Killington Stage Race
Killington Stage Race – 5.26 – 5.28
Now that Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone, it is time for my Annual Killington Stage Race Report. Why do I write one every year you ask? Well, because each race has been completely different from the previous years. This was my 5th time heading to VT for this race, and this was hands down my best performance. I owe this to the fact I not only created goals for the race, but accompanied these goals with a plan (typically in the past my goals have been too diversified with no game plan to accomplish). Unlike past years, I left much earlier in the day on Friday, got up to the house, and was able to get settled by dinner time. This allowed me the chance to put the legs up and get ready for a weekend of racing!
Stage 1: Circuit Race – 38 Miles:
For my category Stage 1 is 2 laps of an 18 mile circuit. This stage has been a thorn in my side for the last 2 years with mechanicals on the first lap both times. In 2016, I hit an unavoidable pothole 200m from the first KOM and flatted. In 2017, dejavu hitting another unavoidable pothole with 3K to the first KOM flatting, as well as smashing my rear wheel. In both cases, SRAM Neutral Support was right there to get me a wheel, but I unsuccessfully chased and would lose time both years. I was determined 2018 would be different! When racing began after the neutral rollout, the pace stayed tame down the fast net downhill section of Rte. 4. I was quite happy with this. My plan for the stage was to sit in and keep pace with the group trying to conserve energy. On the first lap, I wanted to have a go at the Intermediate sprint, as well as be in position to contend the finish line sprint. Our pace was quick, but very comfortable going to the first KOM at Calvin Coolidge. We made our way out of the site and back down onto route 100 with about 5K until the intermediate sprint. A couple of riders tried to attack but the group was always quick to respond and bring them back. As we closed into the Sprint, I moved up to the top 5 wheels, and was patient. As we hit the 500m mark, Max Grinberg from 545 Velo went for it. I was the only one in the front to react and jumped on his wheel. With 100m to go I came around his left and outsprinted him to the line for Max Points… I was PUMPED! This also put me in good position for the immediate descent that follows and I was able to coast down the hill without any riders around. The start of the 2nd lap was a repeat of the first all the way to the KOM. As we turned back on rte. 100 with about 7 miles to go the pace picked up and attacks ensued. A group of guys started to juggle for position as we headed back toward the intermediate sprint…. Only problem is our field didn’t have a sprint on lap 2 with the finish right up the road. I told myself to let them use their energy and watched as they all sprinted. The problem with this was they were all ahead of me going into the fast descent and a few of them were not very good at descending. As a result I got moved back in the group further than I wanted to be. As we made the turn with 1K to go back to the start/finish, I was able to move up to the front of the group, but I burned some matches. 500m to go and things started to get hectic. I got boxed in by a couple of guys and started losing ground to the front. With 100m to go, I finally found some space but it was too late to make up enough ground. I sprinted hard getting to the line in 13th, and the officials gave the top 25 or so the Same Time as the winner. Overall though, I was very happy with how I rode!
Stage 2: Road Race – 60 Miles:
This is a very difficult stage with 2 major climbs in the middle and at the finish. In the past I have struggled on this stage getting dropped on the first big climb and riding to the finish with a group that is merely trying to limit time loss. I didn’t want to let that happen today, but I also had to figure out if it was worth going after the intermediate sprint. The best I could do was tie for 1st, and the tie breaker is GC placing. However, this decision was made for me as a group of 6 broke away about 15 miles into the stage and stayed away through the sprint point at 24.5 miles. Of course, we caught them at mile 25 as we turned onto the middle climb, which was the 1st KOM of the day. I moved my way to the front of the field just before the turn. The climb starts off steep, and I slowly started to watch distance form between the leading groups wheels and my wheel. As the climb flattened out a bit, I put my head down and dragged myself back to the lead group. I was able to sit in and stay with them to the top of the climb (Victory! Not quite… but a personal one at least). We made our way down the backside, through the feed zone where Ali, her parents, and Winni were waiting with fresh bottles for me. The group weaved our way South on Rte. 12, up the gravel road to circumvent Woodstock, and up rte. 4 towards Killington to the final climb up East Mountain Road. I saw in and watched as the Leader did a LOT of work. His only teammate fell way back on the first climb, and everyone sat and watched as he pulled on the front. We finally reached the turn onto the final climb, and it immediately pitched up. I stayed with the group as long as I could, but the pace was too hard. I focused on efficient pedaling and keeping my cadence up. As I crossed the finish line I only lost 3’, and was 21st on the Stage, dropping me to 21st in GC. But with the ITT the next day, I knew I positioned myself to pick up some spots. I always enjoy this finish line, as it is usually lined with family members and friends from many of the riders competing and everyone is cheering for each person coming up the hill.
Ali had to work on Monday so we headed back to the house, packed her up and she was off to make the trek home (#nurselife). I proceeded to get my TT bike ready, pin my number on my skinsuit, and get the legs up for the rest of the night.
Stage 3: Individual Time Trial:
I have been waiting for this stage since the day I registered for the race. I spent some time in the spring adjusting my position on my Time Trial bike hoping to find any bit of free speed I could. The #trekbikes Speed Concept is so fast to begin with that any change to improve the rider’s (me) aerodynamics would be huge. I got up to the Long Trail Brewery (parking for the day) just over an hour before my start time at 9:26am and got the bike ready to go, kitted up and got out for my warm up. After 2 hard-ish days of racing, the legs weren’t very snappy, but as my warm up ensued they started to feel much better. I rolled up to the Staging Area, did 1 last check of my equipment and rolled into the start tent. I did some breathing exercises and waited to hear the beeps from the clock. 5…4…3…2…1 and I rolled out of the tent! I quickly got up to speed and settled into my aero position. I paced wisely with target power numbers in my mind for the first half of the TT. After 1 mile, I peered ahead and could see my 30” rider and 1’ rider and that I was gaining ground quickly. I passed my 1’ rider first, and a little further down the road caught my 30” rider immediately looking for my 90” rider. At the halfway point there are 2 “bumps” that are just big enough to stall your momentum. As I got to the first one I heard a gear change but it wasn’t mine. I looked behind and to my dismay, my 30” rider had jumped on my wheel after I passed him. Of course there were no officials around so he was not penalized, but I yelled at him to stop drafting and hit the gas. I passed under the Skyeship walking bridge and did a time check. I was well ahead of pace from the year before, and my target power was right where I wanted it. Now it was time to empty the tank. I charged up Rte. 4 and hit the final steep climb. I carried a lot of momentum into it and jumped on the pedals to crest the top and turn to head down to the finish line about 1500m away. I saw 500m to go and went as hard as I possibly could getting to the finish in 25:21, more than 30” faster than last year in what were definitely less favorable conditions. I knew I had a chance at podium, and potentially the stage win. A friend of mine in the field came across the line who I know is a very good Time Trialist. As suspected he got just under 25’, so it was time to wait. The results went up, and I got 3rd on the Stage! I also moved up 10 spots in GC to 11th!
In summary, I think I took a HUGE step forward with my Road Racing on Memorial Day weekend in Killington, VT. I went in with a game plan and I executed that plan. I also learned what I can do better when certain situations arise. And to top it off, I won a little bit of $$. It was great racing with Tom Schirmer, who was in my field, and chatting with Bill Shattuck at the final podiums on Monday. And of course its always enjoyable seeing the familiar faces from the NEBRA scene.