By David Sutherland
The Velotooler Cup comes at the very beginning of the season when the weather is still brisk and we are still spending a lot of our training time inside. But, if there was one word to describe the conditions this year, it would be wet. We were all a bit rusty with our race legs coming out of the off season, but luckily the newly anointed Cat 3’s, Stephen and myself, had the devo team veterans Alex, Sean, and Dan to get the tactics dialed.
Chris Hinds kicked off the spring series on the right foot. We came in five strong and did a great job making the race play out the way we wanted it to. The Ninigret course is notoriously windy and Alex, Steve and Dan worked hard patrolling the front to bring in all the attacks to keep the race together. Sean and I did our best to stay out of the wind and preserve our strength for the final sprint. I fudged the lead-out and went a little too late and not very smoothly, but Sean made the best of it. Although we got caught at the line, we managed to grab third and fourth place for the day.
For the Pete Rotella – Mytic Velo Crit we came back to the same course, but replaced the crisp sunlight with some frigid rain. This made the fields off season rust a little more noticeable with some questionable lines through the slick corners that put us all on edge. We switched around the lineup for this race. Missing Dan this week, Steve and I took on the job of patrolling the front while the veteran duo, Alex and Sean, prepared for the finish. Not much happened at the front during the beginning of the race and we were able to get all four of us in the front group for the last laps, locking down anyone’s hopes of a late flyer. Sean Casey laid down some serious power coming out of the last turn to lead out Alex and the pair one upped the previous week’s result with two GLV boys on the podium. Alex’s was gunning for his last few upgrade points in this race and his second place result in the 30+ person field gave him more than enough points for his Cat 2. We were pumped that we could all execute together and graduate him to the elite field at the start of the season.
The third Velotooler weekend had a brand new race in store and intermittent torrential downpours. Dan and I were the only Cat 3s lining up for GLV this week and we made the best of it. The plan was to alternate and have a man in as many breaks as we could, but sandy gravel washed over the road and a brutal head/cross wind on the back stretch made this flat road race anything but easy. After countless attacks, one finally went that looked like it had the right mix of power and jerseys to stick and I managed to bridge to it with the help of Tate, a then unattached rider. But, the break was only 5 strong and we had 30 more miles of stiff wet winds between us and the finish line. While Dan did his job holding off the pack, the five of us were able to make a temporary truce and work together to slowly move out of sight of the pack. After a grueling trek, the last few miles were a fun game of cat and mouse. Tucker from Minuteman was the first to make his move for the line and he managed to make it stick, but I was able to respond quickly enough to get on my second podium of the Cup.
For the fourth weekend of the Cup we headed out to the Quabbin reservoir for the rolling hills of western Mass. and a notorious uphill finish. My results in the first three races were enough to put me in the lead and I started the race in the yellow Cat3 leader’s jersey. But, it seems our stars were somewhat crossed as a team that day. Most of the rain had come through the night before and we only had a consistent drizzle for the race but that ended up being a curse not a blessing. We had a full squad again with Dan, Sean, Steve and I all lining up at the start. The race was relatively calm at the start as everyone knew it would be unwise to attempt a full day in the hills alone by attacking early. However, as the race went on we slowly realized that the rain the night before has washed a lot of dirt and rocks onto the course. This bit us about two thirds of the way into the race with a crash at the front that Dan got caught up in. This triggered a strong attack that splintered the field. Steve and I were in position to chase and we were making good ground on the leading group. Unfortunately, a corner into a decent gave us a nasty surprise as river rocks had washed over the course. Steve was able to navigate through unscathed, but my front wheel splintered and I ended up going down shortly thereafter. Dan couldn’t catch a break, and after recovering from his first spill was ejected from his ride on the same rocks and with bruised bodies and broken bikes, that’s where our races ended. Steve ended up catching the front group and while not in the top ten, ended up less than a minute back from the front group on the final climb. Not bad for a big man! We only found out later that the same rocks had cracked our teammate AJ’s wheel in the elite race and Alex, who was in Athens, GA for Speed Week was caught up behind a major crash, but fell victim to an errant rider coming in hot. Luckily he was mostly unharmed but had to replace his fair share of broken carbon as well.
The final race of the Cup was Myles Standish, a super fun rolling course around the state forest, which was… you guessed it, wet. The finish here is a super-fast decent which played right into our wheelhouse as Steve, Sean and I are all packing the gravity watts. Sean was wise that nothing gets away at this race, but I naively didn’t listen and spent a fair share of time at the front chasing down and attacking. However, at the end of the day Sean and I made it to the front despite a lot of bumping and grinding in the lead group on the last lap, which luckily didn’t result in anyone going down. The final sprint went down with Sean and I going 1 and 2, a fantastic finish after the previous week’s misfortune! That put Sean and I as first and second for the Cup as GLV dominated the Cat 3 overall standings. Starting the season off on the right foot!