Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Green Mtn Stage Race Report : Going to School :

when a big 'ole bike race comes to town (GMSR), and you like racing bikes, it makes sense to race yer bike! but, i needed proof i knew how (to race road); at least a cat 4 license. i asked my regional usa cycling rep for a cat 3. denied. asked for a 4. approved. since i don't have any real road racing experience, figured the 4 made sense... and was hoping to really crush it! i won't lie, i wanted to win this freakin' race.

to help me out, my dad let me ride his BRAND new IF SSR road bike (he got to ride it for a most excellent century ride we did together the wknd before). the SSR is an amazing ride. the stainless steel is crazy light, insanely strong, is moderately priced, and looks crazy cool to boot. it readily absorbs road (and dirt road) vibration while staying stiff and snappy. one sweet ass ride! i got it fit by FitWerx and immediately felt like this bike had been made for me to reveal in and on.

prologue: ITT, warren, vt, 5.7m.
kinda nervous, been sick a bunch, haven't raced much or well past cpl months, wasn't sure if my legs even still functioned, it'd been sooo long since i'd had proof of fitness. but, the sweet mix of climbing and rollers route was on MY roads, a definite advantage. i think. warmed-up for an hour, then 15:30 secs later grinded across the finish, the final steep climb churning my breaths into deep ragged gasps, the taste of blood in my throat, it was all i had - and good enough for 6th overall, 30sec back from 1st. relief. not in 1st, but not too far back either...

stage 1: circuit race, hinesburg vt, 64m.
cloudy, 70, light wind, perfect for racin' bikes. my first true road stage, definitely needed to learn the ropes. quick. was loving it from the gun. started way in the back due to a last minute leak, but quickly moved fwd and went for first break of the day. it failed quick. i played around a bit, riding close to the front, pushing the climb. the sound of the wheels whizzing, the closeness of the riders was wicked, a lot different than a 100m mtnbike race! full of energy and excitement, the SSR whispering in my ears, i went for the sprint line at 500m (first lap) and was denied w/100m to go. little too far out to rock it alone. felt like i went to school on this stage, learned how it worked, how the field flowed around you, surging fwd early in the race, then stable as legs grew weary. w/5k to go, on a false-flat downhill road section the crashes began in earnest. cpl guys clipped wheels right in front of me at 25-30, not sure how i escaped the mayhem, but i did w/a skid and a hop. after that i stayed to the right and moved fwd, after which there were 3 more crashes. so, this is road racing, eh? guys simply weren't riding straight lines anymore. tired, figgity, nervous, anxious, all it takes is a few folks feeling this way to cause trouble. finished w/the group and up a place or two in the GC, buzzed i'd survived my first real race! it cost me $56 for a new tire, but it's better than a trip to the ER which a cpl guys got to enjoy.

stage 2: mad river road race, warren, vt, 75m.
a perfect sunny day, light breeze, hardly a cloud. i'd been looking fwd to riding this stage since moving to the valley. we kept the pace civilized throughout the day, a little push on Brandon Gap, but a mellow recovery allowed (most?) everyone to catch back on. at mile 35-40'ish i moved to the front to help "chase"-down a break, i don't know much about pacelines and a cpl guys got me squared away on what to do. 20m later when we hit the dirt of bristol notch i jumped back out front, wanting to stay safe, see the holes. then we waited for App Gap, riding at 16mph for a while, chatting a bit. everyone was nervous about the climb, a cpl guys went off the front, but i wasn't going to chase 'em down, knew the climb would take care of things. one dilhole went around the double yellow and when called-out on it, gave the group the middle finger. nice. he would finish way back. LAME!! finally, w/5k to go, it was on. Dan Chabanov was the first to ride off, followed by 5-6 others, including Matt Buckley in yellow, i right behind, focusing on riding at the same tempo all the way up the climb vs hitting it hard early then dieing-off. there was no game plan but steady, full-on effort. unfortunately, it wasn't enough to catch Dan, i needed about 500ft more of vert to do that as i was slowly grinding up to him over the last kilometer. honestly, i wanted to win this stage, but was happy to settle for a spot on the podium, albeit on the 2nd step, and into 3rd on the GC... but was certainly jealous not to be in yellow!

stage 3: burlington crit, 34 1k laps.
another amazing, perfect sunny day. the route was a 1k technical 6 corner course in downtown burlington , full of cracked blacktop and sewer covers, w/lake champlain as a backdrop. i got a call-up and used it to stay up front until the GC time bonus sprint on lap 25. my efforts earned me 4secs, needed 40 to take 1st GC, 20 for 2nd. within a lap or two i slammed a pothole and my rear wheel moved out of the drops a tad, my rear brake jammed-up a bit, but not enough to stop progress, just drag. i wasn't sure if i should stop at tech support and try to use the "free lap" rule or ride it out. i tried messing w/my brake at 25-30mph, not a good idea for keeping fingers, or not killing your competitors - and soon was at the back of the field, w/20 to go. this wasn't good, not good at all. the guy in 4th GC was way up the road and a minor crash could take me off the podium. i focused on ignoring the brake, riding smooth, and used the mtnbike/cx skills to wiggle my way up the field on the tighter corners, then hammered w/the dragging brake up the straight, frequently outside the slipstream, just powering through the race, looking for #711, making sure he was within sight. before i knew it the race was over and i finished within the pack, moving into 2nd for GC due to a flat tire for matt. not a very exciting way to take 2nd, but that's bike racing, sometimes you're on the receiving end of shit luck, but sometimes not!

kevin, bruno, tom, and thomas rockin' the cat 1-2 race for IF.

bruno and kevin entertained seneca every afternoon:

also want to thank jenn's sister carole for driving 2hrs to help us out w/seneca on sat, and to my dad for all his hard work taking care of things. jenn had an enormous project to work-on over Labor Day, late nights, early mornings (to let me sleep), so things were a bit chaotic in the house during the race - and we needed all the help we got.

and so, now i have enough points for cat 3, looking fwd to doing my 2nd career road race next labor day. maybe next time on my own SSR...


At 9/04/2008 11:45 PM, Blogger Thom P. said...

Sounds more like you were the teacher !

Nice training block for The 50 as well. You gotta be feeling good now, you are going to tear that thing up.


At 9/05/2008 7:50 AM, Blogger Andy said...

luke, the forces of the dark side are strong, resist temptation to become a fast roadie.
on second thought, why not show those guys up.
goos job.
asphalt scares me.

At 9/05/2008 9:37 AM, Blogger jeff said...

dude, you know i'll take the trails any day over the asphalt! the flow is the force - and ribbons of dirt are where the force flows strongest, you know that.

At 9/12/2008 7:53 AM, Blogger rick is! said...

sounds like a fun race. I've been wanting to do it sometime.


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