Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stage Race Season is Here

I know it's been a while since I posted a decent race report. That seems to be a trend with the New England blogosphere lately. Colin has kept us satiated, and I've enjoyed his reports. Mike Rowell has kept after it too. So I'm gonna make an effort to get back into a writing phase and take a pull at the keyboard.

This won't be a race report, but rather a preview. The big stage races are about to start and I'm pretty stoked about it. I'm gonna race the Mt. Bike this Sunday in Ipswich as long as it isn't under water, and thats always a lot of fun. Come to think of it Mt. bike races are more like races than road races. When the whistle blows everyone speeds off and tries to go as fast as they can and cross the finish line first, none of the tactical chess moves and certainly none of the sucky defensive (negative) racing. But where was I? Sorry I had a brain interuption there. Oh ya, stage racing....

Stage races are cool because they provide a chance to really plan a short getaway with friends/teamates. Some of the best times I had last summer were on the nights in between stages at races where we stayed as a team. For those of you that don't know us (Corner Cycle) I have a teamate, Bill Shattuck thats gets a little, shall we say, amped up for bike racing. I love that, cuz I feel the same way, but he has a way of verbalizing it that cracks me up. Get some caffiene into that guy and stand back! Anyway we have fun with the stage races. It's a lot of work and planning, but it's worth it to us. We have to bring 2 bikes each and he's been known to bring a 3rd just because thats Bill. Then there's the food, gear, tools, bikestand, pop up tent etc. We have to line up lodging and figure out the logistics of each stage, and then actually race. Beer is a big part of the weekend as is Sportscenter and flat out ragging on anyone and everyone/anything. In other words it's a total guy weekend. If we had time or money for strippers I'm sure that'd be part of the program too (sorry Mom).

So it all starts in about a week and a half at Killington Stage Race. This race is great and the promoter aligns it with the Giro and makes the jersies a lot like those of the Giro. For aging athletes this is as good as it gets. Cycling is the only sport I know of that gives us old guys a chance to play like the PROs. We may not be as fast or as strong as the PRO racers around the world, but when we're racing up and down mountains in New England it's as real, and as beautiful as it gets. It's a huge privledge to be in these races, and have something to compete for, and the competition is fierce. I mean it's downright fierce! Half the guys spend a week or more in warm weather climates during the winter to jump start their training with a "camp". That way they can get an edge in the early spring races. Nowadays everyone has a coach, a proper diet, incredible PRO equiptment and a lot of experience. There are lots of former PROs in the races too, making it feel more like the real deal than ever.

Killington is a great race and it packs the name of a very famous stage race from days gone by and has been resurected in the last 2 years. It also shares the name with the World Famous Ski Resort, and thats exactly where we finish up 3 days of racing, on the top of a beaslty climb up the back service road to the base of the main ski hill. It has a lot to offer and it has glitz and glamour.......but, (there's always a but) the following weekend there is another stage race that packs a great punch, and a hell of a bang for the buck.

I'm talking about the Connecticut Stage Race. This is one of those stage races that packs 3 stages into 2 days, and I do mean packs. Saturday morning starts out with a hard rolling TT at the base of the Berkshires in Nortwestern CT. Later in the afternoon there is a very significant circuit race with a tough punchy hill and lots of time bonuses available at 2 different points lines. The finish line is the sprint competition line and the top of the punchy climb is the KOM line. GC time bonuses match the points making every lap a barn burner. Sunday is stage 3 and it's a 93 mile road race through the Berkies. When else do you get the chance to race that distance as a master's athlete? You don't. It's an absolutely awesome race. I did 5 stage races last year, and I can honestly say this is the best one. I'm not taking anything away from the others, but this is the best for lots of reasons. It pays well, it has gorgeous, wide, safe roads with minimal traffic. Each stage is legit and really has an impact on the overall. One of my favorite things is how rural it is, I often say you don't see a single commercial entity throughout the whole road race, and it's an unbelievable part of New England you'll never go see if you don't race there. You really owe it to yourself to have this experience. The promoter is as nice as they come too. Go check it out, you won't be sorry.

There was already a stage race in VT this year where the Tour of the Dragons had it's rookie year and I heard great things about that race also. Fitchburg has gone away this year, but it's gonna stay as a crit with a hefty prize purse. Later in the year there's the Tour of the Catskills, not officailly New England, but very close in NY and also packs a great schedule of stages, most notably the final stage that includes the world famous climb up the "Devils Kitchen". Finally there's the Green Mountain Stage Race. One of my all time favorites, also put on by Gary Kessler, the same promoter as Killington. The scenery at this race is second to none. The view from the top of App Gap is something every New Englander should have in their memory. (The picture doesn't do it justice) It's one of those awe inspiring views that make you remember how insignificant we really are.

Well thats my Stage Race Season preview. I hope to see you all out there chasing those prestigious jersies.

Thanks for stopping by, JB

1 comment:

Our Cycling Chronicles said...

Nice intro into the stage racing season! I couldn't agree more with your comments and observations- see you at the races...