Green Mountain Stage Race Race Report

These days I am as much a race promoter as I am a bike racer, it seems.  And race promoting is hard.  There's a reason you never saw a Greenfield Criterium, Gnar Weasels, or August Adventure Promotion Report posted here -- the more you do it, the less novelty there is, but the workload is the same.   And it's a lot.  And it wears on you.

This is why, one day in early July, I woke up (probably at 4am thinking about Gnar Weasels or something) and I realized -- the day will come when Gary Kessler (the man behind Green Mountain Stage Race) comes to his senses and decides that it's time to retire GMSR.

And goddammit, then GMSR will be gone and I'll never be able to say that I did the best little stage race in the world.

So I registered for this year.  Even when I was a cat 5 I didn't have a power-to-weight ratio that was capable of hurting other people (at least not the ones who matter), but who cares?  I'm here to EXPERIENCE the one and only GMSR.  And boy am I glad I did.

And somehow Christin went from "I can't believe you're doing GMSR, I guess I'll find something else to do that weekend" to "GMSR was awesome, can we do it again next year?" in two months as well.

Stage 1:  TT

The rules for the TT are simple, anything that is mass-start legal on a road bike goes.  I had this funny idea that my standard road racing set up (basically just putting some 40mm carbon wheels on my road bike) would not be a competitive disadvantage in this stage.

Then I showed up and there were a bunch of guys with disc wheels and full-on TT helmets rolling around.  OOPS.

I got passed by three guys in 17 and half minutes.  I only beat six people out of 70.  Oh, and I set a power record.  So I guess aerodynamics (and being skinny) is a thing.  A thing that I should work on for next year.

Christin finished smack dab in the middle of the 3/4 women's field, but thankfully was unable to best my time.  

Yuck, TTs.

After the race no one was especially tired so we did dumb things at the rental house instead of recovering.

Did I mention we were staying in a house with 12 people and the median age was like 24?  I would strongly recommend this for enhancing ones stage racing experience.

Stage 2:  Circuit Race

I assumed the circuit race would be a bit of a throwaway stage, because I am an idiot.   A few punchy climbs, but a non-challenging KOM, only 57 miles, and generally flat parcours?  Should be pretty easy to sit in and save matches for the Queen stage, or play around and shoot for some sprint points.  Yup, no problem.

And yet, it only took seven miles for me to completely change my goals to "finish this stage without getting time cut."  

Since the first climb on the course was six miles in (the KOM climb, which was only about 1k at 3-4%), I decided not to warm up.  But then a break rolled literally the SECOND we were active, and teammate Zsolt bridged across to it, and I got EXCITED!  So I burned matches and chopped fools to get to the front to block/cover, because team stuff is basically the only reason I road race.  I AM HERE FOR YOU ZSOLT!!!

This led to me sitting on some dudes wheel as he pulled the field at 30mph about 3k into the race while thinking "perhaps I should have warmed up for this."  He pulled off and I pulled through casually (got ya!) and then oh crap we're already at the base of the KOM and I guess everyone else is going to race bikes now!

So I sagged the KOM, as planned, and then there was a climb after the KOM (not planned) and I had already used up all available sagging range so I had to climb it at "excited lap one cat 3 pace" which is apparently 500 watts for a minute.

And thus I switched from being an effective teammate into a survivor for the rest of the day.

It took them almost a lap of the 3-lap race to bring Zsolt's break back, but they did, sadly.  He got caught going through the sprint line (dangerously close to the KOM, too) but since he's an actual athlete the fact that we were hauling ass didn't seem to trouble him.  Meanwhile I was already counting down:  "only two more times over that goddamn hill after the KOM before you can stop."

This time I used less of my sagging range on the KOM hill which smoothed things out a bit, but there were still enough punchy climbs on the course (see also:  that freaking hill after the wood bridge!) that I spent most of the lap either desperately recovering or pedaling as hard as I could while thinking "you need to stop doing this and start recovering again."
This bridge is gloriously Vermont but the hill after it was also very Vermont

Somehow my teammate Mikey (he used to be called Mike, but he's 24 and 127 lb so now it's Mikey, sorry) attacked on a downhill (?!) and bridged up to a guy who was solo.  So once again the break was away and Back Bay was represented and I could pretend I was involved with this.

Mikey took the sprint points at the end of lap two and then imploded on the KOM, ending #dabreak but making him a bigtime player* in the sprint jersey competition.  So when I survived the hill after the KOM for a third time and realized that I could finish the race, I started trying to help Mike(y) get more sprint points.

*hahahah as if a 127 pound kid is gonna get sprint points

Well anyway, I burned my last tiny little match going up the hill into the last corner (3k out) and I went so hard that both my quads cramped and I had to stop pedaling.  Mike elected not to follow this effort, even though it totally would have put him into 5th wheel and I'm definitely not mad about that.

Then I went all the way to the back of the peleton, recovered, congratulated myself on finishing the race, and promptly flatted out with 2k to go.

Any disappointment I felt about this was washed away by at least 6 guys hitting the deck at 500m to go.

Mikey got 12th, which was good, but not good enough to matter.

My normalized power was 260w for 2.5 hours so I spent the rest of the day lying down thinking about how tired I was and eating a full meal once an hour.

Christin won the contest to see who could pull the women's field around for the longest.  It turns out there's no jersey for that, though, but you get to eat more ice cream.

Stage 3:  Road Race

Unlike stage 2, I knew this one was going to be hard, and my only goal was not to get time cut.  No one on the team had cracked the top 15 in the TT so we didn't have any GC aspirations, so it was an every-man-for-himself kind of day.  I took three bottles, a tube, a C02, about 1000 calories of food, and got ready for a long day of probably riding by myself.

The first hour over Granville Gulch, to the base of Middlebury Gap, was pretty easy, although at one point as many as six guys were off the front -- they were separated into about four different groups (and we could see most of them) so it was pretty nonthreatening.

Much more threatening was the water bottle that got dropped, hit, and then flipped into someone's back wheel, where it came to rest going THUNK THUNK THUNK against the spokes, held in place by the chain.

The affected rider calmly reached down, grabbed the bottle, and threw it into a field, and we all laughed about how that could have been a 20-rider pileup.

(This is the only situation in which a cat 3 should ever throw a bottle, btw)

A moto official came up to inform us that the break was approaching a minute out, and we'd be losing wheel support if it got any further out.

We hustled a bit, because we like wheels.

Then the Gap approached and the hustle fell apart, because the reckoning was approaching and suddenly no one wanted to ride on the front.  The wheel truck went around the field and up to the break.  Two minutes later some guy flatted on a rock.  This is why I had a tube and CO2 with me.

After a interminably long false-flat approach up the valley, we hit the base of the truly steep pitches on Middlebury Gap (1.7 miles at 10% or so) and I got SUPER SHELLED.  I rode 311 watts for 12:15 (in the neighborhood of the best numbers I've ever done, shut up) and lost over 90 seconds to the lead group.  I lost over a minute to lil Mikey!  And because it was all strung out (one guy from the break stayed away over the top), everyone was chasing all the way down the descent, and thus my little chase group of three guys made zero progress in catching back into the pack.  THE END.

Well, we did still have to make it to App Gap fast enough to not get time cut (note:  I don't think anyone actually gets time cut unless you're in the pro race, but it's important to pretend the time cut exists for motivational reasons).  Our group of three grew to four, then five, then six as we gobbled up riders who had climbed faster than us, but not fast enough to find anyone to chase with on the descent.  We gained a seventh rider, but that rider promptly led the group into a pothole and then rode away while we were trying to figure out what to do about the guy who flatted.

Seventh rider:  not an MVP.

When we got to Baby Gap it became apparent that some members of the gruppeto were even more wrecked than me, as they dropped off due to cramps or fatigue or full bladders .

I plodded onward.  

I made a deal with myself that once I got to the slopes of App Gap, I could stop to pee and drink the coke (now warm) that I had picked up in the feed zone.

Then, on the descent off Baby Gap, I realized that I was riding by myself on deserted and gentle downhill, and it was a great chance to see if I could relieve myself while riding a bike.

I am pleased to report that 95% of the urine reached the ground, and I took off my gloves and put the other 5% in my pocket, and had nice clean hands to pop my coke a few minutes later.

Halfway up App Gap I caught Gennaro from GLV, who was wearing the sprinters jersey.  When I got over the shock of catching someone on the climb, I realized that he was going slowly not because he sucked, but because he was saving it for the crit tomorrow.  And then I realized I should do that to (but maybe also because I suck).  So we rode as slow as possible to the finish without falling over, which is still quite a bit of work, and only lost 24 minutes on GC to the winner!

WOOOOO NOT TIME CUT!  via Christin
Meanwhile Christin "I climb like a tank" Reuter rode with the lead group all the way to App Gap and finished in the top half.  She also put over a minute into me on App Gap, thanks Strava.

Stage 4:  Crit

After three days of getting my teeth kicked in, I was having a great time, but was pretty down on my pedaling abilities.  When I got to the GMSR Crit in Burlington and discovered that it had a hill (of course it has a hill) and that eight out of 70 Cat 4/5s had finished their race, I realized that the crit was going to be HARD.  And every time we pedaled HARD for the last three days, I had done very badly.  So I might have whined on the internet about how I was going to do badly for a fourth day.  Sorry about that, internet.

One thing I had going for me was some in-depth coaching from Adam St Germain, who was so #hyped about the event that he sent me an unsolicited, page-long twitter message about HOW TO CRIT... and it was great.

Step #1 on Adam's instructions was to line up early and WIN THE NEUTRAL.  I won the neutral so hard (thanks, mountain bike pedals!).  Here is a picture Christin took of me tailgating the neutral moto.  I am only faking calm in this picture, I'm actually full of enough adrenaline to kill a rabbit here:
cc.reuter photo
I can't tell you all the other protips that Adam gave me because I want to use them next year, but let's just say that if ASG tells you how to do the GMSR crit, you should listen.

(Adam also won the Cat 2 crit a few hours later)

When the neutral moto accelerated out of turn 3, the race surged and I got ready to suffer like a dog just like every other stage.

But then we coasted, and then sprinted, and coasted, and sprinted, and turned.. and five laps later I realized holy crap I can actually do this!  We are finally measuring something other than watts per kilo!

The rest of the race was remarkably uniform for me.  I felt bizarrely good.  I hung out, without too much trouble, between 5th and 15th -- as far forward as I dared to get without ever having an obligation to pull through.
Can we talk about how good the Church St section of this crit is?  Feels SO PRO

At some point 2nd place in the sprint competition attacked solo, chased shortly after by my App Gap buddy Gennaro, and the two of them did tons 'o work riding ten seconds ahead of the bunch.

I continued hiding.  Lil Mikey asked me what I needed (teammates are so rad).  I said "just bring the break back" and holy crap did he try!  But like many Cat 3 chases, it was one engine short of the commitment it needed, and the gap hovered between 8 and 15 seconds as the race wound down.  If only Matt hadn't crashed out and broke his hand on stage 2 (sigh) we could have put two guys on the front and everyone would have been so impressed with our team riding...

Obviously I took zero pulls myself so I was part of the problem, but come on, if I was strong enough to pull AND sprint I'd be a cat 2, okay?  

Mikey pretty much blew himself up chasing and at two to go it was clear that we weren't getting the break back.  Everyone in the top 15 didn't have a teammate and thought they could win (yay, cat 3 racing!) so it was time to get....swervy.... as we tried to keep it fast enough to hold position, but slow enough to get off the front.

I guess I have a fair bit of experience with this game because I managed to be 6th wheel into the last lap, which is exactly where I wanted to be.

Coming out of turn two someone attacked at the PERFECT time.  Into the wind, pretty far from the line, and everyone knew that if they covered it, they'd take the whole field with them and get put on the front on the downhill.  So we just looked at each other, and that guy got 3rd.  GOOD WORK, GUY.

I managed to surf my way up to third when the finish surge got started, and ASG's protip #6 was "the last turn is wide and you can rip it on the outside any time you want," so that's how I won the field sprint:


That might be why I left the weekend SUPER STOKED on GMSR and already planning for how I'm going to get over Middlebury Gap without getting dropped next year.  Christin had a forgettable crit but was already asking me if we could do GMSR again next year by Tuesday morning, so there you go.  GMSR 2017, see you there!!

(And thanks Gary and the rest of the staff being insane enough to promote this)


(And thanks to Back Bay, Katy, Dave, Eric and Carlo for such entertaining housemates for the weekend that I almost forgot how much I was sufferring)

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