Over Labor Day weekend, I was fortunate enough to compete in the 2016 Green Mountain Stage Race, a 4 race with a stage each day through the picturesque hills of Vermont that gives even the best climbers a good challenge. I had done this race last year and had been training to do it again ever since; I felt more or less ready for the following several days. This race would be the closing race to my 2016 road season and I was eager to see how this year would compare to 2015. Having more or less the same racing setup as the year before (same bike, wheels, though hopefully stronger legs), I expected this would be a good metric for me to determine how I’ve progressed. The weather held out beautifully all 4 days with no rain and never getting unbearably warm. With specific goals for each day, I picked up my registration packet, along with 40 other women in the women’s 3/4 category, and settled in.
Stage One: Warren Store Individual Time Trial
Location: Warren, Vermont
The course was a 5.7 mile straight out dash that starts off with a 2.5 mile steady climb followed by a lovely rolling section before finishing out the race with a short, but sharp climb. My goal going into this race was to beat my time from the previous year. I had seen a lot of improvement in the last several races I’ve done, especially on the hills, so I didn’t expect this to be the exception. Unfortunately, life had alternate plans… just before my start, I received some troubling news that someone very dear to me had had an accident. Try as I might, my focus was miles away. (Since then, the person is recovering quite nicely in spite of an impromptu hip replacement and minor road rash and has been in great spirits, just in case you were wondering :))
Stage One Results: 38th out of 41
Stage Two: The Bridges Resort Circuit Race
Location: New Haven, Vermont
The course for the second day had changed from previous years due to roadway construction in the area the route traditionally ran. This would be the wild card day for the stages since it was new to everyone and I couldn’t call on past experience on how hard/when to push myself. The race began with a 4.7 mile opening loop before settling into 17.4 mile circuit. The women 3/4 race was to do two laps of the circuit, resulting in ~40 miles total. I would say that a good portion of the first half of the 17.4 miles was uphill, which included the King of the Mountain (KOM) competition to add to the challenge; the second portion was beautiful flowing roads that allowed for a slight recovery before starting the circuit over. My goal for this race was to finish with the field, I just didn’t have it in the legs after giving it everything on the KOM and fell off on the hill just after. Thankfully, I was able to work with a delightful lady from Canada who helped me practice pacing lining, drafting, and even lead me out in a sprint finish (a first for me, even if it was a solo sprint). Maja, if you’re reading this – thank you again!!!
Stage Two Results: 39th out of 41
Stage Three: Champion System Mad River Road Race
Location: Appalachian Gap, Vermont
The dreaded day three… the 65 mile road race through that climbs Middlebury Gap (beginning around 20 miles in), finishes up Appalachian Gap, and made me question my sanity countless times. This stage boasts around 6,000 ft in climbing with grades over 22% in spots. My goal was to make it to the top of Middlebury Gap with the group and from there, just finish. As was the way of last year, racers staged at Sugar Bush Ski Area, for a brisk, long descent towards the town of Waitsfield. The first couple miles
were neutralized but once the race was on, the 3/4 ladies meant business. The pace felt much higher than the previous year, but I made it to the first gap with the field.
The same racer who had stuck it out with me the day before also hung tough with me up Middlebury but lost touch with the field. She and I were both huge fans of the descents and took turns charging up the hills. She stuck with me up until the beginning of Baby Gap, but there’s nothing “baby” about it. The best part about Baby Gap is that it means App Gap is just a few miles away which means the race is nearly over. The worst thing about Baby gap is that it means App Gap is just a few miles away and you have to climb a killer hill after 60 hard, fast paced miles with tired legs… This is about when I felt the pain in my knee creep in and I told my riding buddy not to hold back, I didn’t want to overdo it on my knee after fighting leg cramping a good portion of the race.
It took a lot of clenching my teeth and mental profanity, but I crossed that line despite wanting to quit numerous times on those hills. Stubborn and pushing through the pain (doesn’t sound like anyone else I know…thanks Padre!), the last 5k felt like 500k, but I finished. I put ice on my knee shortly after reaching the top and monitored it closely the remainder of the day. It would be a morning-of call whether I’d be racing the next day or not.
Stage Three Results: 38th out of 41
Stage Four: Burlington Criterium
Location: Burlington, Vermont
The crit is a short 0.62 miles loop with 6 turns through downtown Burlington and I remember it being ridiculously tough. The start/finish is on a mild hill of only maybe 4-5% (naturally – it wouldn’t fit with the rest of the stages if wasn’t an uphill finish!) but with high paces, it wears you out fast from the 3 days before and if you lose the draft, it feels much steeper. Still uncertain if I’d race that morning due to my knee being questionable… but with 20 minutes to decide whether I should begin my warm up or not, I found myself putting on my kit, just to see how it’d feel. Then I started to warm up, to see how that’d feel. My knee still felt tender, but not horrible… and I found myself at the start line. “Just do a few laps till they pull you, just see how it goes,” I thought and before I could think otherwise, the race was underway. I did several laps (not sure on the exact count) until the officials gave the signal my race was over. It was official, I had completed my second GMSR!
Stage Four Results: 37th out of 38
Overall General Classification: 38th out of 38
(8th for USA Cat 4’s)
Overall, I had an amazing experience, caught up with some people I had raced with last year and met more stellar people. I may have been the Lanterne Rouge in my field, but I stuck it out, completing this season safely. I will be back next year, hopefully with less issues and stronger legs!
…Now onto Cross!