Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Green Mountain Stage Race: Race Report

Hi friends and family:

My "A" race of season has come and gone over this labor day weekend. For the second year in a row Meredith, Gatsby and I ventured east to Waitsfield, Vermont for the 10th annual Green Mountain Stage Race. This is a 4 day stage race consisting of:

- Day 1: 8.8km Time Trail
- Day 2: 72 mile 3.5 lap circuit race with a 2.5 mile climb per lap
- Day 3: 70 Mile point to point Mountain stage with 3 passes of the Green Mountains finishing on top of App Gap
- Day 4: 40km Criterium in downtown Burlington, Vermont (PS: home of the band PHISH!)

My training going into the race was actually quite good. For the first time ever I didn't run for over a month and focused solely on riding my bike. As many know, I went out and watched Ironman Canada and did some seriously hard riding out there as my final tune up then came home, packed up the car, and hit the road. My power meter tests out in Penticton show significant improvement with a "career" high 4.9 W/kg for 20 minute effort. This is significant as stage 1 should take about 15 to 16 minutes to race and the higher W/kg is, the faster you are!

Last year I raced CAT2 and while competitive, I was clearly not going to win so I chose CAT3 this year noting that the Sound Solutions team from Toronto were also racing CAT3. These are a good bunch of guys so I figured I would check my ego at door and do CAT3. The rest of the Endurosport PFR Powerwatts team are in the 40+ category where I will be next year!

Stage 1: Time Trail - 2nd overall in 14:51!
I knew I was in good shape but honestly this was a shock! My time was 2 minutes faster than 2009 but the winds were favourable so I figured I was actually 1 minute faster. For the first time EVER I had a good TT warm up. 45 minutes on the trainer, 30 minutes rest, 10 minutes on the road with a few sprints, quick pee, then to the line. All made possible because the start times were ON TIME because the organizers are AMAZING here at GMSR!

Stage 2: 19th place safe and sound
This stage I was 5th in last year in the CAT2 and, at that time, was the hardest effort I ever put into a bike. This year I needed to be a little more cool about things given my overall position. On the final climb Victor in the Yellow Jersey surged stringing out the group and I bridged over, we nailed the descent causing some splits and as we turned right with about 10km's to go I came around him and called out an attack. We did a 2-up TT, caught the break of 2 riders and thought we might stay away but the peleton organized and shut us down about 5km's later. From there is was conserve time and make sure no time was lost.

Chris Wood from Sound Solutions, an excellent sprinter, nailed it taking the win! I celebrated like he was a team mate because the boys over on that crew are so straight up. A great group and Wood's dominate performance was sweet to watch. Ed Makurchuk took 5th as well from Sound Solutions so they had a good day!

Stage 3: Queen Stage - 10th but man oh man, what a day!
We started the day and it was 58 degrees with a downhill neutral start. Suffice to say, everyone was frozen by the time the race started. I was expecting attacks right from the gun but nothing really got going for awhile. I even had time to pull over to the road side, STOP, and pee! Some riders rolled off that were going for the sprint points (green jersey points) and to keep them close the speeds really picked up down the valley. Then we were neutralized as the 40+ riders in a break from the race that started after us rolled through. Cary Moretti from the Endurosport PFR Powerwatts was one of the 3! Here is where things got interesting! One rider in the break up the road was a guy from the Planet Placid bike team that I knew could win as he won Catskills. They didn't neutralize the break and they instantly got 4 minutes. Once the race was back on it was truly chess on wheels for about an hour and I knew, after we crested Middlebury Gap's 5km climb and the yellow jersey gapped me pretty easily that I would not stick with him on App Gap. I needed time going into the final show down so I pinned the descent to get back on and went to the front trying to encourage some attacks. Some went, but were caught and after a flurry of this I looked back to see yellow about 15 riders back so I jumped really hard and took rider 327, Eric from NYC, with me. We pinned it hard for a few minutes then looked back. NOBODY!

Decision time was made, we had 25 miles to go and it was going to be all out. We caught 4 riders of the 7 that were in the days break. One of them was Chris Wood from Sound Solutions and the 4 worked with us giving Eric and I the much needed recovery between pulls. We hit the days second climb, a 1Km steep pitch with a 2 minute gap back to the yellow jersey but the split feedback to the leading 3 up the road were sparse at best. The best I could garner was we closed it to 1:45 from 4 minutes by this point.

Eric and I rode tempo dropping the 4 riders. At the top we turn left then hit the DIRT ROAD descent! 2 of the 4 riders worked really hard to get back on to us in time for the ride through Bristol and over to Baby Gap, from there it is a few km's up hill at 7 to 14%, then some flat road up, slight descent, then to the 4km STEEP PITCHES of App Gap! We rode steady together and I took in 3 gels to fight off the hunger bonk I was feeling before we hit Baby Gap. We rode well together on Baby Gap and as we crested one of the steeper pitches there were spectators handing out coke! Perfect!!! Then I realized one of those spectators was MEREDITH! Awesome!! a can later I was feeling pretty fresh and ready to tackle App Gap proper. The motorcycle official told us we still had 2 minutes on yellow. If that was the case, I was racing for the yellow jersey on the 4kms of App Gap.

When we hit the climb I surged for 200M to see what the other 3 had and only Eric came with me. This boy was strong and quite a bit bigger than me. We chatted and agreed to ride our own tempo and most of our time together was side by side. We hit the switch backs and I glanced back with 2kms to go to see Yellow but still some 500M back. That is still quite a gap I thought and wondered would it possible to stay ahead for the 24 seconds I needed. I asked the official how far up the road the 3 riders were and he said a minute. So depending on who those 3 were, I was still fighting for yellow.

I dug deep but stayed smart; steady tempo. Then Victor and 2 other guys caught me with 750M to go, I got on the wheel of the 3rd rider and fought like hell. They rode off, I fought back, they rode off. Eric did the same with me....finally, the elastic snapped and I was done with 400M to go. More riders were coming, I had to fight, dig, dig, dig...almost there, 20% into a headwind are you kidding me???? DIG, DIG, DIG....finally I hit the line and then everything went black. I couldn't see, breath, like nothing ever before. 2 medics picked me up off my bike and carried me to the sidelines, putting a blanket over me and getting me some hot shots. It was cold up here and I couldn't breath.

10 minutes later the drama was over and I was bundling up to head back down the mountain to our B&B. Things got interesting as I hunger bonked so bad, that 300M from the house I had to get off my bike and take my last gel! I just couldn't make it any further!

Home Meredith put together a killer spread on for me and put me back right. Without a doubt that 25 mile break and the fight to try and get yellow was the hardest day EVER on 2 wheels.

Stage 4: 35 laps of 1.2km circuit in downtown Burlington
I saw Victor in the morning and he lost his yellow jersey by 1:20. He was going to attack to take it back and I said I would help! Problem was, when he went I was boxed in on a corner and couldn't latch onto his wheel. A lap later I attacked and gave everything but the gap increased so I shut it down knowing the 28 seconds I needed to get back on the overall podium were lost and Victor needed a miracle to get yellow back.

Miracle? Get this! Victor and 2 other riders buried themselves and lapped the field! Victor got 2nd on the stage and with the time bonuses easily took back his yellow jersey!

I stayed up right and safe and protected my 7th overall on General Classification.

GMSR is an amazing race, incredibly well organized and for the most part really safe. This said, 2 friends left with broken bones. Paulina Allen with a broken wrist and my team mate Andrew Stewart with a broken collar bone. In my CAT3 group there was a crash in stage 2 and the poor guy needed 30+ stitches across the bridge of his nose. I hope all heal well in the coming weeks.

I love bike racing but if there was a 5th stage, honestly, not sure I could do it! How riders do 3 weeks I will never know!!

Vive le bike-:)

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