I don’t exactly want to admit it, but Purgatory was a bit of a target this year. While you never really want to walk (ride) away from a silent target with anything less than a win I told myself that getting the state championship jersey was a good secondary goal.
I will just throw this right out there, it was H.O.T. Of course New England decided to finally warm up with none other than a wonderful ~90 degrees fahrenheit day, add on the fact that we were starting our race at 2:30pm meant there would be copious amounts of water needed to survive this race. Luckily for me, my wonderful girlfriend Anne along with Rachel and Cindy (significant others of the team) were there to help feed all of us in both the P12 and 3 races. Without them I(and the entire team (except for the camel named John) would be shriveled husks on the side of the road right now. Thank you to all the wives, husbands, significant others, and family that come out and watch us ride in circles for hours as we snatch bottles from them at 20+ mph.
The race started in a pretty animated way with a few little pokes and attacks going from the gun. Before the right turn to Uxbridge Mike Landry from CCAP had gotten off the front and was slowly making his way away from the pack. I started positioning towards the front of the race because I know Mike and I work great in a break together (We managed to stay away at Brumble earlier in the year). As soon as we hit the chopped up pavement on Uxbridge I looked back to see my teammate, Erik, was on my wheel. This was a chance. I immediately hit the pedals, Erik knew what to do and let me start to pull away from the pack over the rough pavement. Before I knew it I was clear of the field and making distance towards Mike. I caught up to him right before the descent and we seamlessly started to work together. Checking backwards over my shoulder I knew we were making some distance on the pack.
By the time we got out first gap at the end of that lap we had about 45 seconds.A lap later we had heard we were closer to a minute. Once I heard that I decided ‘This is the move, make or break’. It was early, but we had accomplished the most important part of a break, which is establishing it, and the heat and relatively limited size of the field would work in our favor as the attrition-ey nature of this course on a hot day is a real factor and typically ends with small groups chasing each other at the end with no real field left.
Then the god of bike racing struck. On Uxbridge during lap 3 Mike flatted. I was about ready to cry. SRAM had not been sent up to us and they were still behind the field which meant I was alone. I hoped that maybe someone would splinter off and bridge up to me but alas that was not to occur as I was eventually caught by the field a lap later.
That hurt, I had already committed a lot of racing resources to establishing that break and to have it go up in smoke left me wondering if I even wanted to finish the race. Over the next lap or so I did my best to sit in the pack and not chase unless needed, the damage had been done though and I was fighting brutal cramps.
Lap 5 was where the real action happened. A small break of 6 was allowed to roll away right before Uxbridge which contained Shuck, Dan McCabe, Matt Brophy and a few others. It seemed like everyone was getting tired because there was no concerted effort to bring them back. They started making distance and were pretty soon out of sight. I sat in the field watching everyone else. Then right before the stairstep climb before Lackey road Eric Follen made a dig and I jumped on. ThHe pack must have been getting worn out because there was no real response to us going up the road. Maybe they thought we would get swept up again on Lackey, I sure did.
We didn’t though, going up Lackey we brought the break into sight and managed to bridge to them at the feed zone. I pushed to keep us going because I knew that anyone with legs left in the pack would know that our group had enough power to stay away between the 7 of us. Over the next lap we just worked and did everything to keep going. People fell off during the small climbs and eventually when we went up lackey for the second to last time both Shuck and Dan lost contact with the other 4 of us. WHen I realized they were gone I decided it was time to go into ‘final mode’. Dan was the last guy from our break who was from Massachusetts and Shuck had a good sprint. The 4 of us put in an amazing effort the last time around that hellish (haha) loop. Just as we got to the last 4 miles of the course I looked back and saw the gut-wrenching view of the field’s moto not far behind.
That was the point I lost the race in my eyes. I knew that I was the only person from Massachusetts in the break and that the chase behind had a good chance of including someone from MA. Instead of playing the late race games of trying to come into Lackey with as much in the tank as possible I just went to the front and did everything I could to pull us along and keep the gap to the chase behind us.
The rest of the race played out how I thought, we hit Lackey with me leading the way and Eric Follen shot straight up, easily riding away for the win. Matt and his teammate gapped me pretty quickly but I used them as carrots and pacers to keep myself from falling too far off my pace going up. It worked. I got 4th overall but was the first person from Massachusetts to cross the line. I wish I had had more at the end of the race to really contest for the win but it had been a long day with a lot of hot miles and water bottles. Sometimes you just need to settle, luckily settling still got the state championship jersey.