Thanks for tuning in to today’s double feature. First up is Lincoln’s take on the cat 4 race, to be followed by Brendan’s assessment of the cat 3 race. You will then be returned to your regularly scheduled browsing. -Ed.
The morning of Saturday April 4 2015 was drizzly and very windy in Ninigret Park. The weather brought tongue-in-cheek comparisons to the heroics witnessed at the previous weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem, where a peloton far more race-hardened than ours was shattered by brutal crosswinds. Luckily for the New England cat 4s, the rain let up by our 8am start.
The course at Ninigret is pancake flat, and not especially technical. The main challenge for Saturday’s race was the wind. It was blowing as a stiff headwind at the start/finish, but as the course is a loop, it was a crosswind or tailwind on other sections.
Kolie attacked right from the gun, and I made a point to immediately establish position in the top 7 or so places of the 33 starters. We knew that this wind would split the field, and being out of position when the split occurred would take you out of contention. Kolie’s early attack was not to be, as the stiff wind and eager cat 4 peloton made staying away impossible early on. I maintained position in the top 5 or so wheels for the first few laps. Our pace was decently fast, but not brutal; this was a position battle, not a hammerfest.
To be 100% honest, I’m not sure when the peloton shattered behind us. With about 10 laps to go, I looked around and realized that much of the group had been sheared off by the wind, and my battle for position had paid off. A group of 7 or so riders was left, and I was happy to be in it. We rode together for a couple of laps until a single rider took a flyer. We figured that in this strong wind staying away would be next to impossible. The chase took its time to get going with purpose, and that proved to be a mistake. In the last couple of laps our chase group gave up the idea of working together, and was broken apart by two attacks in rapid succession. I crossed the line solo, in 5th place.
Ninigrit park was a sweet place to be outside during a small mild northeastern weather front. Could watch the clouds get pushed along by the wind whipping across the open field. The course directions in different angles that build sweet wind features into the course. Stretches alternate between headwind, crosswind, and tailwind at different angles and then the random eddies when changing direction cornering. The leaves movement of debris and leaves let you predict where to draft effectively. The right gust could take the wheels out from under you in a corner, but didn’t see it happen today.
I did see a full race, which made it my first full race in 2015. Did the P123 Tufts crit last week, as a season opener and for the first time, and in 15 minutes & out, I gained a fraction of the appreciation possible for that course. </nostalgia>
I’m pretty sure Ninigrit is a lost Mario Kart course. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t flat- it has about 7ft elevation gain, which added up to about 607ft in climbing today, phew. That must be why I saw @drilling it at the front off the whistle; ain’t no elevation too big or too small for that guy to attack. The first 7 or so laps things were moving quickly, and attacks started to break things up. Sean Pantellere, Mike Heiss, and Stanley Lezon got themselves in the winning 3-man break. By that point, dropped riders were confusing me a bit with placing, but B2C2‘s Mike Wissell went for a bridge to a small chase group and I followed. We made up a 5-man group that eventually made it down to 4 until the end.
Rotating in our group was pretty typical, except when it wasn’t because of the weird wind/draft angles we had to search for at each turn, but work was being done- we didn’t want to be caught. Of course, being in front for the headwind sections was the least popular position. I tried to embrace it and drill into the wind anyway, because, why not. It’s not like being in front for the tailwind I could be on vacation, because one does not simply ignore mushing from Wissell.
I did go on vacation with coming up on 1 to go in the headwind. I sat second wheel to GLV’s Smith Anderson like a brick, not really having a next move idea until Mike attacked and away we went again. We pushed until the rear section, last tailwind. I came around to the front and kind of exaggerated an attack just a little too early, looked back to see what was up, a gap had opened up, so put the cards down for the day, got low, and went drilling into the headwind one more time. I looked back close to the line and was surprised how large the gap was, so rolled into the line for 4th. I was told that I had caught them at the right time as they were looking at each other while I was using the last part of the tailwind section to pick up momentum.