Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Berkshire Classic

We love to ride in the Berkshire Mountains, so we were excited when we heard about the plans for this inaugural event. The Berkshire Classic is the only USA stop on the UCI World CyclingTour.  The UWCT is the international professional racing association's nod to the amateur cyclist. "We want the amateur cyclist who is devoted to the sport to have a taste of high level racing, and ultimately race for a World Championship title. I can't say we were shooting for anything but a fine day of riding, but we should have known better.

Nick invited us to stay at his place in Becket.  He was doing the ride with Jan, who was excited to do her first 80mi ride.  Ed and Jodee were doing the ride to celebrate their 27th anniversary, and ended up staying at the elegant Cranwell Resort where the festivities began on Saturday evening. I was volunteering for a kid's bike event that morning, so Victor set off to ride toward Becket and I planned to pick him up somewhere along the way.  I got a late start, picked up Meg and headed north.  By the time we found Victor on the side of the road applying his second tube patch, he was almost in Great Barrington and had done over 100 miles.  But, we were not really planning on racing anyway. I had done a lot of training that week and was pretty tired going into the weekend, so we thought we would just take it easy. At least, that was the plan. 

The cocktail party check in on the veranda was really grand.  We nibbled hors dourves and sipped fizzy drinks in the evening sun, looking up at the mountains. Eric Zabel, former pro racer, was present to lend some flair.  WCC friends Randy Wolf and Mike Allan arrived and soon we had our own little party going on.  This was followed by a lovely dinner at a fine little Italian restaurant in Lenox. We all loaded up with tasty pasta and good company, looking forward to the next day.  By morning, I was excited, but still didn't think I would race it.  Victor and I took only one water bottle and no food, so that ensured we would have to stop. 

Then, as we lined up to start, a euphoric feeling came over me.  There I was, surrounded by friends, some of them wearing the same outfit as me, all about to do one of the things we love most.
Mike and Victor at the start

So, away we raced.  We had lined up early, and were already pretty far out in front.  Victor, Meg, Mike Allan and I took off at a good clip, keeping up with Zabel and the other leaders until the first killer hill.  Meg left us to climb ahead, and we formed a fast chase group, along with some very strong Raffa team riders. Mike had been doing lots of hill training, so he was going strong.  Victor was tired.  I felt pretty good, so I found wheels to pull us back to the group, forming a rotating paceline doing 30mph for many miles. It was great riding and working together- like we were all members of some great pack of beasts thundering across the landscape.

The finish line
Then, reality hit.  One bottle of water and no food was not going to get us to the finish.  At mile 60, we had to let our express train go and veer off to a rest stop to refuel.  Victor ate two sandwiches and I had a cookie or two and stuffed some gels in my pocket for the road. Mike was right there with us as we took off again.  We worked together, passing many bonked riders along the way. We met up with another WCC friend, Mark Sandigurski and the four of us worked together to the end.  As the finish approached, I was surprised to find that I was the only one with anything left in the tank. So, I did what any good competitor would do- ruthlessly sprinted for the finish. 

With Ed and Jodee
Meg was first overall woman
Meg was there waiting with great news- she had won!  She was smart and packed food, so she didn't have to stop.  She even beat Ann Marie Miller, a Cat 1 seasoned champion.  We feasted on sandwiches, chicken, pasta and free beer while we waited for the others to come in.  It was so great to be on the podium with Jodee. Nick and Jan came in (turns out Jan was 3rd) and we all went back to the cabin to rehash the day and eat some more.  My Strava data claimed an Epic Suffer Score- at zone 4 for almost half the time- 83mi, 5700ft, 19.5 average.  As winners, Meg and I actually qualified to go to South Africa for the Final in August. Can you imagine?  What an experience that would be.  I wonder if we could get a sponsor...
Jodee and I were first and second in our age group 

No comments: