For the 4th year in a row, I spent my Memorial Day Weekend up in VT for the Killington Stage Race. I was racing in the Category 4/5 Masters (33 yrs. old +). The race is 3 stages over 3 days. Stage 1 is a 18 mile circuit with 2 laps (37 mile total), Stage 2 is a 60 mile Road Race with a summit finish at the K1 Gondola, and Stage 3 is a 10.5 mile Individual Time Trial, which is “VT Flat,” climbing over 400 ft. in those 10 miles. I had a “volumous” last 3 weeks logging many miles, and many feet of vertical between King of the Hill, Training Weekend, Weekly CBTTs, and a couple of crit races. A week before the race I was really starting to feel the fatigue, and was concerned as to whether or not I would be able to freshen up the legs in that final week of preparation. I took it pretty easy through the week, skipping Wednesday’s King of the Hill, and using Wednesday evening’s CBTT as my race paced session for the week to make sure the legs were ready to fire for the weekend. When Friday came, I could tell I was feeling good, and ready to race come the weekend.
Stage 1 – Circuit Race
The 18 mile circuit on Day 1 is fairly flat in VT terms. It starts with a long false flat down to Long Trail Brewery and then turns onto Rte. 100A for the start of the first KOM of the day. In terms of KOM this is a pretty easy Big Ring Climb with a total length of 10K. Unlike in years past, once we came to the end of the neutral roll out, the pace picked up dramatically. Almost instantly riders were attacking, but were quickly brought back to the field. The first 6 miles or so are difficult to attack because its slightly downhill, and the group is going really fast to begin with. At about mile 3, however, 1 guy attacked and seemed to quickly disappear in the distance. No one seemed to concerned about him, and he was allowed to go. We made the turn onto Rte. 100A to begin the climb, and he was still out of sight. He’s bound to tire out at some point…. The pace of the field was pretty quick going up the climb, but it felt really comfortable. This confirmed my feeling before the race that I was feeling really good. I was positioned in the top half of the field watching the KM markings click down on the side of the road and contemplating when to start moving up further. As we hit the 6km to go mark for the KOM, I moved to the right side of the pack and was going to start moving up. In years past this has been a good spot to be since the pavement is in really good shape…. Then I saw the 5km to go sign… but first… let’s rewind to 2016… on the first lap of Last Years Circuit Race we were coming up to the KOM, which is in the Calvin Coolidge Historic Site. I was sitting about 15th wheel when we took the turn with 200m to go. The rider in front of me swerved right yelling “HOLE!” I attempted to bunny hop over it clearing my front wheel, but not my back wheel. I flatted… got a wheel change from the SRAM Neutral Support, and rode solo the last 27 miles to the finish… Now back to 2017 and coming up the 5km to go sign. As we closed in on the sign, we were coming to a bridge. I could see at the start of the bridge, there was a pile of gravel or maybe even a hole, but wasn’t quite sure what it was. I started looking around to see if I could move left. Right was not an option since that was the guard rail, and left would prove to be difficult since there were a number of riders to my left. As we got closer, I could tell it was a hole, so I braced to try and hop it. The rider in front of me went straight through it, losing a lot of momentum and flatting. This resulted in a poor bunny hop attempt from me getting my front wheel over, but my back wheel going into the hole and hitting the far side pretty hard. I could hear what sounded like carbon cracking… but wasn’t sure what it came from. I then realized my tire was flat, so I pulled off the road to get a wheel. However, the SRAM neutral support vehicle was already helping the guy who flatted in front of me. So I had a chance to take my wheel off and walk back to the car. While I was waiting, I realized the crack came from my wheel. NO BUENO!!! After getting the wheel, I got back on my bike and started to ride hard hoping to catch others that may have been spit out the back of the main group. About 100m up there was a 3rd guy on the side of the road waiting for a wheel. This one pot hole apparently claimed many wheels throughout the day as I was told by the SRAM guy when I went back for my busted wheel. I was devastated that this happened for the 2nd year in a row, and even more that more than just a tire was claimed this year. But I powered on, passed a handful of dropped riders, and finished the stage losing approximately 12’ to the field (3 or 4 of those were spent waiting for a wheel). I had to regroup, and get ready for Day 2……
Stage 2 – Road Race
Stage 2 is the longest of the weekend at 61 miles, and it is the “mountain stage.” This is a challenging stage for me because I’m not a very good climber compared to the other racers in the field. But given my training this year, and trimming down a bit compared to prior years, I knew I had the ability to post a better result on this stage. The profile of this stage has 3 large climbs. The first is at the 3 mile mark, and the pace is usually quick but not blistering. We made it over that pretty easily. And then started the fast 22 miles to the first big climb of the day. We made the sharp right turn onto the climb, and I immediately started to move up through the field. I was able to pick up a couple of riders, and we worked together to pick up more riders forming the 2nd chase group over the next 4 miles of the climb. For me, I was flying up this climb, and I was able to see the front of the field for the majority of the climb. When we got down the hill and into the feed zone, we had lost just under 2’. Solid! We now had a group of 15 or so and were making our way back to Killington. We set up your standard pace line, and got to the final 10km for the final climb of the day. This climb up East Mountain Road is BRUTAL, and it was every man for himself. I fell off the back of the group, but managed to keep a steady pace up. Once to the top of the East Mtn. Road KOM, the road “rolls” per say for the next couple of miles, and then turns onto the Killington Access Road finishing at K1 Gondola. With road repairs, they changed the finish slightly and we turned onto Vale Road shortly after the Ramshead Lodge. This was still a challenging finish compared to prior years, but it was nice to be riding on brand new pavement, and spectators had an elevated vantage point to watch/cheer. I managed 42nd on the stage and moved up in GC to 48th out of 60, despite losing so much time the day before. I was very happy with this result!
Stage 3 – ITT – Race of Truth!
I went into this weekend eyeing the 1st and 3rd stages. The 1st stage because I was pretty confident I could be in the mix for the KOM since it favors stronger riders over smaller riders, and was hopeful for a solid result meaning Same Time Finish as the pure sprinters who were battling for the win. Secondly, to redeem my mishap in 2016 with a flat on the first KOM… which managed to repeat itself instead of redeem. And the 3rd Stage because I knew if I had a good ride, I might have a chance at a Top 5, or even Podium! After spending the afternoon Saturday getting my Trek Speed Concept ready removing accessories I didn’t need, and making sure everything was cleaned, lubed and ready to go, it was just up to me and my legs! Looking at past years results in my field, the time I had set in my head to finish the 10.5 mile course was 26 minutes! If I hit that mark, I was almost certain to podium on the stage, and maybe even win… I got a solid warm up in, and my legs were feeling really good. So I made my way from Long Trail Brewery up to the start area to stage myself in line per my starting time. There were 12 riders in my field going off ahead of me at 30” intervals, so I would have plenty of rabbits up ahead to chase when 9:11:00am hit. The rider in front of me was off, and I rolled up to the start line, got clipped in, and spent the next 25” breathing deep, and settling down my heart rate. Finally, the 5” countdown started… 5…4…3..2…1, and I was OFF!!! It wasn’t my most graceful roll out of the start tent, but regardless, I got up to speed pretty quickly. As always, I power through the first mile in just over 2’ and start to settle into my target power just below my FTP. At mile 1.2, I caught and passed the rider who left 30” ahead… at mile 2.5, I catch another rider. I make a check of my power, and see I’m right where I want to be. By mile 5, I catch a 3rd rider, and this is where the stage has a couple of “bumps” in the road. I wouldn’t call them climbs, but they still take a good effort to get over. I pass the 3rd rider I’ve caught and jump out of the saddle powering over the first “bump.” I use the quick descent as a chance to recover, and then power over the next bump. I’m now past the midway point of the bike, and am right around the 13’ mark…. AWESOME!!! The 2nd half of the course is a long straightaway on Rte. 4/100 and it is a place to put your head down and lay down power. I now increased my target wattage to Just over FTP, and before I knew it I was riding at a consistent 28-29mph. Shortly after, the 7k to go Sign showed up, and shortly after that the 5K to go. I now turned my mindset to Max Sustainable Effort and was pedaling as hard as I could. At 2K to go there’s a short, steep pitch before you take a right hand turn that winds into “Downtown” Killington (I think there’s about 3 buildings). I again jumped out of the saddle and powered up, took the right hand turn and took a quick second to recover while negotiating a downhill left turn. Looking at my Garmin, I knew 26’ was a reality, and sub 26’ was a strong possibility. FINALLY, the 500m banners were there, and I got up and sprinted crossing the line in 25’54”, with an avg. speed just shy of 25mph. I was now in the Hot Seat as the Virtual Stage Leader and waiting for the rest of the field to finish. As time went on, guys were coming by and saying there times. Mine seemed to be standing, but I knew there were some pretty fast guys still to come. When they finished, they held their cards pretty tightly and were showing poker faces. We’d be waiting for the results to be posted… and when they were, my HUGE PR of over 1.5 minutes wasn’t enough. I finished 8th on the stage, a mere 20” off the podium!!! Looking back at people’s splits, I had 1 of, if not, the fastest 2nd half of anyone in my field. I lost my time in the 1st half. It wasn’t my gracious roll out of the start tent that cost me a podium, but there’s a good chance it cost me 7th as the time difference was less than 1”. While I was disappointed I wasn’t higher up the result sheet, I was really happy with my performance after 2 days of hard, hot racing!
(elevation profile of Stage 3 Time Trial )
I know I say it every year, but this is such a great race and a great weekend!!! I still have a lot to learn when it comes to road racing, but I continue to see improvements and can’t wait for Memorial Day Weekend 2018!