I first did this race two years ago when it was re-introduced to the New England calendar. I was a brand new Cat 3 racer jumping into an Open Women's field. And I didn't like corners. Sounds like disaster in a crit to me - I ended up lapped TWICE by Lyne Bessette and my teammate, Rebecca. This year, all I wanted was to stay with the pack...
I knew the race was going to be fast - Lyne was going for win number 3, and Rebecca had decided being second two years in a row wasn't enough. Nicole Friedman (another former Olympian) was also on the start line in addition to the fast NEBC Elite team and many other strong racers from the local scene. Deep breaths, and sure enough, it was rockets from go. It took me a few laps to finally get comfortable with the corners and the pace, but I was still hanging in (although Mike scared the pants off me early when he yelled, "You've gotta move up! You're gonna get pulled!" - important note - I was about 10 feet off the back of the pack...).
As I got more comfortable, I decided to go up the road with about 5 laps to go. I pulled for a lap, and was able to get back into the pack. I crossed the line in 17th place - WITH THE PACK! Goal accomplished - I hung in to the finish without any gapping or lapping! Woohoo! And even better - it was a team win (#7 for Rebecca!).
Then it was time for the big race - the P1/2/3 men. Two years ago, Mike won the 4/5 race here. Last year he did well in the P1/2/3 race, and he was hoping to do well again this year. The pace was furious with big names dominating the front of the field. While 100 men started only 59 finished the race, including Mike (an awesome 37th).
Gran Prix of Beverly
Thursday took us to Beverly for an entirely different type of race. Walking the course early, I could tell this was going to be tough. Soon after the start/finish was a 110 degree right hand corner, followed by a quick left and another right through a chicane. In some instances, the course went from a wide boulevard to a narrow side street. Adam Myerson later described the course as a paved 'cross race - it was definitely technical!
There were also far fewer women starting this race (17 vs. 27), although all the big names from the previous night's race were back for more. With my technical cornering skills not where they need to be, I had a race that can best be summarized as follows:
Drop, chase, catch; drop chase, catch; drop, chase, chase, chase, catch, attack; POP; drop, drop drop, chase, chase, chase, chase, chase, chase, pulled with 2 laps to go
I got so angry with myself part way through the race that I blew through the pack, burnt all my matches at once, and then was dropped for good - yeah, that was not so smart. Apparently, though, I have a "too stupid to stop" gene, so kept on plugging, hoping that I could hold off from getting lapped as long as possible. The effort was full on, but with just 2 laps left, I was caught. Bill, the chief referee, had to violently blow his whistle to get my attention, since I still had my head down and was still moving at 22+ mph! I was disappointed that I got dropped, but in the end, I am proud of myself for sticking it out as long as I did.
Again, the good news was a team win - #8 for Rebecca (did I mention that girl is on fire?).
The men lined up for their race, and the technical course took its toll on most of the field. Out of 77 starters, only 32 ended up finishing the race - the remainder being pulled or just not finishing. Mike said that as hard as Wednesday's race was, Thursday was harder. I'm glad that he thought so, too ;)
The best part of this race, to me, was the enthusiasm of the town and the spectators. There were people having parties on their front lawns. All the shop windows sported posters for the event. Restaurants set up makeshift patio areas for serving food and drinks. And no matter HOW far off the back I was, people were constantly cheering and supporting the effort. Almost makes me want to go back and do it again!