This Stage 4 was unusual. Generally, at the end of stage races, I am all panicked to do (and hopefully, win) something before the race ends. Not at this particular Green Mountain Stage Race. I was all relaxed at breakfast, sipping orange juice and spooning down Matt Rossman’s health-food brand Oat Sqaures. Got to the start, where the officials had fined me 20 dollars for not signing in on Sunday. I paid the fine, signed in, and then went over to Alan Atwood for my KOM jersey, at which point he gave me a sprint jersey. I’m sure he explained at some point why I got the maillot vert, but thinking about it on the drive home, there were 3 riders tied with 5 points in the points competition: the guy who wore green on Sunday, the race leader, and me. Now, wouldn’t it have made sense for the Race Leader to be in Yellow, me to be in Polka-Dotted Apples, and the other co-leader for the sprints to be in Green? I can’t figure it out; but then again, I guess that’s why I’m not a USCF official.
I warmed up well, but after about 100k of racing alone over the past two days, in pretty windy conditions, the pistons were understandably a bit gummy. And honestly, I can’t figure out that stupid course at all. I have nightmares where all the other crit courses on Earth have died, and I have to race this crit course over and over again, for the future of mankind. It starts up a hill, turns left onto a (narrow) pedestrian mall, keeps going up, makes another left 90Â° onto a narrow, slight downhill, then (suprise) makes a 90Â° right, onto a slight uphill, then another left, down a hill, another left, down a steeper, bumpier hill, one last left, then up a longish-straightaway back to the start. I’ve done it 3 times now, and never once been anywhere near the front.
I figured this time might be different, and after nearly missing staging, I got the second call up to the lineas the “points leader and KOM champion.” That was sweet. Unfortunately, I was in the wrong gear, so had to adjust it on the line like a novice (and still ended up in the wrong gear). They rolled out neutral style, and for that little bit of neutralness, I was right where I wanted to be. But there’s something in my brain that responds to that crazy jump off the line. In road races, it wears off because no one else is going, but in crits, when everyone is sprinting like mad to get up front, it really fires up the body. Coming off the line fast, and then stopping, really kills it. So when things got active again, I was all like “huh?” and promptly at the back. Racing was aggressive for the first 10 laps. Someone must have been attempting to pull off something wild, because I was fighting like mad at the back, just ahead of the point where riders were starting to fall off behind me. Kristina Eaton of Verizon Wireless kept telling me to move up, and I relayed this message to my legs, but they were having none of it.
At some point things slowed down, and I worked my way up to where I could see the front of the race. It’s kind of like a positive feedback cycle, when you start to move up in crits: You get up near the front, so you have less of a reaction delay when accelerations come, so you waste less energy, so its easier to get up closer to the front. Of course, it works both ways, but nevertheless, I was starting to feel ok, and maybe, out of respect for the green jersey I had no business wearing, was even contemplating a little flyer for the 5-laps to go prime (sprinting was out the question. My HR seemed to be maxing at around 180 and it was taking several seconds to get things spinning in 53-17, let alone 53-12.) But as I was coming up the homestretch, I ran over something, bump or debris, and could swear I felt that first no-so-gentle thud of pavement-against-rim-through tire that marked the beginning of a slowish flat. So being a courteous rider, I put up a hand and eased off, losing about 20 spots before realizing that things still felt ok.
The tire was not fine, by the way. By this AM it was fully flat, but that’s a dang slow leak, and would have got me DQ’d had I pitted for it. Still, it cost me a bunch of spots, and made me super nervous about sliding out on the last corner. I dropped so far back that I had to close a gap at one point (with about 5 guys clinging on behind me). By 5 laps to go, though, everyone still in the group was happy to still be there, so the pace, other than the tactical weaving and jumping at the front, was relaxed. The officals were very kind in determining s.t., and so I finished with 100 GC points, bringing by total to 143 GC points, placing me securly in the middle of nowhere.
When it came time for awards, I got shafted. Atwood only called up the Top 3 GC riders, and then left. No stage winners, no KOM, no sweet photo op for Cosmo. I ate lunch, and then returned to the podium later, where Alan Atwood was like “Rifflemacher [the GC winner] won everything.” Right. This same man, who had initially written on the sign-in that I was to get the KOM jersey, who had promised that I would get the KOM jersey at the awards presentation, who had called me to the line as the KOM Champion, was now trying to stiff me? Not cool. He began trying to explain that some riders get to “babysit” the jerseys for show if the true leader has another jersey on, but fortunately, I had already picked up my prize money ($50 cash), and showed him the envelope with my name on it. This confused him severely, and forced him to check the results, leading to sweet, sweet vindication, and a nice apple-dotted jersey.
So that’s my 2005 GMSR. After a strong Boulder and an awful Fitchburg, it went pretty freakin’ good. The Stage 1 crash was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, as it forced me to make the big move for KOM on Stage 2. Even then, it took a lucky finish order at both the Hot Spot Sprint and the top of Midd Gap for me to come out with all the swag I came out with. But that’s bike racing, I guess, and I’ve been on the unlucky side plenty of times before. Now to eat fried chicken and Dairy Queen, build a ‘cross bike, get a job, have grandkids, show them a dusty old pair of impossibly undersized bike jerseys and tell them all about how, back in aught-5, I broke away all alone into a ferocious headwind to claim my tiny piece of Cat 4/5 A glory.