Race Report by Anna Barensfeld
Stage 1 – Circuit Race
Almost everyone was more concerned with saving their legs for the TT and road race so the circuit race was a relatively slow affair. The pace picked up only in anticipation of the QOM points at the top of the gradual climb and when the pack was jockeying for position leading up to the sprint points. With my GC hopes, my goal was to complete the race without allowing any contenders to get away while using the minimal amount of energy possible. My teammate Ann D’Ambruoso and guest-riding teammate Becca Blatt did a phenomenal job of making this happen. They gave me a safe wheel to sit on in the pack, monitored the action at the front, picked a safe line through the sprint traffic, and put me in the perfect spot on the climbs. Ann even hooked me up with a GU gel on the last lap after I dropped mine (I was trying hard not to litter the top tab!). At the end of the day my legs were fresh and I chose to go for the sprint finish. In that case I knew to grab Wellons’ wheel and made sure to do that at about 1200km. She weaved through the pack to the front and I just followed her wheel, 100% locked on and not letting go. Making sure to avoid my mistakes from previous races, I was super patient and waited until almost the bitter end to make my move to the left. I swung around and accelerated as hard as I could, upshifted, and threw the bike at the line. I had a gut feeling I got the win but neither of us knew who took it for sure. Photo finish proved I nabbed it by the narrowest of margins. A true win for the team. My teammates honestly rode a perfect race!
When results were posted I was penalized 30 seconds for a centerline violation between 1km and 500m to go, along with two other riders. That section of road was narrow and with so many riders vying for sprint position it was a dangerous situation. At 500m we had the full width of the road to work with but between 1km and 500m we were restricted to the right side of the road. I won’t deny that I passed to the left of the line at one point. Three of us were penalized while so many other riders had to make the same move and were not penalized, but guilty is guilty. My mistake cost me my GC lead and relegated me to fourth from the back.
Stage 2 – Time Trial
Not much to say about “The Race of Truth” but exactly that – truth be told, this is where I need to do some work. I’m glad I made the investment in an aero frame and beg borrowed & stole some aero wheels and helmet because they helped to minimize the damage but this stage was my weakness on the weekend. I was focused and determined and put my all out there but in the end was only able to pull out 12th place on the day, leaving me at 15th on GC. Becca and Ann had strong rides especially without TT bikes (Ann without aero extensions either!).
Stage 3 – Road Race
I started the day back at 3:15 back from Sue Schlatter on GC, quite a gap to make up with such a pack of other hungry climbers: Kristen Gohr, Silke Wunderwald, Veronique Labonte, Jennifer Stephenson, Audrey Scott, and many others! Nothing to lose on a stage like this; just go go go on the climbs.
The race was essentially four parts; before the first climb, the first climb, before the final climb, and the final climb. The first section was a little more spirited than I expected, with a handful of attacks, but nothing serious would ever get away with so much firepower to come. Ann did a great job of chasing down a few attacks on the flats in the first 20 miles or so. There was a lot of broken pavement and many riders flatted but the SRAM guys had everyone covered quickly. Becca flatted maybe 28 miles in but was back in a flash. The intermediate sprint came just before the first true climb of the day and while I didn’t want to contest it, we wanted to be near the front of the pack as there would be a sharp right-hand turn and immediately North Road would slam upwards. Ann had me positioned perfectly for the turn and I moved to the front immediately and set tempo up the hill. There’s no wind to hide from on a steep hill like that and I wanted to just let my legs climb as fast as they wanted. I downed a gel and kept spinning. I think we shelled quite a few riders on the steep slope at the bottom right away. I know Veronique Labonte was just behind me and I’m sure Silke was there too but I didn’t look behind me once so I don’t know what it looked like on that hill. It was long with many pitches and it flattens a bit towards the top; Silke has a strong second acceleration and she upshifted and accelerated then. I went with her, thinking to thin out the pack as much as possible. In fact I just blew up my legs. She accelerated away for the QOM points ahead and I couldn’t stay with her. Labonte, Stephenson, Gohr, Kerry Litka, Melissa Ross, Becca, and a few others caught and passed me on the way to the QOM line. I was a little worried about my legs at this point! I didn’t panic but put my head down and just kept working. We all came back together on the downhill and it was many miles to the final climb, so plenty of time to recover.
Once down in the flats on Route 4 most of the peloton was back together again for the long lead up to East Mountain Road. Ann reappeared, my legs were feeling good, and there was nothing left to do but go up, up, up. Maybe it was all the miles over the last 3 days but my mood was pretty good! I tried to concentrate on fueling up right for the climb, keeping my legs spinning as easily as possible, and staying out of the wind. Ann moved to the front and set tempo for many miles. I was nearly out of water and would have been high and dry on the mountain so I shot up front to see if she had anything left. She gave me one of her bottles which turned out to be the perfect final two sips (coke & water!) on my mountain climb. The woman is a gem!
With 3:15 to make up, only one climb left to the finish, and an entire pack of climbers all together including the GC leader who is the defending Mt. Washington Hill Climb champ, there was nothing to lose. I had to just climb as hard as I possibly could. Just before the left hand turn onto East Mountain Road I worked my way up the left side of the pack and after the turn immediately moved to the front and started climbing. I did not look back. This mountain was not a question of how long to conserve and when to redline it; it was just a question of how long you could redline it. I know Labonte was on my wheel for a time but I got a gap on her after a bit. Once we passed under the bridge Sue Schlatter came spinning up looking awfully fresh. I hung on her wheel for about ten meters but she was gone, gone gone. She just continued spinning up the mountain and it’s no surprise she finished 50-some seconds in front. I continued to maintain a gap up to the QOM line; just after, Silke and a few others caught me. At that point the road leveled off a bit. We grouped up and started eyeing each other; what gear is she in? Is she going to go for it or sit in? When the road turned downwards at one point I said to Silke, “let’s go!” and tried to accelerate away from the others, but we didn’t get far before they pulled up to us again. At the left hand turn on to Killington Road, my first thought was to wait and see what Silke would do. Then I decided that I could suffer more than the rest could and I would just start climbing again. I put my head down and started up the road. Again I didn’t look back but I think Silke and Kristen Gohr were the only ones to come with me. At about 500m I decided I just had to ride Silke off my wheel and put another dig in. Kristen stayed with me, and she had the legs to accelerate by me with just a handful of meters before the line. We were 51 and 54 seconds behind Schlatter.
Becca pulled across in 13th, a super strong climb especially given that she was having shifting problems after receiving a loaner wheel from SRAM on the road, and Ann finished in 30th, after working so hard as my teammate all day. I couldn’t possibly ask for better support!
On GC we ended up 7th, 17th, and 32nd.
As always, thanks so much to our sponsors and supporters, and the race organizers — Gary and Peter!