By David Sutherland
Crit week this year was a bit shorter than in years past, with only Fitchburg, Exeter and Greenfield on the calendar. I had my fair share of good results leading up to this week but it all clicked for me here. It all started off with the Longsjo Classic in Fitchburg, MA which is a fantastic course that runs through the downtown area with a long gradual uphill finish. Steve, Sean and I lined up for the race with a surprise appearance from GLV veteran Kyle Butler who came out for his first race of the year! The race played out well for us, a couple of attacks went off on the uphill throughout the race but the field as a whole did a good job of letting them dangle just off the front and bringing them back in as their vigor faded. Sean had volunteered to lead me out for the end of the race and on the last lap we were positioned well at the front, two turns and the uphill away from the finish. As we went into the turn we move up to the front and went through HOT! Sean strung the field way out hammering at the front through the turns and set the stage for me with plenty of space to my sides and anyone trying to contest having to move up from deep. Sean took me half the way up the hill but that was more than enough. A quick pop and a hard sustained sprint had me over the line in first with bike lengths to spare. Steve was able to come through in third place to put two GLV men on the podium. Sean ended up 32nd, a testament to how much he put on the table for the lead-out, damn.
Exeter had us driving up from Boston to NH on a Tuesday afternoon and the only option was the elite race. This was my first opportunity to race fresh with the big boys and I had a blast doing it. The week was full of surprises as Gerry came back from California to line up with AJ, Alex, Sean, Dan, and myself. I got a huge surprise and got a call-up alongside AJ for my Longsjo race win. I really appreciated it, such a cool experience having my name called out to the crowd and lining up next to cyclist’s way more talented than myself. This race was FAST! The was barely any time to coast as we ripped around Exeter town center. Just moving position took a huge effort in this race. I did my best to hang in there near the front and was succeeding until two laps from the end where a corner got tight and I was pushed down by a crash a couple of guys to my left. I only ended up with a scrape on my knee, but it was enough to end my race. AJ snagged to top result for the team that day with 14th contending without support against lead-out trains from Butcherbox, NE Devo and Velocio.
For the final race of the series we headed out to Greenfield, MA. In the Cat 3 race we had a full lineup with Sean, Dan, Steve, Kyle, and myself. The race plan was pretty straight forward: don’t let anything get away and I would return the favor and lead out Sean. The race went down as planned, I spent a decent block of time off the front towards the beginning of the race, the result of a splintered breakaway, but everything stayed together for most of the day. When the time came to get in position for the final sprint, I realized that Sean had broken a spoke, the heartbreaking result of some sketchy riding in front of him, and was no longer in the race. This meant it was just Steve and I at the front for the end of the race. Some late flyer attempts stretched the front out wonderfully and set the stage for a good clean sprint finish. The downhill into the last turn helped me build up some extra momentum and I was able to take the inside on the corner and open up the engine. Crossing the line first meant I had swept the Cat 3 races for the week and had enough points for my Cat 2 upgrade. I was elated and had won a delicious berry pie!
Some lunch and R&R had us in a good place to double back in the afternoon for the elite race. A couple guys couldn’t stick around so the lineup was AJ, Alex, Dan, Sean and myself. I was quickly learning that the elite races in the northeast are wars of attrition. Not long into the race the field was beat up enough for a split to form with 15 or so in the front group. I was able to snag on to the back of it and ride the train lead by some seriously strong dudes. Greenfield is a pretty short course and it wasn’t long until we had lapped the field. I found out that shortly thereafter a second group, with AJ in it, had done the same make the total number still in contention 23. One rider from the first group was able to go off the front a second time. When the pace of the field slowed as riders prepared for the sprint he was able to lap a second time. The rest of us prepared for the finish, but the pace was again blisteringly fast through the last laps. I was in the best position for the team, but after my morning race and hanging with the best in the region all race long, I felt it in my legs and was only able to snag 12th of 64 for the day. All things said in done, some of the best racing in New England and it was topped off with multi-team gathering for a beer and a hearty meal at the local brew pub. What more can you ask for!