Green Mountain Stage Race – Race Report – Cat 2 Men – September 3-5, 2011

Submitted by Joseph Reis

Stage 1- TT

The prologue TT of the Green Mountain Stage Race was interesting. Having not seen it before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All I knew was that there was a hill for the first few miles. After a lengthy warmup, I shifted into my desired starting gear, rolled up to the start, and before I knew it, I was off on the climb.

Not knowing the course really hurt me. I pushed far too hard on the climb and didn’t know about the flat section on the top. I had almost caught my 30-second man at the top of the climb and I suddenly realized that the signs on the road were km markers. I still had a few kilometers left and I was hurting. I put my head down and dug in for the rest of the ride. I was not able to pass my target, but I was able to keep him within striking distance.

Once again, having not seen the course beforehand really hurt as I found out that rest of the course was downhill. I spun my gears out pretty fast and just tried to keep the cadence high. Not much else to report until I hit the final climb where I unloaded the tank and gave it my all across the line.

I finished about a minute and a half down and in 66th place. I didn’t really think too much about this result as I knew that I was going into the course without knowing it and that there were still more days of racing ahead that could suit me well.

Stage 2- Circuit Race

The circuit race was moved and shortened due to the devastating effects of hurricane Irene. Although disappointed that the race had to be shortened (64miles), I was happy that it was still being held. I was also lucky enough to see most of the course ahead of time and I knew where the climbs and other points of interest were. It was actually a pretty interesting course that twisted through some picturesque Vermont villages and valleys, climbed up some rolling hills and the back side of baby gap (KOM located at the crest), and after descending down, finished on route 116.

The goal for the race was to try to get in a break right away. I knew that there was a good possibility that this would not happen so the backup plan was to just sit in and stay near the front, saving the legs for the next few days. I didn’t think that I would have much of a chance to contest the finish sprint as it was a long straightaway with a good tailwind. I thought that I would spin my gears out too quickly.

The neutral start began and I positioned myself in the middle of the pack. I wasn’t positive as to where the neutral start ended, but I could tell that it had ended when the pace picked up. Apparently a break went off here, but I didn’t see it until it was too late. So I just sat in and started taking in the experience that was my first Cat 2 circuit race. The pace of the Cat 2 field wasn’t much different than I had seen in past categories, but it was much more consistent and there were a lot less surges. Riders could actually hold their lines and were much more comfortable together. All these factors led to much more efficient racing.
Anyway, the first lap came and went with out much action. The hills really weren’t much trouble. Descending baby gap was pretty smooth and route 116 was fast just as I thought. The break was soon back and we started the 2nd and final lap. The pace didn’t change much until we hit the final climb for the KOM. There were a few surges to get points and then the downhill started again. There was a lot of movement this time down the hill as everyone was trying to stay out of trouble before the fast finish. As we hit the bottom and turned onto 116, the pace picked up. Before I knew it, we were climbing over the last few small hills and the finish was within a couple kilometers. I started working my way to the front after a rider went off the road. Luckily not too many people were effected by this, but it did cause a good group of us to have to sprint back on. I was sitting about 30 wheels back and I could see the finish. I knew that I was in a good and safe place and I just tried to keep my cadence as high as possible. I was quickly out of gears and my cadence steadily rose all the way to the line. I rolled in for 28th. Not much changing in my GC placing, but I did move up a few places.

I was happy that I was able to keep near the front when it mattered, but even happier that we would be able to do some climbing the next day.

Stage 3- Road Race

Just like the circuit race, the road race had to be modified and shortened significantly (~61miles). The promoters were able to have it finish on App. gap though which I was glad about. I knew that this final climb up the gap would be the deciding factor in the GC.

We began the day with a nice neutral start from the base of Mt. Ellen. This was an interesting neutral start as it was all downhill for quite a ways. As we started the race, I moved up near the front so as to see the better climbers on the KOM at Duxbury hill. I made it to the head of the peloton before the descent which turned out to be a good plan as we were soon on the flats and flying over some loose dirt roads. We crossed over one very loose section where many people had difficulty navigating a safe path. I just picked a line and went for it, passing a few people and staying with the guys at the front. Not a whole lot of action through the sprint bonus. I missed my feed a few minutes later, but luckily I was carrying a spare bottle in my jersey.

The race started to get interesting about mid-race as a few guys slipped off the front. The pace picked up and they were caught a few miles down the road as we turned onto route 116. We rolled down 116 with little trouble. There was a good cross-wind, but I was able to stay sheltered until the turn onto Baby Gap.

The race really began at the foot of this two part climb. Riders either moved forward or dropped back here. A small break was able to move up the road, but the tempo stayed controlled for the most part on the climb. I realized about halfway up that my legs were feeling very fresh and I was looking forward to the finish on App. Gap. As we crested Baby, the break was brought back, but the tempo stayed up. The peloton had really been shredded by this point, but it was only going to split more from here. I stayed about 10 wheels back as we made the small descent to the base of App. gap and as the climb began, I moved closer to the front.

App gap, is a fun climb. It’s not terribly steep until the end, but it certainly goes on for a ways. It also features a good number of switchbacks that lead to a very fun feel. I was able to stay with the leaders until about halfway up the climb. Things just really split apart here and it was every man for himself to the top. I focused on keeping the leaders within sight which I was able to do until the final switchback. I worked with a few other riders, but I was grinding too big a gear and did not anticipate the steep grade of the final pitch. My rhythm was off and I just worked my way up to the finish. I finished in 20th place. This moved my GC placing up to 21st in the 90 man field.

Stage 4- Crit

Unfortunately, poor weather caused the promoters to have to cancel the crit for many of the fields that were racing in the afternoon. Since the cat 2s were racing later in the day, we didn’t get to race. Bummer.

Overall, I had a great time at GMSR. Although the race had to be changed, I was very impressed that the race organizers were able to pull off this classic. I am eager to race on the original course and I will certainly be racing this again next season to do so. As far as my racing goes, I am pretty happy with my overall performance in my first race as a cat 2. The first day was interesting, but the final stage on app gap was very fun and helped me move up many places in the GC. Great race.

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