It was supposed to be one of our focus races this year. The 2 day, 3 stage race in Litchfield County, Connecticut promises some of the best racing of the year, crammed into one weekend. It starts with a technical but fast time trial on Saturday morning. The Saturday afternoon circuit race is roller-coaster-like with a 3 mile, 3 corner course with a significant hill climb and screaming downhill in each lap. The road race on Sunday morning is a long 90 miles and seldom features a flat road. Coming into this road race, we had a handful of Embro riders in the top 20 in GC and had secured a couple top 10 finishes in the previous two stages. We’re a team that normally excels in the longer road races, so we felt confident that we’d have some solid results and maybe get a few riders moved up in GC. This is where things went somewhat pear-shaped, though. It actually turned out to be a (dare I say?) epic day, just not in the way we anticipated…
Colin recalled his series of events quite succinctly:
After the commissaire car for our field laughed at me when i asked where my support was (Me:“how do i get home without wheel support” Official: “I don’t know”); after i stood in the rain on some random corner in the middle of nowhere for about an hour; after the cat3 support car actually stopped and yelled to me that they wouldn’t help me (not couldn’t, but wouldn’t… wrong field?!); after i listened to you guys crash via the police band with a local fireman (“multiple bicycle rider crash”,4 transports!” ); a dropped 3, who had been given a 9sp campy rear for his ten speed SRAM drivetrain when he got ‘supported’, found me. when he inflated my rear with his spare tube and a compressed air cartridge it froze to his hand because of the biblical rain and PV=nRT. which was actually kind of cool.
Steve Francisco dropped a story on us that we couldn’t make up even if we tried. Here he relates his experience of the weekend:
Leading into last weekends race was a bit crazy for me.
- I finally received my TT rig the weekend before. Built it up, rode it for a few hours on Monday.
- Rode the Tuesday Night Championships and felt like ass.
- Dialed in my TT position on Wed night via SKYPE with my coach from CO.
- Recovery ride on the TT rig for an hour on Thursday to get used to the position.
- Opener workout on the TT rig on Friday – and felt like ass again.
The week was pretty much wrapped up – and all I needed to do on friday was attend my daughter, Olivia’s end of the year ballet recital. 7pm on Friday – and ended at 10pm. It was great – and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
At 10:30pm I met Jake Hollenbeck and we drove to Saratoga Springs so that we would have a shorter drive in the morning. Got to my parent’s house in Saratoga around 1:00am – and went right to sleep.
Up and out at 6:30am – Uncommon Grounds was closed – so we had to hit the bagel shop. And, we were on the road to CT.
Got there no problem, and the TT went off. It was my fourth ride on the TT rig, and my first P/1/2 Stage Race, and first real TT race. All the Embrocators had solid rides and it was super fun to see everyone so stoked to be there and racing together. I had a pretty solid time in the TT, I didn’t really feel like I went as hard as I should have – but I’m still trying to figure out how to pace out my effort over those distances and in that position. Overall, we had Cory in 12th on GC and me in 21st (which was just crazy… right?) Josh and Bradshaw were all right up there too.
The Circuit Race in the afternoon was crazy fast for me – I was getting tail whipped around the middle to back of that pack all race, but we all managed to stay safe – and James and Bradshaw were up there at the sharp end of the race pretty much the whole time with Cory and probably a few others, but, I couldn’t really tell because my head was down most of the time – just trying to get used to the pace and accelerations. I think Cory, James and Bradshaw where right up there at the end too…. studs.
That road race on Sunday was crazytown. I’ve heard multiple different stories on how it all “went down” – but all I can remember is this: it started pretty chill for the most part; some early attacks and racing at the front was pretty fun – and for the first time (for me this year) I was able to ride pretty comfortably at the front end of the field. In fact, for most of the race – up until the cluster fuck at around mile 60 – we had almost all of us up there. It was so cool to see four, five or six of the baby blues clustered up at the front. After the first feed zone – the pace started to pick up – and as the road surface got worse the rollers got bigger and steeper – putting most of the back half of the field in difficulty. I recall flying down a really shitty road – and banging a super hard right hand turn – and having to go pretty much as hard as I have ever gone on a bike – to stay with the front end of the race. For me, this was a completely different sport from racing CAT 3 – I was holding my position, but just barely. James and Bradshaw were up at the front – trading punches and just beating the shit out of one another. I faded off the tail end of that group – and proceeded to try and TT myself back on over the next several rollers. I saw a small group with Josh in there coming up behind me – so I dialed it back a bit – and just as they caught me, we all ended up catching back to the front group. Once we made contact – we started down a steep pitch – and watched the first 15-20 riders all hit the deck on the metal bridge. We were coming down this hill at around 40mph – and just barely had enough time to skid to a stop and walk our bikes across the bridge. James went down, but got right back up and back on his bike. He was covered from head to toe in mud – it was crazy mud – like ‘cross mud.
So, we soft-pedaled for a bit until whoever felt like racing after that crash was able to get themselves together and get back up and rolling. From there it really became a blurr of a fast single file pace – up and down in severe downpours and thunder – through the next feed zone until we brought back the group containing Bradshaw. It was just about then that, almost all together – we realized that we were back on the first loop of the course and heading in the exact opposite direction of the finishing town. With no support vehicles or lead cars, we must have missed the critical turn. By this time our group had drastically dwindled, by people either coming off the back due to the pace or just figuring out on their own that we were hammering down the road in the wrong direction.
At about our furthest point, after multiple u-turns, Bradshaw flatted. We figured we would send someone back to get him once we finished. 3 miles later I flatted. Josh kept going with the small group, heading back to the finish and planned to send someone for me too. So, I walked along the edge of the road for about 20min, until a chick wearing a International Bicycles kit rolled up on me on her way back from feeding at the feed zone. She didn’t have anything to help fix my flat so she was just going to ride along while I walked. After a minute or so she suggested that I shoulder my bike and she would give me a ride (ala Chris Horner @ Cascade last summer). So, I threw my bike over my shoulder and hopped on her bike. She sat, pretty much, on my lap and pedaled while I balanced us by dragging my feet – and holding onto her shoulder. We rolled like this for about 2 or 3 miles (by this time, I was “getting to know” this cute chick from International Bicycle pretty well.) No, I didn’t get her name, but she was cool about it… ya know?
After rolling for a while a car finally stopped and asked if they could help. There were two couples in the car, one was a local couple that lived in Colebrook, CT and the other was their friends visiting from Holland. We took my wheels off and put my bike in their trunk and I jumped into the back seat next to this beautiful Dutch woman. By this time, I am completely soaked, covered in road spray, and trying not to make a mess of the back seat of the car. The Dutch guy was driving and asking me all kinds of questions about racing here in the states and trying to understand how the race went so incredibly wrong, to the point that I had gotten lost and flatted without the support vehicles. He was in pure amazement at my story – he was only making the whole thing even better.
So, they brought me back to the finish area where I got out of the car and re-assembled my rig. At that point, the head official came running over to make sure I was okay and thanked the people for bringing me home. Once I explained what had happened, with Josh calmly supporting the veracity of my story, she told me to put my helmet back on and to just walk across the finish line.
That’s pretty much what I can recall from the experience. Pretty crazy.