There is no place more beautiful than the Green Mountains of Vermont in late summer. This place, this race are my favorites.
It's hard to make this race your favorite, because it's so damn hard. The Corner Cycle Master's Racing Team had 4 strong guys for this one. Myself, Wild Bill, Sammy, and Dave Connery who's been spending most of the summer doing tri's. Dave is local to GMSR.
Stage 1 is the road bike only TT. There's a tough hill on the 10k course and then a tough uphill finish. It's all big ring, but not for everyone. I had a tremendous ride and felt like I managed the course and my pain well. I won it 3 years ago and was 2nd to Roger last year. I figured when I was done that I had won it based on how strong I felt. The one and only guy I wasn't sure about was Fast Fred Thomas. It turns out I had good reason to worry about Fred, as he pipped me by 3 seconds. Doh! No leader's jersey. Great ride Fred!
Stage 2 is the longish, hillyish, hotish circuit race. It was pretty lame really. The whole bunch rode around in HIGH winds and stayed together the whole way. KOM points were up for grabs as well as sprint points at the finish line each time through. 2 kom's, 3 sprints including the finish. There was a bad crash coming to the line on lap 1 which was truly a waste because there were 2 guys just up the road that took the first 2 spots for points and there was only 1 spot left. It happened right in front of me and I was able to jump over the yellow line and avoid it as guys went tumbling. Thankfully there were no cars coming or I would have dove into the pile as a "lesser of 2 evil's". The biggest name caught up in the crash was John Funk. He was sore, but not injured too bad and soldiered on avoiding the time cut, but it was a long day for him and a few others.
There were time bonuses on the line that went 5 deep and any one of them would leap frog me over Fred and into the leader's jersey, so that was my goal for the day. I had excellent support from my team all day and while Bill grabbed a few sprint points, he was able to start the leadout on the final run in. Dave lost the wheel and wasn't able to contribute, but good ole Sammy took it up from about 1k to go. He was building into his sprint when the "Fuji train" came by. I immediately jumped left to follow them and Gary Aspenes was there too, we fought for the wheel, but they were too quick and gapped it. I settled in behind Gary as he buried it for 3 or 4 seconds, then, even though I didn't have much oxygen left, I jumped around him and pounded the pedals as hard as I could. I wasn't gonna catch the front 3, but I didn't have to. I hung on for 4th and beat some good sprinter's in the process as Fuji went 1, 2, 3. I scored a 5 second bonus and leapfrogged Fred into the GC lead. So we were 100% successful on the day in terms of our goal, but everyone in the field was a little red faced about Fuji sweeping the podium for the stage. Good on ya Fuji, that was awesome!
Carefull what you wish for. It was stage 3....the MONSTER Queen stage of the GMSR. 70 miles with 3 major climbs (2 of them Gap roads)and tons of other little leg breaking walls, along with dirt road sections and HIGH winds. The team was prepared to defend the jersey and ride for me. I love you guys!
The first climb is a new one that we used to get around a major section of rt. 100 that's in bad shape. It's actually the descent we do after the finish of the TT. The team was all over the front here and at the bottom of the descent, Wild Bill took off, eventually Carl Reglar and Cary Moretti bridged up to him. Those 3 would define the stage as they stayed away from most everyone all day. Bill took maximum sprint points and pulled on the green jersey as a result. Over Middlebury gap we had passed the 3's neutralizing them, only to have them come back on us and neutralize us. The officials only made them sit at the road side for 1 minute. We had caught them for 10 minutes. That always worries you with a break up the road, especially when you're in yellow.
We went over Middlebury with a big group and it got bigger on the descent, then we rode some trash miles before we came to the right hander onto Notch Rd. which is a major 500 meter steep wall, that leads right into the dirt road section. That was FUN, FUN, FUN!!! Nothing like drilling it at the front of a 50 man group over dirt roads and looking back and seeing dust and carnage and a long straight line of riders with gaps all over the place. Coming off the dirt there was a new climb going up into Bristol. This is where things got interesting. At the start of the dirt road the moto ref told us the gap was 2:30 to the lead 3. That sort of worried me (OK I friggen shit!)as Carl was only 30 seconds or so behind me. I knew Bill would no longer be working up there, but it was time to go! I led onto the new climb and put in a small dig, John Funk brought the tempo up again and then David Taylor drilled it hard. It was that effort that I knew I had to follow and I was able to, but I went deep. The field was blowing to bits and all the heads of state were up front. This is when the group ride turns into a race. When the break is starting to go up the road, thats when it's a race. I live for that moment. We split it and it was Taylor, Rob Lattanzi, myself, Mark Pohndorf, John Funk and David Ghazi. I guess I made the decision to work before the split even formed. I was scared the race was gonna slip away and Carl would run away with it. Plus I know how it works with 1 guy sitting on a break, it usually kills it. I did have Bill up the road, but I didn't think it through enough. I visualized Carl and Cary still driving it hard with a 2:30 lead. I guess I had the right to sit on the move and play poker. I wish I had been so coy. We absolutely crushed it for what seemed like 25 minutes, when we came to the right hander onto Rt. 17 that starts Baby Gap. Just in front of us were the 3's again, but just in front of them was our 3 leaders. They looked close on the climb, but were still probably a minute ahead.
We slowly reeled them in near the top of baby gap, but they all still looked pretty good. We hit App Gap with 4k of brutal climbing left to go and I was a little low on bullets. I usually use the "lead in" miles to fuel up a bit, but instead I was in a 6 man paceline with some of the best masters riders around. The only guy missing was Fred, that's because he flatted on the dirt road, or he would have been there for sure. I felt good at first, but it's not that steep. I actually went to the front because that's what I did at Catskills, so I figured I'd ride my own tempo again. Slowly Taylor and Ghazi came around and made a stronger tempo. I couldn't match it, but I had time on both of them so I just had to cope with it and do the best climb I could. Next Lattanzi (who's tough as nails) came by and then Funk. They pulled away, but not a decisively as the 2 Davids. John lost tons of time on GC the day before so he wasn't a concern for the overall. Lattanzi was pretty close though. Moretti went out the back and Bill, Carl and Pohndorf were in the same boat with me.
I kinda cracked with 2.5k to go, and it was a battle to say the least.
Taylor did a great climb and won, Ghazi was 2nd, Funk 3rd, Lattanzi 4th, Carl got around me on the final 500 meters and took 5th, I was 6th, Bill 7th, Pohndorf 8th and Moretti just held off the field. I lost the jersey to Ghazi and Taylor slotted in in 2nd, I was 3rd, Lattanzi was 4 seconds behind me in 4th and Bill was 7th.
Lots of time bonuses up for grabs in the crit. It went back and forth a bit between me and Lattanzi, but I was able to pull away from him and actually close on Taylor, but not enough to overtake him.
Marky Mac took off and won the crit, Ghazi won the overall, Taylor 2nd, me 3rd. Mark also took the green jersey with the points from the finish.
The highlight of the weekend and maybe the whole season was watching Jamie in the cat 2 race (crit) in a super fast race. They did 25 miles in 41 minutes!!! I swear they were faster than the PRO's. He was in absolutely perfect position all day, and nicely danced his bike around a nasty turn 1 crash. With 1 to go he was 4th wheel with 65 riders strung out in a LONG line. He came around the last corner and while everyone went pretty wide he was the first to get inside and start his sprint. I've tried (ridiculously) to sprint with him in hundreds of trainging sessions. It's a friggen joke! He puts 30 meters on me in 5 seconds. I could tell by his focus late in the race that he was possesed with winning it. He was 3rd last year and knew he could win it. When he made his run a few guys were able to get close, but there was no way they were gonna get around him.
He accelerated all the way to line and shuvved a fist into the air as he won that shit!!! That was his LAST race as a 34 year old. Ya, you know what I'm saying....
Overall I'm really pleased with hitting the podium at this race. Thats the first time I ever made the final podium. This is a super hard race to win, but I hope to try again next year. After breaking my collarbone 4 weeks from the start of the race, I'd be crazy not to be stoked with that result. David Ghazi, Fred Taylor and I went head to head in 3 different stage races this year. Fred won Killington, I won Catskills, and David won GMSR, and in this race we all wore the leader's jersey for 1 day. Good stuff.
Now it's time for some fun in the dirt.
Thanks for reading, JB