Flatting at Mile 75
Race Report from THW's Robert Constantino
After missing last weekend's CRCA Orchard Beach Crit, and being inspired by the team's success at taking home wins in the 2/3 and 3/4 fields, I was eager to get a long road race under my belt, especially heading into Killington Stage Race over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. My far and wide search yielded this: The N.J. Masters State Road Race Championships. Being over 35, I'm officially a Master (thank you USA Cycling for the honorific title), and so was eligible to register.
Despite being a pancake flat course, I felt the distance - at 78 miles - suited me. Even though it seemed destined to end in a sprint, I figured it would serve as good training if I'd set the goal for myself of either attacking or working on the front to bring moves back.
The race was held in Elwood, NJ, about 2 hours away from NYC. With the race set to start at 8am, it meant a very early start to the day. I had to cajole my teammates to join me, and in the end Daghan Perker was the one brave soul on the squad who decided to head down with me. We hitched a ride with a buddy of ours from another NYC-based team, and off we went.
The course was 5 laps of a nearly 16 mile circuit. It was definitely a race for the hard men, with head- and cross-winds, spitting rain, and 50-degree temperatures at the start. It's in such conditions, especially before the race itself starts, that I always find myself questioning my sanity. But once underway, self-critique gives way to the survivourship instinct and all focus narrows down to staying on the wheels, protected from the wind, and toward the front to monitor the action.
An early break of 3 went up the road, and that took the pressure off for the first thirty miles. These guys were never out of sight for long, and there was a sense that the pack could reel them in more or less at will. By the end of the third lap we did, and that set off a flurry of counter-attacks. Daghan and I did our best to play off of each other, with me counter-attacking his moves and he doing the same to mine. A lone rider did eventually break away on the last lap and I took it up on myself to try to pull him back. Not worrying about sacrificing my chances in the sprint (which would be near none, in any case), I pretended I was doing an individual time trial on the front for 20 minutes. While I didn't pull it back completely, it did get the impetus going in the rest of the field and following surge after surge, we bore down on the escapee in the last two miles of the race.
Trying to set Daghan up with a good position in the sprint, I found him in the field and was trying to move him up along the right side when "CRACK!!". My front wheel smashed into a gaping pothole filled with water (thus resembling a puddle and not a small, wheel-devouring crater). I nearly lost it, but managed to steer the bike into the grass along the side of the road and came to a stop. I watched with impotence as the peloton flew down the road ahead of me, left to wonder what would be of Daghan's sprint chances, hoping for the best.
Race Report from THW's Daghan Perker
I was struggling with my own cramping problems as I heard a big bang that came from the right side of the peloton 1-1.5 miles from the line. I felt bad for the poor soul that raced 77 miles to get a flat, then I realized it was my team mate Chip.
My cramps had started with 2.5 miles to the finish line and I was unclipping my shoes and massaging my leg whenever I get a chance without loosing too much ground. I knew that there was a 90 degree left then a right turn into 1K sprint finish, so I was hoping I can make up positions there.
Through the last right turn I stayed on the inside that allowed me to move up and separate myself from the messy bunch that was 5 across the road at the moment, but kept me into the wind. I was trying to get in the draft with no luck, but eventually I got the wheel of a well known sprinter 250m to go. When we launched I had already wasted a lot energy, but eventually salvaged a 7th placed.
Eventually, I met up with Chip and heard that he actually got double flat because of a pothole. He was still smiling though and that's what matters. Getting a top ten justified waking a up at the crack of dawn, driving 2.5 hour in the rain to race. However, I think the best part of the day was catching up with friends on the way to the race and the diner meal after.