The course, Stage 1 of the 2005 Green Mountain Stage Race was new this year, and I wasn’t all that psyched about it. 72 miles is a long way, and things looked pretty freakin’ dull on the profile. Things unfolded pretty much the way I had expected (early break for KOM points, gruppo compatto for the first points sprint. What I didn’t count on was the pace being freakin’ high. It was like a ProTour race, two big teams away early, everyone else pulling, but no one wanted too go hard too early. When we hit 5k to KOM, people went bonkers. We were ripping up the hill at 15, 16 mph. It wasn’t steep or continuously up, but I was still like “whoa, were movin’. HR was 170ish, which is right around my lactate threshold.
What wasn’t cool was the decidedly large numbers of people who really suck at riding a bike hanging around the front. One dude, looked like junior, was hurling and weaving his body all over the friggin place just to get his gears over. It was one of those things that as soon as you saw him, you wanted to get the hell away from him. He nearly took a bunch of dudes down within the first 5k, and when he ended up next to me later on, I was like “Dude, stop. You can ride like that all you want, so long as you don’t do it anywhere near me.” Then he left. Awesome. In the Cat 4 field, I get respect.
I had no intention of contesting the KOM sprint, and so dropped back to 30th or so over the top, surging forward to the front on the descent. Three other non ECV riders (ECV and those apple/desntist dudes were away) and I got organized on the front and made short work of the break. After the got reeled, I started to feel pretty bad. Not sick or weak, but just not good. So I sagged back, cursed myself for pumping metal to bring back a group that was done for anyway, and was sad. Then I had a digusting Cola Buzz Clif shot and got my head back in the game for the Points Sprint. Only 3 spots deep, so I wasn’t busting my tail for it. Some turd rubbed skins with me hard (he must have been half-wheeling), but my hindquarters were planted on the saddle, so that wheel was going nowhere. I ended up way out to the left, and out of position, but there were some fast dudes fighting for it on the line.
Lap two started just the same as lap one, with Brett, the huge ECV guy surging ahead and sending the whole universe into a panic (because God forbid he get KOM points again…) Ariel and I had a good laugh about it until I somehow f-ed up and came around the corner at the bottom of the climb like 70 wheels down. I shot up the left side and parked myself around 10 wheels down. It was tough, but dang, I felt like Lance. Like pure aggression, the pain only making me stronger. People surged and fell back, but I stayed in and my heartrate was dropping. On an uphill. God, riding like this is amazing; I gotta get an altitude tent. At 5k, was like “I can totally grab this KOM,” and was slowly and carefullly picking my way to the testa della coursa. At one point, I was right in line, about 8 wheels down, going fast up a relatively flat bit, and suddenly some knob in a red jersey falls out of line to the left. No, not falls, LAUNCHES. I mean, he is just ejected.
The two dudes behind him get by on the right with an instinct swerve, but somewhere along the line, someone hit the brakes and I had to pull to the left. Which, with this red-clad dipstick flailing like an upended tortoise, simply wasnt happening. I got a foot out and down, trying to to get right, but then folks started plowing into me from behind and it was all over. Fortunately, all the fat kids had been dropped, so as 3 or 4 more riders/bikes piled it in on top of me, my biggest concern was “I wonder where my bike is going to?” not “I hope no one breaks my ribs.” People got up (pretty quickly as I recall), and at some point, someone’s big ring got extracted from my back/armpit (there’s a huge, nasty gouge there now – I guess I was too jazzed to notice then). A few folks were spazzing, cursing wildly, and some guy was doing his best to untangle his bike from mine. I gave him a hand, collected my bottles and was off. Unfortunately, one of my Ksyrium (Elite) spokes had busted loose, so Had to listen to pinging all the way in as it whacked the frame
I chased hard. Harder than I have ever chased before, and let’s remember that I used to be 2o pounds heavier and with a way fewer red blood cells. I’ve done some chasing in my day, believe me. Because the crash was so far forward, lots of good GC riders were down. The (formerly) 3rd placed GC rider was cussing a blue streak and chasing with me, and I was like ‘bro, take it easy, we’ll catch up.” But we didn’t catch up. Not even close. Apparently, the 2nd placed GC man took the KOM and carried his lead to the line, with ECV pulling like crackheads. I was blastin’ it, rocking 29, 30 mph and never even saw them. Keep in mind, I was down for 30, maybe 40 seconds. From what I hear, the second placed group (lead pack) only had 30 guys, so I shouldn’t drop TOO far on GC. Still, after climbing like I did in the prologue, I was understandably bummed. Tomorrow is another day, I guess, and I’ll have to make the most of it.
And, for the record, if you can’t hold it together well enough on the climbs (or anywhere else) to ride straight, don’t go to the front. Sit at the back will all the other wobblers and gargle lactic everytime someone attacks until you’re strong and smooth enough to ride past them alone against the wind (without knocking anyone over). Then you may take your deserved place at the tÃªt de course.