Monday, April 11, 2011

Clarence-Rockland Classic: How to get Rendalled

Photo by Cam Cam

Battenkill and the Almonte Roubaix were carrots all winter for Jim, Jamie and me. I don't think I rode the trainer once without thinking about these races for at least a moment. With the poor riding weather through March, preparation for the kickoff in New York did not quite match 2010. Nevertheless, I was ready to go. Unfortunately, circumstances shifted for both Jamie and Jim, and both were forced to cancel the Battenkill plan and refocus on Clarence-Rockland. Fortunately, Jamie and I rode the course the previous weekend, and Jim had raced it in 2010. I was happy to spend the weekend with my family and still get to race. We'll hit Battenkill in 2012.

After a long winter, and a cold beginning to spring, consensus in the parking lot Sunday morning was that we deserved the mild weather and absence of precipitation. We'd start in the dry for certain, with a slim chance that it would start to rain late in the race. 85 or so kilometers of gravel and pavement to come, launching at a very agreeable 10am.

Launched by the town's Mayor, we were off at a reasonable pace, headed for the two climbs that come about 5k into the route. No one was interested in riding away just yet, so the pace was fine up these. Turning onto coarser gravel, we had our first taste of how dicey things would become. Staying up front and out of trouble was the best approach; Rob and Rodd were right there churning away.

Imad opted to ride away early on, and was joined by one or two. We didn't want to chase him down, as it was still early, and I personally was a little reticent about the wind. As is so often the case, the pace felt easy, as nobody wanted to do much work on the front. The tide turned as we rolled through a winding gravel section about 35k in. Being an open field, the whole Rendall team was present in the bunch. WIth their strength and numbers, it was certain that they'd start making moves; the question was when.  Casey Roth, Derrick St. John, and Aaron Fillion began taking turns attacking. Neil, Rob and I would chase them down, then the other would go. It was a methodical rotation of attacks we had no choice but to follow. The were wearing us down, and we knew it. 

A crash occurred right off my left elbow as Connor (I think) overlapped Aaron Fillion's wheel. I held firm as the rider toppled in my direction, but he went down and some carnage followed. Aaron was moving to the left, as one of his team-mates was 30 meters up, and another bridging. I picked my way through a few riders to follow Aaron, recognizing he was going, and this was the move that was going to stick. Plowing through soggy dirt, Aaron hit the gas, and I followed. But I just could not get his wheel. He opened a gap, then pulled himself up to the other two Rendalls, along with Warren McDonald. I held the gap, with nary a reinforcement on my wheel, for a couple minutes. Then I was done, and I knew I'd just lost my chance to contest the race at the front. Unless we could generate some team-work to drag them back. 

Regrouping, Neil and Rob were ready to chase. We started rotating through, with about 25 trailing. Duncan Beard got into the rotation, as did Evan McNeely. Once Evan got revved up he was a juggernaught, too strong for the rest of us. I tried to recruit others to do work, particularly those who had no team-mates ahead. I guess they either figured there was no chance of catching, or they had faith in us pulling it off, because they were not willing to pull. On it went. Eventually, we decided to ramp it up and try to break off the riders we were dragging around, which led to attacks and counters from some of the guys who were obviously feeling pretty good. 

Rob, Neil and I held tight and found ourselves turning the corner of the last paved section before the final climb sooner than I expected. We'd reeled in a few from the breaks ahead, and could tell that the final three or so were to far to catch, so this was it, the final group. Rolling into the base of the final climb I didn't know what to expect, from either my legs or the others, so I just kept it in the 50 tooth and churned up, legs protesting. A few came around, but we formed a group of about 10 at the top and continued on at a good clip. Martin Zollinger was off my elbow, and I knew he'd have a strong finish. We worked to Neil, Marty and I pushed the pace heading into the final two descents, and I took the lead position into the drop into the final kilometer. From here I knew I'd want to grab a wheel, and managed to get third or fourth as others came around. The sprint opened up a little early, and I had enough of my wits firing to wait. After three went I opened it up, head down. Alas, it was about 20 meters too early, and I was forced to sit before the line, which allowed a few to come around (I'd love to see this on video to compare against my memory, as its so foggy). Rob wound up right beside me without me even knowing it! So, it was a bit of a botch job with the sprint, but we managed 9th and 10th, which is nothing to be sad about amidst a strong field. 

Further back, Jim finished with some very strong riders, capping his best road race to date. Further on rolled in Rodd and Jamie, Rodd having fallen victim to the crash I spoke of. From there it was Andy and Anna, both of whom flatted, Anna twice! She took a wheel from the truck the first time, then borrowed one from Marc Boudreau, who'd broken his frame, later on. Nice sportsmanship Marc! Anna had to slog away alone for much of the race, but never considered quitting. That's a victory in itself. She didn't think about it, she just did it. Chapeau.

Two Steelwool's in the top 10. Beauty. The Truffle Pig was awesome. 
Classic leg shot.
Up front, Aaron took the win for the second year in a row, and Tricia Spooner captured the women's victory despite a flat. Emily Flynn took home the Junior Women's win, and Karl Hoppner took the Junior Men's title. Congratulations to all! RESULTS

So overall, the Classic was great. The course was marked well, the roads were in appropriate shape, and the traffic was controlled perfectly. A bit of food afterwards was welcome, and it was refreshing to see prizes for the mid pack finishers in each category. Great event Rendall's, thanks!


rob.parniak said...

Agreed -- great event Rendalls! The control of the roads was great, food afterward, a large building for pre race shelter. Well done and thank you.

Madmountainmike said...

Looks like I missed a good one while getting nailed by Trooper Huff in Cortlandville NY.....

Great writeup Matt !