Dan, Steve, Matt and I went out to the Palmer Road Race in Massachusetts yesterday. Leaving at 5:00 in the morning was required since its a long drive and my race started at 8:30am. This along seemed like a questionable idea, but Dan offered to drive us all in his Explorer so all I had to do was be awake when he got to my house and manage to get my bike on the car then go back to sleep.
The course is a 20 mile rolling loop. Cat 4s did 3 laps. Due to the various ages/categories present among the CBRC ranks, it was just me and Phil Burnett in the Cat Four field.
A break went early with representation from 3 of the 4 big teams in the race. The Boston Road Club had a guy in the break and about 15 more guys in the field. The hoard of them went to the front and shut it down. We literally went 19 mph. I got pissed about this and after calling them all various names attempted to bridge to the break. They chased me down. I called them names again, and then attacked again. This time 4 guys came with me. BRC ramped it up and chased us down again, then brought the speed right back to 19.
I called them all more awesome names, and then started guttering anyone from BRC who came up to the front of the race and blocked. No this isn't the nicest thing to do, but if a team of 15 wankers is going to sit on the front of a race and not race then they need to go in the gutter.
They got mad about this guttering. I told various BRC guys that if they came up and blocked they were going in the gutter. They got madder. They said things like, "hey, man, don't gutter us because we are big sissies who can only race with negative tactics." I said things like "if you block I'll gutter you," and the often repeated Andy Ruiz quote, "that's racing."
Anyway, a group of random guys including myself finally got BRC off the front and got the speed up. In fact we caught the break at 2k to go. This was a great way to give BRC the proverbial middle finger, since all their negative racing didn't amount to anything.
At 600 meters it got really interesting. Since the speed was really low for most of the race we came into the finish with a full field, and lots of people who probably never saw the front of a race at 1k to go before.
The finish is on a mild uphill. Its not a climb at all, just slightly uphill sprint. I was about 10th wheel at 500m and getting ready to go when the guy in front of me virtually stops. I hope his chain broke, broke, because there's no other excuse for going from 30mph to 5mph on the front of a field of 100 people starting to sprint.
I narrowly missed rear ending him and ended up, ironically, in the gutter. I sprinted over sewer grates, really.
I got back on the road, and as I really started to sprint I felt this odd feeling that I never felt before. Oddly I knew what it was though - spinning spokes hitting my left foot. Then I heard a really loud bang and crashing behind me. At the same time a huge train of people went up the left, and then two guys to my left crossed wheels and went down hard, doing the whole yard sale in the middle of the road, I went back in the gutter but was still upright.
At this point, there was still like 200m, and a ton of people who had stayed out of the crash mine field had gone up the far left side of the road. I sort of sprinted from the gutter again, but really, it was just an attempt to rapidly get the race over so I would be safe.
My place wasn't particularly high - I would guess somewhere in the 20s to 30s, but I did narrowly miss too enormous crashes and got to sprint over sewer grates. Plus, I made the entire Boston Road Club hate me.
Overall the race illustrated why slow races are dangerous, and fast hard races are the safest. When you're strung out and people are getting shelled there's less mayhem because 100 people don't all think they can win and take stupid risks late in the race.
Getting up at 4:00am to almost die in two crashes in the last 20 seconds of the race at 30+mph was totally worth it. Really.