2012 Yarmouth Clam Festival

By: Embrocation 07/23/2012

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It's one of our favorite races of the year: The Clam Festival Circuit Race in Yarmouth, ME. With a relatively short, 3.5 mile course with a stiff little climb and a long, downhill drag to the finish line in downtown Yarmouth. The race is one of many events in conjunction with the Clam Festival, which draws roughly 100,000 visitors over the course of the weekend. It's an opportunity to race hard, in a very strong field in front of a large crowd... then eat some good seafood.


Race Report: Lake Auburn Road Race

By: Embrocation 06/15/2011

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It was supposed to be a sparsely-attended race in rural Maine. Just a handful of local guys and some regional fellows who made the short drive north from most populated regions. I wasn’t expecting the race to be easy; I just wasn’t expecting it to be as difficult as it turned out to be. Just a couple days before the Lake Auburn race, the promoter of the Connecticut Stage Race decided to cancel the event, leaving many of the area’s best racers with Lake Auburn as their go-to race.

Despite the stronger than expected field, Team Embro brought an A squad. Jackson and Sullivan have been posting solid results over the past few weeks, Kyle’s good form continues, and Jay is in the best shape of his life, so we knew we’d have a hand full of high cards to play.

The Auburn course is an 11ish mile circuit race. It starts by plummeting downhill for a bit, then climbing up a very steep little section of road dubbed “the wall.” From there, it’s on to a long, fast section of mild rollers – perfect terrain for copious attacking. After a series of right-hand turns, the final miles of the course feature a couple of stair-step climbs, the final of which comes through the feedzone and into the final 2K of the course – a long, straight, fast, false flat section that leads to the finale.

The attacks started fast and hard with Sullivan jumping off the front the first time up the wall, grabbing the first of the KOM points. On the long straight, more attacks, from every direction, from every team. In these first panicked moments, the team responded well: covering moves, closing gaps, making sure that each and every move had at least one Embro rider in it. That was the goal of the day.

Coming into the feed zone lap the first time, a small group with Jackson was off the front. A surge at the front of the group caught and passed Jackson. I jumped on it and about 1K later, I looked back to see that I was in a break with some distance over a strung-out field about 20 seconds behind. Coming over the wall a couple minutes later, we had slimmed our break to a few riders – Adam Myerson from Mountain Khakis, Dylan McNicholas of CCB, Robbie King of whatever team it is he rides for now (Boston Bicycle School.- Ed.) and Ryan Kelly of Noreast Cycling. A strong group to say the least and too strong for me, at least that early in the race. Dylan’s relentless accelerations at the front of the break put my non-warmed-up self into serious pain. After 3/4 of a lap and with the field breathing down our necks, I pulled the plug on my breakaway aspirations. I drifted back to the field, reintegrated and shortly thereafter the field scooped up the rest of the breakaway.

The rest of the race was relentless. Attack, surge, accelerate; each lap we’d shed between 5 and 10 riders from the field. The pace was so intense that the race had become one of attrition rather than tactical acuity. Nevertheless, a break did get away with about 2 1/2 laps to go featuring a handful of intensely fast riders – Tim Mitchell from CCB, the irrepressible Ryan Kelly, Dan Vaillencourt and Eric Tremble. They managed to gap the ever-dwindling field and hold a small yet significant gap. On every turn, we could see them in view, motoring along at a fierce pace. By the time we entered the final set of climbs on the last lap, the ‘field’ had been reduced to about 15 riders. Adam and I were the only Embros left. In a moment of relative calm, he drifted back to find me.

“How you doing?” He asked.
“Uh. Ok.” I answered as I tried to swig down the rest of my warm Accelerade.
“I’m pretty fried. You have anything left for the finish you think?” Adam asked.
“If I can get to 1K I can have a decent finish I think.” I said in response.
“Alright.” Adam said as he moved back to the front of the field.

A few minutes later Adam attacked, riding solo off the front of the field and establishing a 15 second gap coming into the final set of climbs. This was my queue to settle in and follow wheels. I knew there would be a move in the final couple kilometers. It was just a question of who, when and how hard. As it turned out it was Robbie King at the crest of the feed zone climb who put in a major dig. I went 100% effort for a few moments to maintain contact with the front few riders. We caught and passed Adam and broke off a good portion of the rest of the field. Coming into the final K it was about 8 or 9 of us. I moved into the best position I could for the sprint. In the end, I put down a decent sprint effort and managed to slot in behind Dylan McNicholas, which was good enough for 3rd in the field sprint. In the final couple k we had caught all but Tim Mitchell from the day’s main breakaway. Tim, in a typical display of raw strength managed to maintain a 20 second gap over the field to take a well-deserved solo victory. So, I was 4th on the day. Not a bad result considering the level of talent in the field. The team did a great job at containing the race early on and with Adam’s last-minute solo effort. All in all, a solid result and a great team effort.


Race Report: Tour of the Battenkill

By: Embrocation 04/29/2011

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The Tour of the Battenkill is the closest thing I have to a home-town race, having lived in upstate New York for a good swath of my young adulthood. I grew up, as it were, riding those roads – testing myself on the repeated hills, dirt roads and whipping winds. As such, I look forward to Battenkill all year and think that it’s one of the best-organized and most intense races of the calendar. I knew heading into this year’s race that the team was well-prepared and motivated for a result. I’m happy to say the result was just about as good as we could have hoped for.

The weather on race day was about as expected for upstate New York in mid April: windy, moderately cold and with passing rain showers. An exceptionally wet winter actually improved the conditions of the dirt roads, and in many sections we found the dirt to be smoother than the pavement, which made for fast, spirited riding on the dirt sections.

The Battenkill course is basically a series of rolling hills. For the majority of the race, you’re either going up or you’re going down. The few flat sections at the beginning of the race normally see copious attacking and despite the long and technical course, it’s best to contain the attacks lest an early and strong breakaway gets down the road and is able to maintain a lead that turns into a true threat. Not one for the hills, Kyle kept control of the front end of the race on the early flat sections, reeling in attack after attack.

By the second time over Juniper Swamp Road (basically a dirt wall that we climb a couple times) the group had thinned out considerably. By this time it was just a matter of attrition. The goal was to stay on the front end of the group and stay in contact with the leaders; keep the pace high enough to discourage attacks and breakaways. Despite this, the occasional group did manage to get down the road – usually individual riders trying to make a go at it. Jackson did a tremendous amount of work at the front of the race during the last half to reel back in these potentially dangerous attacks, repeatedly turning himself inside out to control the pace and neutralize threats. It became funny, actually. Several times I thought Jackson was done, cracked and off the back. Then, out of nowhere he’d appear, riding up past me to chase something down, saying “I got this one, Boss,” as he sped past. It was an impressive display of teamwork and assured that I could stay protected and not waste energy prior to the final 20 miles.

Just after the second feedzone, and with about 20k to go is where things usually get real; attacks start and the pace stays about as high as possible for the remainder of the race. Meetinghouse Road is a sinister dirt section that’s a series of steep hills, one after the other. It’s a place where the group thins out greatly and the right move can get away and stay away. Sure enough, the pace quickened, and with each successive hill, the group gradually diminished. My plan at this point was survival – just stay toward the front of the group over Meetinghouse and then the final climb of the day up Stage Road.

The final climb itself isn’t that hard. It’s a stair-step climb on dirt, without any particularly steep sections. What makes it truly difficult is that it comes at the end of 80 miles of viscious hills, so the legs are a bit worn out by the time this final section begins. We came up over the top of this final climb with a group numbering around 25 out of the original 150 starters. Jackson had done his part to contain the race and fell off the group at the bottom of the climb. As such, I went into the finale without teammates.

From the top of the final climb, it’s a fast descent down to the final kilometers – a long, flat drag into the town of Cambridge. Containing a group here is hard. Everyone wants the win and attacks begin to come immediately and without pause. I knew that if I stayed toward the front, I would have a good chance in the finish. This year’s Battenkill finish was different than the previous years where we finished on the long, flat main street in Cambridge. This year, we crossed over main street and then quickly executed two sharp right hand turns just prior to the finish line on a side street in front of the Cambridge Hotel. The finish is nearly identical to the now-defunct Balloon Fest race that used to be held in Cambridge in June. I’d done well at that race many times before and knew the finish tactics well.

Coming into the final mile, a small group of 3 had attained a gap of about 5 seconds over the rest of the field. I was tucked into third wheel coming across main street and into the final turns. After the penultimate turn, I attacked as hard as I could. I caught the 3-man group just prior the final turn onto the finish straight and went around them, holding as much speed as I could through the turn, narrowly avoiding the barrier on the left side of the road. From that point, it was about 100 meters to the line, so it was an all-out sprint. I was able to hold off a charging field to cross the line with a good gap built up behind me.

I knew I had won the field sprint, but it was unclear to me at that point how I had done in the overall. Battenkill is one of those races where individual riders get off the front of the main group and then get brought back, one after the other, mile after mile. I knew we caught the majority of them during the final climb and subsequent run into town, but I wasn’t sure. It turns out that one rider had impressively managed to hold a few precious seconds gap over the field to take the win. I’d have to content myself with second place on the day, and I was pleased with that.

As I sat there, collecting myself, other team riders began to trickle in. Jackson and Kyle were especially jubilant – my podium position having justified their sacrifice early on. Time for podium and celebratory consumption of Battenkill Valley Chocolate Milk.

All in all, a success for the team and a good race. Thanks to Sarah and Gretchen for the feeds, Marty for allowing a gaggle of bike racers access to his house, and Dieter Drake for hosting another great Battenkill.


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