GMSR is the best race you can do in New England. It's 4 stages include a super tough TT, a hard circuit race (53 miles for the Master's), a BRUTAL road race 77 miles crossing over Brandon gap, Notch road gap, and finishing at the top of the notorious App Gap, and finally a super technical, super fast downtown crit in Burlington VT. Burlington is one of the coolest towns in all of New England. The college kids (girls) are back in town and the summer is still holding on. There are lots of outdoor cafe's and we race right through several on the brick laid Church street, which is really more of a walking street and not normally open to traffic.
I had a great ride in 2008 in the TT and took the leader's jersey into the 2nd stage. I was hoping for a repeat, but Roger Aspholm is on some serious form and I'm honestly a bit off from the same time last year. Roger had his way with the course and me and took the jersey by a handy 21 sconds. A solid ass kicking! I was in second.
Day 2 is the circuit race and we had dual objectives. Kevin was in 6th, and I was 2nd. We wanted to preserve our high GC positions and try to get Dave Connery into the Green Jersey (Sprint leader). The first sprint of three was absolute textbook. The plan was to have Sammy lead out Dave with me sweeping his wheel. Sammy toughed it out through the trenches for 3k and at about 300 meters to go he drilled it from about 5th or 6th wheel. Dave was glued to him and I was right on Dave. Sammy left it at about 100 meters where Dave accelerated strongly and made it look easy as he went over the line first and I stayed on his wheel for 2nd. Tobi Schultz was 3rd.
Second time around after a hard climb, we set it up the same way. This time Westwood had 3 guys in formation for Troy and so Sammy had to hit it early at about 4oo meters. He got Dave to about 200, and Dave pulled through, with me on his wheel. I instantly felt the slow down and realized Dave didn't have it, so I went around him and charged for the line. I thought I had it but ran out of gear and and got passed by a wheel by Tobi, with Troy in third. I had two 2nds and didn't realize there were even bigger points available at the finish. We all made it up the big climb after the feed zone except Dave and had about 10 miles to go to the finish. On the last little rise, we were all too far back when a small group got off the front. We screwed up on that one and had no one to blame but ourselves. The small group contained 6 strong riders including Roger.
We chased, but it was futile since the teams with guys in the break did a good job of not cooperating and the other guys had no interest in working. We lost 27 seconds and the first 3 got time bonuses too. In the end we lost a lot. I went from 2nd to 6th on GC, Kev went from 6th to 8th, and Roger had the leader's jersey, the sprinter's jersey, and the king of the mountains jersey. A GMSR first and an impressive display of dominance.
Day 3 is the BEAST! 77 miles over 2 major gaps and lots of little leg breakers along the way. I was in third place in the sprint competition and Tobi had the green jersey on by default since Roger wears the leader's jersey. There's only 1 points sprint in this stage so we needed to make it count. It was at 14.5 miles. We had a good plan. Tobi saw what happened in the 1st sprint the day before and pimped our train on the 2nd sprint....winning it, so we figured he'd look to duplicate that today. So we set it up exactly the same way...Sammy leading it out, Dave in second and me sweeping in third. The plan....Fake it and leave Tobi in the wind. BRILLIANT! Sammy got all keyed up and in position. He even tightened up his shoes to sell it. Tobi was in a good spot as he watched his former lead out man do his thing. As we got close Sammy drifted slightly right leaving 1 line out by the yellow line. He started to increase speed, but we were getting close. Tobi held tight. Troy took the line on the left and opened it up, I blasted off behind him. I thought I was gonna get around him but the line came quick. There was actually 1 guy away on a solo break 3 minutes up, so he took 1st place points (6), Troy took 2nd (4), and I got third (3). Tobi was 4th with zero points. The green jersey was mine. Now I had to get on with the rest of the stage.
We went over Brandon Gap pretty hard, but no worries. I was in the 1st group as were Sammy and Kev, Dave was close behind in the next bunch. We descended Brandon which is pretty straight forward, but if you take foolish risks there are a few bends in the road that you can kill yourself on.....yes KILL YOURSELF! One guy from a different field was in the ditch after a very nasty crash and was in a bad bad way. We heard later that he had undergone 7 hours of surgery. Don't know what on or how he is, but I hope he makes a full recovery. Cycling is hard. You can be riding along fine one second and a second later you're f#&@ed up bad. It's too far from the finish to even bother trying to get away, so you should just chill and ride down sensibly. I did that and still topped out at 58.4 mph. Being heavy is good for some things. At the bottom we turn right onto a flat road and everyone starts eating and drinking. It's sorta an unofficial lunchtime.
The next big obstacle is Notch Rd. and the dirt section that follows, but thats not for a while. It was mostly uneventful until then and even after really. Everyone was well aware of what was looming. We went over Baby Gap (the lower part of App Gap) fairly easy, and I was surprised at how many guys were still on. App Gap starts at 4k to go and it's brutal. Kevin made the 1st group as he's climbing as good as anyone right now. I faded off with a few others and found my own rythm. Roger crushed it again and won the 3rd stage in a row. Kev almost climbed onto the podium but had to settle for 4th 24 seconds down. I came in 14th with Troy Kimball 1:19 down. Sammy was just a little further down and Dave was in the "way back machine". Kevin and I flip flopped. He was now in 6th and I was in 8th. Still good.
Day 4. The downtown crit. I was in the green sprinter's jersey and wanted to stay in it, but it was extremely close with lots of good sprinters after it. Last year I won this race and did the "bookend" winning the 1st and last stages of the stage race. I was really wanting to try to win the stage and I should have been in a better spot when that came around, but I made judgement errors again and was out of position at the end. The 1st sprint preem however was a different story. With everyone fresh and wanting the green jersey it was gonna be hard! Good old Sammy brought me to the promise land though. Half way through the sprint lap he collected me and brought me right to the front. Coming into the last corner, a FAST downhill left hander through some rough pavement and onto the uphill finishing straight, I went around him. I knew no one else would jump through the hole that was now closing and Sam could just coast the corner allowing me a gap. I got the bike around the potholes and righted it and started to charge. I shifted as I heard someone (Dave Connery) shout "Go Jonny Go!" I did, and it was a long way to go, but I never saw a wheel on either side and nailed it to the line. Max Lippolis was 2nd and Dave 3rd. My lead was now much bigger as I took maximum points. Troy and Tobi were closest in points and neither of them was 2nd or 3rd so that was good.
The next sprint (the last one before the finish) came up and I was near the front when we were coming into the bell for the preem lap. I knew exactly where and when it was, but I decided to attack a lap early and see if I could catch them with their pants down. I sprinted for the line and I was guessing that they'd think I had the laps wrong. I got the instant gap and as I went over the line I got the bell for the preem. I had a big gap at the next corner and even bigger after that. I settled in and cruised to the preem win and clinched the jersey. Only I didn't know that then. The group was far back, but when they sprinted they gained on me. I decided to sit up and go back into the field. Stupid? Maybe, but it was a big risk to try to go from there. If it didn't work I was screwed. From there I should have gotten into a good spot in the top 7 or 8 and just surfed wheels, but for some reason I thought it was gonna split. It felt like it as the pressure was constant and hot. I tried to break it after Tobi did a hard pull, but there were just too many strong guys. I lost the race right there by cashing that check.
Mark Gunsalis drifted off the front and everyone looked around. Roger came to the front with 2 to go and brought him almost back. With half a lap to go he was right there, but he still had a small gap. The sprint started and Max got there by about 7 inches, taking his second Burlington Crit victory. A good win for him since he had some bad luck for a few days.
I finished up 10th or 11th. The GC stayed the same. Kevin 6th, me 8th. The big thing for me was winning the sprinter's competition. It's no secret (especially if you're a regular reader here) that I sort of despise sprinters. But let me clarify. I love watching Mark Cavendish crush field sprints as much as the next guy, but thats the PRO game. This is not. I like to race, not sit around all day.....using and abusing, and then with fresher legs than the guys who raced, outsprint them. You may think it's smart, but there's no honor in it for me. So I think I showed I can do that too if I want to, but I'd rather throw down in a nice 20 or 30 mile break. It was kinda sweet, because I'm thumbing my nose at all the usual suspects (you know who you are).
Well it's time for a couple more Mountain bike races, a short break, and a full Cyclocross season. See Ya in the mud, JB