The State finally re-paved the main road into Myles Standish State Forest from the Plymouth side. So, this year's race returned to the College Pond loop after a year on the training loop at Charge Pond. Or that is what we thought would happen. As it turned out, 14 inches of rain in the month of March (a record) on top of a rainy 2009 raised the groundwater levels so high that a portion of the College Pond loop was flooded out. Race promoter Bill Sykes had a tough choice to make: move back to Charge Pond again or shorten the College Pond loop to avoid the massive puddle. No one really wanted to race the Charge Pond loop again for the 6th straight week, so he wisely shortened to College Pond loop to avoid the pond/puddle on the south side of the College Pond loop. That left just a 2 mile loop that was pretty much all either climbing or descending with a couple of small rollers in between. Maybe someday the State will fix the dam at East Head Bog near the forest headquarters and the race will be able to return to the classic 7 mile loop. I'll bet most people that raced MSRR this weekend weren't even around for that version of the course, it's been more than 10 years since the dam has been closed.
Before we go any further here, I should point out that the staging and the finish were the only parts of the races that I could se from my vantage point as the announcer. As a result, the race summaries below are a combination of what I could peice together from the USAC officials' race radio transmissions (thanks Kelly) and reports from riders after the race. Sorry if I don't have it all exactly right.
Cub Juniors – The cub juniors certainly don't remember the full length version of the course and that's ok because their race was just two miles (or one lap) long. In an effort to explain the course to them, I figured I would put it in kid terms. I told them the course is like a lollypop, you go out the stem, take one lap around the lollypop, and then come back down the stem to finish. I got blank looks, but it made sense to me so I kept using the analogy all the way though to the Masters and Pro races at the end of the day.
Five kids lined up for the once around the lollypop race. When they came back down the stem to the finish, Ian Keough took the solo victory by about a minute. As Joe Parkin (author of a Dog in a Hat) would say, there was no one else in the picture. Three of Ian's older brothers were at the Tour of the Battenkill and the oldest, Jake, was racing in California. I couldn't tell which brother he was talking to, but he got some last minute coaching via cellphone while on the start line. It seemed to help.
Juniors 15-18 – This race was a rematch of Vollers vs. McCormack through the proxies of their respective sons. Frank McCormack had 15 year old twins Brendan and Cameron while Peter Vollers had Peter Vollers Junior (PVJ in Belgian shorthand). The fathers raced together as professionals on the IME team that Bill Sykes put together years ago. PVJ also had lots of teammates from the Killington Mountain School while Cameron and Brendan were the sole representatives of Hot Tubes Cycling. They did 7 laps of the course and within the first half of the race the McCormack twins took off the front. At the finish, Cameron narrowly took the sprint from his brother. Nate Etchells (Mystic Velo) finished third with PVJ right behind.
Cat5 – The Cat 5s were split into two fields with 35 years being the dividing line and they set off a couple of minutes apart. Both fields had almost 30 riders which is about all you would want on the narrow twisting roads at MSRR. The 35plus Cat 5 group came in to the finish line with a big bunch sprint and as they came into view over the last rolling hill one of the riders suddenly moved to the right taking out the 3rd or 4th rider in linfrom the front off the course and causing others to take evasive action. Fortunately the rider that was taken down did most of his tumbling in the pine needles on the side of the road and not on the asphalt. Still, he was banged up enough to go to the hospital in the ambulance . The diagnosis included broken ribs and some serious road rash. He returned to pick up his truck and bike from the parking area just moments before it was about to be locked in by the State. It would still be there now if he had been tewn minutes longer. His wife who had picked him up at the hospital didn't seem too happy, but he said he would be back on the bike soon. In the race, Robert Hoenick (Bikeworks) was leading out the sprint when the crash happened and was therefore ahead of the crash. He held on from 300 yards out without even having to stand up to take the win.
The Cat5 35plus field came to the line in a big bunch also but a little more strung out. They passed the crash victim from the previous race who was fortunate to be well out of the way. Geremia Ortega took the field sprint by a bike length.
Cat4 – Just past the halfway mark of the 20 mile race, Nevin Rallis (Bikeman.com) and three others took off to establish a few seconds lead after a series of chases and reformations in the first part of the race. The lead group of four was trimmed to three and they stayed clear by about 7 seconds and got to sprint it out. Rallis won the three-up sprint with a blast of speed to come around the right side of Ben McCoy and Justin Neviakis.
Masters55 - A break of three formed in this race also, lead by Mark Hagen . With one to go, and partly because the Cat4s past the Masters55, Dusty Adams, who had been in no-mans-land between the break and the field, didn’t get the word that he had one to go and headed strait to the finish. Unfortunately his official result is a DNF even though he had been in fourth. At the "sprint", Mark Hagen (CCB) powered away from the other two in the break without even getting up from the saddle followed by Graydon Stevens (OA) and Bill Sawyer (Gearworks) in that order.
Masters35 – Mark McCormack (Team Fuji) and Johnny Bold (Corner Cycle) lined up with a stellar field of about 30 riders. Mark got away with a Corner Cycle rider (not Johnny) and Tom Francis (Bike Barn). Bold couldn’t cross to the break because his teammate was up the road. However, the teammate got dropped from the break leaving just Mark and Tom. They later caught the Cat3 field and passed through. This lead to confusion in counting the laps resulting in Mark and Tom doing an extra lap. Tom Francis stayed tied to Mark's wheel longer than most would have, but in the final 100 yards Markie pulled away for the win. Here's where it really got confusing at the finish line. The next riders through the finish were the Cat3 field, one lap sooner than the cat 3 break which never got passed by Markie and Tom. Then, the next through the finish was the Masters55 field sprint, and then finally the Cat3 winning break.
Cat3 – The Cambridge Bike team came in force to the MSRR. Their team leader, R Michael McKittrick, had publicly vowed months ago to boycott theTour of the Basttenkill and its suddenly increased entry fee. He stayed true to his word and dragged his team to Plymouth with him instead. Also lined up for the Cat3 race were several of the Gearworks masters team looking to get in some extra quality training miles. A group of three got off the front including Paul Curley (Gearworks), Luke Fortini (Specialized), and Gary Aspnes (Horst-Benidorm). That group would come to the finish line with Aspnes leading it out. If there is one thing in bike racing you don't want to do, it's lead out Paul Curley. That man has been racing since the days of penny farthings and knows exactly how to use you up in a sprint and come around for the win. That's exactly what he did. Fortini felt it wasn't a clean sprint but the result didn't change. Hopefully young Luke learned a thing or two from the Jedi sprint master.
Women – The race plan called for separate Pro123 and Cat4 fields, but almost everyone that showed up was a Cat4. So, the fields were combined into one race since they were to be on the course at the same time anyweay. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any info from the officials during this race so I don't have any details on how it developed. But, at the finish it was Kristen Gohr (Stage 5 Cycling) from the Pro field outsprinting Sheila Vibert (NHCC) from the Cat 4 field. Although the fields raced together, they were scored separately so they both won! Unfortunately, the exertion of the sprint caught up to Sheila after the line and she seemed to lose her concentration long enough to bump into Kristen. Both tumbled but at that point, 30 yards past the finish line, they had slowed down enough that neither was hurt. Still, its a lesson to everyone that the race isn't over until you are off your bike or at least have a foot down.
Mens Pro123 - Adam Myerson, Al Donahue, new dad Andy Mills, and about 15 others took the course for 15 laps. Donahue and Sean McCormack (Team Fuji) took off the front of the race about half way through. Sean couldn't hold the pace but Donahue kept going with teammate Dan Greenfield (both Wheelhouse/NCC). They would hold a two man team time trial until the finish and in the process they even caught and lapped about ten riders. With only a two mile lap, the officals decided to use criterium rules and finish the lapped riders on the same lap as the breakaway that caught them. So, when Donahue and Greenfield had completed their laps, the officials sent them all down the stem of the lollypop to the finish where Donahue took the win a few yards ahead of the field with Greenfield riding in comfortably for second. Minutes later, Myerson (Mountain Khakis), who had broken off the front of the main field, rolled in for third to claim a little gas money. As best known full pro in the race he had been a marked man. The rest of the field that wasn’t lapped straggled in one at a time for a while until the last unlapped rider (Luke Fortini) finished. Curiously, he placed 8th despite being the last rider to cross the line.
Masters 45 – Host club Mass Bay Road Club put four riders on the line. A lot of the riders in the field were in their second race of the day including Johnny Bold. Graydon Stevens was in his third race of the day. If you are going to drive all the way down from Maine, you might as well make it worth while. John Stonebarger (MassBay) had a much shorter ride from the other side of Plymouth and did it on his bike. It would be the perfect warmup except that he didn't realize that the road he took to get to the race was completely flodded in several places, worse even than the intended race course. He was too far into it to turn back and take a longer route around so he rode through it and arrived at the race with flooded shoes and shoe covers. This wouldn't probably be noteworthy except that it seemed to help because he won the race. After a series of attacks late in thelate stages of the race, Stonebarger counter attacked after Johnny Bold tried to go on the high point on the course with half a lap remaining. Stonebarger made the all-or-nothing move and managed to stay ahead of the entire field to take it all. Bold crossed the line in second with Joe Rano (Gearworks) right behind for third.
Next weekend I'll be at Ninigret to do the announcing for the Newhouse Criterium put on by Arc en Ciel racing. The weather can be challenging there this time of year, but it's always a fun day of racing on the built-for-bycles road loop there. Where else can you get so much cornering practice in one race? And, if the weather is decent on Sunday, you just might see me making my season debut with a number on my back at Wells Ave. I haven't been there in about 15 years, should be interesting.
Thanks for reading.