The Tour of the Hilltowns race took place on Saturday, July 23 in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. The day brought 94-degree temps (felt like 104 on pavement) and some pretty substantial wind. The women’s field was huge at over 30; and strong, as all of the New England climbers seemed to be there. The race was 54 miles and about 5000 feet of climbing, with a 4.5-mile mini monster at mile 22 up East Hawley Road. After PVC racers Kathy Ventura and Kate Lynch discussed the race with advisor Joe Lynch and their coach Troy Barry, who have both raced the race before, we planned on sitting in for the first 21 miles. We actually, intentionally dangled 15 yards off of the back of the group on the steep West Hawley descent at mile 15, based on advice from the guys. The pavement was sketchy and the road was narrow and there was the potential for oncoming cars; the women’s field can also just be plain twitchy and we all know this too well. We wanted to be safe above anything else. It was perfect advice. We rode easily back to the group at the bottom of the climb. The pace for the first 22 miles was mellow with a lot of rollers and decidedly not a good place to try to drive the pace or to get away.
At the base of the big climb, Kate brought Kathy around to the front to launch her up, according to the plan. Kate shares, “She got away with the lead climbers and looked strong from there A couple of minutes later,I rode back to her unexpectedly and told her to jump on. She said the heat had gotten to her and she didn’t feel good. I looked over at her and her face was bright red and white all at the same time. She looked really sick. She told me to go to keep one of us up there. I didn’t have enough oxygen to get a lot of words out to her, but reluctantly climbed on. I continued to climb hard with Natasha B. from Green Line Velo in about 9th position. We got to the top of the climb and started our 25-mile chase to the leaders. We picked up a couple of more ladies and had a fast, organized group. We got a lot of miles behind us. The heat was absolutely crushing and the wind seemed to be picking up and be always coming at us. With 7 miles to go, I started cramping. I put back some Hammer Extreme Endurolytes and Endurance Aminos and they immediately put the cramps at bay – but I knew it was temporary. We had two more climbs to go to the finish. At mile 3, the cramps came back. I was out of water. I decided to sit up from my group, take my last Endurolyte and just get to the finish. The last 3 miles were endless. I lost a few places and about 5 minutes from my chase group to finish 14th.”
Kathy got it back together after feeling sick on the climb and rode with one other lady. She pulled most of the remaining 25 miles but was psyched for the brief, intermittent break she got from the other rider. The other racer wanted to pull over and stop multiple times and Kathy kept her on her bike as she knew she could use her for the short breaks from the wind. She absolutely plowed through the remaining 25 miles, riding though a bunch of women and staying focused on the finish line. It would have been easy to quit but she stayed so strong and finished 20th. Absolutely epic effort mostly solo-ing in the heat and wind.
Kate and Kathy were both truly crushed at the finish line. Joe and Troy were there for them, picking up the pieces by taking our bikes, sitting us in the shade, peeling off our helmets, shoes, and socks, and giving us icy cold water and orange Gatorades. Thanks you guys.
One more race behind us. More fitness and more experienced gained. A couple more big races coming up – but maybe a quick rest first…..!