I wasn’t originally going to enter this race but some things changed. The plan was to enter the Bradbury 12 with my friend David Tremblay as a two man single-speed team. Many of the NEMBA racing team were there dominating the weekend. Unfortunately, Dave crashed earlier and hurt his arm sufficiently that he didn’t think a 12 hour race was a good idea. Dave and I are pretty close in our riding ability and, I think, would have put on a good show as a team. Since Dave was out of action for the weekend, I figured I’d give the final EFTA NECS race a shot. We drove down to the coast and made a three day weekend out of the trip.
On Sunday, we headed over to New Haven to find the race. The directions were given for coming from the North or South but not from the East. As a result, we ended up driving through the center of New Haven. We did find the park but, apparently, the wrong entrance. We drove our RV up this long winding hill into the park following the EFTA course arrows along the drive. At the top of this road the arrows then directed us down into a single-track trail. I wasn’t about to drive down that. After some cell calls and more driving, we found the race. It was a very small parking lot and there were already quite a few cars parked along the side of the road, including another RV. There was a bit of a line to register which was mostly because there were only two people working on the registration. Fortunately, the turnout for the race was actually quite low compared with other of the EFTA series races. If there had been a more typical turnout, the organizers would have been completely overwhelmed. Regardless, it seemed to work out well enough.
Pete MacLeod was the only other single-speed racer there for the race. Great. He’s been beating me at every race this summer by 4-6 minutes. Since there were only two of us in the single-speed class, I could have just sat in and had a comfortable ride with a guaranteed second place. Unfortunately, I’m far too sadistic and competitive for that. Besides, I was holding on to the hope that I might be able to edge Pete out and get a legitimate 1st place this season. We went out hard.
The course started out on a slightly rolling double-track trail. My 32:18 gearing was almost too low for much of the terrain, especially this first section. The pace was really fast, and I need to learn how to spin better. Pete managed to get in a better position off the line and put some pretty significant distance on me early on. I never saw him again. I got trapped behind some other expert riders on the first real single-track climb which made matters a little worse.
Shortly after the single-track climb, the course dumped us out on a paved park road. This road descended a little and then we turned onto the park road that I had driven up with our RV. At least it was familiar, and I knew how far it was until we got back onto the dirt. The climb was really fast and the perfect grade for seated climbing. I managed to pick off a couple of riders but had two others who stuck with me for the length of the climb.
The trail off the first road climb was extremely rocky. I had put some extra air in my tires before the race because I heard there would be a fair amount of road riding. This extra air is probably the only thing that kept me from having a repeat of my flat tire issues at Treasure Valley a few weeks ago. The first half mile or so was pretty demanding but the remainder of this section of trail was pretty smooth with just a few short, steep climbs.
After the single-track, we entered the same paved road descent we rode earlier, only now in the opposite direction. This road climb seemed to go on indefinitely. Looking at some Strava data, it was a good, solid three miles of climbing which gained about 500 feet of vertical. Who knew that there was this much vertical to be had in Connecticut? This climb was similar in grade to the first road and was easily ridden while seated. At this point I was was riding with two other riders: Paul Curley and another rider with a Blue Steel Cyclery jersey. I remember racing against Paul back in the 90s (and getting hopelessly destroyed by him) but I didn’t realize who he was until after the race. We kept a really strong pace all the way up. The following two miles were a very gradual incline but seemed to be predominantly flat. I mentally named this sections the “Skyline Drive” since it traversed the length of the ridge. This section really favored gearing, and I had to really work to keep up with the other two riders. Again, my pathetic spinning skills were limiting me. The road was paved for about five miles, but it was very obviously not maintained well or even used much. I kept thinking that we would be getting back onto some real trail at any moment but the pavement just went on and on.
Eventually, we left the pavement behind for another very rocky descent. Here, I was able to regain some ground on the other riders. This was great, but it again deposited us onto another paved road. Thankfully, this was just a sort section – maybe half a mile in length. The remainder of the course was relatively flat with a lot of winding single-track sections. These sections were particularly nice in the way they wove in and out of some very tight and twisted trees. It was almost like riding in a jungle. I would have liked to have gone just a little bit faster in here, but it was very difficult to pass. I sat in and rested as much as I could while searching for an opportunity to pass, but it really never materialized. Shortly before the start/finish area it opened up a little, and we traded places a few times.
On the second lap, Paul Curley and I pulled away on the first climb and rode together for the rest of the race. On the long climb, we rode fast enough that we were leaning in while cornering on the switchbacks. I would guess that we were riding better than 10mph on the way up. On the Skyline Drive, we took turns drafting one another. I tended to pull on the inclines, and he did the work on the rest. I took the lead once we hit the dirt and I was able to ride at my own pace. Paul was never far behind. Somewhere in here I passed my daughter, Emma, who was finishing up her race too.
Somewhere in the tight single-track, about a mile from the finish, I caught my inside foot on a rock while pedaling through a corner. I never saw the rock but I sure felt it. I immediately went down hard, plowing my elbows into the trail and smacking my chest down hard. It was one of those situations where I was sliding along on my elbows long enough to be aware that I was sliding on my skin and that it was going to hurt. It took me a few seconds to catch my breath and pull myself together enough to get back on the bike. By now, Paul had passed me. I got back on the bike and tried to regain some ground. My elbows and chest hurt but my real concern was my toe; it felt like I might have lifted the toenail. I’m a real baby about that kind of injury. Regardless, I was able to catch up to him before the finish but not with enough speed to pass. I finished the race in 1:46; Not bad for a 24 mi. race.
I finished in second for the single-speed class which was no surprise. I was around four minutes behind Pete MacLeod (again). At least I can say I worked for it. The end result of all this is that my overall placing for the EFTA point series didn’t change. Pete finished ahead of me in the series by at least a hundred points. Still, I have no complaints with a solid second place for the season. It’s been a lot of fun. Now I have to look at how I can improve for next season.
My daughter Emma had her first win of the EFTA series this weekend. Like me, she doesn’t do well with pavement but managed to keep up the effort to beat out the other girl in her race. Second place went to her friend Melena Jenks.