Fitchburg: A Retrospective

So a couple weeks back this thing called New England Crit Week happened. 5 races over the course of the week, culminating with the 54th edition of the Longsjo Classic. We're not going to bore you with everyone's results from all 5 days (that's what is for, right?). Instead, here's a couple of short stories from deep within the 100-person strong Men's 3/4 field at Longsjo:

Longsjo Day 1 (Leominster), 3/4 - Greg Colby

I love this course. I don't love the antics of a bunch of coconut heads all coming into a corner from as many different angles as there are bodies in the race. The watts to silliness ratio was just absurdly high. Still, I mostly had a good time. I said "I won't do anything for the first 15 minutes," and after that I wanted to race for a break because I figured my odds in a bunch sprint weren't that great. I managed to restrain myself for almost 10 minutes, which was good for me. Shortly later I found myself on the front of the pack after chasing an attack that didn't break the elastic, only a few laps in, and thought "WTF am I doing here??" I let my self slide back and recover for a while. Later, the tall skinny kid who won the Harvard RR [Dawry Cabrera] made a break for it, and I was only five or six wheels back and felt I should cover it cause that dude is crazy-strong. I came to the front of the group and blazed through turn 4, got a gap cause most of these guys just didn't know how to ride this corner. Likewise for Mr. Cabrera, so I was able to get on his wheel. Though only just, because he was firing huge blasts out of his rear-mounted watt cannon. Just staying on his wheel was killing me, and then after a couple seconds he starts flicking his elbow at me. LOL sorry dude, can't do it. We got swallowed up soon after that.

More racing, a couple of stupid crashes, and then suddenly we were at 4 to go. I was maybe 25 or 30 wheels back, so I lit a match and moved up the side, just over the line and a move of strong guys detaches from the front of the pack. I see the composition and the situation (fast guys I've seen at the front plenty already, plus a couple GLV guys, and their guy on the front of the pack is soft pedaling), the gears buzz and whir and spit out an answer: GO GO GO. So I go screaming down the inside of turn 1, kick hysterically on the way out and somehow link up after turn 2. I am absolutely dying but this is my shot and I figure if this works even rolling in at the back of this break would be pretty sweet. It was hard enough just getting here, after all, I was almost too far back to make the bridge after dumping some watts to move up right before the move went.

But the elastic never breaks and fast guys keep coming up and within a lap we're back. And now I don't know what I have for the finale. Not much. We hit 1 to go and there's one more stupid crash, the field pinches in toward the left, the guy on my left comes toward me, the guy to his right puts something into his wheel, there's a crack and then the sound of crashing, but I'm still clear. 

I should note, all this time, my B2C2 homeslices had been pretty visible the whole race, Charlie especially riding serenely in the top 20 for lap after lap while I'm trying to spray watts around at the front of the race. So he's there, but then the crash happens and I look around as realize I'm suddenly all alone up here. Well, I could only hope that Charlie was okay (he was, but held up) and be glad that I was through and could race for the last lap.

But then we hit turn 2, and 10th wheel is too far back with all the crazy lines coming into this turn. I get squeezed out of my spot by two guys on converging lines from either side of me, and suddenly I'm 20-25 dudes back with 2 turns left, my legs are tired and I think "F this." I had just lost my chance at contending for a top 10, so fighting it out with all the doofuses for a top 20 seemed unwise. I kept pedaling to hold my spot until we hit the finishing stretch, then sat up and let the dummies all sprinting for 30th and 40th place do their silly thing. 42nd, as it turned out. 

There were too many stupid crashes, and a lot of pretty exasperating behavior, but still, I had a good race and a good time. I also actually felt almost fast for the first time in a couple of seasons, like another 5% and I would've been right there at the end instead of letting myself get squeezed out of position. So a decent race for me, altogether. Two more for this weekend. Gotta love crit racing.

Longsjo Day 2 (Worcester), 3/4 - Colin Reuter

After getting pinched and losing 30 spots for what felt like the 100th time in 40 minutes, I had basically written off getting a result at Worcester when my Lord and Savior Matt Griswold appeared in front of me with two laps to go.  He did not know that I had written off "getting a result" and looked back expectantly, indicating that he was going to actually try to "execute" the "plan" we had discussed for 10 or even 12 seconds before the race.

I was suddenly inspired to start giving a shit again by this look, because I am very comfortable disappointing myself but hate disappointing others.

We gave shits for almost a lap without much success, but then, on the final backstretch, the crosswind left just enough space in the gutter for Matt to rocket us from about 30th wheel to 3rd in a few hundred yards at 31 mph.

(This is Garmin-confirmed speed number and not a "trying to impress babes number")

I actually had to yell at him to CHILL because I didn't want him to drop me off on the front with four turns left to go.

I stole third wheel in the train like it was a cat 3 race and Matt flew off into space like a spent booster rocket.

I used my "situational unawareness" to be entirely blind to the fact that the break of four I thought we had brought back was actually still up the road.  I thought we were racing for the win.  My adrenaline levels spiked.  I was ready to pick up a car.

We rip the last few turns.  The guy on the front has been there for A WHILE.  The guy in second can't corner for shit and is also eating tons of wind.  We go into the last turn and I'm coasting while they're pedaling.  GUYS I AM GOING TO STEAL ALL YO LUNCH MONEY YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

I come out of the saddle to sprint, coming off the turn, right as I hit one of the many potholes that dot the course.

I drop my chain.

God I love bike racing.

Longsjo Day 2 (Worcester), 3/4 - Greg Colby

The lesson from Worcester is "don't race angry." Not that it ended up having much significance for how my race ended up (OR DID IT), but because... don't. There were a number of things that all came together to get me riled up enough to make a fool of myself mid-pack. A lot of them are lessons in "don't," either for me or for someone else.

Number One: try not to psych yourself out just because you had a decent race the day before. Give yourself a break! You'll be fine.

Number Two: don't line up at the back of a 100-rider 3/4 field for a 6-corner criterium over hideously bouncy pavement if your plan involves racing from the front unless you are very patient. Better yet... don't be impatient, period. Throwing watts away to get to the front had me feeling Not So Good during most of this race. Feeling Not So Good makes it harder to do cool and awesome things in a bike race.

Number Three: don't, if you see someone wiggle slightly in your direction, take your hand off of your handlebars and touch their hip to "let them know you are there." If it's a normal minor wiggle or deviation, as happens in bike racing all the time, it's both unnecessary and kind of insulting. It suggests that your discomfort is someone else's problem. It isn't. Get used to people moving around. If someone is actually doing something stupid and coming across your wheel and into your space and you have a hand off the bars when it happens, you are Double Plus Extra Screwed because good luck keeping your bike up with one hand on the bars and a back wheel sweeping your front wheel away.

Number Four: that said, if someone reaches out and does the hip touch to you, however unwarranted, DO NOT, under any circumstances, lose your shit and try to give a mid-race lecture to that junior on why he needs to keep his effing hands off of you. You can't win. You won't win. You look like a self-important unhinged twit, no matter how right you actually are. Just deal with it. Things happen. It's a 3/4 race. Stupid things will happen. Learn to live with it.

Number Five: did I say don't race angry? DON'T. RACE. ANGRY. Or at least be very careful. Anger watts can be mighty, but they are also seldom spent wisely. I did not spend them wisely. I took a flyer off the front after the touching incident, because ARRRRR! GREG ANGRY! Which is fine and all and got me my name announced by Richard Fries, but when the winning move went, I was sixty dudes back and unable to do a thing about it.

So things were all just a bit of a shitshow after that. I did realize my own foolishness and decided I would, in fact, calm down, shut my mouth and race my bike. I made an attempt to go with a bridge up to the break. Yeah, that didn't work out. My watts are insufficient and not very mighty, and there really aren't enough of them to propel my solo 126 pound self away from a fast-moving peloton on a flat course. Not for more than two or three minutes, anyway.

So I'm at the back and gasping and it looks like game over and this race is just going to be embarrassing and shameful, because I am trying and trying to move up and it is nothing doing. And then it is 2 to go - geez, are we almost done already?? - and suddenly something is working and I'm gaining spots. From 40 back, by the bell I'm somehow just tasting the top 20. I get a few more spots through the next couple corners. I figure by the chicane I'm screwed and as far up as I'm going to get, BUT NO. I unleash a few more watts that I didn't realize I had available to move up the inside, and as we come flying out of the downhill turn 3 & 4 combination, I'm right around 10th, I can see Colin and Matt up there and I am gaining on them! Suddenly the field sprint is a Thing That is Happening. Top 10 is possible. Top 20 is assured. Two corners left. We come to turn 5, and I can taste the sprint. And then the genius in front of me, who is half-wheeling the guy in front of him, doesn't realize that it's time to turn in and gets his wheel swept. And there's nowhere for me to go except straight into him and OTB.

Bike racing, you guys. Bike racing.