The Green Mountain Stage Race

GMSR Race Report, by Andrew Steele

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
I decided to go to the Green Mountain Stage Race on a whim. For the months preceding it, I waffled back and forth. I knew there was nothing for me in Vermont – I can’t climb to save my life – but I felt left out, like I was going to miss something great if I skipped it. So when I saw a friend on the registration list a week out and heard he hadn’t sorted housing, I jumped in. He had another friend racing, and next thing I knew I was splitting a condo with them for the long weekend.

Yeah, just like that. I make poor choices under pressure. I thought it would be fun. Fun!?

The next day, I emailed my boss – yeah, after paying for registration and renting the condo. What? – to ask if I could have the time off. My boss, whose Blackberry I hoped still worked while he was on his own vacation and wouldn’t be too irritated by my intrusion. It did. He wasn’t. I could. Thank God. And that was probably the last thing that went according to plan.

From there to here, from here to there.
If you’ve ever travelled to a race, you know that the racing is only a small part of the whole story. The event doesn’t just play out on the road. It’s your preparation, how you spend your time resting, the attitude you carry in to it from the time wherever you stay, your knowledge of the course(s), ability to deal with unexpected challenges. Planning is paramount.

I would split the drive up to Vermont with my training partner. Leave on Wednesday, pre-ride Friday’s time-trial course on Thursday afternoon, and return on Tuesday, not dealing with Labor Day traffic. Oh, and we would race for four days in between. That was the idea, anyway. Then things got soggy and went all funny shaped.

Enter Irene: the day after I registered, Hurricane Irene decimated the eastern seaboard. And Vermont, being part of that general area, took a pretty big hit. Big enough that people started talking about whether or not there was going to be a bicycle race at all. Pictures circulated that made it look like racers would need SCUBA gear to compete and reports filtered in about Vermont having been hit very, very hard. It did not seem promising. But the race promoter got it in his head that wheels would roll come Hell or highwater – yeah, not exactly a pun – and went to work with state and local authorities to make alternate arrangements for impassable roads.

Nobody I talked to expected be staying in Vermont that weekend. People started chatting about going to the Labor Day Omnium in the event of a cancellation. Web browser bookmarks were made. Race courses were examined. Hotels were called.

… and then Green Mountain gave the green light to race. Huh? I have to admit, I was disappointed. A long weekend of flat crits and circuit races made me a lot more excited than Appalachian Gap. But that was that – northbound it was.

Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re really quite lucky…
On the drive up, we stopped in New Jersey to fit in a training ride. Because who would pass up the opportunity to ride next to a highway for a couple hours?! That was when I realized I had left my helmet and sunglasses on the counter at home. I’d have to sort those out in Vermont. Half an hour in to the ride, a spoke from my front wheel snapped. Rim knocking against the brake pad, it survived the limp back to the car where I swapped on my [borrowed] race wheels [thanks, Jason]. The rest of the ride was uneventful… thank God, because seriously, I’m pretty sure the next step would have been to get hit by a truck. But if that was it, well, get all the bad luck out of the way early, right?

In Vermont, I checked in to the off-season ski condo. It was smaller than expected. And warmer. And without Internet access. Oh boy. It was too late to do anything about it, so I settled in and then made the short hike over to race registration. Afterwards, my training partner and I set out to preview the time trial course. Depending on how you look at it, this would either prove to be a colossal mistake, or a wonderful stroke of luck.

The course was short: 9km, the first 3.7 of it worked up a “gradual” (read: hurt a lot) climb, then it became a rolling power course for 5.3km, punctuated with a steep pitch 500m from the line. Race officials wouldn’t let riders return to the staging area by riding on the other side of the road when the race was running, so we decided to follow the markings for the return route we would use on race day. “How long could it take? We’re only 9km away” we figured.


An hour of climbing and descending in the dark later, we had lost hope. Neither of us knew how much farther we had to go and with no reception, our phones made better paperweights than tools to figure out where we were, I still didn’t have a helmet, and we had no lights. The Labor Day Omnium sounded so inviting. To make things worse, the little town we were near was shutting down and we hadn’t eaten dinner, much less planned for race-morning breakfast. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like going to a race was such a mistake. And then I heard, “is that Jared’s car!?”

I stopped almost instantly.

Jared Nieters runs Haymarket Bicycles here in Virginia. He’s my training partner’s XO Communications teammate. And we just saw his wagon in the parking lot of a local pizza restaurant. About face. We marched in to the place and found Jared and Tim Brown sitting in the corner. If a stroke of luck is two birds with one stone, this was like taking out an entire flock: we ate dinner and ordered enough so that breakfast in the morning would be taken care of (Waitsfield, Vermont has a population of less than 2,000. Racers, volunteers, staff, and friends and family probably temporarily increased traffic two fold – this was not the kind of place where you could step out your door at 7:00 a.m. and take your pick of 25 restaurants for a freshly cooked meal), got a ride back to the race resort, AND procured a spare helmet that I could use for the weekend. Thanks, Jared!

With headache after mishap behind, maybe the racing would be better?


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