The Connecticut stage race is a thing of beauty. I feel bad for the promoter, Jim Thompson that he was up against Killington this year. Ya, Killington was last weekend, but lots of people won't do 2 stage races in a row for lots of reasons, and with Killington having such long history, more people went to that race. What great problems we have in New England for bike racing. Some reasons you might want to choose CT over VT next year, or at least choose to do both are these:
1. It's a better race. The circuit race is awesome with 6 hotspot sprints (for master's) and a stout climb. 10 laps of the 3.5 mile circuit were a lot more action packed than that much too easy, much too dangerous circuit race in VT. The time trial is a wash, but the 91 mile road race on Sunday that doesn't go by a single commercial entity and is in the heart of the Berkshires is one of the most beautiful rides you could ever do. It's hilly but nothing brutal.
2. The cost. It's less than half the entry fee of Killington, and also pays out just about the same amount. Enough said.
3. The promoter. Jim Thompson is a racer's promoter, a guy's guy. He is committed to the event and actually asked Kevin and I in a sit down conversation "what would be the one, or two things I could do, or do better to make the race even better"? Thats as good as it gets if you ask me.
Now I'm not trying to knock Killington here. PLEASE don't get that impression. I am very fond of Gary Kessler and all he does with GMSR and now also Killington. I realize everyone has different cost's related to their events and they set the entry fee to accomodate those expenses. I get it, and I will be back over and over to race in VT. All I'm saying is this is a great race to do and if you're a true New England bike racer you owe it to yourself to have the experience.
Now onto the racing.
Kev was back from Italy while Sammy was taking a much needed break, so we had 3 guys again, with Bill and myself. This race is a little different. There are 2 master's categories, 40's & 50's, but they combine the fields to race together and separate results later. Prize money is equal.
The TT is a tough one, like all of them. You could make a TT downhill with a tailwind and it would still hurt like hell. Classic out and back. 8 miles a little up a little down. I was able to win since Fast Fred stayed in Maine this weekend by 36 seconds over Troy Kimball who was alone from Westwood Velo, while a couple of eligable teammates decided to race the PRO, 1, 2 field??? Girard O'Shea did a great ride to hit the podium in 3rd exactly one minute back. Teammate Bill Shattuck was in 4th at 1:10. In the 50's Kevin finished in 2nd, 9 seconds behind the World Champion, "The Russian Concussion" Dmitry Buben.
It was close to 11 am and stage 2 started at 1:30. We packed up and drove to the hotel in nearby Torrington, took showers, ate some food, put our feet up for 45 minutes and then went back to the venue.
Stage 2 is the circuit race and a LOT was at stake. There were points available for the typical KOM and Sprinter's jersies. BUT (theres always a BUT) the points also represented time bonuses for GC. That meant a guy could conceivably gain 36 seconds by winning all the sprints. We had a solid plan for how to deal with this and executed it pretty well. The KOM sprint suited me better, so I was gonna go for that and hope Troy didn't have enough energy to go for both. Lots of little breaks went up the road that gobbled up points, but I always got 2nd at the line, so I ended up winning the poka dots at the end of the day with 12 points. Bill was in 2nd which meant he'd wear it the next day. Kevin was able to follow the surges at both lines all day and was able to win the green jersey and was also tied for the poka dots. Bill and I actually slipped away after the last KOM and tried a jailbreak for 2-1/2 of the last 3 laps. We got caught on the climb on the last lap and I was toast. Somehow, Bill was able to muster up one more big effort and finished 2nd in the stage! That was unreal, as I was just swingin' on the back of the bunch at that point, after the break away attempt. To say Bill is riding well is a ridiculous understatement. He's killin' it!
Here's a shot of 3 old geezers with the jersies we earned, about to go to the start line for the 3rd stage.
I know, I know..... we look like huge douche bags.
The queen stage in all of New England bike racing (ok maybe App. Gap trumps it, but 91 hilly miles is the real deal) was on tap for Sunday. We had an interesting forcast. Rain, heavy at times, thunder showers possible, with tornado warnings thrown in. We left without any precip but that changed soon as a steady, cooling rain began to fall. It was super humid and somewhat warm so the rain actually felt pretty damn good.
Steve Badger slipped away alone early and was going pretty fast. Poor Bill was part of a 3 man team, and the other 2 had leader's jersies on. You know how the leader is not supposed to work and his teammates just ride tempo at the front all day.... Well this is 91 miles in the hills and pouring rain and NOBODY was helping him. He loved it though, and was tough as nails. He eventually brought back Badger, but before we got much farther Ed Angelli slipped away and made a nice gap and eventually went out of sight on us. I came to the front and was helping Bill a bit. I was on the front for a pretty good spell feeling very good actually, when Bill came up and said "we have a problem". That's never good. It turns out that Kev's electronic Dura-Ace crapped out in the rain and he no longer had rear deraileur capabilities. Thankfully he was in about the 15 and did have the front deraileur. I went back to see if I could mess with the cable where it entered the deraileur, but the cable is different than regular housing and it's real flimsy and limp so I couldn't do much with it, but it didn't look like it had come away anyway. He was gonna stop to mess with it and I said "don't you dare, you might get off only to achieve nothing and then have to chase the field for 20 minutes". He stayed in, and we hoped it might come around. It never did.
After the first lap (the 1st lap is 51 miles, the 2nd is 40 miles and a completely different loop with the last 20k overlapping the first) the sprint and KOM points were mostly all gobbled up by Ed and a couple other guys that attacked just for the points without much of a reaction from the field, including the sprint leader, which surprised me. To me you have to defend a jersey, you don't just sit there and do nothing when it's seriously threatened. But thats just me....whatever. I did sprint at the KOM just to get the last remaining point, hoping that would seal my KOM jersey, but really not too concerned with it since I was more focused on the Yellow jersy. It turned out that I had the math all done properly in my head. Ed had 6 points to start the day. I knew he won the KOM line so that gave him 12, but I got 1 so I should retain it. BUT (there's always a BUT) the screw up from the day before at the KOM line bit me. They had only recorded 4 finishers from the 1st sprint in the circuit race, but in fact it went 5 deep. It only said "Unknown rider" on the official results in 5th place on the 1st sprint, when we started the 3rd stage. Later I learned the "Unknown rider" had stepped up and claimed his point, it was Ed. So he actually had 7 points to start the day, so now we both had 13 and he won the last sprint, so thats how that story went. Ed also got enough points to win the Green jersey too. Now thats a fruitful break away as each competition paid $75 for 1st place, not to mention 2 sweet jersies for his wall.
Kev, jumped away before the KOM line also and easily won that sprint as well as the overall competition for the 50's KOM. Shortly after that in a particularly heavy downpour, we got a very bright lightning flash and almost an immediate thunder boom. It was very close and I feared they'd stop us and call it a day with Ed possibly winning it all if they took the results from the situation on the road at that moment. Luckily there was no more lightning and the rain let up a bit. We were riding pretty hard tempo and still no sign of Ed. The official car came up and told us that at mile 70 we were gonna be neutral for the steel bridge that had caused about 30 riders from the PRO, 1, 2 race to crash. I happened to ask the official in the car if he could tell me the gap to the leader and he said 2:35. I almost shit! TWO FREAKING THIRTY FIVE!!! Thats a HUGE gap. We had 30 some odd miles to race and I intended on defending my jersey and winning, but at that moment I was no longer the leader. I went to the front and rode hard. Kevin was right by my side as well as Bill, who I was worried was gonna run out of bullets at some point. It got pretty quiet, and it got pretty hilly. What was left of the field was in a long straight line. On one long steep uphill Kev came by me on his 2 speed and proceeded to mash the crap out of the hill. He had to, that was the only gear he had. I was comfortable on his wheel, but pretty damn close to being uncomfortable. He stayed on the gas and split the field. I looked back and there was carnage all over the hill. Several guys hung on, and near the top I pulled through and kept the pressure high. More high speed descents and a few rollers followed and I looked around to see who had made it. The first thing I noticed was that Bill didn't make it. We had Kevin and me, Dmitry (ccb), Bill Thompson (Keltic), Troy Kimball (Westwood), Monte Frank (Cyclefitness), and Carl Reglar (Danbury Audi). Carl was the stage winner at Killington last monday on that queen stage. We caught Ed just before the Neutral bridge where they actually made us dismount and walk over the bridge. That was a good decision by the promoter, because as every cyclist should know.....wet steel is like ice!
Shortly after that there was a loud voice in the group announcing "Thats right mo-fo's I'm back"! It was our boy "Wild Bill". I laughed my ass off as he was super animated, and now we had all 3 of our team members in a 9 man break at the front of the race. We had closed the 2:35 gap in a matter of 25 or 30 minutes. It took a little while, but eventually everyone was working in the group. With 10k to go we made a hard right, and for the 2nd time in the race we climbed the steady grade back toward the finish road. Carl Reglar drilled it here and the rotation went away since it was pretty hard to just follow him. He kept it pretty hot most of the way. Near the top of the road is where the hill really kicks and it continues onto the finishing road and the last couple kilometers of the TT course. It flattens out some but is still up hill until a short descent before a final uphill to the line.
Bill and I had reconned the finish on Friday afternoon when we got there. I told him if I still had legs at that point in the road race that I'd try an attack there on the steep part just before we turn left onto the TT course. It's probably 2 or 3k out or so. When we got close, I slid toward the back and told Bill I felt good and was gonna go. I told him to be ready and just follow the inevitable chase. If it worked I'd win, if it didn't, I'd force the others to ride way harder than they wanted to at mile 89 while pulling Bill and Kevin with them, in effect forcing them to burn their last matches while they lead out my teammates. Isn't bike racing awesome? You have to think of this stuff ahead of time, because when you're racing and cracked like a spring egg, it's hard to have good coherent thoughts.
Well it worked, and then it worked some more. I gapped them when I hit it, and maintained my effort up onto the last part of the TT course. I felt great and still had lots of energy left....somehow. I settled into my TT mode and committed to my 2nd jailbreak attempt in 2 days. This kind of move is 1 in 20 at best, maybe more like 1 in 50, but what a day that 1 makes for! I looked back and Troy was on the front drilling it and it looked like a few hadn't been able to match their acceleration. I drilled it up over the false flat where another very similar section of road went slightly uphill to the beginning of that final little plunge. I looked again and the gap was holding. "Could I do it?" I wanted it so badly. I told myself "this would make one hell of a first road race win". Yup thats right.....I've NEVER won a proper road race. TTs, crits, circuit races, mountain bike races, cross races yes, but never a road race. I hit the little plunge and went onto the uphill to the finish. I looked once more, and even though I had a good gap still, I was scared shitless. The last 200 meters of a sprint the chase can make up huge ground and eat you alive. I've been there before too. I went as hard as I could to the line and didn't dare put my arms up. I was maxed. The guy that finished right behind me and was screaming with joy was none other than "Wild Bill". He rode the train all the way to the end and then jumped it for 2nd. Kevin was right there too, getting 2nd to Dmitry in the 50s, and at the same time locking up all 3 jersies in his race. He walked away with the GC, Sprinter's, and KOM's jersies in the 50's.
We've had a great couple of weeks for the team and will now take a little rest.
Thanks for reading if you got this far, JB