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.