"Hey Sterling, gotcha numbah..."

Hey cafesupporters, hope you got some nice rides in this weekend.  Mine was Massachusetts' Sterling road race on Saturday.
Story of my race:  In reluctant-policeman mode, leading the dance up the hill.    
With the voice of Mark Wahlberg's Sergeant Dignam  from 'the Departed'  echoing in my head...  
"YOU'RE.. NO.. 'BLEEPING' ...COP!!  
Sterling is a deceptively tough road circuit, looping around bucolic rolling New England countryside.   Not killer selective, but with a long hill that's hard enough. It starts with a small-ring short steep wall to the finish line, flattens out a bit and is followed by about 1.7 miles of big gear false flat climbing.  That's where the pace gets drilled, stringing it out.  Repeat for six, 8-mile laps for us 'old-guy' 45+ masters, and you've got yourself a bike race jongens.  Kudos to the Minuteman Road Club for putting on a flawless race on an intelligently designed course that's about as safe as you can get.

My memory of the place is from two years ago, when I had my butt handed to me.    In a driving rainstorm, 'fat Eddy' was dropped, OTB on the second time up the hill.

Ah.. 51.  Thought it would be an omen.   Not to be...
This year was going to be a different story though, on every metric.  First the weather.  No driving monsoon this time, it was the debut of short sleeves for 2012, and 70+ degree sun.  

Second, my race number.   Drew number 451.   Brilliant!  Dossard 51:  Same number as my age. My favorite, and the luckiest number in cycling.   What could go wrong now?

Third, the legs.  You know warming up.  I couldn't feel the chain.   It's what Freddy Maertens would call 'pedalling in the butter'.   All systems go, time to talk strategy with my Flandria-Bikeworks teammates Jay and Tom.   Jay as always was up for 'being up front on the hill early, and going with the moves.'    Being a little less 'Spartacus' than him, I figured I'd wait for the final 2 laps after the hill had done some damage to put the hammer down.    I know, I know:  You can call me chicken shit.  Le-Coq-not-so-sportif. 

Well, Jay got it right.   And he did a really fantastic, brave ride.  On the 2nd lap, he sprinted off with CCB's Buben and two others on the highway like flat before the hill to chase a lap one break of four that was already away.

For a lap or so, they were just dangling out there, and looked like they might get caught.  So next time up the hill, I got in on a jam that got to within 100 meters at one point.   All fired up, ecstatic to be the 'drill' for a change, I started hammering too, figuring it was all coming together.

Suddenly behind me I heard a voice chide, 'Hey Flandria, you've got a teammate up there!"

The cock crowed three times.  I stopping riding, and spent the rest of the race policing things, chomping at the bit.

Soon after that it was outta sight, outta mind for the break.   After a lap or so, the two groups  linked up to make an 8-man lead group.   Game over.  Fortune favors the bold, and the brave.  Something just about that.As Randy Rusk said to me after, "It's never to early to go."   Second time this year I've been caught out by hesitating.

The positive was that up the hill, every lap, I'd find myself at or near the front.  Felt fantastic.   Pulse at the limit, but no pain.  Weird how that happens sometimes.  With break long gone, I figured I'd try an attack on the hill with one to go, to see if I could get away.   Tried it twice.  Just couldn't get a gap though, too many guys too attentive.   Randy Rusk tried it just after, he got a pretty good gap but also got reeled in.

My heart was broken when we caught Jay in the final 2k.  He'd been shelled from the break the last time up the hill.   No matter, he's still the Flandria hero of the day though.  It was a courageous ride, an example of how a real hard guy races:  Hard and aggressive.    And I think they don't come much harder than Spartacus Jay.   He's a guy with a drywall business, who spends long workdays doing heavy construction,  finding precious little time to train around his two top priorities: Work, and family.    No matter, he has the balls to go with an early break.  We're lucky to have him on our team.

With 1k to go, my other Flandria teammate Tom D. took a solo flyer.   Good classic tactical move, but the bunch was roaring, and Tom got caught just before the hill.

How the uphill sprint is done.
Saronni.  82 Worlds.  Il fucillata di Goodwood
So it was up the wall one last time and a consolation sprint for 8th place.  Not for prizes, just for honor.  (And you've gotta maximize those road-results.com points..)

Ever delusional, I was getting positioned to unleash a Saronni-esque fucillata di Goodwood.. 1982 vintage.   But, no I totally blew it.

Starting from a little too far back, I was storming up the right side when one of the Keltic guys suddenly sits up, freewheels and moves over, taking me to the kerb.  Momentum killed, almost to a stop.  I yelled, squeaked by in the gutter dirt, and sprinted as hard as possible anyway.  Finished 15th.  Despite the gaffe, it was the first time I felt like myself in a sprint all year. (Yeah, yeah, yeah...  Coulda woulda shoulda!) 

And that was that.  Another Saturday of masters racing comes to a close.   Team Flandria's results may have been nil, but the team was in on the action thanks to Jay.   He'd due for a big result shortly...watch this space!

The deserving winner of our race was Arc en Ciel's Todd Buckley, who powered up the hill to take the sprint.   Todd's a powerhouse, an aerobic animal.   Un gros moteur.  I remember his debut back in 87 when he was racing Ironman Triathlons.  He took the yellow jersey in the "Tour of Chariho" here in RI.   I can still see Todd pulling the bunch along in the final road race, that yellow jersey resplendent, motoring along at the front, Hinault style, as if to say "now this is how you wear the jersey boys."  

Todd's also the kind of guy who'd selflessly shepherd everybody in on that January hilly hammer-fest his Arc en Ciel club calles the 'LBL ride'.  Todd waited for all the dropped riders, made sure everybody stayed on course, helped drag people back.     It not something you see riders doing all that much in a self-centered sport.  It's pretty rare.

There's one other guy I remember who was known to do that on club rides.  His name was Sean.

Sean Kelly.

Funny isn't it, how the guy who waits and tows guys back on a group ride in winter, ends up winning come spring.   Nice.  I like that.

There's a lesson in there, I think.


  1. We hear a lot of the wit-and-wisdom of Sean Kelly this side of the pond. Does commentary for Eurosport who have a lot of time for bike racing. Best rider not to win the Tdf. You can ride with him on his own event if you have the bucks.


  2. You are on fire this year! It sure was much better weather than 2 years ago.

  3. Eddy,
    "...the guy who waits and tows guys back on a group ride" is a selfish bastard. He rides intervals that way, gets stronger and kicks ass in races.
    Green was like that. Joe too.

    1. You are better dropping back than going over your lactic threshold. Why your heart rate monitor is your best friend. The guy is probably like me, a good recoverer, which is extra essential in mountain biking. The old guys - who rode hills in bursts - are better to copy than today's pros.

  4. Tod Buckley is like the McCormack brothers - an ambassador to the sport of cycling.


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