This Memorial Day weekend, while sane people were enjoying the 70s and sunshine back home, we made the long pilgrimage north and drove to the Killington Stage Race in Killington, Vermont. We went despite the 40s and rain that were forecasted, and let me tell you, they were not making up that weather report! It was some of the wettest, coldest racing I’ve done since Beacon Cross 2011 (shout out to everyone else who survived that race!), except unlike ‘cross, your race is not over and done in 45 minutes… oh, the joys of road racing.
I raced the Women’s 3/4, and Jameson raced the Men’s 2. The stages were a Saturday circuit race, a Sunday road race, and a Monday individual time trial. We arrived Friday afternoon after a misty, rainy 8 hour drive, and promptly bundled up for a pre-ride of the circuit race course and road race final climb. I seriously love VT – the roads are gorgeous, the drivers courteous, and the riding is superb. Even in the rain.
Saturday morning rolled around and the mist turned into a drizzle, which gave way to outright rain as the day progressed. My 8:10 start time saw temps in the high 30s/low 40s, but I put on every piece of riding clothing that I brought and made my way to the start line. The 37 miles took just under 2 hours, and I felt like I was riding through a cold shower with my eyes open the entire time. Forget those clear lenses in my sunglasses – useless in that rain! I accidentally rode into 3rd place for the intermediate sprint, and my legs felt ok, so I was optimistic that the race would turn out well. I did not anticipate spinning out with 1K to go on the downhill sprint finish. The sprint was into a headwind, so although I gave it my all with about 300m to go, when I tried to come around riders and accelerate to the finish I just didn’t have the power to battle through the wind, and I finished 14th.
Jameson and his teammate, Matt, both kept it rubber-side-down in their circuit race in the afternoon. Matt took 13th in the sprint, and they both felt pretty good given the conditions, as their race was shortened by 2 laps (they raced the same distance as I did).
Sunday’s weather promised to be slightly better – about 10 degrees warmer with less rain. The course, on the other hand, promised a lot of pain: 61 miles for me, 76 for the boys, and two mountains, with the finish on the top of the second mountain at the base of the Killington ski lifts.
I tried my best to hang with the top girls in my field, but I just couldn’t handle the pace on the middle climb. Five miles of stair-stepping left little time for me to recover from the steep sections, so I dropped back to the first chase group and rode most of the race with a group of 10 ladies until the final climb. I tried my best, but my legs were shot by that point so I revised my goal from “place well” to “just make it to the top.” It really helped that my parents and sister were there cheering me on for the finish, along with Oz. My survival mentality earned me another 14th place, but I lost about 15 minutes to the first-placed rider in my field.
I passed the time between my finish and Jameson’s finish by watching skiiers (really!) and warming up in a yert. Jameson came across the line 13th in his field, grumbling about how he had made a tactical error to not ride away with a break that formed with about 25k to go. Even though he attacked out of the field before the final climb, he still lost quite a bit of time (3:49) by missing that key move.
We re-grouped on Monday for the 11-mile time trial. We’ve both been working industriously on our TT positions (lots of stage racing on the calendar this summer), and miraculously the SUN came out (!) and neither of us were totally burned out by the first two days of racing. The TT was a steady, shallow climb, and we had a headwind, so aero gear made a big difference. I managed to pass FIVE people during my race, and didn’t get passed by anyone. This never happens for me! I’m usually terrible at TTs! I was pretty excited to see that I finished 12th, moving me up to 11th on the GC.
Jameson, questioning his decision to ride the 1080 Zipp front wheel he borrowed with the gusty winds, said he almost got blown off of the road several times during his race, costing him a few seconds. Still, he took 5th place, moving up to 10th overall on the GC, and snagging a few elusive upgrade points. He was especially satisfied after looking at the times in the Pro/1 field: his time was the 7th fastest of everyone that rode the course for the day.
We hung around for an extra day and went for a leisurely coffee-shop ride to Woodstock, VT on Tuesday morning before we left. We also found some of the most incredible smokehouse BBQ to “replenish calories,” and sampled a number of tasty VT brews that we don’t get at home.
All in all, a fun weekend, even if we came away with fewer upgrade points than we were hoping. I highly recommend the Killington Stage Race (and it’s Labor Day counterpart, the Green Mountain Stage Race) to anyone looking for a well-run, challenging, fun weekend.
-The Hungry Cyclists