The Burris Logistics – Fit Werx crew headed to the Killington Stage Race over Memorial Day Weekend. Tim and I competed in the 40+ field while Stephen and Philip competed in the 50+ field. The race more than lived up to its reputation as the "Beast of the East."
We arrived at our condo Friday night and quickly settled in for what would be a difficult night's sleep. This due to a blend of pre-race jitters and foreign sleeping surfaces. The condo had one bedroom with 2 single beds, a pull-out couch and enough space for me to set up my blow-up mattress. Each guy brought 2 bikes (TT and Road) so things were tight to say the least. But hey, for $99/night we made it work.
All of us were up and cooking about 3 hours before the first race. We prepared the classic pre-race meal of oatmeal, eggs, muesli, and plenty of fluids. After multiple trips to the bathroom, we packed up and headed to the start of the race.
The first stage of KSR was a 19-mile loop that we would cover 3 times. The loop contained one gradual climb and one fast descent. The race included a sprint competition and a King of the Mountains (KOM) on every lap. In the 40+ field there were attacks and attempted breakaways every few minutes it seemed. Tim and I covered a few but tried not to do too much extra work. I was unsure whether a break would stick as the field had no problems reeling the flyers back in.
After the mid-point of the race, a break of 3 headed up the road. I heard another rider say to his teammate, "That's too dangerous to let go." That was all I needed to hear, so I jumped and bridged up to the break. We had a nice little gap, but all of a sudden everyone sat up and quit working. I'm still not sure why this happened. We were caught and about 5 minutes later what would become the winning break made the decisive move. Four guys got about a 40 second gap and held it to the finish. The rest of us sprinted for the leftovers.
Once back at the condo, Philip and Stephen recounted their day. They had a similar experience in the 50+ field. We were all relieved to have the first stage finished. We cooked a nice meal, prepped our TT bikes, and hit the sack early.
Stage 2 of KSR was a time trial of 11 miles. The course was slightly uphill. Philip and Stephen's field started at 10:45am. The conditions at 10:45 were relatively calm, though the temps were starting to rise. Stephen had a solid ride finishing in 12th overall.
The 40+ field did not go off until 3pm that afternoon. By then it was really hot and the wind was whipping through the valley. We rode straight into a fierce headwind the entire way. Our times were significantly slower than the times from the morning. I managed to finish in 13th which was fine by me.
At this point some fatigue was taking its toll on all of us. We knew we needed to eat well and get a good night's sleep before the final stage. Stephen and Philip took the reins and prepared a wonderful Italian feast for us. It seemed with every meal that we overestimated how much food to prepare. No food shortages around our condo.
Stephen was the first one up Monday morning. No doubt he was ready to race. We were all ready to get to it and see what was going to happen when the big climbs came. Stage 3 was a 62-mile road race with 2 major climbs and 2 smaller climbs. We all speculated about what we thought would happen. We shared our personal goals for the day and then we headed down to the start.
I do not consider myself a climber. I am more of an all-arounder. I knew I would have to go deep if I was going to stay in it. My goal was simply to make it to the base of the final climb with the leaders.
The race began with a neutral start before heading up a small climb. On this small climb a few riders hit the gas just to test the waters. I wasn't in shear pain, but my heart rate was higher than I wanted it to be just 10 minutes in. After that, we descended for awhile along route 100 and 107. The roads were still pretty beaten from Hurricane Irene so riders had to stay alert so as not to hit any potholes directly.
There was one more opportunity for the sprinters just before the first big climb. This caused a few attacks to go followed by surges from the field to bring them back. Right after the intermediate sprint the road turned up. I entered the pain cave. The leaders laid it down hard on the first steep section. I went as deep as I could and managed to keep in contact up most of it. I did lose contact at one point, but I was able to catch back on when the leaders slowed.
After passing the first KOM of the day we started to descend. Many riders that had been dropped on the climb were able to catch back on during this descent. With the field pretty much intact, we headed through the feedzone.
The race mellowed out at this point. There were no attacks to speak of and the pace was really relaxed. It stayed this way until we reached the "dirt road climb." The leaders put the hammer down up the dirt road section. My legs felt pretty good so I had no problem keeping pace. We reached the top and then hit the gas down a steep and sketchy descent. Once back on the road, two riders attacked. The field chased hard. Many riders that were dropped on the dirt section could not catch back on as a result of this surge.
From here the pace settled again. There were a few more attacks, but the final climb was approaching and no one wanted to expend any extra energy. I was riding on the front at this point. Knowing I didn't have much of a chance going head-to-head with the best riders in the field on the final climb, I decided to launch my own attack about 3K from the turn that would put us on the final climb up to Killington.
Rather than jump hard and go, I just slowly rolled away from the field. I built what seemed like a really nice gap. When I made the turn onto the final climb I could not see the group behind me. I tried to meter my effort up the climb, but I couldn't help but push it. I was hoping to at least make it to the final KOM before I blew up.
The eventual race winner passed me about 1 K before the KOM. He flew past me. I was amazed at how fast he was going uphill. I was then passed by a group of solid climbers all gasping for air but maintaining a steady pace. I locked in with this group and made it to the KOM, however I was severely blown by then and could barely turn the cranks. I watched my chance at a top ten roll away at this point. Nothing I could do. I resigned myself to simply trying to finish the climb by riding a steady tempo up Bear Mountain. I finished 14th on the stage and 13th in the GC.
Overall, it was my best finish in a race like this. I learned a ton about what it takes to really compete with the best Masters racers in New England. Many of these guys have been at it a long time and they know how to win. I look forward to returning next year with a bit more of a race strategy and an "extra gear."