Grant's Tomb P/1/2/3

As online registration for the Men’s Elite Race at Grant’s Tomb filled up with big teams and big names, my hopes for a high finish faded. The New York Elite teams were coming in force, our local friends at CCB were bringing strong guys, and QCW was coming up from Philly with a veritable army. Early season races are a roll of the dice.  You never know how your fitness stacks up before you get a number pinned on, and despite having some good results thus far this season, I knew that there would be plenty of competition to test our team.

Sam, AJ, and I were signed up to represent Green Line Velo. As proud as I am of our results, I continue to think of our bike club as a humble gaggle of disorganized college kids from Boston. So, you can understand my surprise when CRCA’s race preview picked us as a team to “attempt to shake things up.” Alright CRCA, challenge accepted.

The race started with a prime after the FIRST LAP. This is a guaranteed way to make the start of the race painful. Sam was positioned right near the front coming into the sprint, and gave a huge kick about two minutes into the race to take the first prime.  Sam quickly retreated to the back to recover, and I didn’t see him again until after the race.

Despite my expectation that an elite breakaway group would escape early, never to be seen again, this edition of Grant’s Tomb played out differently than in years past. Sure, the attacks came immediately and frequently. In fact, the entire race consisted of seemingly perfect breakaway groups forming with ample representation from all the big teams, but there was always one more team willing to bring the race back together. No one wanted to get on the front of the group and drive the break clear of the field. This process of attacks and regrouping continued unabated for 30+ laps.

I had the pleasure of racing with friends from my collegiate days at Tufts, Evan Cooper (BH/Comedy Central) and Glenn Ferreira (Metra 54). Both guys were racing super aggressively, and I knew Glenn was on fine form, having earned an impressive solo win the previous weekend. So, when Glenn attacked clear of the field with 10 laps to go, I did not hesitate to jump into his slipstream.

Will Dugan (CCB) was with us, and Mike Margarite (CRCA/Weather Channel) quickly joined us from the pack. I distinctly remember Will, a former pro, riding me off his wheel on his way to a collegiate road race victory last year, so I made a note to keep an eye on him.

The four of us worked well together to maintain a healthy gap on the field, but there were many teams who were surely sore about missing the move and chasing hard. I could imagine QCW, Mengoni, and Evan Murphy’s beard Foundation chasing us down as we nursed a paltry 12-second advantage. Somehow though, the gap seemed to stabilize.

I’m not sure that I ever thought the break would survive, but by being in the break, I ensured that Sam would get a free ride. Having a well-rested sprinter in the field was a comforting thought as the laps started to dwindle. Seven laps to go. Six. The gap hovered at 12-15 seconds - an advantage that I thought an earnestly chasing peloton could easily erase in 1-2 laps.

As we received the bell with one 1.3km lap to go, I stole a glance down the long finishing stretch. No chasing pack in sight. Sweet! Absent a catastrophic event or an enormous chase from the field, one of the four of us was going to win. I found myself perfectly positioned heading into the final 180-degree turn leading into the long drag uphill to the finish line.

Long finishing stretches can be very tricky, as the line often appears closer than it is. Will Dugan, a climber more than a sprinter, went for the long game and initiated the hostilities from about 400m out. While Glenn and Mike hesitated, I immediately went to Will’s rear wheel. With a quick glance back, I saw that we had opened a small gap to Glenn and Mike. I let Will tow me a little closer to the finish line, but as he began to fade, I sensed Glenn and Mike closing.

It was go time. I launched my sprint.

Cole Wins!

I thought they’d come by me before I got up to speed, but before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line. First. I managed to maintain a small enough margin to grab my first Elite level win!

Meanwhile in the pack, AJ neutralized a late attack from fellow New Englander Alex Cox (CCB) so that Sam could easily win the field sprint for 5th place.

Results like this don’t happen on their own, and having a team work together, react as a single unit, and play our cards for the best possible outcome is more rewarding than any individual win.This has certainly been an auspicious start to the season for Green Line Velo with 4 wins by early March. We look forward to carrying our momentum to the New England races in April.