Monday, July 20, 2009

Weekend in Maine, food, racing and another podium

After a lackluster team performance at Fitchburg we seem to have found our collective mojo in the past couple weeks with two podium finishes in as many weeks and some well-oiled team machinery at work as well.

We had originally planned to compete at the Owasco Stage Race in central New York this past weekend but our plans were thwarted by that race's cancellation. Instead, we traveled up to the Portland, Maine area to stay with teammate Chris Laflamme for a weekend of training and racing. Jay, Bradshaw, Chris and I did a hard training ride in the Mount Washington area of New Hampshire with some good climbs and even better scenery.

While our ride was great, the real story of the weekend was the Clam Festival Circuit Race in Yarmouth, ME on Sunday morning. Situated in downtown Yarmouth, this is basically a long crit with a hill. A 3+ mile course with a few tight turns, one steep uphill and a long, straight downhill to the finish in front of Yarmouth town hall. Laflamme did a good job selling us on the merits of the race and convinced us to attend in force. We joined the 90+ rider field with a 7 man team, including the ever-reliable Pete Smith and new teammates Kyle Smith and Jackson Weber. Our plan was simple: have constant team representation at the front and don't let any breaks down the road without at least one of our riders in it. I'm pleased to say that we accomplished this mission to the letter.

Laflamme and Jay were in two early breaks and both won some prime money for their efforts. Meanwhile Pete Smith, Jackson, Bradshaw and I were being vigilant at the front of the race chasing down escapees and surges in tempo. Kyle remained safely encapsulated in the field resting as much as possible and saving his legs for the final sprint effort.

Such was our plan for the first 5 of 9 laps of hard racing. On the 5th lap, Bradshaw chased down a small escape group, which coalesced into a 4 man break containing Dan Vaillencourt of Colavita/Sutter Home and Ryan Fleming of the Metlife team and unattached rider Damien Colfer. The four man break stayed in front of the field by just a few seconds for the remainder of the race. On the last lap, Bradshaw attacked the breakaway group up the final climb, about 800 meters from the finish. He managed to distance himself from his breakaway companions with only Vaillencourt able to eventually catch him only a couple short meter from the finish line.

Bradshaw took second place by a paper-thin 7/100ths of a second margin. While losing by such a slim margin was frustrating, there was still much to celebrate in a most impressive performance from our resident strong man. And while and all-out victory would have been nice, we take some solace in the fact that Vaillencourt is both a salaried pro and one of the nicest guys in the peloton.

Back in the field, we realized the break was going to stick and our guy was going to end up in the top 5, so we started to execute our secondary strategy: a setup for a very fast field sprint. At about 2k to go I moved to the front of the race and looked behind me to see a few Embro guys in immediate tow. I pushed the pace as hard as I could into the final turn and pulled off when I had nothing left to give. Laflamme, Jay and Kyle came streaking past me, up the hill and into the pandemonium of the final stretch where they unleashed their sprints. Jay had the best sprint to the line, finishing 3rd in the field just behind sprinters extraordinaire Adam Meyerson and Luciano Paval and taking 7th overall while Kyle and Laflamme had respectable finishes of 18th and 19th, respectively.

All in all, a very strong showing - our best team performance by far and an audacious, well-executed race by Bradshaw, who was psyched by his performance. I know this because he kept saying "I'm pretty psyched!" Everyone was.

Thanks for reading, now stick around to check out some of our photos from the weekend.

Bradshaw and Jay roll out for 10 laps of hard racing.

Laflamme representing in the early breaks.

The winning break was originally 5 strong, but came down to Bradshaw and Vaillencourt in the final meters.

Bradshaw and Vaillencourt drive to the finish head to head.

Too close to call at the line, but Vaillencourt had an edge measured in inches... just enough.

Jay doing his bad-ass thing at the finish taking 3rd in the field sprint.

Cory Masson of Metlife and I roll casually through the finish having done our respective lead-out duties.

Post-race meeting - job well done.

Second place plus prime money - the spoils of war.

An much-deserved post-race meal, Maine style.


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