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.


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