It is true, I have a race report to tell you about!! Civic holiday weekend for Ontario the Endurosport PFR Powerwatts team drove to the Catskills in upstate NY for a 3 day bike race.
First, the Catskills themselves were quite possibly some of the best roads I have raced on period. Smooth, undulating valley roads with gorgous trees abound. Once the organizers take you out of the valley though all hell breaks lose! 5 to 7km climbs that are like step ladders; steep then a flat respite, steep again. When I say steep, stage 2 had a 2 mile climb averaging 14% but the majority was actually 20 to 23% gradient. My power meter had my clocking a whopping 5MPH on the climb they call Devil's Kitchen. Click here for a link to the pros riding up this sucker, and notice Floyd Landis at about 1:30 into video, dropped by the leading half dozen!
Friday was a 4km prologue with average grade of 4%. Again, this was about staying steady because the climb had sections of 14% then some flats, then some kicks of 8%, then a flat then a big ring uphill sprint to finish. I was hoping for about a 7:45 time knowing a really good athlete did it in 7 flat last year. I clocked 7:53 and given I haven't raced anything in 7 weeks and had 3 weeks completely off of any activity on the front end of those 7weeks from my crash, I was actually quite happy. I was 14th in the Senior 3 men's field so I set a goal for two things:
- win a stage
- get into the top 10
Stage 1 - 80kms; 2 mountains; descending and flat finish
This stage had a hard first mountain top climb that covered 5kms with the steepest section at the top. I bridged to the front group with 3kms to go and sat about 8th wheel suffering like a wounded dog. Holding on, toping 350+watts I was praying the top was coming soon. With 1km to go the elastic got longer and then snapped. I was dropped for about 20 seconds from the leaders. As we crested there was some flat where I could open up my diesel engine for legs and try to bridge. I picked up riders one by one and we formed a group but it was unorganized and we didn't have enough fire power to get across. Ironically it was the knarly descending that I was dropping this group and 3 of us got a pretty good gap by the valley roads and gave it a go ourselves but the pack behind was getting larger as riders tagged on from behind. 3 riders against 15 is hard to beat. Eventually we gave up the ghost and I went to the back of the pack. I was now thinking of trying to grab a few seconds out of this the second group on the road as the leading group was putting time into us every pedal stroke. What was 20 seconds was now 1:45 and by the finish was a whopping 2:40! OUCH!
I attacked 5 of 6 times to try and gain 10 or 20 seconds but eventually stopped as the group was getting a little pissed off with me and a young buck from Peterbourgh James Bent who was really working well with me. We rolled across together a group of 15 or so 2:40 behind the winner.
Derek Hardinge from Lapdogs Cycle (Duke's cycle team and home to my great friend Lorne Anderson) had an amazing ride, getting in the early break and scooping all the King of the Mountain (KOM) points along the way. Even better, when he was caught he stayed on that group and kept his top 10 spot moving to 6th overall 10 seconds from the leader. Great ride for Derek and representing Canada at the front of this very competitive group.
Stage 2: EPIC 85km
This route was really amazing! We had a KOM right away and Derek scooped the top points. I tried to bridge thinking the top might be a place for a break but the peleton reeled me in with 300m to go. It was at that point I told myself the stage strategy for me has changed; sit in and do NOTHING until Devil's Kitchen. If I can stay with the front group I knew the finish chute really well and would attack on a riser about 4km from the finish. IF i was with the front group they might let me go because I had no threat to the overall podium after losing the 2:40 on stage 1.
We rolled through the valley and the break that eventually did form got 1:30 before we hit the climb. We turned right to start a 3km riser before the wall of pavement kicked to 23% from the word GO! It was at this turn the 20 year old yellow jersey leader crashed washing out on some sand. Everyone sat up and being the oldest guy there, and right behind the yellow jersey when he fell, I assured the group a steady pace is appropriate. I crossed the yellow line and looked back, he was still down. I went back to the front and said, "game on, he's down for awhile". From there a group of 3 went off the front. I bridged wanting to gain a few hundred metres lead before the wall. We hit the wall, I punched it a bit and promised myself to take it at my own pace.
The leaders came by on left and I stayed with them for 1km. Then the elastic got long and riders were passing me. I was dying, literally riding 5MPH doing everything I could to keep them in sight. When I saw the line that said 2KM to go for KOM I almost threw up....2 more KM's of this? WTF? This is not real! Then Gary from Ziggy's fell off the mountain to my left. He was in the race ahead (40+) that we caught. He was ok, stopped by the trees. GEEZUS, this is nuts! Then I saw what I thought was the top! NOPE, it was a hairpin turn to the right and more climbing!!! At this point I got angry and really started to speed up to 7MPH! Funny because it was here I caught a few riders I recognized from yesterday's break.
Finally it levelled off but there was still some rollers before we hit the top and the KOM. My diesel got rolling and I was flying by riders blown to pieces along the crest. I fought and fought to catch a group of 5 ahead. A few deep breaths, missed a few pulls in the group to get my act together and sucked back 1 more gel. I then went to the front and asked the stronger guys to help but I would do most the work. Our job? WE MUST GET THE FRONT GROUP BEFORE THIS DESCENT IS OVER!
It was an epic chase and as we turned left onto the main road about 4.5KM from the finish there was the front group! I couldn't believe it, my plan came back to me and I was ready. I went to the back of my group which had now grown to 8 and let them pull me to the front group and it was there I was going to attack.
We caught them right at the base of a roller and I WENT AS HARD AS I COULD. 750watts on my powertap later, I was redlined, turning squares over the top then opened up the diesel one more time. I gave everything I had and couldn't believe I was going to win the QUEEN STAGE! I looked back, they were coming! ONE MORE DIG and I WIN!
ARMS UP I CROSS THE LINE.....ah, one problem...that group I attacked? Yeah, they weren't the leaders!!!!!! There were 5 guys 40 seconds ahead of me that took 1 thru 5 on the stage. Yes, that's right, I raised my arms in shame for 6th. LOL! Classic cycling error and one the boys will rib me for at year end party time!
RESULTS FOUND HERE: I moved to 11th of the final general classification; Derek kept his 6th spot and his KOM Jersey. James from Peterborough came in 14th overall and for a 20 year old did a great ride too!
I highly recommend this race to all racers, it is so well organized and the roads are just amazing!
Onward to Green Mountain Stage Race labor day weekend!!!