OA/Cyclemania pulled down some fine hardware at the Killington Stage Race. Before we get into the details, let me express a hearty thanks to our sponsors for making the weekend most memorable by extending copious amounts of money ($1500 as budgeted) that enabled us to stay at a modernista resort palace type house that comfortably slept 15 where everyone felt they had their own privacy. To top it all off we had Kevin Hays set everything up where all the rest of us were left with nothing to do but nothing. Oh, let me correct that – we did have something to do and that was eat. And Kevin prepared all the gourmet dinners for that, too! Unbelievable. If you are ever stuck in a life boat, make sure to pull Kevin in with you along with some seaweed. You’ll be set for a month of good eating. In all seriousness, the superior accommodations, the communal dinners and the lively company is what catapults this race into the “most favored” racing memories category.
And, oh yeah, the racing itself is memorable. The Killington Stage Race is organized by the same folks that do the Green Mountain Stage Race, and they have brought all of their expertise to the execution of this race. The original Killington Stage Race was a staple of the national racing scene during the ‘80s and ‘90s with many current top US pro riders having ridden the KSR in their amateur and US pro based years. This is the 2nd year of the resurrected event and the attendance grew from 710 last year to 890 this year (+25%). Some of the fields were especially large – for example, 119 for the Pro/1-2 and 66 for the women Pro/1-2. There were many well organized Canadian teams, and a bunch of NYC based team race here. They love the get-out-of-the-city Vermont long weekend, bring the family type experience. The central Vermont tourism people love that, too. And one more thing that makes this stage race “vacation racing” friendly is this – a few guys told me that they prefer the KSR over the Green Mountain Stage Race because there is no last race crit hanging over everyone’s head causing anxiety and sleepless nights. Nope, the KSR is composed of three safe but challenging races that offers winning possibilities to all types of riders – sprinters, rolleurs and climbers. The races are:
SATURDAY: 3 x 17 mile mostly flat circuit race highlighted by a screaming fast finish (Ron Bourgoin hit 53 mph in his field sprint). The course is a triangle with side 1 slightly downhill, side 2 slightly uphill and side 3 flat until it drops to the finish.
SUNDAY: 10.6 mile time trial with the first half a mostly continuous 1% to 2% uphill grade and the second half flat.
MONDAY: a 62 mile one loop course featuring a large road hill at 4 miles, a back roads quick steep and then long hill at 25 miles, a fast but easy to handle one mile dirt section at mile 39, and then the concluding monster 5 mile two tiered climb to the finish.
Here’s a quick review of how the racing went.
40+ race: 1st lap has a field sprint for the finish line Sprint Jersey hot spot. Six guys roll away while the field pauses to catch breath. Fred bummed he missed move. Fred initiates bridge to break and brings 6 guys with him, none of whom will help with the bridge. Even still, bridge is successful, but now Fred is mad. Fred goes to front with rage coursing through his veins. Break is soon back down to six people as all of the non-helpers get popped. Fred is 5th in finish sprint but, more importantly, puts 39 seconds on dropped group and 60 seconds on the field. Very impressive.
50+ race: Not much drama here save for silly slow motion crash that forces Bruce and Kevin onto the grass (on their backs). No damage except they have to chase back on for 8 miles. It’s always satisfying to catch back on, but it is nerve wracking and painful – especially when everyone else is having an easy time in the group. There is a big field sprint and, if you look at the finish line photo on Bikereg.com, you can see Kevin wedging his way to a 12th place finish.
TIME TRIAL: The time trial this year had a favorable tail wind as opposed to last year’s strong headwind. The result was that the times were 2 minutes faster this year. Fred (2nd) and Ron (7th) had top-ten 40+ efforts and I (6th) had one in the 50+ field. The highlight of the day comes when Fred earns the pink leaders jersey since the TT winner (Jonny Bold) had crashed the previous day and lost 8 minutes. Fred leads by about a minute. My 6th place puts me 35 seconds down to Haluk Sarci and 24 seconds down to Bill Thompson. These are the only dangerous climbers ahead of me.
40+ race: Three guys manage to slip off of the front on the first hill. Nobody seems concerned enough to chase so the 3 establish a good lead. Everybody is looking at the OA/CM boys with unsympathetic eyes silently saying, “it’s your pink jersey at stake, do something”. When the field hits the 25 mile mark hill, Fred has that rage thing going on again and, sure enough, by the top of the hill the party is down to about 10 guys. Now he has 10 guys looking at him (and only him) with unsympathetic eyes. To the front Fred goes (for 35 miles!) where he commences to drop EVERYBODY and catches all but one of the escapees. Unreal.
50+ race: We had three guys slip off after the 1st hill, too. About a mile from the middle hill it was announced that the 3 were 2.5 minutes ahead. Kevin had been doing yeoman’s work to keep it to that limit. Knowing that I could go uphill faster than most guys, and wanting to make sure to catch the escapees in an area where I could go faster than them, I, like Fred, attacked the hill with malicious intent to the field. The result, too, winnowed the field to but 12 people (Mike Claus happily included after a record 10 minute power output from him). A long descent followed the middle hill and this allowed 10 guys to catch on. Good – now I could take a breather and eat a banana. A mile later we turned onto a mile long dirt road, which I had forgotten about. Uh, goody, I like dirt roads. Towards the end of the dirt road there is a rise and the two Keltic riders (Bill Thompson and Bob Roldan) had sneakily gotten a 50 yard gap at the top of it. Dangerous and I immediately bolted over to them bringing Haluk Sarci, Rick Sorenson and Mike Allaire with me. On the downhill descent we fly – I mean out of control fly – down the hill. Fortunately, Mike Claus had just told me that the exit from the dirt onto the pavement was straight, so with trust in those words I barreled down the road. And that was it- we six got away and rotated equally to the bottom of the final climb. At the base of the hill I tried to bolt away and dash the others’ hope of winning. It has worked before but not this time. Haluk stayed easily and Rick and Bill dangled not far behind. With 1K to go to the KOM (2 miles and a consistent 10 to 12% grade from the start of the hill), Haluk slowly begins to pull away from me. Stay with Haluk? No can do. To make matters worse, Rick and Bill catch me right after the KOM when it levels off. We try to catch Haluk so we can attack him on the final 1k to the finish. No dice there, either, so I settle into figuring out how to secure 2nd place. At the base of the final ascent to the finish I make a big ring attack from behind Bill & Rick and jump way wide. A good jump and I see their heads drop – a sign that their spirits are flagging. So, now I put it into full uphill TT mode and see if I can grab back those 24 + 1 seconds from Bill. With 200 meters to go I click it down 2 gears, get out of the saddle and dig to the finish line like crazy. Gotta try if you’re gonna get – right? It turns out be a truism after all and I manage to put 28 seconds on Bill and secure 2nd on GC by 4 seconds. Very satisfying.
The final race day course is as fun and challenging as the App Gap stage at Green Mountain. Many rate the final climb at KSR as steeper and harder. I agree as it has steepness around too many corners. More than likely this race will continue to grow in size. The competition was deeper this year in all fields. If you have the chance, ride this race sometime in your career.