This race always gives me that déjà vu feeling because it is on the same one-mile course as the Nutmeg State Games held in June. Both Rick Comshaw (Nutmeg State Games) and Jose Aguilles ( New Britain Crit) put on great events and it is a great venue for a race. The main difference, at least from the point of view of those of us working on the race, is that the schedule is about three hours shorter for the New Britain Crit. Both races even had official photographers snapping shots of all the action. Here’s how it went.
As is often their custom, the Cat 5s took a very conservative approach to racing and stayed together for the whole affair. Walter Archer won the field sprint after 10 laps of pack riding at a comfortable pace.
Masters 55 and 65/70
Once again, just like at Attleboro, the older riders were asked to vote whether they wanted their own field, or to be combined with the 55s. They chose to consolidate. Douglas Adams (Mosaic Smalti) took both primes and the finish in close pack sprints with Clarence Ballard (Somerset).
In the 65s it was all David Burnett (Mystic Velo) who soloed off the front almost the entire race. He finished more than half a lap ahead.
They stayed together through the first half, but back to back primes near the half way point launched John Raheb (who won both primes) on a solo attack but he was caught about 4 laps later. Keith Ford (Sunapee) took a flier with 1 to go and held on to take the win by several seconds. Raheb somehow managed to take the field sprint for second after his solo efforts. As the field sprint wound up behind Ford, Mike Norton (Cyclonauts) hit the deck hard about 200 yards out after he pulled out of one of his pedals. He was in the front of the field but he was the only one that went down. He is going to need a new MCRA jersey and new shorts and a lot of peroxide (youch!!). I’ll be surprised if we see him this weekend in Claremont.
Steve Stockwell (Sunapee) took off about half way through the race and kept going. He got some company, then he got more and more as riders bridged from the field to the break. At some point the break got too big and fell apart. After they got caught by the field, Stockwell managed to keep going solo. He stayed away for a well deserved victory by 3 seconds.
I am not sure why the age graded categories now start at 30 plus. Why, back in my day sonny, a 34-year old was still young enough to go to the Tour de France and win (Grandpa Simpson voice). And since a 38 year old is currently in third place in La Grande Boucle, I’d say that a 34 year old should still race his category and not start sandbagging masters races until he is 35. Although, many in this race also did other races, so I suppose if nothing else, the race promoter's bottom line is benefited by the extra entry fees. But I digress.
Tim Unkhert tried to get away, as is his custom, but he got some company. Eric Brownell was one of those who bridged across, but he was the only one to stay away after the break reformed around Unkhert. At the end it was Brownell soloing off for about 3 laps and taking the victory. The Spooky Bikes duo of Colin Murphy and Ward Solar sprinted for second and third. Unkhert ended up 8th.
Ben Wolfe (Mystic) went from the gun, as is his custom, and took a $25 cash prime. He kept going with blocking help from team mate Evan Kirk (Mystic) back i nthe field. Both of these guys are only 15 or 16 years old and have only another 15 years to go until they can start sandbagging the masters races (OK, I’ll try to let it go now). Ben was caught, which won’t be his custom much longer. He went again at the last lap but got caught again. James Joseph (former Olympian from Guyana) (We Stand United) won it in a field sprint. Our race promoter, Jose, was in the field and finished a respectable 10th place representing the host Greater Hartford Cycling Club/Central Wheel. It can’t be easy to jump into a cat 3 race with no warm up and a body and mind full of stress from all the BS that comes the promoter’s way on race day. A top 10 finish is most impressive.
David Gilchrist won the race in a field sprint. There really was no other likely outcome since the Mystic team had the field stacked and Gilchrist already won the Nutmeg State Games on the same course a month ago.
Cesarina Bellahilla appeared to win the women’s race, but she was disqualified when the officials realized that she had an international license that equated to higher than category 4. The real winner of the race was Kristen Lotito (CRCA).
A group of 11 with most of the major teams represented got away early in the race but was brought back. The group of 11 fell apart as it was being caught but from it a smaller group developed with Skip Foley (360/Landry’s), Jermaine Burrows (We Stand United) and Franklin Burgos (Kraft Genie) establishing leads of almost 30 seconds. But Jake Keough (Kelly Benefit Strategies) rode chase tempo at the front and began to pull back the remainder of the break mostly by himself. Note that he didn’t chase when his brother, Luke (CLNoonan), was in the original move of 11. But he wasn’t going to let three amateurs have his lunch money if his brother wasn’t there, so he decided to chase.
He got help, maybe a little more than he wanted, when three guys from CCB – Amos Brumble, Will Dugan, and Aliksander Biliasuk. They chased and caught the 3 leaders with 10 to go making the lead group seven with plenty of horsepower to stay away. Melito Heredia (Innovation Bike) broke out of the field and into no man’s land. The CCB boys tried to gap Keough off the back of the break a couple of times but it didn’t work, he had enough in reserve to come back around each time. With 3 to go Brumble attacked for CCB. When he was pulled back, Dugan went. When he was caught it was Brumble again. It got confusing trying to track the action across the open ball field and behind the trees because Brumble and Dugan look exactly the same from half a mile away. Meanwhile, Bialasuk was the protected man for the finish. Brumble and Bialasuk exchanged places when Brumble was caught and Biliasuk barely maintained his lead to the end over the spent breakaways. Burrows sprinted right behind him for second with the gap only a couple of bike lengths. Skip Foley took third leaving Keough less lunch money than the former winner of the race probably had hoped for. Dugan followed, then Burgos.
Women Pro 123
You have to give Jose credit for having separate races for the women's categories, but only 8 riders signed up for this race despite a 10-deep prize list. Rebecca Wellons broke away after a few laps and road the rest of the race solo to victory. It was another case of daja vu all over again as she had done the exact same thing at the Nutmeg Games crit.
Because the 8 riders started the race at such a slow pace (about a minute slower per lap than most of the other races), the officials began to cut out laps to keep the next races on time. Some of the women seemed to get a little bit perturbed when the lap cards were dropping faster than (fill in your own analogy, it’s getting too late for me to think of one, let me know in the comments section what you came up with and I’ll edit it in another day). What they didn’t probably realize, at least during the race, is that although they were loosing laps, they were on the course for the full scheduled time.
There has to be a better way to run these small races so that the women get a better race out of it. Running as a points race has been suggested as has racing based on time instead of laps, which is essentially what happened here. But the women’s races are in the same catch 22 they have always been in – there aren’t enough women racers (much of the time) to have a proper race, but why should the women show up to race if they know they aren’t going to have a good event? How do we break that cycle? Or am I just mis-reading the situation.
Stayed together with a big field sprint which was won by Gary Birkamshaw (Mystic). As I recall, he pulled away from the field in full sprint without even standing up.