Date: September 4-7, 2015
Race: Green Mountain Stage Race
Location: All Around Vermont
Rider: Danielle Ferland
Stage One: Warren Store Individual Time Trial
Location: Warren, Vermont
Beautiful weather started off the stage race with a 5.7 mile time trial through Warren Vermont. The course reminded me very much of the Flanders TT by starting off on a steady climb for the first 2.5 miles or so, giving a small taste of what would be in store for all the racers for the next four days. Rolling hills followed with some fun descents allowed riders to pick up some speed before ascending the last hill to the finish. Learning my lesson from Flanders, I was careful to not blow all of my energy on that first climb and felt very pleased once reaching the finish. With a mix field of both category 3 and 4 ladies, I knew I had to play it smart to make through all the stages.
Stage One Results: 19th out of 24
Stage Two: The Bridges Resort Circuit Race
Location: Moretown, Vermont
For the second day, the 3/4 women faced 1.75 laps of a 19.9 circuit with hills of steadily increasing difficulty and steepening grades from the day before. Even with a neutral start up and over the first hill, the race started off at a high pace, a tone that would continue for the next 34 miles. Staying in a good position through the first lap, I felt confident in my legs. With 14 miles to go, I jumped on a wheel that was attacking for a better position to also improve on mine; however, at the start of another hill, the wheel I was following couldn’t maintain the pace of the pack and there was no openings to jump back into. Trying to surge around and catch the draft again, I went all out but it was too late - they had started their decent. If there’s any place to get dropped in a race, Vermont’s scenic mountain sides is not a bad choice. Still, I pushed hard and managed to not lose much time in the overall GC.
Stage Two Results: 19th out of 24
Stage Three: Champion System Mad River Road Race
Location: Appalachian Gap, Vermont
Day three… the 65 mile road race through Middlebury Gap, Baby Gap, and App Gap… around 6,000 ft in climbing in this stage alone… and by far, the race I was most anxious about. Racers staged at the base of Sugar Bush Ski Area, but by no means was it the bottom of the hill. The chilly morning start only felt colder with a neutral start down a long hill towards the town of Waitsfield. Once the race was on, mild rollers helped as a good warm up with a steady, but reasonable incline as we made our way to Middlebury.
The group stayed together as a whole pretty well as we breezed through the first 20 miles and the first major climb neared. It was on that climb that strung the pack out. Thankfully, I was able to climb Middlebury at about the same pace of another rider and we quickly became cheerleaders for each other as we made our way up the first monster hill. Seeing as how we still had 40 miles ahead of us once reaching the top, we worked together by taking turns drafting off the other. Our goal was to safely finish the race and still enjoy the ride.
The next several miles boasted stunning views and amazing downhills – definitely my favorite part of the course. Our little twosome managed to pick up another rider, just in time to see a patrol car come warning that another group of racers was coming – the pro men were hot on our trail.
Now… by no means do I not expect to get passed by the pro’s when their group to started a meager half hour after us on a 65 mile ride, nor do I think I’ll be able to keep their pace after only one season of racing, but we put the lead out to try to get to a safer place for their group to pass us. Unfortunately, it was too late and we hit a steep hill with a tiny shoulder and no room to pull off as we entered a twisty portion of road just entering the town of Bristol as the swarm hit. Their speed and handling skills as they passed were both awe insanely impressive and supremely terrifying; all I could do was hang on and hold my line.
The remainder of the ride was pretty uneventful albeit grueling – hard hills, the third rider we had picked up had fallen off our pace on one of the hills, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy and nervous to see a “1k To Go” sign before in a race. With the steepest pitch at over 20%, the last 200 meters were absolutely brutal and seemed to last for hours. I never worked so hard to turn the pedals over on a bike before, fearing that if I stopped, I’d lose balance and topple right over. But I made it! My legs felt like Jell-O and I couldn’t have been going more than 4 mph crossing the line, but I made it! Success!
Stage Three Results: 17th out of 23
Stage Four: Burlington Criterium
Location: Burlington, Vermont
This is the hardest crit I’ve done to date. While each lap was only 0.62 miles, 6 turns, hot humid weather, and a decent incline to the finish made it extremely challenging to do, even if I didn’t have tired legs.
The first half a lap was controlled but I had issues with my right clip and had to sprint to catch. Feeling like the sprint never let up, I left everything I had left in me all out on the course though it still didn’t feel like enough. Granted, it didn’t help having a Pro Triathlete and Lake Placid Ironman champ setting the tone all four days and this crit wasn’t any exception. (Super nice lady – very impressive to watch in action and awesome to talk to.) After pushing my limit for several laps, my races were complete. Overall, I had an amazing experience and met some stellar people, many of whom I really hope to race with again next season or sooner. I would absolutely do this race again next year, hopefully with a little more power in the legs to go with it!
Stage Four Results: 20th out of 21
Overall General Classification: 18th out of 24