Yes, I realize there have been no race reports since April. That’s because I haven’t raced since then, due a wide variety of factors. But hey, did Valverde need “racing” to come in second at Worlds last year? Nope. So peak performance on no racing should be a piece of cake at something as comparatively easy as the Green Mountain Stage Race, despite the fact that I’ve done one Cat 3 race since my upgrade last fall, right? We shall see…
Stage One: The Hillclimb Formerly Known as a Prologue
Story here begins Thursday at noon when I get free Sox tickets for the 7:05pm game. That scratches any packing plans for the evening. So it’s a rush Friday work/pack/pick up Kevin Wolfson/travel scenario, punctuated by slow mass transit service, holiday traffic and the occasional emergency pee stop (sorry Kevin). Long story short, arrive at race site approx. 30 minutes late, T-minus 1:30 to race start. No big deal, though, as without throngs of wormy little Cat 4s cramming the tent, registration is a breeze. Course is the same as always, 8.1 miles, 5 easy, 3 hard, roughly 2,000 of elevation gain.
Two options for warm-up on site – stupid little loop road, big hill road. Surprisingly large numbers of people on loop road, including a few familiar faces who say I look thin. I think many people (mostly from Dartmouth) remember cyclist Cosmo as this 180lb yeast-ridden behemoth (interestingly, I look back at myself cycling just a hair over 160 with a haematocrit as high as mother nature can provide). Matt Pech (looking less emaciated) and Rudy (Jon Awerbuch) (who is always training these days) are in my field. I tool about on the loop road until T-minus-30 then ride up the hill for a bit to get the heart up. Report to start very late as per usual and steal good spot. Some guy rides by in a car and shouts “go Rudy!” so loudly the USCF offial interrupts her rule rundown to turn and look.
The start is slow and controlled, and I make a point of punishing Pech for lining up behind me (I told him not to) by taking a long time to clip in. It’s a decidedly neutral rollout, and I move “up” (still like 30th wheel) easily enough. Somehow there is a crash like 2 minutes into the race. There’s talk of stopping, but no one does, and given the light pace, I’m sure everyone caught back on. Doesn’t say much for the Cat 3 bikehandling skills, though. Finally, we hit Rte. 17 and the race goes active – definitely a change from the clusterhumping wind-avoidance of last year. There’s people burning matches on the front, no doubt, but it wasn’t (as the pro field) strung out single file.
I’m hanging in ok, HR 170, but I’m really skiddish about having riders on all three sides of me, probably just due to rust. Even so, I only lose a spot or two before the “real climb” begins. Some duffer surges predictably at the first 5%+ pitch (about .5 miles before the Mad River parking lot) and everyone goes with it, regardless of whether they can sustain it for three more miles or three more seconds. I’m a bit delayed in this, since my shifting is a bit fussy. (The “service” I received on Wednesday included lengthening a brake housing with recycled derailuer housing, among other unacceptabilities. I won’t name the shop, but suffice to say, if I’d wanted a half-assed job, I would have done it myself). I finally sort things out with a little barrel adjuster action (again, problematic, since the DB wrench crossed my cables under the downtube).
The trick for the non-flyweights on this course is to not blow up. The real climb doesn’t start until the vicious double-turn at Mad River. I let some chump drag me back through the stragglers ’til then, before sliding around him to plow my own furrow, hopping from draft to draft in a sea of combusting and self-destructing riders. I’m holding the HR up around 185 no problem, but I can’t really red line it for more than 5 or 6 seconds. That’s probably lack of racing. At 100m to go, I approximated a sprint to test the jets, which felt ok. Bit of a gap behind, so I eased up and rolled accross in 37th, netting me 14 GC points. Not to shabby, all things considered. Plus I ran into Luke Krisch and drank some of his beer on the way down. Good times, and a nice way to re-enter racing after a few months off. Rudy was third, and Matt Pech was despondant because he lost to Rudy.
UP NEXT: “The Terror” Returns