First off I must say the competition was fierce. Of all the cat. 5 races so far this year, this was by far the best cat. 5 group. The race started out with a bang with a huge climb up to the top of the ridge we would be crossing several times that morning. Fortunately that first climb was neutralized so that the race wouldn't end in the first mile. But from the top of the climb it was game on.
Looking back I realize that I spent way too much time on the front and not at front. There is a difference. Being on the front means you are doing most of the work and pushing through the wind. At the front means sitting in someone else's draft. This led to several other riders marking my wheel and tagging me as a strong rider not to be let way. I plan on taking this new found knowledge and using it at the Union Vale RR in July to try and repeat my win (more on that race later).
A large group stayed together for the first 2/3 of the race. But on the Davenport Rd. Climb is where things started to break up, and on the final KOM climb up Good Hill Rd. is where the final selection was made.
Here's the blow by blow as I remember from Good Hill on (granted I was pushing redline so things are a bit fuzzy). Going up good hill one guy made an attack for the KOM. He got a gap on the field. At this point I was on the front and no one was coming around, so I knew I must have been setting a good pace. About 500m from the top I accelerated and caught the first rider and passed him only to be passed 200m from the KOM line.
Only two other guys had the power to go with me to the top. On the decent two other racers latched on to our group. This was the final selection. We could no longer see the main field, as it was strung out on the climb. The group worked amazingly well together and this no doubt led to our success. We all took 20 to 30 second pulls at the front allowing us to average well over 20mph plus all the way back to the line.
Now for the finish. The finish included on sharp right hand turn and then a little rise before flattening off at the line. I went through the last turn in second place. The rider in front of me jumped right at the bottom of the hill. I was able to use his draft to sling-shot me around him and open up a gap on the other racers. I'm still not sure how big it was because I was not looking back. I laid it all on the line right there and went all out. I do know I had enough of a gap to take both arms off the bars and give a victory salute (I've been dreaming of that moment for a long time:-).
I couldn't have asked for a better race. The only thing that would have made it better is if I would have gotten time to warm up. I went to the start line cold and did not like the way I felt the entire race. My legs felt stiff and dull on all the climbs - though that could be due to the 19.1 avg. speed we had - and not their usual snappy, mountain goat-like selves (yes I am referring to my legs like they are different person:-).
Again, I learned so much from this race. The importance of a good warm-up and not working at the front too early or too much. The next race on the schedule is the Union Vale RR. It is a long race for a cat. 5 at 44 miles. Having never raced this distance before it should be interesting to see how the early miles shape up. Most cat. 5 races are around 25 miles - meaning it's 100 effort the whole time, almost like a TT. But 44 miles will dictate a slower start I would imagine. It will be great to experience as the longest stage of the Green Mountain Stage Race is 60 miles!
Many of the same cat. 5 riders will also be at Union Vale, which is a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. It will be good to get a rematch when my legs are feeling good - or bad because now they have more time to think about how to win the next time.
I still can't believe I won a race this year. I was simply hoping to finish well in the ones I started, not win. Hopefully I can continue my success at Union Vale, then move on to Deodate back in PA, and then try to do well at the GMSR.
Thanks for reading!