I’ve considered doing the Sterling road race a few times, but it hasn’t worked out in the past. Usually because I’m a terrible procrastinator when it comes to registering in advance and it always fills up. But I signed up sufficiently in advance for this year’s addition and was looking forward to it. After racing at Wells two weeks ago, I felt like my fitness was coming along nicely. Then, life happened for about two weeks and my training fell apart.
Oh well, I decided that just meant I’d be fresh. Got a ride from a teammate (thanks John!) and we made it out to Sterling in good time. Being there brought back lots of memories of cross as the start of the road race was the same middle school as the cross race from Thanksgiving weekend. We did the usual pre-race dance with registering, (sort of) warming up, etc and rolled up to the line as a team of three — myself, John and Brian. Our strategy: not much of one. Need to have a better one.
The neutral start was pretty civil. Big group ride where we could take the entire lane for a little over two miles. And it was a big group; I think that we were at the 100 rider field limit or at least pretty close to it (apparently 90 according to road-results). Definitely the biggest field I think I’ve been in for a road race. But felt pretty good about it.
We went up the big hill, across the start/finish line and the speed picked up some. But I felt pretty good sitting in the middle of the pack. Nothing too crazy, got a good look at the course. I was starting to feel my lack of a real warm-up, but was hanging and figured that’d improve. And by part way through the second lap, it did and I started to feel more comfortable. On the back stretch along Rt 12, I decided to see how moving up would go and managed to work my way to near the front of the pack with relative ease. But since there was to be a KOM prime, I knew I wasn’t going to stay there and didn’t feel like being caught up in that as I knew it would come right back together. I wasn’t planning to kill myself for a water bottle or something ;)
Third lap was where there were a few bobbles. A guy went down for no apparent reason two in front of me and slightly to the right, but I managed to avoid him without real difficulty. Then, on the back stretch something funky happened at the front leading to a bunch of movement and John almost taking me out. I stayed upright thanks to some practice with that with the MIT cycling team a couple of years ago but I started giving a little more space than I should have afterwards.
Fourth lap was okay, although was hanging out more at the back than I should have. So as we crossed the finish line to begin the fifth and final lap, I wasn’t in great position for the surge which happened. I struggled and barely maintained contact. The next little hill (which honestly, was the worse one for me every single lap) I lost contact and the pack got 15 secs up the road from me. Shit! I thought. But put my head down and kept riding. Then the master’s field passed me and they ended up neutralizing us. Yay! Caught back on. Sucked wheels around the course until just before turning back onto Rt12.
And that’s point that my left thigh started cramping like mad. I watched as the pack rode away and tried to get some fluids and electrolytes into me as quickly as I could. It helped a little, but the pack was too far down the road and despite some effort, I couldn’t pull myself back So I put my head down and just wanted to slog to the finish and not be passed by anyone who was left behind me. And in this, I was at least successful even though the other thigh cramped up also.
I turned to do the climb one last time and at least made it look good for Kate and Jen, who had ridden out to cheer the three of us racing. I crossed the finish line and was glad for the few mile spin back to the middle school to flush out the insane amounts of lactic acid in my legs at that point.
End result: 64th of 90 starters, about 3.5 minutes down on the pack and almost 5 down on the guy who apparently got away early on and won solo. John was 20th and Brian finished behind me after having a few mechanical mishaps along the way. I would have liked to have done better, but it is what it is.
Overall a very nice race. The course is awesome; almost all good pavement and a good mix of hill and flat. Might even have been scenic but it’s not like I had a chance to pay attention. And Minuteman does a really nice job of putting on a race. Tons of support, marshalls at every corner, traffic being adequately directed around us, well run registration. Seriously, kudos guys. I’ll definitely be back for this one in the future.