Killington Stage Race (05-27-17)

The Killington stage race took place on Memorial Day long weekend around the Killington ski resort area in Vermont. Two of our fierce teammates Grace and Josh competed in this 3 day stage race event, and here are their reflections on their races.

Josh L:

For anyone that doesn’t enjoy detailed race reports, go ahead and stop reading now. Killington Stage Race is a 3 day event that takes place in Vermont’s Green Mountains at the Killington Ski resort. The race was Saturday thru Memorial Day Monday…the weather looked great for the first two road race stages and then a deluge forecasted for Monday’s time trial. I had targeted this race about 6 or so weeks out, and Damon did a great job of Strava scouting the parcours to lay out a training plan where we simulated 3 hard days of race intensity every week. I can’t say that I didn’t have any pre-race nerves, but it was really reassuring to know that I was as physically prepared as I could possibly be going to the start line each day.

Stage 1 (Saturday): The first stage was a circuit race with 2 laps of a 19 mile loop. The loop wasn’t very difficult, it started with 6 miles of shallow grade down hill, leading into the hill, which was a long gradual climb of about 5 miles that pitched at the end for the KOM point. After that, they threw in a treacherous descent that was >10% grade with a sharp right at the bottom into the sprint point. The finish had a small climb leading into a wide open, very slightly uphill sprint. The plan for the day was to stay sheltered, do as little as possible, and finish in the group for same time on G.C. The race went as expected. The first lap was really easy, most of the group riding tempo on the downhill and the KOM with a typical Cat 4/5 overlapping wheels crash that I managed to skirt around. Some guy got horrible speed wobbles on the treacherous descent and went face first into a pile of boulders on the side of the road. It looked just like Anne van Vleuten’s crash in the women’s Olympics RR (here is the link for anyone that wants to relive the horror show). The second lap was more of the same, things got a little grippy on the sprint point with some people using the sprint to try and get a gap to hold to the finish, but I was able to cover the move without burning any serious matches. I worked a little on the last pitch of the climb to be in good position for the scary descent, knowing that anyone at the front would have a free shot at the bottom turn to try and make a break if they wanted, but it was relatively uneventful. After all that, we rolled hard into the finish as a big group with only a few people interested in sprinting for the win. I finished safely at 15, all in all a successful day.

Stage 2 (Sunday): Stage 2 was the “queen stage” with 3 climbs, the last of which was a hilltop finish at Killington Resort. The course started with a long climb in the first 5 miles, then 20 miles of flat/downhill, a second climb from about mile 25-30ish, and then a pitchy, steep, climb to finish the race at mile 60. We knew that the entire G.C. would be determined by this day, with likely massive time gaps on the final hill. This race started very calm, so much so that I couldn’t tell when the neutral miles were over. A race commisaire drove up next to the bunch and yelled out the window “You boys can start racing whenever you want!”. We knew that any gaps on the first climb would be quickly and easily brought back on the following 20 miles of flat/downhill. The first 30 miles or so leading into the second climb were basically an exercise in keeping your brain engaged, I was actively bored. We didn’t really know much about the second climb, but assumed that it wouldn’t really be that decisive…this couldn’t have been anymore wrong. I wanted to be close to the front leading into the base of the second climb, but didn’t quite get far enough forward in time. Immediately, the course took a sharp right into a steep wall with a narrow road. Those three things combined to shatter the field…and I was out of position. I was gapped pretty much immediately because of the accordion effect with a big group of about 30 riders splitting off the front. The next 30 minutes were pure hell and I proceeded to bury myself to try and bridge back on this climb’s relentless pitches. I had to do the best 30 min power I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t enough. I would get within 50m on the pitches and then lose time on the flats. Racers were scattered all over the road. At the top of the climb, I managed to pick up a few guys and we organized immediately to try and chase back on. Our group swelled to about 10, with 8 or so putting in solid efforts and only a few passengers. We were organized really well but had no idea what the time gap was. It was at this point that I realized there was a dirt road section with a climb and decent…what…a dirt section too??? Anyway, some guy in a car told us the gap was 2 min with about 10 miles to the final climb. We eased up for a little bit knowing that we likely wouldn’t bridge that…but then another guy in a car told us one minute, so the chase was back on. With about 5 miles to go before the final climb I was really starting to hurt. I was trying to eat and drink as much as possible and minimize my pulls without being too obvious about it. We all knew we were just going to race each other up the final hill, the front group was gone. Damon told me the final climb would require 25-30 min of the best effort I could manage. We got to the hill with the group of 10 or so, and myself and another guy (who turned out to be a pro triathlete) hit the lower slopes pretty hard and immediately distanced ourselves. At this point, I settled into the power I wanted to do and had to let him go so I didn’t completely explode. I kept him within sight and felt like my steady pace was working to bring him back a bit. In the end, he stayed away by a few seconds and I finished second out of our group…but something like 30ish overall. I did some of the best efforts I’ve ever done, but my poor positioning on the decisive, second climb ended up costing me a bunch of time.

Stage 3 (Monday): The final stage was a 11 mile TT with about 450′ of climbing. There wasn’t any climbs per se, but rather a gradual uphill for the entire course. This was my first TT, but thanks to Damon’s training plan, I knew exactly what power to aim for and how to pace myself. I ended up really enjoying this effort even though my body was flooding with lactic acid. I am really happy with the effort that I did, I was able to exceed the power that Damon and I planned out and still felt like I might have had some more to give.

Overall, this was a great event that I would recommend to anyone. It was well organized, facilities were great, parking was easy. My only regret is that we didn’t have some more time to explore the area before or after the race. Time in between stages was spent either eating everything in sight or sleeping.

Grace B:

I think Josh gave enough background on Killington, so here’s Stage 1, the circuit race, women’s 3/4/5:

TBH, I was not stoked on this particular circuit. It felt like 75% downhill, with just a punchy little thing as the KOM, and a surprise 15% descent that I thought was a gps rendering error on the map. But my goal for the day was to finish with the front group to get that time for GC, so I wasn’t too concerned. Stay with the pack, don’t take stupid pulls, don’t go for the final sprint unnecessarily. Got it. Pace started off chill, everybody seemed to have similar goals in mind. There was a crash very early on due to an unannounced pothole – I heard the carbon/asphalt/scream combo but didn’t turn back (heard later she was fine – physically at least), but did begin to regret racing w the 3/4/5s. But there I was. Luckily, everyone was thoughtful on the descent of absurdity, and the race was relatively uneventful until about the last 7ish miles. At this point, one chick seemed to have forgotten that there were no sprint points given on the second lap, and while everyone else seemed to know her error, the pace was still steadily ramping up. This is when I started to enjoy myself. We were still in one large group, and everyone was suddenly stoked on getting themselves decently positioned for the finish. Which was kindof absurd, but my legs were feeling pretty fresh and I was like, yeah sure I’ll keep myself in the top 5 before the finish, why not? The final climb before the finishing descent took a bit more out of me than anticipated, however, and I let the Canadians have their sprint-a-thon for the win, rolling in in 8th, same finishing time as the rest of the bunch.

Stage 2:
Truly the Queen stage of this race. I’ve never actually raced 63 miles before, but I was pretty sure this was gonna be my jam. I will just go ahead and say right now – that was the absolute hardest I’ve ever worked on the bike. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But ok, here we go – first climb, only a few miles in, took it easy, bit of a gap formed, wasn’t worried at all cause there were 20 miles of flat/downhill to catch up. The girls from Stan’s clearly thought this too, and we easily jumped back on after this climb. I don’t even hardly remember the rest of those 20 miles, they were so dull. Pretty sure I was just trying to sufficiently feed myself and enjoy watching some fools try to make a break stick (ladies, I know you’re concerned about the upcoming climb, but there’s just no way you’re getting away from this pack on the flats. so stop.) BUT THEN WE GOT TO THE SECOND CLIMB. And it was wayyyyy more of a game changer than anticipated. I was not in awesome position going into it, but wasn’t too far back, and it didn’t seem like it would be a wall the whole way up, surely I could grind it out enough to catch back onto the front group that was making a gap? Nope. Couldn’t. And now it was just me – gap in front and gap behind and I really thought the hill would be over just around this corner….or maybe this one?….Surely now after this it at least flattens out a little? UGH. All I could tell myself is “you will recover”, somehow that helped. So I get over the top, can’t see the front group, but wait for a few from behind to catch up and we make this KILLER pace line squad, all clearly determined to catch this front group, all willing to take serious pulls. Which is great! Except little brain voice is like “But you said I could Recover!! :(“ and legs are like “excuse me, you know you have a massive climb at the end of this right?? Also, OW” but then second, all powerful brain voice was like “YOU HAVE TO.” So I did- we all did. Except for the few that fell off. And lo and behold, we totally caught the majority of group 1! So there were then only 3 girls in the front break (but at this point I thought it was more like 6). And apparently most people were satisfied with this and we only had a couple miles til the last climb anyway, so it eased up. Then came the final climb, which started off both wall-like and twisty, and it was GREAT. We came into it as a group of 10-12 and I kicked up the pace a couple notches and broke from them w just 1 chick kindof chasing, and we leap-frogged a bit, but my settled pace was just a bit faster and I slowly pulled away. for like 6 miles. That climb was a freaking bear. And I was dehydrated and delusional and felt like I was gonna pass out, but decided to save that activity as my reward for getting to the top. And let me tell you, those last 500m were certainly the longest meters of my life. Finished a hefty 7 min behind the winner, but was surprised to be 4th/36 and felt pretty freaking accomplished w that. Especially since those would be the last upgrade points I needed to get to 2! So the weekend was already a success.

Wow ok, just one more. Stage 3.
I’ll keep this one brief – just got really excited about all the climbing on stage 2. As I said, it was the hardest I’ve ever worked. This means I had all kinds of new power PRs, and therefore wasn’t exactly sure what numbers I should be aiming to hit during this TT. I was also one of 3 girls w no aero equipment, and therefore wasn’t feeling super competitive. So I went as hard as I felt I could maintain for 10 miles (my mantra was literally “you can do this for x miles”. I like to keep them simple.) and it put me in 9th for the day – 5th overall! Top 5 is the goal for 3/5 of the stage races I’ll be doing this summer, so I’m very pleased to have checked off one of those boxes already!

Oof. So that was that. Overall, Vermont is beautiful (based on the views from the finish lines and the airbnb, which is really all I saw….I’ll have to double check when I go back for Green Mountain), Northeastern girls are freaking fast, and this race is very well organized and professional. Would highly recommend.

 

Bike Jam (05/23/2017)

Bike Jam returned to Patternson Park in Baltimore this year. As always, it’s great to have a local race in the city. Our teammates turned  out in great numbers and with much enthusiasm. To quote our long time friend and super racer Ezra Khan:  “Local races are like a Tomaguchi, you have to feed them or they die!” Here are some repots from our teammates:

David:

I had such a good time racing this weekend, I thought I’d write a race report. Spoiler alert: I did not win.

My preparation for this race was – how shall I put it – unorthodox. I managed to avoid riding my bike for 12 days prior to riding it in the 4/5 Men’s race Sunday. My previous ride was TNTT nearly two weeks ago, and that was the first ride for me since two weeks prior to that. To ensure maximum physical condition for this afternoon event, I spent the morning straining my back doing yard work. In other words, I was as prepared for this race as an arm wrestler is for a gun fight.

But that was my advantage, see. I knew exactly what I was going to accomplish well before the race even started. I knew I would eventually be spit out the back like a greased watermelon seed – it was just a question of when. But I was NOT going let anyone else decide when; that was my decision to make dammit! And make it I did.

I hung with the pack for 3 laps, and on the fourth I grew tired of the bunching up on the back side of the course, which was slightly downhill and pretty fast. So I slowly passed the pack on the left – it was easier than I thought it would be – essentially moving up from last to the very front. And when I got to the front I said “hey look, I’m in the front!” and kept going. I knew I was burning myself up, but that was my plan. So I went all in on the second half of lap 4, led the pack up the hill and across the finish line. I was in first for a whole half a lap and that was the best time I have ever had in my entire (now 3-race-long) road racing career.

Happy with my effort, I pulled up to recover and the entire field promptly passed me in a blur of pretty colors, and I could not catch back on. I was toast. But not burnt toast. I kept riding as hard as I could, picking up riders along the way, including Ross and Ted, and pulled anyone else who wanted to jump on my wheel. I just time-trialed the last 10 laps, got lapped by the field on lap 11 or 12, but still finished and felt good with my effort.

If anyone is offended that I did not take this race seriously because I did not go into it trying to win it, too bad. I knew where my lack of training and fitness put me and I just wanted to mix it up and have fun. I accomplished everything I wanted to do in this race: I rode in a crowded field at a high speed (for 4 miles on really poor pavement); I got comfortable passing and getting passed in close quarters at speed; I got to lead a pack for at least a little while; and I finished! (I was really afraid I would get yanked from the race and am glad I did not.)

I also put so many of the lessons I learned from my teammates that kept running through my head in all the situations I experienced: keep your elbows loose in the pack, pressure on the outside pedal in the turn, look up through the turn, protect your front wheel… Thanks for all the good advice – I used it.

It was really fun to have teammates there both in the race and on the sidelines (I heard you cheering – thanks!). I do hope I can get my training ride schedule to better coincide with race season some day. In the meantime I can offer this advice: I don’t recommend anyone train for a bike race by using garden tools.

Grace:

David- this is amazing! The attitude, the writing, the ability to get this freaking race report thread stared. Excellent.

I fear my report will not be nearly as fun to read, but you asked for it!

So, if we’re being completely honest, I was a tiny bit anxious about going into this race after hearing about its reputation and thoughtful nickname of BikeSlam. I’ve spent the past few weeks training for the Killington Stage race and breaking something the week before would be a real shame. But I love racing bikes, and the 1/2/3 field had some pretty reputable chicks in it, so of course I had to race too!

Alright, so here we are at the line, I scooch myself in between colavita and a mathlete on the front row (because if I’ve learned only 1 thing from Damon, it’s to never sell yourself short when self-staging!) and Sue Mcquiston takes the lead while I stick to her wheel like glue. Then of course things got shuffled, and people try to make stupid early breaks and we drag them back in, no problem. That course feels like it’s 75% downhill so I’m pretty unsure of my own plans of a break, and then I notice my right hand’s gone numb from the absurd amount of shaking it’s being put through on these “roads” (read as: trashed sidewalk/gravel). But I determine that I can still successfully shift and that’s all I wanted from that hand anyway.

Michele Scherer makes a promising effort on the uphill finish w maybe 10 laps to go – chased her down cause I figured that match would be worth it, but a couple girls came with me and we were soon consumed. So now I decide to just hang out, position myself in the top 5 w 3 to go, and prep myself for the group sprint. BUT as fate would have it – one of the Colavita’s totally miscalculates the laps – surges ahead w 2 to go (to everyones confusion) and puts her arms up on the finish as if she’s won! lol. We are just now starting the last lap. ABRT uses this confusion to their advantage and Dori rips away from the field immediately. I chase her down knowing if anybody could make that stick it would be her – and to my surprise it’s now just the two of us! But omg now it’s just the 2 of us and there’s a pack chasing us down w less than a mile and we are laying it all down just to stay away. And it hurts. And one little brain voice is like “cool! you did a thing! great job, lets go home” and another, much louder, voice is like “If you quit now you are NOTHING! This is Carl Dolan again and you will NOT be 2nd!!!!” (which is a little dramatic, looking back, but effective!) And then we hit the uphill finish and the voices are gone and I’m just doing what I can to salvage some kind of sprint. And it did the trick, my first 1/2/3 win! Made even better by seeing/hearing some rad teammates at the finish! Thanks for the cheers!

The end.

TNTT Mythbusters

Today we are going to dispel some myths about TNTT. The biggest hurdle for anyone getting back in shape from “winter’s” season of sloth is, what if I do not feel fast enough to come out yet? Mmmk. April 25th is the PERFECT time to get yourself out on course. Whether you’re going for that type 2 fun or want to get the last breath of freshly fertilized fields in your lungs before the growing season, let April 25th be your baseline for the next 10 TNTT’s of 2017. Remember how
rainy May was in 2016? Take advantage of the dry weather and the scenery in case we are in for a repeat… Secondly, who does not enjoy seeing personal progress over time? As tradition, we will continue to bark-out the names of our peers who reach new personal records, because small victories should be shared! If anything, I encourage you all to come out and be slow, yes, sandbag that first TNTT time a little. Next TNTT you can push harder to see your time drop and get that early fitness momentum going.

The next myth we will touch on is the need of using aerodynamic (aero) equipment. Answer: do what is within your comfort level of clothing and cost. TNTT is free, not because we expect you to save your pennies for aero equipment, but rather feeling fast can be freeing to the soul. We want to share that feeling with everyone who comes! The true race is between you and your bi-weekly efforts. We support your goals of going sub-X minutes or ability to use this as a focused event to train for an upcoming race. If anything, you may see progress and wonder if you were to tweak your seat position, or see if some piece of aero equipment would get you to your next TNTT goal. If this is the case, you may find yourself slowly upgrading equipment-I did! However, no amount of aero equipment can account for unexpected events on this unreferred course. For instance, will we ever have a black angus beef cattle get loose on course? I’ve heard the grass is greener on the other side…Aero equipment can be as simple as making sure you don’t show up in an old baggy t-shirt, to making sure you’re pinning your numbers down-I’m a notorious offender. Do you want to improve your belly aerodynamics? Here are some ideas for plant-based recipes.

The last myth we will investigate is whether you should warm-up? Warning: there is personal bias. I have been a soccer goalie through grade school, college, and club/social leagues. I hated warming up, and did not after college. Warming up before any run, recreational to marathon distance, you can bet I’m not warming up either. There is a lot of scientific debate out in the academic community about warm-ups and athletic performance in many disciplines. I do recommend looking at the peer-reviewed publications than Googling what you may read for this type of guidance. Hope to see you on course this year!