The last time I raced Hagerstown was three years ago. I remember distinctly because the week after the race my daughter was born, but in the hospital all the doctors and nurses were more concerned with my oozing skinless leg than my wife's 18 hours of labor. She's still pretty mad about it, actually.
It was turn 2 that did me in - the off-camber left-hander at the top of the hill. I was on the front and unweighted on the wrong line, losing all traction. All my fault, perfectly avoidable. Fortunately (for the rest of you) I was all by myself and didn't do damage to anyone else.
So this year at Hagerstown the turn had me spooked. I took a few practice laps through it and was puckered up so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up my ass, in two weeks you'd have a diamond. I asked my teammate Larry to lead me through it so I could find a line I was comfortable with but it didn't work. I knew I'd have to limp through it wussy-paced the whole race, and that I'd pay for it on the back stretch every time. That's exactly what happened, which is maddening because I'm a pretty fearless cornerer otherwise. This is the only turn in North America that has my number.
My role for the race was to be not stupid and hook up with Larry and Kyle near the end. Kyle was our designated dude for the finish and my job was to stay behind him and remain vigilant against a final K flyer, or look for an opportunistic wheel to follow in the sprint. I got a preme earlier in the race and then chased a Coppi guy for one later on but didn't get it. Both times I used my momentum to roll off the front and see if I could get away. And both times I learned within a lap that I'm pretty good at 22mph, really good at 35mph, but positively suck at 26mph. Rouling I don't do so much.
With a few to go I found Larry and Kyle and we got into formation near the front. Then that damn turn 2 on the last lap shows up and I lose Larry's wheel and about 5 lengths. Kyle was off his wheel then too, but at least Larry was on the outside where I could get to him. I burned a match with my nose in the wind on the back stretch to catch back onto Larry's wheel. When I got there I told him, "I'm here," unfortunately too out of breath to finish the sentence with "but wait a sec - I've got to catch my breath." Larry opened it up around the sweeper and gapped me again. But he was on the front now with about 300M to go so I closed it up and waited for my chance. The whole time Brigham was on my left, his nose in the wind for a good 200M before the sprint started. Dude is on another planet. Brigham jumped and I followed, moving into his slipstream. No way was I going to come around him. Flexman shot past me on the other side, followed by a couple others. I ended up 5th off a perfect leadout, mostly because of my fear of that damn turn (and in part because I'm older and slower than I used to be).
In the power file it's pretty easy to see where the premes / flyers were. My HR goes up (pink), power spikes (green) and my nose is in the wind (the blue bars are above the white line). Look also at the white line at the end - that's my speed, averaging 33mph for the final minute. Man can Larry give a leadout.
That was a month ago, and I haven't turned a pedal in anger since. Gears are turning, but not the pedals.