Featured Race Reports

Three Race Perspectives from the Green Mountain Stage Race

Jesse Walker’s report (Cat 2 field)

From the 2’s — or — how park races might not be enough race training for two 100+ mile stages with 14000 feet of climbing

Stage 1: Watts talk

At the house everyone was talking about aiming for a 400w average.  Sounded like a good number.  I got to 396.  But at 180 lbs it just didn’t matter.  35th on the day.

Stage 2: Staying with the group. A major achievement. 

A brief complaint: Should any of you happen to put on a 106 mile race with 6k of climbing please offer your riders neutral water support.

For whatever reason this did not happen on GMSR stage 2 this year.

Having very little training and too much weight, my goal was to stay with the pack.  I was able to do this.  Once the break went I offered absolutely no support to the chase.  There were no heroics on the climbs.  On the decent I tried to stay safe and out of the wind. I ate every 15m.  I drank every 10 or 15 like clock work.  This one was about survival.  In retrospect it is probably just a decent race strategy for all races.

Stage 3: If you dress right and are just trying to finish within the time cut it wasn’t a bad day. 

Race goals were to be within chasing distance of the group after Middlebury Gap and make an effort to get back on.  Fail.

As Fred alluded to this was a rainy one.  And just on the edge of cold.  I had the right gloves and the right shoe covers and that JL Velo rain cape worked like a charm.  Similar to the previous day I tried to sit in the entire day.  This fell apart on the first gap of the day:  Rochester.  I was quickly put at the back of the pack and struggled up to the hill on my own.  On the decent I used my skills honed after many efforts of scary deep tucking through traffic after the state line sprint.  Caught a few people and five of us rotate hard back to the group.  Wherein I noticed my rear wheel bobbing up and down.  I flagged the SRAM car down and got a new rear wheel.  Chased back on.  Made it to the bottom of Middlebury gap and watched the field go away.  I struggled up the hill.  I watched the leader of our race pull himself out of a ditch.   I scooped up a half dozen riders making their way to App Gap.  Eventually they moved on without me.  It was a lonely climb up App Gap.  No cars.  The occasional motorcycle looking for wayward racers.  Struggling to produce any pace that wasn’t recovery. My new race goal was to stay under 10m per km.  At the top I was no worse for wear.  A little cold. Pretty wet and a little tired.  Others were suffering much more than myself.  They were giving out Hershey bars and coke.  A large man in a brightly colored vest offered me a small piece of the bar.  I must have given him a look which said “more sir???” because he looked at me and with a straight face said “I need some of this too.  I have been working hard all day also.”  He walked off with the last 3/4 of a bar.  Apparently I was only about 30m off the leader.  So you know — Success!

Stage 4:  If all crits were preceeded by 200 miles of riding, I would probably be a pretty good crit racer.

I was sore in the morning and packing the car was a nightmare.  Driving to Burlington did not produce to many positive vibes in my legs.

After getting Merritt some lunch and changing a poopy diaper I hopped on the bike and went for a lovely warm up ride on Lake Champlain.  Suddenly the legs felt great.  The Crit went about as well as it could have.  I started mid pack and tried to pick of a rider each time up the hill.  Once I was on the front I tried to bridge to a solo leader off the front.   A couple of times a gap was formed but no one would work with me.  So I sat in and let others chase.  It all came together.  Than with 15laps to go the solo winner went off.  He got a 30s gap and mostly held on to it.  I tried to position myself for the field sprint.  With 4 to go, I found myself in 10th position.  I stayed there holding back for the sprint.  In retrospect I should have moved up to 4th.  Oh well.  For the final sprint I came around 5 guys but didn’t have enough pop to muster much else.  6th on the day.

 

Allen Carr’s report (Cat P/1 field)

Another race report. This one is about big watts and small results.

Stage 1 TT

I listened as we joked about 400 watts and figured I could hit that on an uphill time trial, but I would probably look for 380-390 given I would spend the second half in TT position. I ended up pacing about as well as I could have on the day. I kept it around 410 on the climb and then took my eyes off the computer and went all in for the final flat/downhill portion. There was a pretty heavy headwind on the second half and I was getting pushed around a ton. I made it to the finish and saw my power was 399 for 15+ minutes. I was expecting top 10 with the effort but ended up in the high 30s. I guess I need to work on getting more aero.

Stage 2

I’ve been spending most of the last two months focused on the first stage. 5 hours was probably the norm minus one big week leading up to the race. I was honestly just hoping to finish. I ended up feeling pretty good for most of the first of two laps. We hit the small dirt section and I knew the field would go nuts, split up and then come back together. I went hard at the start of the dirt to work my towards the front so I could see what was in front of me. We went up and hill and then started bombing downhill. I hit a super rough section just before we returned to the asphalt. This section pushed my chain off and I ended up having to get off the bike to put it back on. I lost about 30 seconds but the field was going pretty hard right when this was happening. I caught up to another dropped rider but the field was speeding away. I was pretty frustrated but we pushed on until we caught one more guy. I used the two dropped guys for recovery and kept on but was pretty resigned at this point. Magically we caught back up to the field after a long chase. I looked at the chase after the race and saw we averaged just under 28 mph for 18 min (373 w). The rest of the race was pretty laid back as two teams put riders on the front to try and bring back the break.

Stage 3

Crappy weather. I recommend a long sleeve skinsuit as a baselayer as I felt pretty comfortable while I was out there. I miss the cat 2 days where everyone would hangout until the climb and then hammer the climb and repeat over and over until the finish. We were strung out as riders spent the first 20 miles trying to get a break going. Things settled as we neared the sprint point. I hit the first climb (4mi @ 5%) near the back. I started to move up but lacked my usual pop. I watched a massive group ride away and settled into my own rhythm. I ended up losing close to a minute on the leaders. Again, a crazy average of 370 for 19 minutes but this was inflated because of all the solo riding I did. There were a bunch of times throughout the climb where you could have drafted and saved energy. I ended up forming a group with 10 guys and we caught the lead group of about 30-35 guys. I really really miss the cat 2s. Instead of taking it easy until the next climb, we stayed strung out for the next 20 miles as guys tried over and over to get a break going. A couple of us at the back were fighting just to hang on. I was nearing empty given my lack of training and eventually just gave up and decided to wait up for the next group as we turned towards Middlebury. The next group came and went and I started realizing I would never actually recover given the effort up until that point and decided to call it day at the feed zone after the second climb. DNF

 

Fred David’s report (Cat 3 field)

I literally figuratively bookended my weekend with reminders that regardless of upgrade points or what the electronic USAC license on my personal mobile device tells me, I’m a Cat 3 for life.

In between, there was a brief, bright (not literally… it was actually pretty dark and cloudy and rainy at the time) reminder of my potential to be an OK domestic amateur bicycle rider when I don’t self-sabotage.

The first bookend came in the start gate of the TT on Day 1. The kind USAC official grabbed my saddle and back wheel. I grabbed my brakes to clip in and balance myself. The countdown clock said it was time to start pedaling, the kind USAC official let go of me, I tried to pedal to no effect, and I promptly fell on my left side. Best guess is I never let go of the brakes, but the Zapruder film is inconclusive. I let out a G-D, picked up my bike, and got on with it as the kind USAC official reminded me that I had to pedal and I pondered exactly how many of my Cat 3 peers had witnessed my moment of derp. The clock said I left 7 seconds late. I actually did OK, not great, during the ride and ended up 11th out of 60/70 of us.

The second bookend came in the last day crit in Burlington. I was sitting 4th overall in GC. 3rd place was a Foundation guy I had passed late on App Gap the day before. He was less than 20 seconds up and I had fantasies that I would find a way to get those second back. 5th place was a Health Warrior guy that had won Day 2 and a bunch of other races this year. He was less than 20 seconds back and I wasn’t too confident that margin would hold if I just finished with the pack. But 6th place, etc. were over a minute back, so as long as I could finish on the lead lap, I was guaranteed a top 5 finish for the weekend.

But I quickly made all that moot. Despite starting on the front row, and clipping in and holding my position well at the start, I gradually sunk to the back of the pack, losing position each turn as my anxiousness at turning at high speed with riders around me had me braking through turns where no one that wants to finish on the lead lap would brake.  I can get away with that stuff in road races where the turns are several miles apart. But not in a crit where the turns are several yards apart. Dropped, pulled, out of the top 10.

But Sunday was fun.

The weather for the 65 mile (100+ miles for the Professional/Cat 1 and Cat 2 racers, God bless their souls) ride down to and over Middlebury Gap then up to the top of App Gap was a steady to hard rain with temps in the low 50s. Downright balmy compared to this year’s Bear Mountain. And on the climb up App Gap there were some intense 20+ mph gusts that probably had some of the more tired riders practicing track stands mid-climb.

No serious breaks went before Middlebury as the group was content to shiver in the rain together. I climbed up Middlebury at threshold, not wanting to push into the red since the field tends to regroup on the long descent after. Came over the top with the leaders, including Will, all in sight. Took my sweet time on the fast, curvy, slippery descent. 3rd place Foundation guy did his best 2016 Froome impression and attacked during that descent and got a giant gap. Most of us wouldn’t see him again.

That was good, though, because it inspired some of the riders, including defending GMSR Cat 3 champ and eventual 2017 winner John Jantz, to keep the pace high during the typically dull valley road ride to the day’s final climbs. I drank a lot of sugar water since I was struggling to fish out my gels in clunky gloves and learned that it’s pretty fun to pee on the bike when it’s raining so hard that the riders around you probably can’t tell what you’re doing.

We hit the short punchy climb, then the fun gravel / dropped water bottles descent, then a quick rise into the town of Bristol. From there it’s around 5 mainly flat miles before the Baby Gap and App Gap climbs begin. I wanted to attack here, like Chip and Dave Taylor did a couple years back, to get a gap before the climbs. Since the climbs are coming up and we didn’t have much in the way of organized teams, my theory was that the group would choose to “save [their] legs, brother” (actual quote from Jantz after chasing down a break last year) and not chase. But the group didn’t ease up after the rise into Bristol as I had expected, as they were still chasing the out-of-sight Foundation guy. As the remaining miles before the bottom of Baby ticked away, I was resigned to just doing a fitness test up App Gap and hoping I’d be able to out climb most of the group.

But then, maybe 3 miles before Baby, Jantz stopped pulling, the pace dropped, a hole to the front opened, and I soft-launched my delayed attack. No crazy watts. No violent, out-of-the-saddle stuff. Just quietly taking advantage of the field’s indifference / indecisiveness. A gap opened immediately. I glanced back and saw a sad/frustrated-looking Jantz unsure if he wanted to chase or bridge or do nothing, and I dug in – on the tops, elbows bent, head down, drafting the lead car whenever it drifted a little too close — to get as much time as I could while not frying my legs before the climbs.

I took the right-hand turn to start Baby. Peeked back and saw one rider in front of the follow car. It was Jantz. Figures. But I liked my chances of holding off the group better with him, so I eased to let him catch me (jk… I kept my pace right where it was and he caught me fairly quickly), and resolved to hold on to his wheel up the relatively flat Baby Gap and the descent down to the start of App Gap to maximize my time to the group before the start of the App Gap climb.

As we climbed Baby, we started getting time gaps on the long-lost Foundation guy in front of us. 1 minute. 52 seconds. 45 seconds. Then the wheel truck following him came into sight. Then the wheel truck pulled off and tucked in behind us. No time checks to the group, but I was all-in at this point, so it didn’t really matter. Jantz didn’t gripe about me sitting on his wheel during the Baby Gap climb. He asked me to help during the descents and short flat stretches between the climbs and I obliged and paid my fair share (NB one percenters).

At the foot of App Gap, we caught Foundation guy. Jantz set a high tempo at the bottom of the climb, and in my head I wished him adieu. The Foundation guy rode with him, and in my head I told him see you soon.

App Gap is 4km long. Average grade per Strava is 9%. And there are some 15-20% stretches, including in the last 500m. It takes around 15 minutes to climb if you’re in a hurry.

I didn’t want to fry myself at the bottom of the climb, especially since I wasn’t coming in fresh after working to establish a gap to the group, so I settled in at a tempo I was comfortable I could hold for the duration.

Jantz and Foundation guy drifted away. Then Foundation guy slowly drifted back. Caught him at 2k to go. He wasn’t giving up, though, and we rode together for the next 1k+ as we got buffeted by the winds and the rain. Behind us, a solo rider was working his way through the caravan and was closing in. Probably 30 seconds back, but at our speed, that doesn’t look very far.

At 500m to go, the road noticeably curves up. And when it did, I dropped the hammer for a drag race to the top. In the saddle, out of the saddle, I tried to squeeze whatever energy I had left out of my legs. Staring ahead, I saw 200m to go painted on the road. Started to look back only to hear a spectator (who must really, really love someone to stand there in that weather) tell me not to. She had a point, so I kept the focus forward. Now the road said 100m to go and for the first time I believed I was going to hold on to second. A last push to the line and I had it. Found out later that Foundation guy was 11 seconds back by the end.

Not a win, but I was still very happy. No podium shot because of the weather. They whisked us into a tent with a heater and an EMS that wrapped us in blankets and put chemical warmers under our armpits. 20 or 30 minutes of trying to get warm and watching other riders in various states of hypothermia later, I left the tent to brave the elements again and begin the half-hour ride back to the car.

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