What’s it like to be a doper? I think I can tell you. Not that I dope. I don’t (it costs too much). You could say I’m as clean as a the soap tray in a Mormon’s dishwasher. But after 2 month in Colorado, the air in Vermont for the 2005 Green Mountain Stage Race was nice and thick.
The prologue is 8.1 miles of pain from Waitsfield to the top of App Gap. Steep sections begin at after about 5 miles of false flat, into a decent headwind. Unlike last year, things were pretty quick from the gun. Some NHCC dude pulled like mad for a while. I was relaxed, chilling a few wheels down, safely in the group and out of the wind. This lasted for 3 or 4 miles, until the ECV train brought Ariel Herrman to the front. That was the sign to get serious (or as serious as I get, which isn’t very).
I barely noticed the first few steep pitches. I just tried to keep position 2 or 3 three wheels down, out of the wind and off the edges. I ignored the little surges, and stayed cool (and maybe even cracked a few well-recieved jokes. Ariel, my pick to win the stage (the guy has less business in Cat 4 than I do) was superelaxed, so I anticipated sh!t would not go down for some time. Some dude in a Davitamon-Lotto jersey was not convinced, and spun mad rpms at lat tÃªt de course. Matt Pech recognized this loony as the Tour of the Hilltowns winner, and so rode up next to him, lest he make any move. Pech did not finish so well (like only top 25. wah-wah) as a result of taking so much wind, but wants everyone to know that he put out mad watts.
As we hit the first serious pitch, just before a flat leading up the Mad River Glen parking lot, where I maxxed out and blew early last year, I was working hard but sustainably, around 170 bpm or so, using 39-24/27, maybe 70-80 rpm (no cadence monitor). Things got pushy around the double haripins after the parking lot, with a lanky dude on a Bianchi making a surge, and the group that had chased over the short flat catching back up and bunching us up. Some jackhole yelled furiously about coming by me on the right, took like 15 seconds to finally get by me, and then blew (figurative) chunks once he did. I didn’t get his number, but I’ll recognize him if I see him, and he’s going on the list.
Things really started to thin out after that. I was really pushing now, still between 24 and 27, rocking 184 bpm (my previous max was 183 from last weekends race (report forthcoming), panting like dog and hanging hard. The rest of the pack was doing likewise, most guys looking like they were working, but some harder than others. One dude was all over the place, so I told everyone to ride straight and like 6 dudes turned and pointed at him. Not more than a minute or two later, I pulled a real jackass move to work my way back the to front of the group. I pulled some acrobatic business, cutting one guy off, and nearly giving anothing a good whack, but avoided contact and apologized. I was complimented on my skills in response.
Good thing I moved up – at the next pitch, the real fireworks began, with a couple of 130 pounders going. I lost the leaders here around 12 dudes strung out, with me 20 feet behind with no intention to follow., and at hairs under 190, was glad to see them go. I just kept it steady, working on smooth cadence sitting in 27 teeth. at 500 to go, I was reeling in stragglers. One BRC rocked by me, but I let him go. No way I could match pace. I rounded the 300 meters corner wide, to keep off the steep stuff, but I had to stand. It hurt, pretty bad, but I felt I could keep it going for another minute or two.
Stragglers and late-comers were bunching up on my wheel, and one came by me with 250-200 meters to go. He looked like he was going, but slowed quickly. I sat back down and followed until 150 meters. Then, somehow, out of nowhere, I dropped the hammer. It felt like sprinting on flat ground, man, it was crazy. I looked back and saw 4 or 5 guys staring at the ground. No one had followed. SWEEET. Still, I didn’t trust the gap so I hammered right up to the end. Felt great (in a painful way) until I crossed the line. Then it hurt a way lot more then it ever has. Took me a while to get back where I could reason about what to do next. Probably because I rocked the ole’ ticker up to 209 bpm. I had no idea it could do that. Cruised back down to the parking lot with tons of self confidence and, with a little luck, a Top 10 finish.
I’ve gotta say, Greg Lemond, you’re right about it not getting easier. But man, it’s so much more fun to hurt when you’re going fast.