2009 Marblehead Circuit Race Masters Report
Sunny, cool, dry and windy with temps in the upper 40’s. Overall, not exactly the weather that the weathermen had promised but not nearly as cold as last year.
The course is situated on scenic Marblehead Neck, the site of huge zillion dollar ocean front homes with a view of the Boston skyline to the south. The route consists of a couple mile circuit that included a slight up into a steep short climb, a slight down into a false flat (which is where the finish/lap line was), a gentle climb to a hard right with a couple slight rolling climbs to a slight downhill to a hard downhill chicane onto the windswept flat and into a hard 110 degree right putting you back at the start. Again, the finish was after the climb and downhill to false flat.
NEBC had a solid masters presence at the race and excellent coverage within the field.
- Mike Rowell – 14th
- Eric Brassell – 29th
- John Smathers – 61st
- Chuck Dopfel – 62nd
- Jerry Jacobs – 65th
- Wayne Cunningham
- John Gibbons
Conditions were a major factor in the race as is always the case with Marblehead, and the fierce wind assured that no break was going very far. My plan for the race was to simply be smart, not let anything that looked legitimate go but not do too much fruitless work. The other goal was to ride a heads up race and work hard to get good position for the finish. There were a number break attempts and there were small groups off the front for the bulk of the race but I learned early on that the wind wasn’t coopering with the attempts and unless something drastic happened like a crash in the field, chance of escape was small.
I spent the bulk of the race toward the front but managed to spend relatively little time on the front which is a novel concept for me. The race was fairly non-descript save some good surges and efforts to go with them as well as a couple bridge up attempts. During the race I experimented with position and lines around the final corner and thought I had a good line by staying tight and squaring the corner. This worked great on slower laps where the pack bunched up. Unfortunately it was a bad choice on the final lap. I’d faught to the front of the pack and was sitting about 4th wheel. I stayed in tight as previously but the got cut by the head of the train diving hard into the corner and was forced to brake hard. Stupid move on my part followed by panic that I’d lost half a dozen spots, to which I reacted by sprinting back from that point, a point that was not sustainable by me. I made it to the top of the hill in the top few but my legs were spent. I barely made it over the top and had nothing left for the sprint so I pushed as hard as possible (which wasn’t hard enough) to the finish, demoralized by the realization that I’d messed up a really good opportunity. Live and learn though and I did learn some valuable lessons here.
I’m new to the club and the tradition of race reports. I think I’ll have to bow out of this week I’m still learning names of people and even clubs and don’t want to fill a report with phrases like “the guy on the geen bike”. All in all, not a very interesting race I thought. I was slightly disappointed that the REALLY strong teams didn’t put the hammer down a bit harder during the race. I do think CCB and maybe OA did an ok job of keeping the pace up at the start of the final lap. Was just that little lull thatcaused the crash.
After doing a couple of 45+ and 50+ races last season I decided I was going to try to focus on Masters racing this year. After putting in what I thought was a pretty good amount of work through the winter, and getting myself a new bike, I figured a good test to see where I was in preparation for doing Masters races was to do the Wells Ave A race a few weeks ago, where I was pleasantly surprised to get a 12th +-1 place finish in a pretty large and what seemed to me to be a pretty strong field. So I was anxious to get to Marblehead to see if I could hold on in a 35+ race on a course that has some hills on it, nothing to really consider a climb but certainly more then the loop at Wells.
With the combination of cool temps and high winds I layered up for my warm up. About 15 minutes before the start I headed back to the parking lot to loose a few layers and hit the head. Somehow I lost track of time and when I looked down and noticed it was 9:32, with a planned 9:35 start, I realized I didn’t have any more time to waste. I rushed back across the causeway half expecting that I’d be getting a rolling start and needing to chase to get inside the rear official car. I managed to get to the back of the field just in time to hear the chief official tell us not to litter, wish us all luck and instruct us to roll off.
Knowing that I needed to move up, and also wanting to stay out of the wind as much as possible, I tried to navigate through the pack. I had made some small progress but after three or four laps I was still in the back third of the field and knew that this had to change. Just after crossing the finish line I decided I had to get to the front now and went out into the wind and worked to move forward before we hit the hill and turn around at the top of the course. I managed to get up inside the top 20 before I slipped back in out of the wind and settled there and started to work to hold my position.
Once I recovered from the effort to move up in the field I was finding that I could maintain my position without to much effort if I paid attention to it. I was able to spin up the hills on the course without to much strain and hold or improve my location within the field on them easily enough. For the next six or seven laps I simply tried to stay out of the wind as much as possible and cruised around the front 20 or 25 riders. So nothing much to report for the next 30 minutes or so, other then wishing the officials would do a better job closing down the yellow line violations, the single guys going over to gain position are annoying enough. When you have two or three wide and three or four long across the line it seems dangerous as sooner or later they try to move back in and inevitably squeeze things when doing so.
As we hit the little climb before the finish line coming up to 1 to go things seemed to change. This time up the hill I had to really work hard to try, without being totally successful, to hold my position. I wasn’t sure if this was a sign of fatigue starting to set into the legs or the pack really starting to put the pressure on – probably a little bit of both. As we got the bell for the final lap I was about mid pack and working hard to maintain my position. We made the sweeping turn at the top end of the course and it was taking a pretty full effort, as it should with under two miles to go, but I felt that I was capable of holding or improving my placement in these last 4 or 5 minutes of the race.
Things suddenly changed when a rider just in front and to the left of me, for no apparent reason, started to wobble. As he went down he took out the guy right in front of me. As I watched the two of them and their bikes bounce on the ground the only things that I wasn’t sure of is if I’d be riding over, and falling on, the bike or the guy lying on the ground in front of me and how fast I’d be going when I did. In those brief fractions of a second as they bounced a second time I noticed a small gap opening between the rear wheels of the two bikes lying across the road and somehow I managed to find my way to and through it.
Though I made it by without crashing I had hit the brakes pretty hard, had one foot unclipped, was at a near standstill on an uphill section of the course, and watched as the pack pulled away. I was left chasing, with no chance of catching back on, with a group of 12 or so that had gotten separated one way or another around the crash. We all realized we didn’t have a chance of getting back to the field in that last mile and a half and though we rode at a pretty good pace we really weren’t doing much more then simply riding to get to the finish line.
All in all a pretty successful race for me with most of my goals for this race accomplished, the one exception being finishing in the top half of the field. Though I finished in 62nd place some 64 seconds down I was in the race until I got caught behind the crash and if it wasn’t for that happening right in front of me less then two mile from the finish I’m sure I would have been able to finish with the field, and very likely within the top half, accomplishing all of my goals.