Written by Michael Green Monday, 03 October 2016 00:00
Every Labor Day weekend the city of Milford puts on a festival of races, one of which is, what is best described as a dirt crit. It's hard, fast, has varying terrain, and lasts about an hour - it's a perfect prelude to the upcoming 'cross season.
What made this year more complicated than years past is that five weeks prior I had dislocated and broken my left elbow. In fact, I had only been given clearance to ride on the roads five days prior. So, as I'd already prepaid, why not race?
I arrived with low expectations and set a goal of settling for the second group on the road and trying to animate the group as much as possible. To limit my speed and halt any ideas of racing for the win I turned up on race day on my singlespeed running a 42x16 gearing.
The gun started the race with a police escort through the village and onto the back dirt roads that made up roughly 80% of the track. On the blacktop, my speed was limited by my cadence and it wasn't long before I was ejected from the front pack. Having done the race many times before I knew that once we hit Main Street the pace slows with the first hill - the first of three steep climbs. I rode my own pace and as we crested the first climb it was "groupo compacto". Then the dirt. One rider jumped off the front and I wasn't chasing. I sat in roughly sixth wheel and noted a gap behind me. I pushed to the front, pulled a bit, and that was the separation for group two on the road.
Soon "Mount Agnes" rises from the dirt. Anyone already on their limit will "pop" here: a two step climb with loose gravel making for a frustrating few moments. Everyone tends to want to spin easily up the hill but with only one gear I pushed to the front again.
The group was now five with one hanging on. We headed south on Beaumont Road and the two mile false flat hits hard. We rotated well as a group and the speed "popped" another. Four remained.
A long downhill through town again had the highest speeds of the day. Geared out, I freewheeled off the back for a bit until the road flattened out. We took a corner fast and the rider in front of me went down. This was the only time that day that I thought about the consequences of re-breaking my elbow. Now there were three.
I wouldn't be able to sprint at the end so I needed to continue to push the pace. The weakest had fallen away and I pushed the pace on every incline. Sure enough, the big climb number 3 stretched the elastic a little for one of the others. The next slight rise snapped it. The remaining dirt was down hill and I couldn't separate myself from my partner. I lead into the final half mile when he sprinted around me. A little early I thought but the two second gap was all he needed to secure runner-up.
Not bad. Third place on my Kona Major Jake set up singlespeed. This was my first ride on my Schwalbe G-One's set up tubeless. These are nice. Importantly my elbow felt good, although taped up for support. Looks like those sweaty rides on the trainer may have paid off!
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