Killington Stage Race takes place in central Vermont, which at this time of year is lush and humid. All four of us Quebec-based H&R boys were there to contest the race.
Friday was a relatively flat circuit race, each of the 4 laps having a gradual ascent over the first half, and decent to the finish, so we planned to lead out our big boy, Brad, for the fast downhill finish. The technical guide for the race suggested a 55-11 for sprinters!
The race was fast and furious until a break was established, including Nick to represent the black and green. However with a lap to go, it all came together, so we started preparing for the sprint finish. Unfortunately unnamed eager beavers on the team started our leadout way (way way) too early, and we were gassed by 3km to go. The leadout was swarmed and Brad was stuck in the melee. Despite Matt pulling out a surprising 10th and my 14th, the result were worthless for GC (at least 80% of the 115+ riders were still in the peleton, and with a mass finish like that everyone gets the same finish time), stage winnings (money only going 3 deep), and general team happiness at having failed to execute our plan.
The next day's time trial was mostly a false flat, so we were again betting on Brad to crush. That didn't happen, and we didn't really have any other personal victories to rally behind either.
The last day was the road race, featuring two worthy KOMs. We were hopeful that the final huge 4km climb would negate the team tactics of the bigger squads, and with Nick, highest placed in GC, also being a good climber, we wanted to protect him for the finale.
Unfortunately, right after Nick bridged to a break (...er??) I had a blow-out and as I rolled from 50km/h to a stop on $4000 wheels with no air in the back tire, I had a little meltdown.
What can I say? I panicked.
It was very much a Redlands deja vu moment...despite this time being well positioned about 10-15th wheel... Once I stopped swearing, I got off to take my wheel off, realized it was not down the cassette, got back on, started trying to change gears but being SRAM and me freaking out, I changed up instead, as the neutral wheel guy runs up, pulls off the wheel, I finally change down, he throws a wheel on, I hit it, not sure if he will pace me, he pulls his car in front just as we hit a short climb, I kill myself trying to get close to him on the uphill and then get closer on the downhill. He stayed about 3-4 meters away, and we were doing about 45kmh...so eventually he left to catch the peleton.
From there I went as hard as I could and was sooo close to the back of the caravan (i.e. support/officials' cars following the race) just as they hit a decent hill...I was about 100 meters back when the peleton crested, taking the cars with them. Didn't see them again.
I talked to the wheel guy afterwards...they're pro SRAM/Zipp neutral support, so I figured he would be able to tell me what to do. He said that I should be just inches from his back bumper to get a real draft, BUT I had to give him the thumbs down to slow down, because he can't be unexpectedly slowing down in front of riders and freaking them out. Seems reasonable.
Anyway, I TTed for the remaining 2/3 of the race, 65km or so, determined to make time-cut. I experienced absolute hell as I rode through a friggen paradise...old towns, cheering locals, a river running by the road, and hills thick with brilliant green spring foliage, all to make time cut. Ended up passing a few dudes of the final climb, and finished within the timecut, 27 min down...although they don't seem to have cut anyone. I heard Nick fell out of the break, but the break was caught just before the final climb, and he managed to get 8th for the stage.
After a four days to recover, train, taper and generally get my head back in the game, we headed north east to the Charlevoix region of Quebec, know for hills, hills, more hills, and good cheese.
The first race was a 17km TT. I was feeling motivated and quite rested, and dare I say, prepared! Nick helped me tape on a tubular for my rear Zipp 808 the night before, so I was running the triathlete special: 404 front and 808 rear. Light, but deep enough to be wicked-aero. Tuned my gears during a good warmup, and got psyched while avoiding thinking about the brute I would be following down the start ramp (he went on to win the stage).
I headed out at a good clip, conserving a little since it was slightly downhill and a tailwind. Road was a little bumpy, and then crack! Oh god, not the 808... Still seemed to be rolling fine. A short while later, another crack...and I felt my position was now a little off: seat post had slipped down. Crap. I still rode hard, but gradually my seat got to the point where I was riding a clown bike. My quads were on fire, but I hadn't been passed...was I keeping my Garneau 30-second man at bay? No, it turns out my 30-second and minute men hadn't started the race, so I had kept my one-and-a-half (or maybe even 2 minute) man at bay, just, so I ended up 2:20 behind the winner for 41st. Boo.
Back to motel, eat, sleep, eat, warmup for crit, snafu at the lineup so we started at the back. I worked my way up to not-quite-at-the-back for 43rd. Boo x 2.
Last stage on Sunday, 3rd race in 24 hours. Beautiful course, quite a bit of climb up to the two-thirds mark, then ridiculous amounts of climbing. I sucked, finished in the 3rd group for around 40th. Definitely the hardest result to deal with...no excuses for this one... Perhaps it's time to try my hand at golf? haha Nick finished 7th, so he is in great form for Beauce next week.
A little sightseeing and dinner in Quebec City was a nice way to lift the spirits before the long drive home.