Race Report: Lake Auburn Road Race

By: Embrocation Jun 15

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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: Canada Cups

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The Canada Cups up in Quebec are the closest UCI races for those of us on the East Coast, and are reliably technical, hard and fun. I went up to Quebec for back-to-back weekends for a crack at the Mont Tremblant and Baie-Saint-Paul Canada Cups.




Mont Tremblant is about two hours north of Montreal. The course goes all over the alpine mountain and laps through the European-style village (whose specialty shops include one devoted solely to poutine). It’s a hilly course with plenty of single-track and a rather hair-raising descent that includes super steep rock drops, a “bridge of death”, and crash pads and ski netting – presumably to lessen the “death” part of the “bridge of death”. This is a fairly difficult course under the best of conditions, but the thunderstorms the day before had made everything extremely slippery.


I messed up the start and was further back in the field than I wanted to be when we hit the single-track, and frantically made some stupid attempts at passing before chilling out and waiting for a more opportune time. Towards the top of the climb I passed new teammate Aleksandra Moradian picking herself up. After confirming she was okay I continued on, but that was unfortunately the end of her race.

Owing to the slipperiness of the course I rode the descent more conservatively than I usually would, losing some time to some of the women around me. Technical courses are usually my strong suit, but I think I haven’t spent enough time in the woods this year to get to the point of not having to think about where the bike will go. I finished in 11th place, not entirely pleased with my performance, but still good enough to pick up a few more UCI points.

The Baie-Saint-Paul course was one of my favorites last year – flowy, loamy, rooty, single-track with plenty of climbing. There were some changes made to the course for this year’s race and, given that Quebec had experienced one of the wettest springs on record, adding a two-kilometer climb was maybe not the best decision.


It poured in the days leading up to the race and, come race day, and what had previously been tricky-but-rideable was now much faster to get off and run. Parts of the downhill were so mud-logged that I was out of the saddle trying to propel myself down through the mire.


Instead of picking lines during the race, I found myself trying to remember which mud holes a wheel would roll out of versus disappearing up to the hub; whether or not there were rocks and roots hidden below the surface of mud to slip on and which parts it was faster to keep running rather than attempt to get back on the bike.

I hung in for 10th place, and collected 10 more UCI points, which is enough to qualify for the World Cup in July. Aleksandra had a strong race finishing in 6th, so there will be an Embrocation contingent heading back up to Quebec early July. Hope to see some supporters there too!



Submitted by Embrocation Team elite rider, Linnea Koons.

 

Race Report: Mellow Johnny's Classic

By: Embrocation Team May 19

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I’d heard really good things about the Mellow Johnny’s race when it was first put on last year, despite the heat. So with Austin being a relatively easy city to get to, I decided to make the trip out and stay with a college friend. I got out to pre-ride the course Friday and it proved to be a fast, fun, flowy course on dusty singletrack. The UCI course was a five-mile loop that felt like it had more downhill than climbing, although I knew that during the race it would feel otherwise.


We got lucky with the weather on race morning; the fog had rolled in overnight and was slowly burning off, but gave the women a reprieve during the race from the direct sun and heat that had been such a problem last year.

Poor showing from the women’s side meant everyone on the start line would be getting UCI points (provided they finished). As a back-of-the pack pro at US Cup events I have mixed feelings on this. One of the reasons for coming out to Mellow Johnny’s was definitely the allure of UCI points – as a C1 it offered points 15 deep, and unlike in ‘cross where UCI races are available almost twice every weekend in New England, the mountain bike calendar boasts a mere six chances to scoop up UCI points in the US. With such opportunities so few and far between I would expect the field to be stacked with not only the best international racers, but also the top “regional pros” from different parts of the country. For comparison, there were close to 70 men lined up on the start line, so where were all the ladies?


The race started fast and we were still all together when we hit the singletrack. We settled in quickly and by the end of the first lap I was comfortably in 8th with 7th not too far ahead. My legs felt good, the course was still fun, and the crowds were really loud and positive. Starting the second lap I was feeling a little squishiness coming from my rear tire and I realized I had forgotten flat repair equipment. I rode it until it was completely flat and started running.

The first tech zone had no neutral support, but they were pretty sure the main tech zone just after the finish line had support. There was no way in hell I was coming all the way out to Texas, to be guaranteed UCI points, only to DNF, so I continued running. Running 3km on hard-packed dirt in cycling shoes is an unpleasant experience, but as I was the idiot who had forgotten my flat fix, it was a more than suitable punishment.

The other tech zone didn’t have neutral support either, but as it was right next to the expo area, one of the awesome volunteers nipped out and nabbed a tube for me. I’d barely had time to take my rear wheel off when Georgia Gould came though, lapped me, and that was it for the day.

Not wanting to leave Texas with the taste of failure in my mouth I signed up for the Sunday Pro/Open race that was part of the local race series. I visited the Mellow Johnny’s shop in Austin and they fixed me up good and proper.

Race day number two arrived and unlike the previous day, it was going to be a scorcher. The course was much longer with more climbing, and staying hydrated was going to be a challenge. I took three bottles with me and planned on stopping to fill them up if needed. This was going to be a race of attrition. The whistle went, everyone took off like a bat out of hell, and almost immediately the voice in my head started whining. My legs were tired from all the running from the day before; I was in 5th – not even a paying position, and did I mention it was hot out?

The course was fun – more technical than the UCI course, with rock gardens and long, fast descents, and I couldn’t help but start enjoying myself. I settled into a sustainable pace and began to pick people off. I was staying on top of my hydration with the help of the awesome volunteers in the feed zone who were handing out bottles to racers as they went by. With one lap to go I realized the leader was 30 seconds in front of me. I got excited and had to remind myself to keep riding my own pace. The sun was brutal and I was starting to get some sloshing in my belly from all the liquid. I kept catching glimpses of her on the trail ahead of me but didn’t seem to be getting closer. With a mile and a half to go I came around a bend and she was on the side of the trail, puzzling over the front of her bike.
“You OK?”
“Yeah, I think my headset came loose.”
“OK”
And I rode in to take the win


Turns out she wasn’t really OK. Her headset was, I think, fine, but her efforts earlier in the race, and trying to keep the gap between us, coupled with the heat, had taken their toll and she was unable to finish, requiring medical assistance.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mellow Johnny’s: the volunteer support was amazing, it was a super organized event, and the fans were plentiful both days and were really positive and encouraging. This is definitely a race that will stay on my calendar for years to come.

Next: up to Quebec for some Canada Cup races.

 

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