Saturday, September 09, 2006

2006 Green Mountain Stage Race

Here is my account of the 2006 Green Mountain Stage Race.

Thursday August 31, 2006: The long drive.
I started the drive to the state of Vermont for an exciting four days of racing the Green Mt. Stage Race. I left around 2pm for the 4.5hr drive to Waitsfield, Vt. I was staying in a house with Terry, Keith, their 2 kids, Terry’s Mom & Dad, DD, Amy, Kevin, Heidi, and Missy. I was sharing a room with Kevin who is from Virginia and goes to Virginia Tech. It was a long drive since I was by myself. With only one stop on the side of the road for a bathroom break I made pretty good time. I kept myself busy by trying to find a radio station to listen to, which there were few to choose from. I was the first to arrive and after stopping to buy some food and grab a sandwich from a local pizza place I hung out at the house and waited for everyone to arrive. The Virginia crew was next to arrive with Terry and Keith arriving sometime in the late night hours while I was trying to sleep and rest up for the next day.

Friday September 1, 2006: Day 1, Prologue.
I woke up fairly early since I’m so used to getting up at 5:30am every morning. No one else was up yet they were all sleeping well into the morning. The race wasn’t until 2:30pm so I had plenty of time to get the bike ready and fuel up. I arrived to the race early so that I could get a good warm up in. I ended up warming up for about 30min and headed to the start line around 25 minutes before the actually start. My field had 94 racers in it and I new that all but a select 20 of them are climbers so I wanted to be in the front row at the start. If I was not in the front then I would have to waste a lot of energy trying to maneuver around them while climbing. The first few miles were neutral and we all stayed together with a few guys trying to reposition themselves and stirring up the field a bit. As the race started no-one really wanted to attack and I was right at the front, sometimes in the wind but mostly trying to draft as much as possible. Just when we were supposed to race a guy in the front had dropped his chain and almost took out the entire pack. I found out later that the neutral support couldn’t help him and he actually bent his chain. He rode, walked, pushed his bike all the way back to the bike shop in town and got a new chain. He then went back out and finished the race just so he could race the next day. Now doesn’t that suck? Back to the race, after a mile or so the pace picked up and riders started to fall off. Once we hit the climb there were a few short micro attacks but they all were swallowed up very fast. Once we hit 3k to go I was feeling pretty good. My legs were a little tired but overall I was looking good. We had a group of 30 or so all staying together. Once we hit 2k the pace really picked up and I was breathing really hard and my heart rate was spiking. I was able to hang on for a little while longer but then a few gaps opened up and I just maintained my pace and kept myself going without blowing up. A few guys did ride off in front but I kept a steady rhythm and pushed my way to the finish. At 1k to go I was really hurting and was hoping it was almost over. The 500m to go sign took forever to arrive and once I finished I could barely breathe or stand up. I collapsed onto my handle bars and tried not to fall over. I finished the day 13th out of 93 finishers. 1 did not finish the day.

Saturday September 2, 2006: Day 2, Circuit Race.
Today was an early morning seeing that my race was on of the first to go. It seems like the organizers like to torture the cat 4’s by having them start early every day. Anyways, the first few miles were neutral since we were starting on a hill and didn’t really have anywhere to warm up. I did do a few laps around the parking lot. We had 92 starters and I was somewhere in the middle of the pack for the first climb. As we climbed the pace was fairly neutral. There was a few guys trying to move up but for the most part people were content with were they were. As we descended the climb all of a sudden I saw a guy go off into the ditch and go over his handlebars. Don’t really know why but I found out afterwards that he had to chase for the rest of the race by himself. Doesn’t that suck? Been there, done that, and definitely don’t want to do that again. The pack stayed together for the first lap up till we hit the climb again where it started to split up and guys were falling off. I stayed with the front group of climbers and we crested the top with about 20 or so riders. However, by the time we hit the bottom and the flats the pack was all back together again. The second lap was pretty uneventful also other than one guy crashing by himself by running right into some cones that were placed on the center line of the road. The final time up the climb was easier than the last and a lot more racers stayed together. As we approached the finish line we still had a large pack of 65 riders and I was seeing in my mind a horrendous crash since the finish was a fast downhill sprint. I had two choices, either be on the left by the center line or on the right next to the guard rail. I choose the right hand side thinking that the left always gets bogged down and crazy. We only had half the road to sprint, which was just nuts, and I managed to move up on the right. With 200k to go everyone started sprinting hard and I went as fast as I could. I was spinning out my 53x12. I really needed an 11. I ended up 25th out of 87 finishers. I guess 5 didn’t finish. I was really happy that I finished the race in the pack unhurt since last year I was involved in a bad crash and had to chase the entire race.

Sunday September 3, 2006: Day 3, Road Race.
Saturday night we must have checked out the weather channel 20 times to see if it was going to rain or not. The weather man gave us a 50% chance. Not good odds. As I woke up I could hear the rain. It was going to be one miserable day. It was another early morning start with everyone on the road by 9:45am. My start was at 9:05. As I packed my truck and got my gear ready the temperature was around 50 deg and it was raining. Once I arrived I went into the lodge, checked out yesterday’s results and signed my name for the day’s race. I then went back to my truck and just sat there waiting for my start while it was pouring out. No reason to warm up in the rain and get even colder. I was very glad that I picked up one of the rain jackets that peak performance had. It was well worth it and kept me somewhat dry. My race had 87 starters and I went to the line just before the start which put me at the back of the pack. I didn’t mind it that much being back there since we had a 3.5 mile neutral start then a 25 miles of rolling terrain before the first climb would start. The first 25 miles were rather fast and we pushed it a few times on the hills where a few riders on the back were falling off. It was raining pretty hard during this time and I was eating a lot of dirt. Not much fun. Once we hit the feed zone on the bottom of Middlebury Gap the rain had stopped and it was just misting and very humid. As we started to climb I was still in the back of the pack and knew I was going to have to work hard to get myself near the front. As the road got steeper I really stepped it up a bit and passed most of the pack. I caught up to the front group and we rode to the top. We had a group of 10 or so that stayed together and climbed rather well. We weren’t going ballistic up the climb but did maintain a steady pace. There were at least three riders that were ahead of our group when we crested. I figured we would catch them on the way down but we didn’t and we didn’t really see them for the rest of the race. On the decent it wasn’t raining anymore which I was very happy for but the roads were still a little wet and slippery. I took my time and went down the road slowly to be sure I made all the sharp corners. A bunch of guys did catch back on to our group while we descended. One guy said that he was with a bunch of guys who on the first sharp corner when right off into the woods. I was glad I wasn’t with them. At the bottom of the climb we had a group of 20-30 riders who all joined up together. We had dropped over half of the original pack. The next few miles were tough on me. There was a pretty good head wind and the pace was very high. We were trying not to let the whole group come back together. It had worked but I was right at my limit for a few miles. Once we hit the dirt gravel section the pace slowed up a bit and from there on the pace was much more manageable. Before we got to baby gap I was able to take off my rain cover which was a huge ordeal. I had never tried to remove on while riding the bike before and defiantly not while racing in a pack. I went to the back of the pack and took my time and finally was able to remove it. It must have taken me 10min at least. The guy on the motorcycle was laughing at me the whole time. It then took me forever to stick it into the small pocket of the Linscott jersey. I later realized that I had some cliff bars in that pocket and that’s why I was having such a hard time. My Bad. Baby gap came next and we climbed it at a steady pace. Nothing killer. I felt really good at this point and had plenty of energy left. We did drop 10 or so riders on the climb so we were down to 20 for the decent off of baby gap. As we descended a horrible, unexpected event happened. As we crested we noticed that the wind was really picking up and once we were over the climb it was really windy. The wind was probably 20-30 mph with 50mph gusts. Not good for a group of riders on bikes. Well as we descended at 45 mph one of the 50mph gusts blew at us from the side and a rider was pushed from the right hand side of the road to the center line in the matter of a second. He took out another guy instantly and then 8 or so rode right into the pile up. I had nowhere to go. I ended up going left over the center line of the road and lost control and ended up going off the pavement into the ditch and into gravel. Luckily the gravel was firm and I was able to somehow, thank the gods, stay up right and maneuver myself back onto pavement. I don’t know how I managed it but I was able to ride around the pile up and stay upright. I was picturing in my mind that I was going down again and there goes my collar bone. It was exactly the same thing that happened at Sunapee. I guess two of the riders involved were really injured bad and had to be taken to the hospital. In order for me to catch back up I had to sprint a little ways. I was able to catch up with the guys who did make it through and now we only had 10-15 with us for the final climb up Appalachian Gap. At this point the wind was treacherous and my nerves were sky rocking. I just wanted to finish and get this day over with. This elite group of climbers made our way up the switch back hill. When we had a tail wind it was really nice but when we hit the cross wind and head wind we all were just trying to stay upright and move forward up the climb. We did pass a lot of master’s riders on the way up. The pace was hard but manageable. I felt really good and no one had really attacked yet. With 1k to go there was a small attack and I was able to counter and hang in there with 5 other riders. Once we hit 5k to go we could start to see the finish and then the pain started. The climb hit the 20% grade and with the wind it was all that you could do to just keep yourself going forward. The mist and fog got thicker the higher you got and by the time you got to the finish it was pretty much raining with 50mph winds. I downshifted twice and sprinted to the line for the finish. Once I finished I had to be carried off of the road and then I just collapsed with pain. At this point I was cold and wet and exhausted. I just wanted to go back to the house and hit the bed. My truck was still at the ski lodge which was down the Mt and then back up the access road. Many miles away from the finish. With the wind how it was and after going through that accident already I did not want to descend back down App. Gap to get to my truck. Luckily I found Karl and he let me sit in his truck until Kendra finished. I was so grateful and happy just to get out of the weather and not have to descend again down the treacherous hill. The officials actually cancelled the podium finishes because of the weather and just told everyone to go home. I ended up 8th on the day out of 79 finishers. 1 was DQ’d and 7 did not finish. With an 8th place finish I was able to move up in the overall GC to 8th. I was going to get a call up at the Burlington Crit the next day. I was so excited. After a good long shower and cleaning the bike a bunch of the Linscotter’s and Kevin (Virginia Tech guy) headed out to a local pub for some food. After filling the stomachs we all hit the sack to get some recovery for another day of racing.

Monday September 4, 2006: Day 4, Criterium.
Today was the final day of racing for the GMSR. My race was one of the first in the day and we had a very early start since it would take about an hour to get to Burlington from our rented house. Once the truck was packed with all of my crap I headed out. The weather was still sketchy with chances of showers. On route I did go through a couple of rain showers but as I made my way to Burlington the clouds got thinner and the sky looked better. Once I arrived the roads were still wet but were drying up rather quickly. I did not want to do the crit in the rain or on wet roads since there were a lot of painted crosswalks, manholes and brick pavers. My race had 71 starters and I got a sweet call up to the front line. They announced my name and the fact I was racing for Linscott Realty over the load speakers with a nice sized crowd there watching. This was the first time I have ever had this done and it was exciting. Once the race started all hell broke loose. I knew it was going to be fast and that’s why I brought my trainer to really get a good warm up in but I was unprepared for how much the day before took out of me and how fast the race was actually going to be. In order for me to keep my top 10 GC spot all I had to do was finish the race with the front pack. The first few laps I was right at my limit sprinting out of every corner, not being able to breath and sounding like a freight train. I was working so hard just to stay in contact. We were 71 races all single file. It was a sight to see. After a few laps though people started to feel the pain and gaps started to form. A really big one formed in front of me and I was unable to close it down. I was right at my max and had nothing left to make the break. I ended up pulling a group of 10 or so for a lot of laps. Every lap the front group would get farther and further away. There were a few crashes in the front group and we would pick up those riders. But no one really wanted to help me pull and I was left suffering the worst I have ever suffered. I ended up finishing with a group of 13 behind the front pack. I sprinted to the line and ended up 5th out of my group but 33rd overall. I didn’t even want to go look at the results fearing the worst. I was really upset that I was unable to finish with front group but I had a great weekend of racing and remembered all of the highlights. I ended up loosing my top 10 GC finish but did get 18th overall. I stuck around for most of the day watching the other great races that were going on. We had a lot of Linscott riders being called to the line which was really cool to see. One of the most exciting races was the 3/4 women’s race where Terri was battling it out with the GC leader. Terri had a great day and ended up winning the leaders jersey. It was so cool to see her standing on the podium in front of the huge crowd. After the race I ended up having Amy, our new Linscott racer, come home with me which was great so that I wouldn’t fall asleep on the long drive back to Maine. We did make one stop in Portsmouth at the Flat Bread Co. and had a very good pizza. After dropping Amy off in Portland I had to keep my windows down the rest of the way because I was just exhausted and it took all of my energy just to stay awake. I ended up getting home around 11:30pm and crashed. It was one long weekend of racing but well worth it. I have a lot of great memories and our team did some amazing things. Hopefully next year we can get even more Linscott racers to come.

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