The first couple of laps were crazy fast again. But this time, I heard 20th and 21st when Kenny and I were riding together. We stayed together the whole race, but he was clearly stronger. I could only try to respond to everything he threw at me. I always closed the gap on the sand pit and the two chicanes. But he was turning me inside out on the fast sections. We both started to slow down with 2 or 3 to go and a couple of small groups went through us. We caught PVB with 2 to go and we rode together for the last two laps. Kenny attacked me and Pierre hard on the bell lap, and I was in damage control mode at that point and could not respond. I lost Pierre as well and rolled in for 30th, 2:15 behind the winner. But this time, only 41 seconds out of the top 15.

A few interesting points. On day one, I started slow but opened up and went faster on the last three laps and made up 8 or 9 spots. On day two, I started faster and slowed down on the last three laps and lost 8 or 9 spots. I guess I have to tune my training so that I can start fast and finish fast. Geez, why didn't I think of that before?

I need to learn to corner faster. I felt like I lost ground in every corner. I had a few brilliant turns where I actually went faster than the guys I was with, but I need to do that more often. Am I losing 1/2 to 1 second on every corner? Maybe. That would be enough in itself to get me to the top 15.

Cross is awesome. There are so many amazing people to hang out with at the races it blows my mind. I heard every single cheer. On some laps, I couldn't make out the voice because I was in purgatory, but I really appreciated it all. I was thrilled to see Myette back in the mix after the major scare with his ankle. I am really enjoying getting to know the gang of guys I am racing with in the Bs. Tal I, Colin R, Colin M, Carey F, all super nice guys who can pedal really hard. And being tight with Myette, Kenny, Rosey, Ronnie, PVB, Yash, Jamner, Ziemba, and CTodd helps so much to keep my head in the game and not give in to the pain. GeWilli constantly makes me laugh.And I really apprecaite all of the support and good wishes from everyone who has seen me transition to the Bs this year.

Everything is icing on the cake from here. Myette commented on Friday that if anyone in our little gang could pull a top 30 in our respective races, it was like a win. It felt like that for sure. But I still have some goals for the season. I still want my cat 2 upgrade and I still want a Verge point. Mansfield and Southington will be two good races this weekend to prepare for Canton the following week. And then another big Verge weekend with Farmington and Northampton. Time to sharpen the fitness and the cornering skills.