Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Connecticut Stage Race

WOW! This race had it all. Stage races are a different breed. They attract a slightly different crowd and day 1 is usually a Geekfest full of TT gear, not normally seen at the usual road races and roundy rounds. I always expect to see some dude riding around in a Speedo and no socks or shirt. Lets hope that never happens!!! (Again)

Stage 1 was simple enough, in theory. 8 mile time trial. Go as fast as you can for 8 miles. I did, but it never felt smooth, more like a slow slog through quicksand, but I know enough to understand that everyone is gonna feel the same way on this course. I went out under control, even standing up on the first steep climb just out of the gate. I usually never stand up in a TT. I was happy to hit the finish line although I had to avoid a Jeep Cherokee while trying to finish with a sprint to the line. I was even happier to see that I had won the TT by a solid 53 seconds over Westwood Velo rider, Troy Kimball. The Missile clocked in with a solid 4th place ride, but he wasn't thrilled with his effort. He thought he started out too hard and never really got fully settled, plus he had a car issue on course and one at the finish also. Even after all that he was 1 stinkin' second off the podium.

We had gotten down there the day before. Colebrook, CT is absolutely gorgeous, but it's more of a village than a town and no hotels to speak of. We stayed in nearby Torrington about 20 minutes south at the sweet Days Inn. This was key, because while lots of racers hung out in the heat at the venue we went back to the room, ate some nice lunch, drank recovery shakes, and got to take a nice shower and nap on the beds. We'd need the rest too.

Stage 2 was a punchy little 3 mile circuit that we'd do 8 times. It had a long power grade on it and it seemed possible to get a good break going in this field. I waited till 3 to go and drilled it on the hill. I flushed out Troy and we had a gap, but the bells and whistles were ringing in the bunch and a hard chase brought us back on a big downhill. Everyone was pretty crosseyed, so I drilled it again on the next little power climb. I got a good gap, but once again the field chased whole heartedly. On the next trip up the big climb I went again and this time Troy was right in my wheel again, but no one else was able to follow. We absorbed Steven Gray who had been on a flyer for a few laps now and the 3 of us were looking good for the escape. For some reason I don't understand, Troy's teammate Rob Lattanzi chased us down with Kev doing exactly what he should be doing....following anyone who tries to bridge to me, but not contributing. That would have been good if he had a solid gap, but the field wasn't too far behind and 15 seconds after they attached so did the field, we got the bell for 1 to go and it turned into a bunch sprint. I had burned my matches by racing the bike race, and some guy who never got near the front all day did an awesome sprint and killed everyone. GC was unaffected, so we were still 1st and 4th.

Stage 3 was an evil 90 mile road race with a 50 mile loop and then a 40 mile loop. This was the crown jewel of the race. This is the stage that will make this race grow like Battenkill has in the last 2 or 3 years. The word "epic" is overused in cycling, but this was a lot closer to actually being epic than some crappy training day story, where the lies get bigger every time the story gets told. There were 2 feed zones, and they were handing out neautral water at the end of the feed zones. This would be my life blood and critical to attempting to hold on for the win. I started with 3 bottles and every rider I saw had at least 1 bottle in a jersey pocket, many had 2.

I knew someone would go early and I had speculated it might be Andy Ruiz. Sure enough he went, not more than 3 or 4 miles into it. I chased half heartedly for a brief time trying to get the rest of the guys to share some interest in getting them back before they built up some crazy 4 minute lead. Quickly they went from 4 to 2 riders and I felt a lot better about that. 85 miles is a long way in the wind and I sat tight and drank my gatorade. Still no one really wanted to touch the front and Kevin and I found ourselves riding tempo on the front with very little help. This would be the first of many selfless acts by Kev. We really rode easy for a long time, but hills are hills and there were plenty of them. Basicly there was no flat ground to be found. Lots of up, but lots of down too. Finally after about 30 miles or so we started to see the last 2 guys again and they were starting to come back. We got out to rt. 8 in MA and I know this road well, as we used to do the regional 40K TT on it a few years ago. A race I wish someone would bring back, but thats a story for another day. With the others in sight and everyone all fueled up with sugary goo's and cliff bloks, some attacks started going off the front and it got pretty racy for a while. Kevin and I nailed back one that had Troy in it and then a good counter by Rob and John Stonebarger went up the road. With John in 3rd overall, we weren't gonna let it go too far, but with Rob in there Troy wouldn't chase. Good job by the Westwood guys to pressure us. Kevin and I sat on the front and chased in a controlled manner so as to not blow ourselves up. Eventually after some cussing we got some help from a select few. I have to say that Steven Gray did a tremendous ride all day and was very strong in his efforts. He wanted to win the stage and had full confidence that he could and he was letting us know by the way he was riding. I respect that. I know it's smart to sit back and wait, but when you feel like it's gonna slip away, you have to work to make sure you have the scenario you've visualized. Anyway we kept them semi close, no more than a minute up the road, but they were paying a price up there. Just after we went through town and started our 2nd loop, 3 of the 7 riders popped and came back rather quickly to the bunch. Andy was one of them and I told him I liked the way he raced today. The other 4 weren't too far away and we rolled up the attack hill from yesterday's circuit race. I had a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich and went to the front for another pull to keep things moving and let the others have a good look at the guys that we were gaining on. I saw the road pitch up pretty hard and I put in a dig. After a few seconds I looked under my arm and I was alone.....and surprised. I had gapped them off and I suspected I caught them sleeping. At any rate, I didn't have to burn a match to get the gap and so since I now had it I decided to go. I bridged fairly easy to the break and the field was of course in full chase mode. I had no intention of working in the break, or any break, after all I was 53 seconds ahead, why wear myself out taking hard pulls in the wind with anyone? Unless I was chasing to preserve my lead. It was all strung out and it quickly came back all together for the first time in 2 -1/2 hours. I brethed a sigh of relief and I felt really good. After a few more hilly miles we did one of the best things I've ever been part of in a bike race. I have to credit Bill Shattuck from Bikebarn.....he asked me if I needed a piss and I said "hell ya, I've needed a piss for 40 miles". There was no one up the road in a break at the moment and we were alongside a beautiful meadow overlooking green hilly terraine and not a house or person in sight. We yelled for a pee break and it quickly spread through the peleton and all 70 of us pulled over and had a squirt. I'm tellin' you it was a thing of beauty! Very PRO! We took on some more tough hills and I even watched in amazement as Gerard O'Shea from Keltic hung on and steered out a broken hanlebar at about 40 mph down hill. A more impressive piece of riding I've never seen! He saved his own ass and a lot of others that were right behind him. An awful break for anyone, and he was high up on GC too. But you gotta like the way that turned out and now he can race again this weekend and not have to have surgery on anything. It was looking good until the 50 somethings started mixing it up and since we were scored differently, I wasn't gonna burn any unnecessary matches chasing guys that essentially weren't in my race. 5 or 6 of them slipped away, but one 40's rider who I didn't know slipped in too. I knew he had to be more than 1:30 back on GC, but I didn't want to blow it this close to home. We came back out onto rt. 8 again and now we were back on the road we all knew from racing the first lap. The break gained some serious time despite some hard chasing from Kevin and I and Steven Gray again as well as many others this time, and I was worried, but I also knew we had a 4 mile gradual climb coming off rt. 8. They had a solid gap when we made the tuirn, and I went to the front along with Kev and we drilled it. Pretty soon we had them in good sight at about 40-45 seconds, and I felt pretty secure in the stage race win, but you never count it till it's in the bag. We eventually caught them with about 2k to go and had a bunch sprint that I didn't take part in. I surfed across the line in the back of the bunch and raised my arms for the GC win. Over 4 hours on one stage......not bad for a bunch of old farts!

I quite simply wouldn't have won this bike race without my teammate and good friend Kevin (The Missile) Hines. Thanks Kev!

We made quick work of the goodbye tour and got into Providence around 7 pm for some sushi, and a few cold brewskies. A fine way to end any day, but especially this one. Another hour in the car and we were home.....well Kevin was home I was climbing into my work van that I left at his house Friday after working half a day. whew....long weekend....but a good one!

Time to race the mountain bike again I'd say!
C-Ya, JB


Cathy said...

Congrats! I saw that you did really well. Sounds like it was a good race.

Bill Thompson said...

Jonny - you and Kevin rode a great race. Congrats to you on your win and to Kevin on his high GC too. I'm going to try to help Jim Thompson, the race promotor, grow the race. Let me know if you have any suggestions for next year and I'll pass them along.

Jonny Bold said...

Congrats on your stage win too. I think the race will grow for sure if he's comitted to doing the work to produce it again. My suggestions would be to have the feed zones on a steeper grade to make it safer. We came into the feed zones hot, and thats not ideal. Maybe move the finishes away from the center of that little busy spot with 5 roads all coming in at that spot. Also leader's jerseys and maybe a points competition for the sprinters.
When are we gonna see you on the mountain bike circuit again?

G-ride said...

nice race report, jb. i like ready your blog for the front row assesments of the race tactics, it sheds some light on your mindset as a racer. you work for it when you need to and that's cool, and you and kev are a unit, and thats cool too.

jerry chabot