The 2011 race season is in the books. I am simultaneously a little bummed and very pleased with how it ended and simultaneously happy and very sad that it is over. I can very easily say this was the most fun I have had going through the season. Our now well established NEMBA Racing team makes race day much more enjoyable. It is funny now to think back to '06 when I decided to get back into racing, showing up week in and week out by myself, hardly knowing anyone finishing dead last in the SS class a good 30-45mins off the pack...such a sad story.
But now I know just about everyone who races a bike in New England and all that toil is finally starting to pay off.
I can't remember why I haven't done this race the past two years...maybe the usual proximity to the NH100? Last time I did it was '08. I remember that race fondly because it was a milestone in my racing career. I had come in third in the NECS the year prior due primarily to just showing up every race. I was knocking on third again but in order to keep my spot I had to beat someone I had never beaten before. Long story short, I was able to pull it off. That was the first time I started to think I actually had a shot at being as fast as the guys blowing me out by 30mins. Progress was being made, there was hope.
Fast forward 3 years and it is back to the TVR. I like this course, it is really hard and quite brutal to ride but it combines it all. You need legs, lungs, and spot on technical riding skills to do well. I had felt really good coming into this week and I was looking forward to just letting it hang out to see what I could do. I had almost even planned on not bringing tools/tube to save weight and go 'all in' from the start, luckily I changed my mind. The start was a little rushed but I think there were something like 10-11 SSers. I got a decent jump off the line and was sitting about 4th heading into the first section of the course.
I felt strong heading up the first few sections of climbing and heading into the first set of really technical sections I was hitting my lines and really liking my chances. Then as fate would have it I was railing a turn and there must have been a perfectly shaped sharp rock hidden by some leaves right in the trough I was using as a slightly banked turn. Usually I am soft enough on the bike to absorb shots like this one but because I was in the middle of a corner things were pretty locked out and there were a lot of forces in play. All those forces went straight from rock to rim and I knew immediately I was toast. I was able to ride it a bit longer but it started getting squirelly on me and I had to pull over just past a little rock wall. There were some other casualties in this area as well. I watched as all the SSer's and a line of Experts and then Sport riders ride by as I worked on changing my flat. Shaun came up about halfway through the fix after having some chain issues.
We had a chat about the state of the economy and then got back on the trail. Initially I was thinking the day had turned into 'just out for a ride' but eventually I started feeling a little 'randy' and decided I was going to stick to my original plan of hanging it out. I knew this course was gonna be hard for a lot of people to stick with for the full distance. It wears on you and if there is one strength I have compared to other riders it is the ability to take a beating. I was pretty sure if I stayed on the gas I would catch at least one of the guys who passed me so I set to it.
And its a good thing I can take a beating because I got one. It was fun though. One of those fun beatings. I was catching SSer's before long and that just made it more fun. I caught 2 during the end of the first lap and 2 more during the last lap. I spotted them almost 10mins and still almost finished where I had been when I flatted. Looking at results the two I caught on the last lap lapped through 5mins before I did. Bummed about the flat due to the 'what could have been' aspect but I couldn't be more pleased with how things went. Finished the race strong and the season strong.
Without that flat I think I would have been 4th by just a few minutes...but who knows.