Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Bear of a Mountain-Bear Mountain-May 10, 2009

Erica's report from the saddle of the 3/4 race.

I always feel a special compulsion to line up as far forward in the field as possible for this race in order to be at the front on the terrifying 2 mile "neutral." So I arrive at the line plenty early, only to discover that around 60 riders in my field have already lined up in front of me. Ugh. Fortunately there are two fields to go yet before us, so every time we move up 20 feet I slide up a couple of spots, and am actually able to start on the front line after all. After failing to clip in properly for every significant race so far this year, I am also delighted to hear the satisfying click of a pedal well mounted, and am able to descend safely and peacefully behind the pace car. The race is supposed to stop, regroup, and restart after the hairpin turn at the bottom, but I guess we must have stayed together pretty well, because they didn't even make us unclip before "restarting." So I'm still on the front lines for the real start, right where I want to be, when we take off.

We set a pretty steady pace up the first hill. Fine by me. I know we'll still drop a few riders off the back. I'm riding mostly second wheel behind Kendall, who is showing amazing TT-style efficiency with her shifting and pacing on the slight undulations as we climb back up the two mile ascent of Tiorati Brook Road. I just try to stay relaxed and shift when she shifts and follow her lead and hope that no one attacks as I'm rather enjoying the pace. I move into the front to swing around the traffic circle at the end, only to almost rear-end the pace car. Disaster averted, I spend the next mile or so trying to figure out how to consistently get back off the front. Dara drops her chain right about then, a Subaru rider uses that to attack, which I thought was a bit cheeky, but we pull her back in and the pace mellows out again, and Dara catches back on. Heading back up Welch Road, two Anthem riders begin to take control of the race, attacking and counterattacking, I know they're strong because I rode to the finish with them at Battenkill, so when one goes, I cover, when the other goes, I, well, panic, but am able to grab onto the fifth wheel or so that passes me and get back with the lead group.

After a slightly more terrifying downhill to start the second lap (riders flying into the grass on the hairpin, others slamming on their brakes, me skidding sideways 3 feet miraculously avoiding both) the second hill is a little more spicy, with another rider from the Battenkill break taking issue with the pace and moving to the front to drive it, Donna M moving to the front to help push it further. Still relatively under control though, and second lap goes down much as the first. Every time I look back it seems like there are a gazillion riders still with us, so I continue with my strategy of trying to stay forward enough to respond to periodic attack attempts (which are pretty quickly covered anyway) but out of the wind.

Third lap starts out much less eventfully, one rider had attacked into the downhill and now found herself about 100 yards ahead of the group, but the pack was unconcerned, and she went backwards within the first quarter mile of the hill. Sarah Krysiack attacked at the last steep incline before the lake, and for the second time in the race, I got concerned, my legs were suddenly lead, much to my surprise since I'd been feeling good. This is exactly where the same rider had managed to drop me in 2007. Ugh. Fortunately for me the effort stopped at the top of the hill, so I was able to move back up and recover.

The last chance for anything to happen was to be going up Lake Welch for the third and final time. There were some minor attacks, and some pressure on the rollers, but nothing too threatening (though we shed a surprising amount of riders there too, I didn't realize that until later though, as far as I knew we still had a field of sixty). I wanted to go into the sprint really early. I was in the second row, right behind Fabienne, who'd won two out of three of her past two races in a sprint, aiming to come around her at the end. We went through the feed zone at a leisurely pace. I'm so boxed in now it's not even funny. "Go" I yell to the front line. Yet they wait. "Come on, we're AT the finish, GO!" I now yell. Nothing! Finally probably already at the 200m line, the field opens up just enough for me to spring around them (did they EVER sprint? I guess so, Fabienne got 6th, but man!). Anyway, with that ignominious start to the sprint, and Deb and Meredith already ahead of me by that time, I had no chance, and rolled in for 4th, with Dara blowing by me at the line to take the podium for an amazing 3rd place.