Circuit Race – The Green Mountain Terror
This course is kinda dumb. It starts mid-loop, goes up a hill, then downhill for like 20k to a sprint/finish line, then uphill (slowly and rolling until the last little bit) to a KOM (which is near the start). The feed zone is mid-climb which leads to unecessary complication. My main beef with the parcours is it’s essentially (for my fields) breakaway proof. From the KOM to the finish is miles of almost uninterrupted descent. I was scared for my life in the final KMs when the Green Mountain Stage Race included it two years ago, and, as the “Technical Guide” (damn race organizers joining the War on Christmas by renaming the Race Bible) points out, this time there’s no crossing the yellow line. Ever.
Arrived to an empty parking lot at like 7am (Sat & Sun race times for Cat 3: 0830 and 0840 respectively), visited the cleanest porta-potty I’ve ever seen, and exited to find a lot full of cars. No real reason to warm up with a 1.5 mile moderate controlled climb to start the racing, and besides, warming up on Rte. 100 is illegal. That doesn’t stop anyone, and while the officials can’t get enough helmet and yellow line penalties in, no one is fined/deducted for it. Inexplicably, I am like the first rider at staging. They did call ups (which they didn’t do last year, probably because I was in the Top 10) and Mr. Jon Awerbuch was late. Race starts, and it’s 10mph pace car action, regarless of the grade. Real f-ing dumb, considering 10 is a muscular uphill clip for some, and death slow on the flats/descents.
Finally things get rolling and we shoot down the hill. I miss the first sprint becuase for the first lap, I was still skiddish about shoving my wheel in where it needed to go. Pace was good through the sprint, but things toned down after some aborted break attempts. So some dude with “Go Vegan” written on his backside starts hammering and weaving right up until three k to go for the KOM. Maybe he was trying for it, but he just lead out everyone else. Being well positioned, and not inclined to passive riding, I found myself right up at the nose of the field with 1000m to go. I laid off an early move, and was clawing back up to two leaders at 500m, thinking “I could take this if they don’t jump at 500m”. Of course, they did jump at 500m, so I just sat up and ate a goo. I’d kept HR between 185-190 for about 3k, but still lacked that overdrive.
Riding back into the valley, things got positively Fred. Much slower this time, and lots of bottle dropping. I dropped a goo for the first time ever, but since it’s a 72 mile race (my longest ride all year), I packed like 20. As the sprint drew closer, I moved up for a better view and to at least get used to the speed, jostling and yelling of a Cat 3 sprint. At 1km, I found myself 10th or so, with a pretty obvious alley along inside of a sweeping left, right up to the front of the field. I gave it some stick and by 500m I was in the top 6. NEBC did a great leadout, but an NCC/UVM guy had inflitrated the train. He launched the sprint just as I was thinking it was getting to be that time, and while he and the intended NEBC rider jockeyed for first, I gapped the other chumps for third. We all had a fat pause to sit up in after the line.
This result was kind of a surprise, so I went into sit-on and sprint mode. Missed the next KOM, but found getting over the hill a bit tougher this time around, probably because I had gone so hard in Lap 1. Still, no real risk of getting dropped, except by yet another bottle that got dropped in front of me. Some no-accounts “broke” (kind of rolled, actually) off the front and stole all the sprint points. I had entertained thoughts of bridging, but was sure the sprinters’ teams would bring it back. Guess not. After we crossed the line, consensus was made to take it up a notch, and the break was reeled back by the feed zone. I guess a lot of people wanted to feed 63mi in, because it was madness: guys dropping off the pace, guys slipping up the right, panicked shouts for bottles, bags going everywhere.
Immediately following the feed zone, some guy wanted to cut by me on the left. I was eyeing a gap after the rider ahead of him, and he was all like “I’m on your right”. I was like “I see you…” and then I stole the gap. He seemed miffed, which is moronic; all I did was confirm awareness of his presence. At any rate, if you want a wheel you generally don’t signal it by letting a gap form. I never heard from him again, so I figure that means I was battling well enough to keep up against a fervent KOM battle being waged ahead. I was suffering, which, after five months of not, was really hard to deal with. I just kept telling myself to keep pedaling, and I crossed in the first 30 or so guys. But somehow, ahead, a break had formed.
I rolled up to the front where there was the usual “Go Faster! No You Go Faster!” pulling war. Rider 253 was doing an outstanding job of blocking, pace-dropping and generally flummoxing everyone, and despite the fact that I got in front of him and dragged him back about 10 wheels on two seperate occasions, people kept bringing him right back up. The shouting was especially fervent, I gathered during all this, because a couple of GC threats were away in the move, which was moving and had actually shed a few riders. I could really care less, I suppose, but I was eager for another sprint, and Rudy would probably appreciate the help, so I took a few turns. We were closing in, but very slowly. Then the crashes began.
It started, apparently, with the vegan dude landing on his face and bawling like a child. Then some guy in a Carbon Soloist with Zipp 404s packed it in after a touch of bars going into a roller. My reaction (and the reaction of many others) was simply to shoot out into the left lane to avoid the carnage. This elicited much honking from the officials, and made me glad the gestapo motorcyclist who’d ridden right through the field along the yellow line earlier was not there. It seemed like every few seconds, you’d see the teltale twitch of a tire rub pass like electricity through the pack, or hear spokes ping against quick-releases, followed by irritated shouting. I thought this was just a consequence of too easy a course and too tight an enclosure, but as I later learned, nearly half the field had missed the split!
All of this, plus the effort of 70 miles hard riding, really took the fight out of my legs. Rudy came by and asked me to pull a bit, but I was like “dude, I am cooked”. Somehow, it all came together in the final 200 meters, with spokes breaking and riders bouncing off each other and flying all over the place, yet everyone somehow managing to stay upright. I was no where near any of it, because that was the sort of “Everyone’s a Cipo” finish I’d hoped upgrading would eliminate. Guess not. I received 100 GC points for a pack finish, and having the whole road for the last 3k definitely would have improved things. (None of this was anywhere near as bad as the Men’s P/1/2 field, which got piled up on a VT State Cruiser and canceled its own race in protest).
NEXT: The day the softmen cried