L to R: David Hildebrand, Todd Bowden, and Jeremy Brazeal. Aetna-Expo riders take in the sights on their arrival to Killington Mountain Resort in Vermont. Still one snow-covered run open top to bottom!
Todd Bowden on days the Circuit and Road Race (Days 1 & 2)
Having raced KIllington last year and learned some key lessons, I was excited about the opportunity to throw down at the challenging 3 day stage race. Having taken the climbers jersey last year on day 1, only to lose it by melting down in spectacular fashion on the day 2 climb up the Killington access road, the plan was for me to focus on the sprinters jersey and winning day 1 with the support of my 3 team mates - Jeremy, Gary and Dave. Things did not go exactly as planned however, and a split in the race found Gary and I up front, and Dave (fresh off of knee surgery) and Jeremy blocking for us in the 2nd group. Gary rode out of his mind keeping attacks at bay and driving lead outs for the sprint points. 4th on the day and 3rd in sprint points was not bad but also not what we came for.
The only benefit of not leading the any of the classifications was that we were free to race our own races on day 2's long road stage. Dave rolled off the front early and was not seen again for 50 miles, allowing him to ride the steep middle climb and dirt road grind at his own pace. The rest of us were turned inside out as peleton split on the steep pitches, and for 15 minutes I chased with a small group to rejoin the front group, blasting down several twisty descents and trading pulls on the punchy climbs before finally catching the leaders. The lead group of 12 rode a relaxed pace to the base of Killington access road, the sight of my previous years undoing - however this year I rode much better and was able to finish a respectable 8th on the day - putting me at 6th overall on GC. With only the TT to go, the 2015 edition of KSR was proving to be a good race for me.
Gary Aspnes on the Time Trial (Day 3)
The race of truth is a personal test in the world of cycling. Time trials are the only races without drafting and where all racers start individually. At the end of the day, results are based on how much you can suffer and how fast you can go as a result. The team came in with multiple goals for this stage. Todd was sixth in general classification after the heavy climbing in stage 2 and was looking to keep his GC position or move up. Dave, Jeremy and I were looking to do the best times we could. For me, I wanted to redress getting dropped and losing time on stage 2 with a goal of getting on the podium on the stage focused my favorite discipline.
The first part of the course is a consistent uphill along the Ottauqhuechee River valley on US 4. Pacing is important since going too hard can put you in the red too early while to easy can lose you significant time. In an age of data, I chose to run without power and simply listened to my body, settling into just the start of a burn in the legs. By midway I had caught 2 riders and as I got into the false flat, I began to push more to catch 3 more in sight and push through the final little climb and the fast finish. By the little kicker up to the turn off in Killington, my legs and lungs were seriously burning. I had to focus to drive through the pain in the last mile to get the most of my race.
In the end, I left most everything out on the road and came in at 24:28, a solid ride for the course, but slower than three other riders on the day for fourth, just off podium. Todd was next for the team at 9th, holding his GC position and Dave and Jeremy came in 14th and 15th for a solid overall team showing. It was an excellent cap to a challenging and enjoyable weekend of stage racing in scenic Vermont with the team!