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2015 Green Mountain Stage Race Report

On Labor Day Weekend Steve Skinner took on the Green Mountain Stage Race.  Here is an account of his experience:

Last weekend I participated in the Green Mountain Stage Race.  It was my first pure bike race ever, and I thought I’d write a race report to share with the club.


I have always been intimidated by racing.  Mostly the crashes.  But I got swept up in the post-Mt. Washington euphoria and signed up.  YOLO.


As the day got closer, I got more apprehensive.  Especially once I found out I was the only one from TTE going.  The GMSR is a 4-day race.  The first day is a time trial and the second day is a 53 mile circuit race.  I figured I’d at least do those two and then maybe go home after that.


Day 1

Stage 1 was a 5.7 mile time trial.  How bad could that be?  Looking at the profile of the course, it didn’t look too bad.  Uphill for the first 2.5 miles or so for a 450 foot ascent, then a false flat down, then a .5 mile uphill at the end for another 150 foot climb.  I figured I’d go slightly over threshold for the uphill part, then slightly below for the false flat and then drain the tank for the last half mile.


The start is pretty cool.  Everyone starts at 30 second intervals.  They hold you up while you clip in, then the clock beeps out the last five seconds before a solid beep at the start.  Just like a real race!


I felt pretty good coming out of the gate.  The hill was pretty steep but I was handling it OK.  Then I looked down at my power meter and I’m pushing 140% and already redlined the hearbeat.  So much for a controlled ascent.  Still felt pretty good until about 300 meters from the top of the hill and then I was gassed.


On the false flat I was thinking I should be going faster.  But I saw that I was catching the guy ahead of me so maybe I wasn’t doing so bad.  As I got to the last little climb I already had nothing left, but I passed another guy and struggled up the hill.  I was feeling OK for my first race.  After all, I had passed two guys and nobody passed me.  Then 200 feet from the finish I got passed by a guy who started a full minute behind me.  Just blew right by.


So I ended up 30th out of 43 riders.  A pretty lame showing.  Someday I’ll learn to pace myself in time trials (and maybe get stronger – yeah, that would help).


Day 2

The course for day 2 was a 19 mile circuit that our group did 2.75 times, for a total of 53 miles.  There was a 500 foot climb at the beginning with a KOM and then a sprint at the finish line, which we also crossed 3 times for sprint points each time.  Of course I decided to ignore the KOMs and sprints and focus on survival.  My goal was to stay with the main group as long as possible.



Again, to a novice the start is pretty cool.  VT state trooper leads us out with lights flashing and a motorcycle leads us the whole way.  Luckily they neutralized the first hill, so I didn’t have to worry about getting dropped the first time.  Then, the descent.  We got going close to 50 on the descent, and I was on my brakes frequently.  Surprisingly, I felt pretty safe.  People hold their lines well, and increase spacing on the descents.  Then the road flattened out and looking at my computer we were already 13 miles in.  We were doing an average of 25 and I was hardly working at all.  MUCH easier than one of our Saturday rides.  Maybe this isn’t so bad.


We get to the climb, and I thought there was a bout a 50% chance of me getting dropped.  But again, it wasn’t that bad.  I think the lead guys figured neither of them could put any time on the other leaders, so nobody was really pushing it.


Then we came to the last sprint.  I had been riding near the back of the pack all day, but I thought I’d move up a little bit and see how I could do.  At the 500 meter point, they block off the whole road and let the group spread out.  We were going over 30 MPH and to my left I hear a clanging of metal and see someone go down pretty hard.  Then the guy to the left of me scoots right to avoid it and bumps me.  I held my line and he kind of bounced off.  After I figured I was OK I just kept going and ended up 15th in the sprint.  Nothing fantastic but not bad given how far I came from.  A little bit of redemption from the time trial.  Plus, I’d had my first contact and came out fine.  Even the guy that went down got back up and finished the race.  I actually felt pretty safe the whole time.  I decided to stay and do the third day.


Day 3

Even with my confidence slightly restored I was apprehensive about day 3.  It’s a 65 miler that goes over two of VT’s “gap” climbs: Middlebury Gap (6 miles and 1,200 feet of climbing) and then finishing at App Gap (actually 2 climbs over 10 miles with 2,000 feet of climbing and the last 500 meters tops out at 20%).  Again my strategy was to stay with the lead group as long as possible.  Getting dropped would lead to a very long day.


The biggest risk of getting dropped was the Middlebury Gap, which comes at the 30 mile point.  Everything had been fairly calm up to that point.  As we started going up, things started off pretty calm.  Then halfway up the leaders turned on the gas.  I was huffing and puffing big time.  By the time we got to the top there were about 8 riders at the top and I was almost a minute back.  Uh-Oh.  At the top there were five other guys in the same position so we raced down the descent and then pace-lined it hard for about four miles and finally caught up.  After gunning it on the climb and then the pace line I was really spent.  But at least we had caught the group.  Was a cool bonding experience for our little informal team.


Then of course the leaders sat up.  A few others started catching up.  All that work…


As App gap kept getting closer, I was thinking about the pain that lay ahead but also that soon it would be over.  Over one short but steep bump, and then “baby Gap” (the first section of App Gap) and I was still with the lead group.  That was the best I could have asked for.  At the bottom of the second section I decided to just treat it as a TT and let the group go.  I ended up 3 minutes behind and in 12th place, but I think if I had tried to stay with them I may have been walking up the last 500M.


Day 4

My plan was never to stay for day 4.  It was a crit – a 1K lap in downtown Burlington with 6 turns and one annoying climb at the finish.  25 laps total.  I had always heard crits are dangerous, so I was going to skip it.  I had no hotel, no clean kit to wear, nothing.  But then in the euphoria of day 3…




I only slept 2 hours the night before.  I was VERY nervous about crashing.  But morning came and I was committed to go through with it.


The atmosphere around a crit is pretty exciting.  Everything is close – you can almost see the whole course.  There are lots of spectators and an announcer that calls a play-by-play.  There is a pace car.  It was an Audi A6: it needed to be something that could corner well.  Speeds can get up to 40 MPH in a downhill corner.


I didn’t really understand how crits work, but if you get dropped and are close to being lapped they pull you from the race.  If you get pulled before the 13th lap you don’t even get a time – it’s a DNF.  Otherwise they calculate a time.


The start of the race was like one of our Tuesday night rides when we get to Beachside.  But it lasts for 15 minutes.  The first 10 laps were absolutely balls to the wall.  My legs and lungs were screaming. 


On lap 4 or so some guy caught his handlebars on a piece of tarp and went down.  Took one other guy with him, but not too hard though.  But overall I felt much safer than I thought I would.  The group was pretty strung out, and most turns were single file.  Two-wide at the most after the first couple laps.


After lap 10 things slowed down a little.  Either that, or I was learning to carry my momentum through the turns a little better.  Probably a combination of both.  After lap 20 I thought I was going to be able to stay with the lead group through the end – a miracle in my mind.  I had been toward the back of the lead group the whole time, so I knew I had no chance at the sprint.  In the end I was 20th but I got the same time as the winner.  The guy that won the sprint was a 58 year old guy that probably weighted 220 lbs.  Unbelievable.


I ended up 13th in the General Classification, which was way better than I thought I could.



This race was an amazing experience.  While I was very intimidated going in, I felt almost as safe as I do on our group rides.  THIS OR SOMETIHNG LIKE IT WOULD BE A REALLY FUN EVENT TO TAKE A TTE GROUP TO.  And there is lots of stuff for families to do.  The Sugarbush area has cool waterfalls, mountain biking, kayaking, gliders, craft fairs and amazing farm-to-table food.  And Burlington is a very cool city with lots going on.


I was much better prepared than I though due to all the stuff the TTE team has been teaching us.  Pace-lining, the Sherwood work, gutting it out on climbs, screaming starts on Tuesday night, etc.  It all applied.


This is probably the most fun biking thing I’ve done and I sincerely encourage more of us at TTE to give it a try


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