Events: Lime Rock Cycling Grand Prix
All photos courtesy of basetwelvephoto.com. They took some beautiful photos and captured the unique traits of a truly individualistic road course. Check the Base Twelve Photo website for information about the Lime Rock Cycling Grand Prix as well as other races in the northeast.
It was a proper announcement at the start of the Lime Rock Cycling Grand Prix to proclaim they were combining two races into one. The Pro-1-2 race was to be combined with the Cat3 group. Despite the combination, the Cat3s would be racing for their own glory while the Pro-1-2s would race themselves. Lime Rock Park, a racetrack in Connecticut known for endurance motorsport racing, was about to produce the equivalent of the GT class racing amongst the Le Mans Prototype series. There was the slight difference of the bike racing going the opposite direction of the racecars.
During my multiple hour drive to the racecourse from Bucks County, PA, I began to wonder how far back I was going into spring with my trek north. I left the land of budding trees and green grass to a landscape that lacked any sign of soon-to-be leaves and even some snow a bit farther north. The dashboard proclaimed it was 55 degrees outside but it felt much colder. With a considerable wind - a blusteriness which I hoped would magically blast up the hill - the day was going to be deceptively cold. I watched with concern as the temperature continued to drop every couple of minutes. I reflected on that stupid thought prior to leaving, “I won’t need my knee warmers!”
Read our content long enough and this concept of bike racing around motorsports tracks has occupied our fancy for a while. This was going to be the first experience on a motorsport track ever; Lime Rock Speedway could not have been a more inspirational first. The country-esque drives led to a skinny access road and a bridge that crosses the course's elevation change. Growing up watching motorsports I had no choice but to be in awe rolling over the wood decked bridge to access the infield and registration. I could hear the current race going up the hill under me. How remarkable this was.
Our race combination announcement came at the starting line, or Lime Rock’s pit lane. The headwind was blasting us and made it quite cold. It was too warm for leg warmers – or so I told myself – and too cold to forgo arm warmers, although one rider staged with bare arms. Here we were, the Le Mans Prototypes in their race; the GT class in a separate race. All were grouped together just like endurance cars scheduled to visit the track months from now. We were sent off and once beyond the pit wall the lead moto whistled the end of neutral rollout.
I think there was exploration going on considering the first lap was not explosive. The crunch up the hill established two things: we gauged how hard the climb was, and we realized we earned some hecklers on the bridge. Once atop the climb (West Bend) the fun began as we turned down a substantial decline on No Name Straight into the esses: first a left then a sweeping right into a sweeping left (Big Bend). It was quite the experience to see authentic racing marbles on the outside of turn one. The headwind blasted us immediately once we turned up Sam Posey Straight to complete lap one. I was feeling pretty good.
Once through the finish line the attacks started. Prior to the race a friend of the website, Jed, had raced the masters and stated to be on the lookout for any attacks near the hill and in the esses. He was right, so it was no surprise to see the line of riders snap to the outside of the turn into the climb then drive straight up it. I was there with the bunch as a second attack happened to form a second group. There were a scant group of leaders, a larger group of chase, and the rest of the field. I was confident with the chase group until the dreaded headwind unhitched me and I dropped back to the field. I was still riding with confidence as this course fit me nicely.
The lap cards had not yet been displayed. Because the race had been combined - with the Pro-1-2 race scheduled to go for seventy-five minutes and the Cat3 race to go for sixty minutes - the race was compromised to seventy minutes. I had set up my Garmin to display race time and found it ticking by relatively comfortably. The officials stated once they had finished the maths of lap times, they would display how many laps were remaining.
There I was riding with a fluctuating group of three and me. At one point it was four. We rotated through, and the chase group kept getting closer each lap. I had big plans to sit in for the moments after we made contact with the group again. That is, until the wind reared up again and snapped me away from the pace line. I had gotten overzealous in the esses with a pull and swung off into a frontal breeze. I couldn’t latch back onto the pace line. Undeterred I kept at it.
For a many laps I hammered alone. This is familiar territory for me. I’ve ridden Battenkill alone, I’ve found myself without company in the middle portions of the Hell of Hunterdon. For some reason I cannot seem to find a matching pace, yet here I was going as hard as I could. I had reasons to: I was catching the small group again. I found myself within ten feet of the back of the pace line. Ten feet! I knew if I didn’t make this gap I would lose all hope of a respectable finish and foster regret for days to come. That is exactly what happened. Though I put in an extra hard turn, the group continued their pace away from me into the headwind and up the hill. Even if I made contact, the climb would have undone me again.
The hecklers on the bridge were saying things such as, “Disc brakes on a road bike?” and, “Those bikes sure sound fast.” I knew there was pity when I came through alone for several laps and they didn’t say anything to me. Perhaps it was a combination of having to summit the hill alone and my isolation on the course that forced their abandonment of hurling comments my way. I was rather saddened by the easing of their heckles. I was looking forward to some comedy in all this.
Eventually the distance to overcome was too much and I rode the remainder of my race alone. I then made the stupid decision to pull off; unawares I was allowed to keep going even if I was about to be a lap down. Wouldn’t you know there were fewer than three laps remaining in the race? Perhaps I should have clarified whether it was a no-pull race. Regardless I went straight to the car to warm up.
The drive home was a bit of mixed emotions. I had quite a bit of gas still in the tank despite battling tough conditions. I was really pissed at myself for pulling off. All in all I was able to remind myself it was a Pro-1-2-3 field in the early season. Though the days of prototypes whipping around Lime Rock are long gone, the GTP and GT classes still frequent the track. As a matter of fact they will grace the five-turn course in July. Perhaps I’ll have a peak at proper race pace and try to heckle the Ford GT from the bridge. Something tells me they won’t have the same opportunity of receiving the comments as the cyclists did. I doubt I could recycle the material I heard yesterday anyway.