A Full Season – Part 1: A Good Start

After having completed my physical therapy from my muscle strain injury, I had the intention of giving you more frequent race updates, but I was too busy.  Racing.  And training.  And preparing for everything in between.  I also took up Yin Yoga Teacher training and then taught a 6 week series to my teammates so that they could experience a restorative practice of stillness and meditation.  It’s the perfect compliment to such soul-wringing ferocity and suffering on the bike.  A little bit of bliss brings back your sanity.

I know you’re probably dying to read about the Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont, but not before knowing about the full season leading up to those four days.  “Sorry,” as Canadians would say.  During the course of this year, there were races I haven’t done before, some on my bucket list, others, not so, charity rides which I have done for the ninth time (the Trek Across Maine for the American Lung Association) and a vacation back to my hometown, Toronto.  Now that I’m in transition heading into off-season training, I’m going to give you the highlights of some of my adventures.

Here we go…

Myles Standish Road Race – finished 26th of 42 riders

This is considered one of the spring classics in New England.  Four laps totaling 23 miles in 50 degree weather with technical turns and “yumps” as the Finns would call them, was the course of the day.  I felt good having recovered just enough to race.  I kept with the group the entire way as did almost everyone else.  There was little room to move about so positioning early on was key.  And the way to play it was to keep your position as long as possible – not in the back, but in the front half of the peloton.  Well, I yo-yo’d in the front to the back and then to the front again.  The pace was high and averaged 24.1mph.  We literally had no room to move in the bunch sprint.  You had to move up before the sprint even happened or you’d be stuck.  The few early season Saturday morning rides prepared me for the efforts as they felt similar with every acceleration and deceleration.  Not much to write home about except that this was one of the most fun courses on the race calendar.

Killington Stage Race 5.0

It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years already since my first stage race in Killington.  Each year, it gets better and better, and each year, I get faster and faster – well, marginally – and except when I DNF’d because of a horrific crash.  But that was the past and this is now.

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This time around, there were six of us – four men and two women from our Tall Sock Racing team, who raced the Killington Stage Race in Vermont.  It seemed routine to me, except that instead of staying at my usual bed and breakfast, we shared lodging.  Guys and girls kept separate.  And we had a ton of fun together!

Stage 1 – Circuit Race, 37 miles, 1,506 feet of climbing

The 37 mile circuit race was fast.  And it seemed easy too with the exception of a few efforts.  I had flashbacks of our usual Portland Velo Club Saturday morning rides, getting wrung out by more developed riders a few times.  It was all for a buildup to the finish which ended on my part to be 47.5 mph.  I hung in the back as usual and tried to get to the front for the sprint – but there wasn’t room.  I had missed the boat when Chris Durand started to go on the right with 500 metres to go.  He had a clear path and went on to podium for second place.  I waited too long and put myself in a poor position to gain any places.  I chose the left side of the road – but so did everyone else.  Coming up from behind on some riders, I ended up being wedged, essentially being blocked by two riders.  I backed off only to lose my momentum and had to sprint around them.  By that time, I was at top speed and top gear (53×11) and there wasn’t more I could do to gain places.  I ended up 20th out of 48.  Better than my 42nd place last year and off the back.  But hey, big congratulations to Chris Durand for a job well done!  It was a victory for Tall Sock Racing!

Stage 2 – Queen Stage Road Race, 61 miles, 4, 751 feet of climbing

This ride was like a Sunday cruise by the beach, until the four of us instigated some hard riding because we just felt like it.  The Stiv (we call him that because he has great power to weight ratio and bikes like the Stig drives in Top Gear) made some attacks, as did Durand, contesting a sprint section, but no one really followed.  At some point during the mid point climbs, I too was getting eager to expend some energy, powering up some climbs and even hanging out in the front.  We increased the pace and dragged the peloton over the terrain until one of the last few climbs, a leading group started to form, and three out of the four of us weren’t in it.

Once the first selection was made, we decided to initiate a second selection, so we started to chase.  We tried to form a paceline, but each time we did, some unruly and sketchy riders broke the echelon and our momentum was lost.  The ride up to the base of the climb was a fast one as there was a headwind to help with the efforts.  I took up the front and pulled the group a few times, but again, some riders just couldn’t, or didn’t want to do the work.  It didn’t matter to me.  The pulls I made (as well as a select one or two others) got us closer to the lead group.  We could see the backed up traffic because of them and eventually they were in our sights.

But the moment I saw them, I backed off, knowing that I shouldn’t be riding my self into the ground before the daunting and brutal climb.

“Conserve your energy, Juan.”

He was suffering more than I was.  We were at equal pace but I eventually lost contact with him as he dropped back.

“It was nice riding with you today,” I said as I started to put distance between us.  I was panting as hard as he was up the 12% grade.  Or maybe it was 15%.  The access road from Skyeship Base was unrelenting as always.

My teammate, Nate caught up to me after having a mechanical at the base of the climb.  We rode up together to the finish and met up with the rest of the team.  Chris Durand had DNF’d after some hard work and a great performance.  Sometimes the body says, “No.”  The Stiv finished a few minutes behind the winner in a lead group that had broken up at the top of the climb.

Stage 3 – Individual Time Trial, 11 miles, 400 feet of climbing

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This was somewhat uneventful for me since I wasn’t feeling too great and I had technical problems with my Garmin GPS.  It didn’t record anything between software updates so I had to do everything by feel.  Regardless, I did it and recorded a personal best of 21.9 mph with aerodynamic gear.  Last year, I went to Merckxing it with only the basics.

Our team General Classification results out of 43 riders who finished:

  • The Stiv – 14th;
  • Chris Durand – DNF, best place 2nd on Stage 1;
  • Nate Kimble – 32nd;
  • Myself – 29th of 43 riders.

 Part 2 to come…

 

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