My brother and I are regularly dropped in a good portion of our 35+ races, so we were tentative going into Jefferson Cup 1/2/3/4 35+ Masters. We sported matching hacking coughs and fat asses. Although Qualia came in about 10 pounds lighter than last year, I'm about the same ratio of pudge to fudge. Brother Qualia also sported a new Addict R2, purchased from the Bike Rack exactly a week ago.
It was this Addict which presented the first real problem of the day. During our warmup ride, the chain jammed between the casette and the spokes. After first cautious then violent attempts at persuading it, with time ticking down, I jerked it free. The chain was free, but the derailleur injured; my brother had only half his gears. We raced back to the start line, and at first he seemed resigned to sit out, but after thinking it over, he decided to give it a whirl.
The first twenty miles were lovely. I chatted with Pete Warner and Dave K. from gamjams. A few soft breaks went, and then were casually reeled in. It was cold and sometimes spitting, but not raining. We were going so slow, in fact, that the refs pulled us over to let the 45+ group, which started several minutes behind us, pass.
Then Pete launched a break with three others that established some distance. I thought, "where are all the 1/2 hardmen who killed me last year?" Surely, with 35 miles to go, we'll reel them in.
The rain began to fall, and the pace remained the same. Another break launched on lap three, this one of five riders. Still, the peleton did nothing. I could no longer see Troy. I took some pulls on the front, but not especially hard. I was shocked by the slow pace.
Finally, we passed the start line and instead of "2" the sign read "1," as in 1 to go--they'd shorted the race by ten miles. Ten less miles to chase the breakaway.
The pace seemed to pick up, and I took several pulls on the climb following the start/finish.
On this climb, and unintentionally, I found myself in a two-man bridge. A downed rider sat in the middle of the road, and I was in second position. The group seemed to slow up, but the two of us just keep going at pace. When we crested the hill, we had fifty yards. Groupetto 2 was just in sight up the road; Warner's lead group was long gone. The two of us took turns and completed the bridge just before the sweeping downhill. I was gassed.
I figured the seven of us still had a chance of catching Pete's group, although they were out of sight. However, only five of us rotated through. Still, I always find large breakaways of this kind spectacularly fun, especially when you know you've got a great chance at staying away. The regularity of pulls and the sense of teamwork among strangers is so much different than the war of all against all often found in the peleton.
With about 3k to go, we caught sight of Pete's group. Too far ahead. Behind us, the peleton was out of sight (in fact, I never saw them again--I think they didn't even finish; just rode right off the course to the warmth of their cars).
We slowed down up the hill. With 300 to go the two riders who'd ridden the back jumped, and I grabbed the third wheel. The second rider fell off, and I moved behind, but didn't quite have enough to pass. Good for 7th overall and 4th among the 3s.
Up ahead was the lead group, pulled over to the side of the road and chatting. Pete had taken the win, with Dave K. right behind. We congratulated each other and joked around for a few minutes before realizing how ridiculously cold we were. Thankfully, Troy, who had lasted three laps (without his 25, 23, 21 and 19 cogs!) had driven the car up, so I didn't have to ride the cold road home.
In retrostpect, I could have done better. My timidity prevented me from going with Pete in the early break. On the other hand, I managed a nice bridge and my result wasn't bad. Each race is different, I suppose, and the difference between being dropped and getting on the points board is a matter of timing, luck, and taking some chances. In the case of Pete, who stayed off the front for about 30 miles, it probably had something to do with having a huge engine, too.