Our Elite rider Nate Ryan gives his thoughts on his impressive second place at the notoriously difficult Brumbles Bikes Kermesse last weekend.
This year, Brumble Bikes Kermesse moved from the flat, windy course to a much hillier course with almost 5,000 feet of climbing in 50 miles. The main climb was broken up into 3 smaller ones, all fairly unique. The first one was around seven minutes long and pretty gradual which is a nice warm-up for the last two. Next is a 3 minute climb and is much steeper. This one was probably the biggest factor in the race. Finally, a one minute long, super steep climb capped off a deceivingly hard course.
The race started off fast, with everyone eager to throw down at the front, but nobody was strong enough to create much of a gap. I told myself that I wouldn’t chase anything down unless it seemed threatening, which is hard to determine when everyone is fresh and it’s early in the season. For example, Torin from Sunapee Racing, who won the GMSR TT in a dominant fashion, looked strong as ever at the front chasing down every move. He later told me after the race that he got dropped near the finish and hasn’t been training that much over the winter. Other riders who weren’t a threat last season could’ve been secretly building fitness up in the basement ready to rip our legs off.
It was a bit of a gamble, but while guys were burning matches, I was saving my energy for the finish. Nothing much happened during the middle two laps except for one long solo breakaway and a brutal pass up the climb to bring him back. When we caught the guy, I was relieved that my plan to sit in was paying off, until I realized that I still couldn’t see the pace car. There was still one guy up the road with a lap remaining. Someone from said that he still had thirty seconds on us, and because we couldn’t see the pace car even on long straightaways, I had to believe it. I swallowed my pride after my plan had failed and thought to myself, “You have to be willing to lose in order to win”. There wasn’t much else I could do except give it my best shot on the final climb.
We turned onto the start of the first gradual climb where I found myself at the back of the field. While the pace was still controlled, I followed Fisher, a ButcherBox rider, all the way up the right side, squeezing past other riders and trying not to hit any tree branches. It was the best option because the wind was coming from the left and riders were getting disqualified all day for crossing the yellow line, so I didn’t want to risk that. When I finally got to the front, we crested the first hill and descended into the second, steeper climb. MRC set a hard pace on the front and I put my head down in pain, but when I looked up, we came flying past the solo rider going twice his speed. “Sweet,“ I thought, knowing we were racing for the win now.
By now everything was strung out and gaps opened everywhere. Sitting in third wheel ready to descend into the final hill, I panicked as the two riders in front sat up a bit and I anticipated the dreaded swarm. Thankfully, the guy on the front lit it up and started sprinting full gas all the way up to 45 mph down the hill. I hilariously tried to keep up with junior gearing and resorted to the infamous supertuck. I’m not proud of it, but it feels 100x faster, so that’s something, right? When we hit the base of the final climb, the two riders in front of me hesitated, giving me the opportunity to attack at full speed. I didn’t look back but I was sure I had built up a significant gap. “Oh my God, I’m gonna win! What do I even do if I win?” Thoughts like these went through my head as I tried to block out the pain in my legs while trying to not hyperventilate. Seeing the 200 meters to go sign, I sat down and pedaled as hard as I could to the line hoping to put my hands up in glory. At the last second, Tucker from MRC edged his front wheel in front of mine, making him the winner. Ouch. You’ve got to be willing to lose in order to win.
Even though I didn’t get that win, I was happy with the way the race played out, and I don’t think going earlier or later would’ve made a difference. Tucker was the stronger rider. With that result in the bank, I’m one step closer to joining my Cat. 3 teammates soon. Thanks to everyone who put on this race and the people on New England Devo who help me at the races, including my parents who are extremely supportive. I’m looking forward to next year’s edition!