Lake Sunapee Road Race Report

I always liked the Lake Sunapee Road Race.   It's a new England classic - a race that's been held since the mid seventies.   The 23 mile loop on rolling hills around a beautiful New Hampshire lake is a superbe venue for a race, and the Lake Sunapee bicycle club that puts it on does a great job.   The race used to be a fixture at the end of August, where it served as the New England Road Racing championships.   Now it's held mid-May, but still gets a good turnout.
Hey, I figure if the bald thing works for Pantani, Horner and Leipheimer,
why not me?   With the De Goose and Marc T. before the start

For me, Lake Sunapee has been the scene of both success and disappointment over the years.  It's a circuit I know like the back of my hand, and know that it's one you can't get a result on unless your form is pretty good.  But on the other hand, it's one where the hills aren't so difficult that a sprinter can't hang on and maybe do something.   Good all around course, with a little something for every kind of rider.  I've seen climbers win there, rouleurs and sprinters.   Makes it interesting.

Well this week four knarly Flandria Cafe flahutes took the line in the 45+ masters race.  Two laps for 46 miles.  The red guard was represented by Eric Gustafson (alias De Goose), my old CCB compadre coaxed out of retirement and riding super strong on minimal base (I shake my head, I don't know how he does it).   Marc Tatar, a strong rouleur who's been holding up the flag in every race this spring.  And Jay Trojan, our own Spartacus who swore to me this week he was going to ride smart and conservative.

The predicted rain looked like it would hold off... driving up, it seemed there was a hole in the clouds above lake Sunapee.  Finally a chance to race in shorts and short sleeves.  In the high 60's, good racing weather.

The Red Guard.   Spartacus, De Goose and Marc T.   BreatheRight strips are optional.
The first lap was pretty quick.  My tactic was to save it for the final hills with about 6-7 miles to go, so I stayed out of trouble near the back quarter on the first lap.   The plan was to ride 'a-la Cavendish/Goss.'   Make the action when the crunch came, and unleash as fucillata on the final uphill climb to the finish where I'd done just that a few times before in the past.

Chomping at the bit, our Trojan warrior was off the front a bit (couldn't help himself!).   Eric G. was up there a lot too.  I was feeling a little guilty cruising at the back, but was sticking with the plan.

It gave me a grandstand seat for the first major move, which commenced when World TT Champion Dmitry Buben of CCB and Belorussia took a big solo flyer as the first hills began.    He got an enormous gap - way up the road.  But over time, a headwind and a surging field eventually closed it down on lap two.   We were going 30+ MPH on the front part of lap two, I don't know how Dima stayed out there.   Impressive ride.

Lap 2 and the hills started to wear down the field.  I felt better than ever this year, low gears, spinning up the climbs.  Hearing the guys around you breathing harder, struggling while you spin away up the climb under control is a big psychological boost.  Every hill, I felt I was twiddling my way further forward.   After we caught Buben, there were constant surges and attacks.  Dave Kellog, Tyler Munroe and others were constantly making it hard and getting into little groups.

Dopo Corsa.  Tired, and ready for a beer! 
On the steepest wall on the back of lap 2, Kellogg and co. put in a big attack, pulling about 15 or so riders clear.   Jay and I got on the back of this train, flat out up the climb out of the saddle.  A few k later on the final big climb with a false flat at the top - the hardest part of the course and the last chance to make a selection, Kellogg got out of the saddle and strung it out again.   I was about a dozen guys back, on the rivet, big ring, holding on.   Jay was behind me shouting encouragement, "looking smooth Eddy, they're way behind, we're gone"

Suddenly with 200 meters to the top, I felt like I was going to blow, so I pulled a savvy old dog trick.  I let the gap open a bit, dosed my effort, and let someone else close it.  A few B.O.B. guys (the eventual winner was one) came flying by, and I used their slipstream to tuck back on for the descent.  A la Goss or Cavendish on the Poggio.   Hey, sometimes you've gotta know when to save energy.

25 guys clear, and nothing but 50 mph downhill and no more difficulties until the finishing climb.   A downpour started - my kind of weather!  I rested and waited.  Guys were trying but not getting away.  Finally, a chance to win maybe...   As we entered the final few k, the old adrenaline started to fly.  "I can win this", I thought....  Tactically, I'd ridden the perfect sprinters race.  It had been a long time since I was in a race with a chance to win.

But alas wielersupporters, I'm sorry to report it didn't happen.  I started the long uphill sprint to the line with everyone else about 1k out , gave it all, but totally blew up with about 250 meters to go.   It was one effort, one hill too many I guess.   I rolled in just seconds behind the group in 21st place, just behind Buben and fellow Flandria-fan Alan Cote.    I was dissapointed in not being able to close the deal, but as Eric reminded me you need to sometimes be realistic.  Given my last few races, where I ended up was a lot better than getting dropped, so I should be somewhat satisfied to finally be in the action.

Besides, the gods of cycling wouldn't have looked kindly on it if I'd had pulled it off.  After all, I didn't do squat during the race.  But there were two guys in my book that really deserved the win: Buben and Kellogg Both were aggressive and deserved it.  I would have liked to see Dave win, for me he was the man of the match in the finale, he never stopped trying to get clear even on the run in to the finish.  If there were a few more guys of his caliber, or if the race had gone one more lap, it certainly would have played out differently.  68 miles / 3 laps would be a more selective race on that course.  

Jay Trojan did another great ride and was up there in the group for 15th.  Only a matter of time before his agressive riding leads to a result I think.  Eric G. had an untimely flat just as he was bridging up to the split in the final miles.  It the end, all four Flandria guys finished well on the day, and had a great time.  

Comments

  1. Thanks for a great race replay. If it finishes as it did when I raced it the finish is very misleading and too many, including me, start too early and lose it on the last little bump before the finish.
    I tried to stay with Paul Curley and started my sprint too soon losing my momentum on the last bump. He, and several others, went by me but I still finished well.
    Sunapee is one of my favorite road races after Smugglers Notch and Streaked Mountain.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Eddy, you need to get some matching helmets too. I'd go with the all black look.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Eddy, you just ruined it for me. I thought it is only me who looks old.

    ReplyDelete

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