When I got off the bike at the end of the Bear Mountain Classic, one thought ricocheted into my head and rattled around in the emptiness up there hollowed by post-race fatigue.
This race was harder than Battenkill.
I'm not sure it stands up to scrutiny but I sure did believe it at the time. I spent the last several miles cramping hard, struggling to close gaps. It was only a 56 mile race. I drank and ate plenty. What did this to me? Before the race I had assessed the course as an overgrown Prospect Park. No steep climbs, just one long shallow one. No devastating rollers. Some very fast sections, a few roundabouts and one 180-degree hairpin at the end of a very fast and very predictable descent. After the race I realized the problem was that there were a lot of strong riders and the course wasn't dramatic enough to shed them. The major climb was endless and the pace was steady and that was enough to pack a serious punch - especially done four times. I looked back at the top of the Tiorati several times and saw people struggling to stay on and the people at the front, driving the pace, knew full well that if they launched themselves into an tail-disintegrating attack they'd be hurting, maybe too much.
Maybe the race was too conservative even past the fairly casual first two laps. On the third lap I went to the front and launched some "Anybody want to have some fun?" attacks after the Tiorati, was roped in, patrolled the front, danced off again, came back, went off... going a little faster and harder than the Steady Eddies, but felt strong. Maybe I felt too strong, and pointlessly burned a few matches. Maybe everybody was saving it. William and I exchanged numerous eye-roll looks when we saw people hanging out at the front, coasting. One guy, second wheel, stood up to stretch at high speed, sending his bike backward and almost into my front wheel. Another entered a full tuck on a short leisurely downward-roller. With this kind of front it's no wonder that there were still thirty people in the race.
When we turned on to Lake Welch Drive for the last few miles, William went to the front and rode hard and everything got disheveled. I buried myself, just following the wheel in front of me, hurting to go around when some poor bait let a gap open. I wasn't going to get gapped. I tried to recover but I was all over the place and my muscles were all rocks and knots.
...oh, and there's the 200m sign. Gentle downhill. Time to start moving. Put my face in the wind - ow, wow. I sprinted, passed some people, was coming up fast on four people sprinting ahead of me, wove a bit trying to figure out where to slot in and pass them, threw my bike at the line and nipped one. I think. The results said 8th but this morning they said 9th. A few upgrade points, a top ten placing in a major road race.
I should be proud, except I can't for the life of me figure out why this race hurt so damn much.