Race report written by Crystal Anthony
Mist filled the town of Woodstock, VT in a sort of friendly, totalitarian occupation. The air demanded attention; it wanted to be seen, felt, and smelled. Inhaled whiteness left a mossy fragrance as it crawled down into our lungs. Our destination – a Caribbean restaurant – added to the illusion that Rebecca, Christina and I were strolling down a sidewalk in Martinique, or St. Lucia say. Something about how perceptible the atmosphere was transported us to the present moment, a vacation from the chores and demands of everyday life and the start of a weekend of Vermont bicycle racing.
The host at Melaza (Molasses) looked down his nose at us and our microfiber apparel. “Do you have a reservation?” “No.” “Well, as you can see we’re quite busy,” he patronized, “but I will speak with Sophia for you.” Sophia arrived in a tailored suit and stiffly offered to clear us a table. Clearly they were trying to act far more elitist than they really were because as we trailed Sophia to our table we passed by a party with young children standing on chairs and depositing half-eaten morsels on the table and floor, as well as some noticeably vacant tables!
Nevertheless, the vacation continued as we enjoyed the most scrumptious seafood I’ve had in a long time: grouper baked in banana leaves with coconut and sweet plantain risotto, julienned vegetables, and mango salsa. If I could cook that well, I’d have an attitude too.
Killington was just a short jaunt further, and after a bit of traversing the subdivisions of condos off the access road, we arrived at the condo our team had generously rented for the weekend. It wasn’t just the tropical feel to the air that made this trip a vacation. It was also the focused intent of our stay: to complete the Killington Stage Race. We had one mission: race hard, recover and rest, and prepare for the next race. Though racing is demanding of course, it was a relief to have just one job. There was no opportunity and therefore no pressure to run to Home Depot, scrub the shower, organize the mail pile, or catch up on laundry.
The goal for the first race, the 55-mile circuit race, was to finish with the field, in a decent enough position to have several riders ahead of us in the Time Trial the following day, which went off in reverse order of finish in the circuit race. On the first of 3 loops, being surrounded by 70 women triggered claustrophobia. The pace was brisk at ~30mph on the flat sections, and I threw a mental fit whining about why I did this and how I’d never do another road race. It seemed like such a waste of time and energy to sit in a field of riders waiting for something to happen, to ride 2 ½ hours for about 5 minutes of actual racing at the finale of the event. However, after the first lap, a break lept away. I had been sitting in the middle of the pack and had not seen this occur, but Marti Shea actually alerted me. I then spread the word to my teammates. Somehow, few in the field seemed to be aware of the two-woman break. Once word spread, many riders attempted to make moves at the front, but Team Juviderm (a UCI team who’s one rider was off the front) blocked all the attempts. They had by far the most riders of any team, and had an excellent, organized system for marking and blocking any chase attempts.
The gap at one point reached 1:45, but the various chase efforts had whittled it down to around 45-60 seconds by the final lap. The finish occurred at the bottom of a plunging descent, and Elle had advised to be mentally prepared for this ahead of time. I hung at the back on the most precipitous part of the descent, then moved forward through the peloton on the 500 meter finishing flat. Using my momentum, I was propelling through the field when suddenly 3 riders dropped from a men’s field loomed into view, blocking the right half of the road just before the finish! Fortunately, we all maneuvered around them and Christina, Elle and I all finished mid-pack.
The two riders in the break had finished just under a minute ahead, but due to their scarfing up all the time bonuses along the way, had just over a minute on the rest of the field.
That night, it was recovery time, and time trial bike prep. Knowing that the TT was my specialty of sorts was both exciting and stressful. Though the discomfort of riding in a pack is draining in a way, going into a race with fewer expectations can be more relaxing and lead to unexpected success. On the other hand, being confident and comfortable, while a relief in one sense, can elicit overbearing expectations for success.
The ever-helpful Tao Te Ching puts it this way:
When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
I had categorized the Time Trial as a beautiful and good thing, but in fact, the morning did not go quite as planned. Riding to the start turned out to be a bad idea as it involved 10 solid minutes of descent – meaning the only thing working were arm muscles and an overactive crash imagination! With an inadequate warm-up, I rolled to the start line a bit ruffled. Off the line, I settled into a rhythm but could not get my heart rate up. Most of us have been there: I’d tell myself, ok, go now! And I’d really lay it down, so I thought, but upon rechecking my HR, it had not budged. Finally, I switched to checking speed and tried to maintain the speed or better of last year’s top performance, while also picking off riders ahead of me. I ended up finishing just over half a minute faster than last year’s best time, but word was that the conditions this year were far faster. My time placed 11th on the day, just about 2 minutes back of Sue Schlatter. Christina had an excellent ride bettering her previous year’s time by a minute and a half. Rebecca and Anna put in solid efforts as well.
Perhaps it was the sugar-free Red Bull or just how crappy I felt about my “ugly, bad” performance, but I was restless and grumpy and upon returning to the condo I just wanted to crawl into bed. Lyne helped put it in perspective reminding me that this was a training race and I was going in fatigued, and that I was still a beginner to stage racing. Part of me is still not quite sure why it’s not possible to win every time
After a lot of food (thanks to Millie!) and a lot of sleep, things felt much brighter in the morning. We were fortunate to have team members there to man the feed zone for us, so we settled all the logistics and were off to the start. Rebecca was about to embark on her longest ride of the year. Christina and I were about to test ourselves against a talented field of women on two challenging climbs.
For the first hour, the race unfolded uneventfully. During a long descent, Christina maneuvered into an excellent position near the front of the peloton, while I conceded my previous position near the front and drifted back, still nervous about high speeds! As the course began a short climb, I began to work my way forward in the field, but suddenly the woman in front of me went down. Having taken Lyne’s advice and looked through the legs of the rider in front to anticipate what was happening, I actually managed to stop and avoid ramming into her. However, the rider on my wheel clobbered me from behind, knocking me over and in fact ripping out my rear wheel! In an instant, I went from feeling the pulse of the race to flailing on the ground with a dismantled bicycle to collect. By the time I reattached the wheel and got moving up the steep slope, the field had flown off into the distance accelerating toward the sprint point.
At this point, I thought (once again) of the Tao Te Ching:
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.
The peloton had literally disappeared, and the idea of letting it go and just doing my job, come what may, was calming. What the universe provides is always enough, and even here I could certainly still get in a good workout regardless of being out of contention in the competition. A few other riders had either gone down or been dropped on the hill, and I tried to enlist people to work together as I hammered ahead. I soloed for ~30 miles. Having picked off several straggling riders en route, I finally latched onto a chase group of about 15 women including Christina about 10 miles from the finish. It was great to see a friendly face! For about 5 miles, we puttered along and I regrouped a bit. Then we hit the final 5-mile climb up the access road to the finish.
At several points, I resorted to paperboying on the hill and I thought to myself, “I really need a 28 or 29 for this.” This is a matter of some pride to me (I later bragged to Christina) because a year ago I would not have been able to even formulate such a thought. I would have had no idea what a 26 is nor that I was riding one. Perhaps the next goal should be to in fact utilize the correct gearing…
Veronique Fortin’s impressive road race ushered her to the P/1/2 stage race victory. Out of 66 starters, I finished 19th and Christina 39th GC. Rebecca rode tough on her longest race to date. Sunday evening, we drove home knowing our work and the vacation was done, and it was time to let go and move on.
Crystal Anthony 19th
Christina Tamilio 39th
Elle Anderson 32nd
Rebecca Wolski 39th
Circuit and Time Trial:
Anna Milton 43rd and 46th