Stafford Springs Criterium Category 3 Men's Race Report
written by Jay Robbins, Ride Studio Cafe Team Co-Captain
2013 has been an interesting year for the New England cyclist thanks to its weather. For the better part of the winter we sat indoors on our trainers watching it snow or rain. The spring didn’t seem to be a whole lot better. The weather has given New England cyclists plenty of opportunity to harden up.
This past weekend put the hardmen to the test. Many were up north for the Killington Stage Race; the Ride Studio cat3 team chose the Cyclonauts Criterium in Stafford Springs. Temperatures were in the low 40’s, wind was gusting at 25mph, and it rained non-stop for most of the day. Even being only an hour long, this was one of the coldest rides I’ve done this year.
The course is nearly completely flat. The only elevation at all comes from the banking on the oval track corners, and that’s “optional”. It’s a short 1km loop, exposed to the wind, and a chicane through the infield makes it a little bit technical.
Matt, Alex, and Jay partook in this year’s edition. It’s noteworthy that Alex was hit by a car on his bicycle last week. Then two days later he was victim to a low-speed crossing of the wheels, resulting in a broken hand (5th Metacarpal). He has road rash on both sides of his body. He molded a custom cast so he could ride his bicycle and still be able to shift. He watched the forecast go from good, to bad, to absolutely horrible, and still had the heart to line up for a technical crit in freezing rain. Some guys never say die.
About 20 of us took the line, but it was hard to say exactly how many since a) racers showed up at the last possible second and b) many people didn’t finish.
There were a flury of early attacks, quite possibly because going hard meant you were going to be warmer. On about lap 4 of 40, Matt hooked up with GLV’s Dominic Caiazzo and the two quickly established a gap of about 15 or 20 seconds. By lap 8 it was pretty clear that this break was a serious threat; several bridge attempts had come and gone with no success. Expowheelmen and Jeff Weaver (Devil’s Gear) were among those trying the hardest.
Shortly later Brian Fuller (Comp Edge) slipped away in a solo bridge attempt of his own. He’d won something like 6 races already this season and my teammates had mentioned before the race how strong he’d ridden at Blue Hills. So, when he slipped away, I was dismayed to be out of position and unable to sit on his wheel for the free ride. After maybe two or three laps, he connected with Matt and Dominic and the break was up to 3.
With Brian’s added horsepower in the break and the field behind falling apart, it was pretty clear that this break wouldn’t be caught. Ciaron Mangan (CCB) tried to encourage others to chase and it worked for a little while, but it wasn’t enough.
With about 5 laps to go the 3-man break lapped the field. Lapping the field makes for complicated race tactics when teammates are in play. Brian had no teammates and Dominic had 1 teammate. Unfortunately Alex’s hand was too sensitive for the stiff cracks in the pavement and he had to withdrawl. So, Matt also had 1 teammate (me).
After reconnecting with the field, Brian made the first move riding off the front solo. The GLV and RSC domestiques (myself included) were responsible for bringing him back. GLV initiated the chase and I finished it off.
When Matt lapped the field, my thinking had been that he would want a leadout for the finish and I was entirely prepared to provide this. Matt had other plans. Immediately after we caught Brian’s solo attempt he said to me “GO HARD NOW.”
I was confused and pretty gassed from chasing Brian down. I looked at Matt and said something like “HUH WHAT?”. He repeated his order. I didn’t understand at the time, at all, but I was dedicated to playing the role of domestique the best I could so I emptied my tank for about a minute (or one lap).
When I couldn’t go any more I pulled off and realized there were only 5 of us left, including the 3 from the original break and Ciaron. I was shocked when only 4 other people came around. Then it dawned on me that Matt must’ve sensed everyone was on the edge and hoped that an attack would drop his other breakaway companions. He later confirmed that this was the case and that he had no confidence in winning a sprint. He was also having some traction issues on the slick turns.
Unfortunately, Matt was correct about his sprint and had to settle for 3rd on the line. I was unable to provide him any more help with a leadout having spent my last bit of energy leading up to that. Still, 3rd place puts us on the podium which is a great result. 5th place was also a fanstastic consolation prize for playing a support role.
Fuller went on to win his 7th race of the season.
I had signed up for the p123 race immediately following our race but chose to skip it. After riding around in a skinsuit with no base layer for an hour, a few pints of beer sounded a heck of a lot better than a few more frozen laps.