Sunday, August 22, 2010

2010 D2R2 Pure Bonus

Thats what this was to me. Pure Bonus! As you know I was pretty sure 2 weeks ago that the D2R2 was off the schedule for me. I hoped to get back for Cross at first, but then after quickly feeling a lot better, I figured I'd be able to race Green Mountain Stage Race. Then after more healing and more ride time, I decided in the 11th hour that I'd be saddling up for D2R2. With this being billed as the hardest century ride you'll ever do, which is actually well over 100 miles at 113 or so, it wouldn't seem too hard to believe. But.....there's always a "but", this is no road ride. This is a "dirt road randonee" that starts in Deerfield, MA, in the "hilltown" region. Hence the name D2R2. It is 85-90% dirt roads, some of which are basicly cart roads that you couldn't drive a 2 wheel drive car on. It is hillier than you can imagine. 13,000 feet of climbing. With that comes descending, lots of descending on dirt roads. This year was gonna be tricky because with the dry summer, the dirt roads have turned into washboards in lots of places. Not great for a broken collarbone with 2 weeks of healing, but as I told all my mates, my ribs were actually the worse injury in terms of feeling pain while riding a bike. I knew I had to be safe and easy on the descents, but I have to admit to feeling the thrill most of the day and letting go of the brakes a fair amount. I had one close call when I almost overcooked a left hander that entered a small bridge. I managed it OK though by putting an outrigger out (clicking out of the pedal and leaning the inside foot out in case of a tire slide) and measuring what distance I had left to complete the turn. I made it with a couple inches to spare, and then told myself to go back to being more careful than that again. I'm very sorry to report that 2 very good friends from the ccb team had 2 separate cases of bad luck, and went down hard, both breaking collarbones. Well I don't know that for sure, but I know Tyler Munroe did for sure because he was back at the finish tent, drinking a beer, (atta boy Ty) with the tell tale signs of a clavicle fracture. Then we heard Jim Nash had also gone down and it was said that he had also broken a shoulder and was at the hospital. Many speedy recovery wishes to you guys. I hope it's not too bad for you. This is RUGGED terraine, and it has demanded respect from lots of men.

At any rate, I was on an absolute high just being there with this crew. I had been somewhat depressed since my Louisville trip, and I knew this was the sort of thing that could snap me out of my funk. I hate the hot weather and Saturday was calm and cool with a hint of cyclocross in the air. Had I stayed home because of the injuries, I would have woken to that cool dry autumn air and instantly gotten more depressed, knowing what I was missing. So in the start corral at 6:30 after letting all the tough guys go at the early 6 AM start time, we had Solobreak, Dougie, Kevin Buckley, Sammy, Kev, Synjen, John Funk, Tim Grosbeck, Steve Roszco, John Mosher, Chris White, Chris Peck, and our fearless leader who knows the entire route by memory and was also our gracious host Friday night....Jay Gump and lots of others.

It was cold starting out so we started with arm warmers and thin vests. After about an hour we stopped and dropped any extra clothing items by a covered bridge and Jay's wife Megan picked it all up later and put it another car that was coming down later for the shorter 100k ride. A BIG thank you to Jay and Megan for making our adventure as fun & friendly as it could be. By that time we had already done some serious climbing. I highly recomend Dave's report for a much better description of some of the technical aspects of where we were and what kind of grades we faced, and of course Dave's unmatched humor. But this is such a huge ride that we really hadn't even scratched the surface yet, especially since we were still fresh. 1 hour into a 9 hour "Hellride" means squat! The first few descents were a litmus test of sorts for me personally. The climbs were hard, yes, but the descents were where I'd have to absorb more vibration and shock into my injured skelatal system. I'm not a big believer in pill popping, but for this extreme effort under extreme circumstances, I'd decided to have as close to 800 mg of ibuprofin coursing through my blood as possible. So I had advil with me and took 800 mg before we started and again 3-1/2 hours later and then again 3-1/2 hours after that. The first few washboard sections were unpleasant, but I finally decided I wasn't doing any more damage and was just holding on too tight making things worse, so I loosened up a bit and it made all the difference in the world. Like all sports, the key is to do it in as a relaxed state as possible.

We were climbing a very tough hill in the woods at one point and as we looked up there was a calf (baby cow, not Sammy's lower leg) in the road and more or less trotting right at us with a somwhat disgruntled look on his face. I had told myself I wanted to enjoy this ride more and take some pictures, but when you're climbing these brutal dirt climbs and you've got one bad arm that doesn't reach pockets on your back very well, it's well.....hard. I faded back though and made the attempt, I fumbled with the pocket and the cliff bars on top of it but managed to get it out and turn it on and fire one off just as "Norm" (Cityslicker's) got off the edge of the road. It turns out I videoed him by mistake which I have no idea how I did it, but here he is.

We eventually hit the food/fluid stop at the sunflower field. This was one of the main reasons I had brought the camera along. Last year this was a sea of 8' tall sunflowers that were all in full bloom. The ride was about a month earlier last year, and this year they had planted a different kind of sunflower, they weren't as tall and had gone by just a little bit by the time we arrived. It was a better snapshot last year, but that will have to live on in my memory, unless someone took a shot in 2009 that they'd like to share. Thanks to Rosey, we can now see the difference...

There were countless climbs and descents. The steepest was easily Achambo, the longest was probably Hillman, but the hardest of all was Patton that falls at about the 90-93 mile mark. We had an extraordinary group of climbers. Most of the day, the only somewhat competitive times were on these hills, and I was able to be at or on the front for all of them.....until Patton. In 2009 I famously attacked Kevin here (and by famously, I mean he and I remember it) after he waited for me numerous times earlier in the day, only to have him counter attack me and club me to death on the final steep wall that is more or less 20% on golf ball sized gravel. I survived the first half OK with Kevin and Chris Peck and John Funk who I have a mountain of respect and admiration for, then it lessened in terms of steepness and I repeated my attack from a year ago.....kind of. I was able to recover and go between Chris and Kev and put in a surge, but I gapped no one, and I laughed to myself as Kev said "oh no, not this again". I'm even laughing now as I write this, because it will be tradition from now on of course, but I was pretty close to being toast at that moment and the kill was imminent. Those 3 took off and I was left in the dust and backward rolling golf balls as I suffered up to the top, but while this is where my suffering was at it's greatest, it was where my happiness was at it's peak. I was here, I was in the late stages of the ride on the last killer climb with a food stop at the top and as long as I kept my head, I was gonna do this. I promise you I wasn't trying to be a hardass when I decided to ride it, rather I needed it. I wouldn't risk furter injuring myself if that was a possiblity. Of course it's a possiblity for anyone to injure themselves on this ride, but I didn't feel as though just participating would injure me, so I trusted my instincts again. Ya, that let me down last time, but I could list hundreds of thousands of instances where it didn't so I wasn't gonna check my confidence at the door now. I say I needed it, because this is my drug. People like anyone reading this right now inspire me. People like you Dougie, that live life like it's a one time chance (because it is!). I'm more comfortable in my skin with all of you masochistic nutjobs than I am anywhere else. I mean that affectionately of course!

The rest of the ride wasn't uneventful, we had 3 flats, one of which was mine, but no crashes and when we came off the last, possibly hardest dirt road sector, we were all smiles. The group was fragmented a little but it was more or less all together for a good size portion of us that started together.
I felt like I was on drugs! I'm so greatful that I was able to have this day with everyone, with absolutely perfect weather. I thought for sure it was gonna be wiped away after my crash, so it only served to emphasize how much I do love the spiritual side of cycling. Racing is great, but I won't always race, I will however always ride. I have to, I need it like a junkie needs the needle.

They do SO much for you at this event. The food along the way is unreal and the friendliness is off the charts. The organization is flawless, and when you're done they offer a shuttle to the school where we can shower and then back to an incredible dinner and beer. I would have sat there and drank with Solo 'til they threw us out, but my pal Sammy was driving and he needed to go, so we left after only a few. I'm sure it was for the better anyway.

If you like tough rides and dirt roads and you think the Battenkill race is the big deal, you're dead wrong. That's a silly little flatish spin with a circus atmosphere compared to this baby. This is THE challenge for anyone looking for one, and it supports a great cause. You also get more than your money's worth throughout the day.

Thanks for reading, JB

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Progress Report

Well, it must have been all the well wishes, because I've been healing at a very pleasing rate. My hand remained swollen and tender for a quite few days after getting home, but the collarbone was less and less painful as long as I didn't do anything stupid. I was really good about trying not to move it the whole first week.

During that time I went to see my local orthopedic surgeon that helped me through the much worse, displaced right side (the other side and dominant hand) clavicle fracture at the end of 2004. He was on vacation, but his P.A. Jim Thomas, who happens to ride for NEBC and is really, really strong, and is also an occasional training partner took super care of me. It was so cool to have a familiar face and an actual bike racer to be able to talk to. No eye rolls, no looks like I'm a crazy man, just a friend reaching out to help. That alone brought my spirits way up. He looked at my hand as well and noticed that a few of the stitches were "matress sutures" and that the continued swelling of the hand had more or less sent the stitches under the skin.

He had another X-ray taken at the PRO sharp shooter angle and then he brought me some good news. The bone had already started to heal a bit and it hadn't slipped at all. It wasn't likely that it would now. It's right in the middle of the clavicle between the sternum and shoulder. He said it broke upward, but then returned back down to it's (more or less) normal location. All this was good news and I knew he knew the next thing that was gonna come out of my mouth. "When can I ride outdoors"? He said "Well Tyler Hamilton did it the next day, and this is probably similar to the break he had" he went on to say "it's not gonna feel real good and I wouldn't reccomend any mountain biking just yet, but if you can take the discomfort, the bone isn't gonna move."

Yee Ha!

Then before I left, he took a closer look at the sutures and said that the wounds, were more or less healed, at least enough where they weren't gonna split open again, and that if he wanted me to have him take the stitches out instead of doing it myself one handed, that it wouldn't be a problem. I said "sure, have at it". It was a good thing too, because those matress sutures really were a little trickier than any of the ones I've ever taken out. I couldn't imagine wasting a trip in Cape Cod summer traffic to have someone cut a few tiny stitchs and then pull them out, so it was great that he took care of it there and then.

That was Thursday and I decided to wait til the next day to try a ride, making it a full week off the bike, which I was really kind of due for anyway. Friday I ended up really busy and didn't get a chance to ride til later in the day and at the last minute I decided it would be best to give it a go on the trainer, just to see what everything was gonna feel like. It was a smart decision, unlike many I make, and it turned out the hand was the hardest injury to deal with since I really had no strength in the hand and it hurt to try to close it. I just sort of sat it on the top of the bars and it supported some of the weight that I was allowing to be on that side which was probably only about 25% anyway, so it was good enough. I rode for an hour and was thrilled to be able to ride, but my hatred for the trainer was firmly in place.

The next day Jamie dragged me around for a couple hours on the roads. I took a few feeble pulls, but not much. The collarbone definitely lets me know it's busted, but I'm more or less in a fixed position. Trying to look back can be more painful than hitting a bump. The hand was slightly better too, and I knew it was good to be trying to use it. The skin is actually a lot tighter since the holes in my skin weren't lacerations, but rather deep abrasions, and had to be pulled together somewhat unnaturally to close the wounds. So I guess I got a "hand lift". That isn't gonna help these old catcher's mitts me. After being a cyclist and a carpenter all my life, my hands are a bit weathered to say the least.

I've been able to ride each day and the hand is now almost completely back to normal size, except for the middle knuckle that stuck out the most and absorbed most of the impact. It's a lot stronger and the skin is starting to feel like it won't tear when I try to make a fist, which I still can't do. Having this happen to my non dominant side is more than a big relief. Having injured that side of my body before, I know full well the pitfalls of trying to do life's little things with the useless hand. Try wiping your butt with the "other" hand sometime and see how that goes. I hope you're not a fingernail biter! Thats just the beginning of it, it goes on and on. So things are a lot better than they could be!

The one injury that isn't cooperating is the ribs. They seem to have actually gotten worse. I think the soft tissue damage is starting to rear it's ugly head and combined with the ribs themselves, it's pretty sharp at times. When I first get on the bike it's like having just gotten off the deck after crashing. The pain is sharp, as I'm not used to the lungs expanding that much and thats what pushes against the inside of the ribcage. Eventually after a few miles it gets a little better, or I just get more used to it, but it's hard to get the oxygen to the muscles when the breathing is handicapped. It's fine though, it'll get better in time and for now I can actually ride.

I'm just getting a little stir crazy though (I didn't have far to go). Today I took the cross bike for it's first voyage since Belgium and it was nice to have a little more upright position and a softer feel from the tires. I figured I'd make sure to give it a shakedown before I try to ride it Saturday. I thought I might take a little spin on it in Western MA on Saturday with a few friends. There's this little group ride called the D2R2 that is lots of fun, so I think I'll go do that since I already entered and all. I need to ride with the boys more than anything and see all the smiling faces to really get me back on my feet. I hope to see you all there, be sure to come say hi.

Thanks for all the shout outs and for reading, JB

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ahh Crap

So I was out to improve on my 5th place in the TT, at the Natz Road Race. The course is super technical and lots of little hills, also lots of hard corners, and of course 100 guys all wanting to ride near the front. I had seen a few races already, including Kevin's race on Tuesday when he finished a fine 5th. Also the race right before mine was the 40-44 which Roger Aspholm handily won from a ten man group. All of the races had blown apart due to the nature of the course and agressive racing. It had been well over 100 degrees all week, but by Friday it was in the low to mid 90's. That hardly seems great but the humidity was also down making the "feels like" temperature a good 20 degrees cooler than Wednesdays races.

We hit the line at 2:30 in the heat of the day and it was fast and frantic right away. I was able to get to the front just in time to avoid being in or behind a pile up about 2/3 of the way around the 1st lap. We hit the hardest climb and I was 3rd wheel feeling fine. I fought the urge to attack when the guys around me were clearly breathing a lot harder than me. Over the top a couple guys shot to the front before a hard off camber left hand turn. I had ridden the course the day before and got all the corners dialed in, so I was confident in my lines. When the 4 or 5 guys in front of me slowed way down and took it real wide, I thought "what pussies". I held my speed and at the last second dove hard for the inside apex of the corner. I had a beautiful line and a clean line of vision. In that split second I thought "this is how to ride that corner ladies". Before that thought was even gone from my mind, I heard and felt an interuption at the base of my rear wheel. I was going fast and railing the corner. The wheel made a boney scrape and I slid a bit. I reacted well and got the bike back under me for an instant, then my rear wheel felt like the brakes had been squeezed hard and i went into a washout skid. I seemed to actually pick up speed as I pinwheeled around the bend. I couldn't save it again although I tried all the way down. I hit the deck hard and bounced a bit then slid, still on the inside of the turn and taking out no one else.

I hopped up instantly and scurried off to the inside on the sidewalk. The group sped by as I took inventory, shoulder hurts bad. I tried to move it and it wasn't too too terrible. I felt the collarbone, nothing obvious. My leg had a good size patch of roadrash at the calf. No worries. My hand hurt a lot, but it was at the knuckles under my now crimson gloves. The index finger that was on the front break in the ready position looked like hamburger. The pavement was that chip seal crap that just destroys flesh. All in all I was up on my feet and not in pure agony.

The back of the bunch went by and I was now looking at my rear wheel. I had rolled a section of the tire off the rim. That was the initial part of the loss of control. In the time it took for the wheel to rotate up to the brakes I had regained control, albeit for a nanosecond, but at that level of hyper awareness I knew I had saved it. Then in the next nanosecond when the part of the tire that was off the rim lodged itself in the brakes forcing a lock up and skid, I had "re-lost" control and this skid lasted long enough due to my velocity that there would be no saving it at that extreme body lean angle.

The wheel car was right there which surprised me, because the other pile up was only minutes before. I think there may have been 2 wheel cars. At any rate those guys were on it. I knew I took a hard hit and my hand was bleeding really bad. I told him I was all set as I was rolling the tire back on the rim. He looked and said "Oh you rolled it".....and so my embarrassment began. Thats just SO non PRO. Theres actually a penalty in the rulebook for rolling a tire. Or at least there used to be, I don't know if it's still there, but it should be. I'm so greatful that I didn't take anyone else out or hurt them. Then I'd feel 1000 times worse. The wheel guy asked what I needed and I said I'm done. I knew I was injured pretty bad in the shoulder area and my hand was seriously messed up.....actually worse than I realized at the time. I was in the drops and my fist took the initial impact ripping 3 big holes in the knucles from the pinky to the middle finger. The index finger that was forward, on the brake lever was spared at the fist knucle, but was not so lucky on the middle knuckle. That was the hamburger spot.

I got back on my bike after everyone had gone and just spun back toward the finish area. My plan was to start my drive home after my race. I figured I'd better have the paramedics clean me up a bit before I saddled up to drive. I had to ride half way back around the course to find one of the ambulances, and when I came to a little punchy hill I stood up to pedal a bit and thats when I started to really think I had broken the clavicle too. I've done it before, both "greenstick" and "displaced". Displaced is very obvious and ver painful immediately. Greenstick can vary, but it basicly means the bone is in tact structurally, but it has a crack in it. I self diagnosed it as a greenstick fracture at that point. My white handlebar tape was now bright red as was my Dura Ace shifter. When I got to the ambulance. I took off my helmet, shades, and gloves. I didn't like what I saw when my left glove came off. The 3 holes in my knuckles were VERY deep. There was white inside at the bottom of the wounds and I said "Oh shit, thats right down to the bone". The paramedic looked and said,"Ya dude, you're going to the hospital. I said, "maybe, lets just clean me up for now".

As I sat on the steps to the Ambulance and got the wounds washed up, I started to feel a lot worse and I was hopeful the collarbone wasn't busted but I knew it was. I was right. I decided to skip the ambulace ride and drive myself to the hospital. I was able to change and load my bike without too much pain and then took a walk up to turn in my timing chip and then over to the feed zone to thank those that were gonna feed me and grab my cooler.

At the hospital, they actually had a hand division at the ER. They eventually got me in there but I had to have lots of X-Rays done, on the hand and clavicle, and ribs which were now giving me a ton of pain and making it real hard to breathe. My race was still going on back at the venue. Eventually the surgeon decided my hand was not broken and after some painful tests it was determined that there was no tendon or joint damage. It turns out the white at the bottom of the wounds was the tendon, not the bone. He was straight from China and his english wasn't very good at all. I didn't care as long as his medical knowledge was good. The nurse told me was an outstanding hand specialist and that was good enough for me. Well he may be a great surgeon but his bedside manner and awareness of other injuries was a bit lacking. He proceeded to make me his bitch as he stabbed at my ripped apart hand with the anastesia. Squeezing the back of my hand that was extremely tender and jerking my arm to the position he desired. I have what I consider a very high pain threshold. I can sit there and suck up the pain that came with my injuries, but when I start getting tortured at those specific locations, it gets a little......shall we say.....aggrivating. I finnaly had to scream with one particular movement, and then in a very BOLD voice I yelled. "Does this guy even know I have a broken collarbone?"
It turns out he didn't. He works on hands and in his mind the hand is it's own entity. I'm laying there with road rash all over my leg and hand, and it took me quite a while just to get down on the table and get my arm out to the side where he needed it, with the ribs and collarbone shooting pain signals all through my body, and it never occured to him that I may have other injuries. After that he was better, but not by a lot. The hand is a delicate area to have to work on, I didn't realize it was gonna be so bad, but I aged a couple years in that little room.

After that I got a sling for my arm and then I had to ask them to dress the "dollar bill" size road rash on my leg so it wouldn't harden up while I drove. I walked out of there at 8pm. I had been there over 3 hours, and now as I walked out into the parking lot with fading daylight in Louisville, KY after an incredibly long and draining day I looked at my car and realized it was gonna be my prison cell for the forseeable future. I went to Walgreens and got my anti-infection antibiotics, and then went next door to a sandwich shop and got a sub. After I ate it, it was 9 o'clock and almost dark out. I headed East. 1000 miles from home.

I drove for 4-1/2 hours and stopped at a rest area after seeing way to many deer on the highway. I got out and walked around a little and started to realize that I was pretty jacked up. I didn't fill the Vicoden scrip, and I won't. That stuff is pure evil. I'd rather feel pain any day over what that crap does to you. I wondered if I should have accepted Nancy or Jamie's offer to fly out and drive me home, but I could never let them do that. I'm independant to a fault. I climbed back into my cell and reclined the seat to try to sleep a little. I had already decided that it would actually be easier to sleep sitting up and that I wasn't gonna get a good nights sleep no matter what. I actually went straight out, and surprisingly slept off and on for almost 5 hours. I was really wrecked.

Wakeing up in a world of pain in a West Virginia rest area with a dark gloomy fog all around and big rig diesels idleing nearby was unpleasant to say the least. Every little movement brought pain to something, but the ribs were the most acute area at the moment. I managed to get out and take a walk and have a squirt. My breath and body stunk like shit, and I felt sorry for myself as I walked back to my cell.

Then something happened. I thought of the vets that are coming home from needless, pointless wars. They're missing arms or legs while life back home really goes unchanged. They risk their lives and lots of them lose them too. So I figured they'd love to wake up in a car in West Virginia with a broken collarbone and some hand wounds. They'd be so thrilled to be able to drive to their home on that very day. And so thats what I be happy. I decided to shut up and drive. I'm not gonna lie and say I had that attitude all the way, but during the bad patches I made myself think like that. At times I thought, "boy I should have just driven home from the Catskills race on a high and I'd be all good right now. But then I said "No, you don't know that, you could have been in a fatal car accident if you went that way, or some other thing. Theres no way to know, you just have to go out there and live life. The decisions I made led me here. Thats fine, I'll heal and rest and come back stronger.

I finally pulled into Nancy's place around 7:30 Saturday night. She was at her high school reunion that she had planned for months. (I told her not to cancel her plans to look after me). It was a tough couple of days, but the're behind me now. Thanks for all the calls, texts, and emails from friends and know who you are. I couldn't take calls on the road because my left arm was slinged hard against my body and my right arm was stuck to the steering wheel

About my tire rolling off. I can blame no one but myself. I've glued hundreds of tires on in my life and never rolled one off. Some of the thoughts I have are that I left the bikes and wheels in the car most of the time I was out there. It was well over 100 degrees in the shade (where the temperature is taken) but in the sun in a black SUV, it was probably 150 or so. I was careful to let air out of the tires so they didn't explode, but I honestly never considered the liquifying effect that the heat may have on the glued up tubulars. My bad. I also rode the course the days before the race getting the corners dialed in on my training wheels which are aluminum rimmed clinchers. It's not possible to roll a clincher. I was very confident in my speed and line entering the corner, I had done my homework, I knew the corner perfectly. I threw it in there hard, but not dangerously.....I didn't think. I'd do it again, because thats what I've always done. I recon the corners and know all the geometry before I get to it in a race. I practice them at speed so I don't get surprised in the race. My gluing method is similar to all the expert articles you can read on the subject. My tires were new right before the Hilltowns race, where I had no issues and also none at the Tour Of the Catskills, although there was never a corner as severe at those races. Either way you slice it, if I did a bad glue job, or stupidly allowed the glue to "cook" off the rims, or if I just overbaked the turn it's my fault, no one elses, so that, believe it or not, makes it easier to accept. I'm very embarressed about it and so glad I didn't hurt anyone else in the process.

So thats it, my road season is now over. I'm very sad to be missing D2R2 (anyone wanna buy my entry) especially after talking about how much fun it was gonna be with Sammy and Kev and John Funk and Jay Gump etc. I'm very sad to be missing GMSR, which is maybe my favorite stage race. I've got the best climbing legs of my life and to have a go at the overall there would have been a dream. As it is though, this is easily my best road season ever. So I'll take rest, and heal up and try to get ready for the Cross season. (The real season). I'll be on the line in VT at the first Verge weekend, ready to rip in the Stars & Stripes.....and you can be damn sure I'll have the corners dialed in!

Thanks for Reading, JB

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tour of the Catskills

This is late, but thats because I'm in Kentucky for Master's Road Natz. It's been over 100 degrees here since I got here Monday, and real humid on top of it all, but more on that later.

I went into Catskills hoping to be in the mix. All I had heard was horror stories about all the climbing. Even the 2 mile prolouge (individual start TT format) looked like it went straight up on the web site's profile. I spoke to a few people that had done it and they said TT bikes were mostly not used, but they were allowed. I put mine in the car anyway, because I thought I might drive from NY to KY for Natz, but hadn't yet decided.

When I got to the prolouge course I was early enough to ride it a couple times. I went out on my road bike and it was uphill, yes, but not super steep. I thought I could lay down more power on the TT bike so when I descended back down I switched bikes and gave it a test run on the TT bike. My decision was fast. TT bike it is. I'm not big on following the masses, so the fact that everyone was using a road bike only made it better for my head. I've often said "if everyone is going left....I'm going right". Take a drive on any highway in the US and look at the driver's in the left hand "speed" lane and you'll see what I mean. Just a bunch of sheep following each other. You have to break free from that and stand alone. Well I do anyway.

The field was more stacked than any race I've been to this year. I had a good ride, I knew that, but I was surprised to hear I had won. I thought Fast Fred Thomas was gonna take some time out of me, but he slotted in down in 7th. I was 12 seconds clear of Carl Reglar from Danbury Audi, and a few more on the Canadian stud David Ghazi. Troy Kimball, John Funk, David Taylor, John Gee, and Wild Bill filled out some of the top 10 spots.

Stage 1 looked hard on paper, but after the TT I figured it wouldn't be as bad as it looked. I was right.......It was worse! Bill patrolled the front early on and a few things went away briefly, but Bill brought them back. He actually had a slight gap with Carl Reglar for a K or two but others pulled that back as well. Shortly after that we hit the base of the hill. It was steep too. I figured it would be about 2 miles of climbing based again on the profile. Bill's big effort just beforehand shuffled him to the back and soon a select group of 15 were at the front. It was most of the names from the top 10 in the TT but also present were Rob Lattanzi, Eric Gutbier, and Harry (Kip) Stover. At times it was very hard as the pitch kept changing and in turn the tempo. Eric was having a great day climbing and it was him on the front setting the hard tempo. After 2 miles of very difficult, hot climbing we saw KOM 5k written on the road. I almost shit. Thats still over 3 miles to the top, and lots of times theres more climbing after the kom line. That was the case here too, but as it got steeper near the top I actually felt better and by then I didn't think anyone was gonna drop me. We crested the hill and there was no one there to record the KOM points, no one at the second one either about 15 k later.

We had a long way to go and David Taylor tried a solo attack that wasn't gonna go anywhere. I went to the front and just rode tempo and left him hanging out there about 100 meters and laughed as he looked back constantly. David is not my favorite rider, I'll leave it at that. A few other things were tried and none of them went anywhere, so we were just dickin around really. Finally I said, "Hey lets just rotate for the next 10 miles so we don't get caught" I wasn't worried about the overall at this point because lots of guys were thinking about the stage win and so nothing was gonna get away on flat roads with 10 miles left. To my surprise, after a while, everyone fell into place and was working. It was really cool to be in a 15 man group working it right. I figured we were gonna make it to the line no worries. At that instant we got caught by 6 or 7 guys, one being Wild Bill.

We were told that we'd have a 2 mile road closure to the finish and that there would be no yellow line rule at that time. We kept looking for it because our odometers were at 50 miles and then 51 and counting. The race distance was advertised at 52 miles. Still cars were coming toward us and no 1k to go signs or anything. Suddenly we came around a corner and the line was 120 meters in front of us. Everyone went at the same time and the guys on the front stayed on the front and Kip took it. Carl Reglar was 2nd, jumping him 6 seconds closer to me via the time bonus and Fred Thomas was 3rd. Now my lead was only 6 seconds going into the "Devil's Kitchen Stage" on Sunday.

Sunday there was an early KOM line and a very hard move went from 500 meters. It looked painful, but it was clear that it was for points and not for a break attempt so I sat tight. Just a couple meters before the line, Rob Lattanzi went hard for 4th place points and kept on going right through the other's that had sprinted so hard. One other guy tacked on and they split. Good old Westwood Velo was bringing the race to Corner Cycle. The gap went out pretty good right away and then Marky G. and Mark Pohndorf got together off the front of us as well and they were also working well together. Bill was getting pretty smoked, both from Saturday and now Sunday doing lots of work. No one was helping at this moment. I knew I had to ride, so I did. Bill and I were taking pulls and we brought back Mark & Mark, but Rob was still way up there. We stayed steady and got some help from a few others. I remember John Funk taking some very good pulls. We had them right in our sights and then Rob's break away mate sat up and came back to us. Rob continued on. That sort of lulled us into a non chase mode and then we descended forever! Rob was outa sight and we were all eating and drinking and wizzin' off the bike. It was really a slow few miles. The pace never really hotted up again and this concerned me because there were places where we could see a LONG way and we couldn't see Rob. Bill was working his tail off, and getting no help. Finally when he took a breather and we slowed down even more I had to go to the front again and lay down some tempo.

Bill pulled along side of me and asked if I thought it was wise. I said "it was necessary and I didn't want to gamble". I said "Westwood did a good job putting us against the wall so it was time to tip my hat to them." I felt great though and the miles on the front with Bill were easy and it felt good to finally ride. We were getting close to Devil's Kitchen now. We had driven it the day before and it made App Gap look a roller. Hardest thing I'd ever seen, including Switzerland and St. Thomas. A few miles before we got there I went back a bit and munched on some food and gels. Poor Bill was now in full sacrifice mode burying himself to the base of the hardest climb we'd ever seen. I really admired him at that moment and look forward to returning the favor. I had commented at Killington how much I respected the O&A boys for doing the same for Fred, well this was even better because he was alone and he was doing it for me. It inspired me and I told myself I'd show my gratitude for his hard work by doing the best possible climb I could.

We hit the base and we didn't get the split, but we later heard Rob was 3 minutes up. Bill said "JB send a car for me". I gave him a fist pump, but I also knew he'd never quit and climb into a car. Of course he didn't and soldiered on to a very respectable finish. It was instantly the same 15 guys from Saturday climbing the first wall, and soon it was 12 or so, then 10. I was fine at the moment, but knew it was a long way to go. John Gee who was 4th on GC moved slightly ahead and I was surprised that no one matched him. After a minute I went around the left side and rode a bit faster and went right up to him. It was super hard, don't get me wrong, but I was still in my comfort zone. He quickly faded and then I was alone. A minute ago I could hear 10 guys breathing like crazy. Now it was silent, my own breathing disappeared into my mind and there was this beautiful absolute feeling. It was just me and the bike and the mountain, I relished it and thought of Bill's efforts and my word to honor that work. I was very inspired that I was riding ahead of all the best master's climbers in New England and Canada. A few minutes like this went by and suddenly I could hear breathing again. I had just about reached the worst part of the climb a savage 22% section with bad pavement. John Funk pulled up on my right and David Taylor on my left. I actually snuck a peek back which is hard to do without tipping over and I was happy to see it was just those 2 that had made it up to me. All the others were dropped, some were weaving now.

The 3 of us crested that section together and the hill lesened a bit, I recovered and set a harder tempo, actually grabbing a couple bigger gears before the next wall. Finally John pulled through and looked over at me and said "It's just us". I had popped Taylor off. That was the best thing I could have heard because he wouldn't have worked at all once over the top (I'd bet my life on it) and I still needed to ride as hard as I could to catch Rob and win the overall. The worst of the hill was behind us now, although it was still massive suffering, but John and I worked well together all the way to the KOM which I was happy to not contest him on. Then we started to descend, but thankfully there were lots of little uphills on the way down. I say thankfully because thats where I was able to hit it really hard and I think after 60k alone Rob was probably not enjoying those so much. I was riding as hard as I possibly could, saving nothing. Finally on a slight corner I caught a glimpse of Rob and knew that I just had to avoid a mishap now. We caught him pretty quickly after that and still had about 3 or 4 miles to go. He jumped on and couldn't work. I know Rob would have if he could have, but I didn't care either. I was riding for GC so I was content to hammer away. Funky John matched every pull I took and finally at 1k he decided not to come through. I wasn't gonna slow down and mess around with it, I wasn't in the mood. I just stayed on the front and drilled it. We could see the line from 1200 meteres out, so there were no surprises on this day and there were also signs every 100 meters. I drilled it all the way to 200 to go when John pulled through and accelerated and Rob followed. John held it to the line, Rob was 2nd, I was 3rd.

We had more than 30 seconds on the chase group of 4 or 5 too, so John moved into 2nd overall and Rob 3rd. That was easily my greatest win ever, and a jersey that I'll probably frame. This is one of those races that you have to do.....put it on the bucket list.

Oh and then I drove to Louisville, KY and promptly stunk up the joint with a 5th place ride in the TT. It wasn't that bad really, but I had different aspirations. I had a bad patch in the race and you can't win Natz with a bad patch in the TT. I hope to do better tomorow in the road race, but it's still over 100 degrees.....we'll see.

Thanks for reading, JB