Monday, September 29, 2008

The VT 50! race report

i won the fifty!!
i'm in bike racer la-la land.
i should be reading Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground for my 230p class,
but i simply cannot concentrate.
memories of the fifty keep floating to the surface.
it doesn't seem real.
the fifty has been the goal all season,
for a cpl seasons.
i told jenn that if i won the fifty, i could "retire" from bike racing.
of course, when i said that, i didn't really think i'd do it.
i'd have to ride so far above my ability,
it was too much of a reach,
too many things would have to go right...

8500 ft of climbing over 50miles, this course never lets-up!

the wk leading-up to the race i slept a ton, rode for maybe 5hrs, tried to eat right, tried not to split too much wood, and tried not to geek-out about my bike, which is almost impossible when you're a bike freak. when it became clear a tropical
storm was gonna dump its load on the event, i headed to bike29 in waterbury to talk tires w/a true tire guru, george (the owner). we talked rubba for almost an hour - and in the end i went with his suggested combo - a wtb prowler sl 2.1 in rear and a bontrater jones xc in front. to make this tire combo really rock, i paired 'em up w/a new set of stans 355's w/american classic hubs, shaving at least 8 ounces of rotational weight from the bike. i felt this change immediately, the bike was livelier and simply easier to pedal. i had a bit of an issue getting the prowler to seal-up on the rim and was kinda freakin' about it, even hopping-off to check the pressure twice during the race, but it held-up great, rolled fast, and stuck to the wet roots like crazy - maybe the best wet / mud tire i've ever ridden, thanks george!

camped-out w/andy (sanidas), (christopher) igleheart, tim (cook), and matt. matt earned rock-star status for tossing-down a lot of beers, then killin' it on his ss sunday. good folks to chill w/before a race, no talk of the race, just shooting the shit.

i woke-up at 1a, ready to go. 3hrs later i hopped out of bed (ie, the back of my car) and knew the legs were there, they felt springy, i was alert (even w/o java!). it was gonna be a good day. the 6 bagels i forced myself to eat over the previous 2 days (on top of my normal pre-race eating regimine) had the fuel tanks maxed. added to that were 3 Airborne tablets per day (all wk) to fight-off a cold i had tingling my throat all wk, i was energized. a cup of dank, dark coffee and a bunch of oatmeal later, we were in the parking lot of the fifty, gearing-up in balmy 55-60 temps, the heavy rains had held-off, a mist sat in the valleys and on top of the ridges, the air was thick with moisture.

615, the sun hadn't risen yet, 600+ riders were staged for the start. from the gun will latendre took off. fast. (EDIT: i've been told it wasn't Will, but john foley who was the early rocket, couldn't tell w/the black windjacket on), john foley, greg montello, kurt schmid, chris gagnon, thom parsons, kristopher dennan, myself, maybe a cpl others made chase. i can't remember a fifty ever starting this fast. when we hit the first hill, Will attacked it like he was shot-out of a cannon - my legs were there, already burning, but i figured, if i'm gonna go for it, i gotta stay w/the 2 time defending champ - within minutes it was down to kristopher, will and i, the sound of our breathing and creaking gear changes mixing w/the mellow tones of dew dripping from the trees above and the crunching of wet leaves under the tires.

for the first 25 miles Will crushed the climbs, and i would reel him back in on the descents, sometimes dennan
(EDIT: i thought i'd ridden those early miles w/Will and Tyler, it was kristopher dennan not tyler) would go w/him on his attacks. but dennan had forgetton his water btls and by mile 30 was zonked - we had skipped every aid station but one, and dennan had subsisted on a tiny cup of water every 5-7 miles. it was not enough. he'd rally after getting btl feeds at mile 31. he was riding incredibly strong and may have been there at the end if he'd remembered those btls. i was worried about that guy for those first 30m; i guessed his approach was similar to mine, a vermont mtn goat "hiding-out" in his training cave all season, not all burned-out on racing like most folks this time of year.

when we hit the singletrack at mile 30, which dominates the race until the end, Will graciously let me take the lead, his skills on the technical damn fine, but i was a touch quicker on the corners and the descents. he was strong enough to have gotten in front, forced his pace, but not his style, instead he chased. i'd open a small gap, only to have him right back on me. i don't think we were ever more than 100 feet apart the entire race. it was wicked intense. attack after attack. and in the back of my mind i knew there was a possee of strong dudes behind us, waiting for us to slow, to see us in the distance, so Will and I kept the pressure up from the gun to the finish; we never once sat-up on a fireroad to eat a bar and chat, it was more of a hurried grab into a pocket, the other person would push and it was back to business - and it showed in our finishing time, how much of a gap we created on the rest of the field.

the wet dirt roads, muddy double track, and slick singletrack roots were eating away at our strength - this wasn't an buffed-out uber-dry gonna-set-the-record fifty course. with 4m to go, after the last aid station i rubbed wheels w/Will and went-down, he attacked (or maybe not, by now every acceleration felt like an attack), which makes sense, we'd both "attacked" about 100 times by now, we both wanted it. i quickly closed the gap and made my own attack. we must have changed the lead 10 times in those final 4 miles up and across mt ascutney. our attacks were growing shorter and feebler, the final miles were a wicked climb, legs toasted, it was becoming clear this was gonna come-down to the final descent. will grabbed the lead at the 1m to go sign, i clung-on, reminding myself again and again that he'd won this thing twice in a row, it was "my turn", i wanted it more. i buried myself. the pain had been there all race, rarely let-up, but it never was a bother, the desire to win was greater than i can ever remember, surpassing everything else my body was saying. with 1/2m to go we shot-out onto the ski slope and both flew-off the mowed course and down the slope, totally out of control. we cranked back up insanely fast, my head was spinning, sooo shot, and into the trees one last time, i right behind, waiting for the last stretch of ski slope that leads into the finishing descent to make my final attack. as we hit the grass for the last time i swung around w/everything i've ever put into the bike, the 44x11 churning away, the rigid fork flexing like crazy through the water bars, hit the final bridge before the 100m straight-away descent to the finish and found myself flying through the air sideways, hitting the grass, sliding for what seemed like an endless distance, screaming "NOOOOO" in my head, thinking i'd lost the race. i was up in a flash and alone - will had taken his own monster wipe-out on the previous corner, allowing me to speed down the straight away, arms raised, fists pumping, finishing first! in 4:30, 12 minutes faster than my personal best, and in a lot worse conditions. i simply rode outside of myself, beyond my ability - it was crazy!

and that's my story. it was awesome. epic. amazing. Will was a great guy to race against, all class, incredibly tough. thom took 5th overall on his ss! greg in the top 10, andy not far outside that on his ss. thom and andy would have both taken podium honors for ss if they had signed-up as ss, but w/ss starting in the 3rd wave, behind 200 people, it makes for a lot less fun... thanks to miriam (and amy) for being out there, cheering me on - and to jenn for putting-up w/me all yr w/this insane bike racing addiction i got going... to IF for the Ti 29'er Deluxe, and to Igle for the rigid fork, that thing rocks!

50k and 50m runners are mixed w/the bikers in the results, so it's kinda confusing...

will letandre and family:

pics lifted from linked sites.


At 9/29/2008 2:35 PM, Blogger rick is! said...

awesome job, awesome report. way to kill it!

At 9/29/2008 3:14 PM, Blogger Thom P. said...


At 9/29/2008 7:47 PM, Blogger nathasm said...

You have achieved every NE mtn bike racers dream...revel in it! A truly great feat! Way to kick it!

At 9/29/2008 9:13 PM, Blogger Andy said...


wish I were there to witness the final sprint down Ascutney.

nice write up.

At 9/30/2008 6:26 AM, Blogger wraith said...


At 9/30/2008 12:19 PM, Blogger Harvey said...

Way to kill it. Retiring, huh? ;)

At 9/30/2008 8:34 PM, Blogger John Hurley said...

Nice! Way to kill it!

At 10/01/2008 8:16 AM, Blogger jeff said...

thanks! i had to make a cpl edits to the report, i thought it was tyler merritt who rode w/will and i for the first 30m, it was Kristopher Dennan... i think!? and it was john foley who attacked from the gun, i thought it was Will all camo'd in a black wind jacket...

At 10/01/2008 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats! Nice report and great ride. Can't believe you did it rigid!
-from a Boston reader who's jealous of your move to the Valley

At 10/02/2008 1:00 PM, Anonymous Rob F. said...

Congratulations Jeff. You've earned it with all the time and preparation on the bike. Now you can never move out of Vermont and lose your legend status...

At 10/02/2008 3:50 PM, Anonymous Doug said...


At 10/03/2008 12:08 AM, Blogger kdennan said...

Great riding with you Jeff and congrats on the win!
I really blew it forgetting my bottles. Battled the worst cramps ever those last 20 miles.
Oh well. I won't forget them next year so I hope we get to have another go at it.

At 10/06/2008 7:53 PM, Blogger doug said...

awesome job Jeff!

most excellent read. I enjoyed it.


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