Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Bike Racing for Dummies - 2017 Green Mountain Stage Race

Preamble - if you know nothing of bike lingo and terminology, fear not. I will define everything to the best of my ability, however, as you will shortly find, I am still learning on-the-fly here. I bought my first road bike this past June. I've never followed professional cycling or any type of cycling for that matter. I do like to ride bikes though. I like it a lot and I am learning as much as I can, as fast as I can.

However new I am to cycling,  I am not new to having fun while pushing myself hard and testing physical and mental limits. I have a lot of experience in this area.

I also don't mention names much in my previous stories but, for reader's sake, I am going to in this one. It might be weird but we will get thru it. Promise.

So let's begin - Lesson 1 - The Green Mountain Stage Race is a 4-day cycling event that takes place in Vermont. I am brand new to cycling so I am in "Category 4/5" or "Cat 4/5" for short. Competing in "Cat 3" is earned by racing more and acquiring points by winning races. There is also Cat 2 and Cat 1. The experience level going higher and higher. Each category races separately.

A "Stage Race" means that there is a number of different events where cyclists earn points and/or time bonuses against their competition, and thus a ranking among their respective category. For comparison's sake, The Tour de France is a 21 day "stage race" where the overall winner is determined by the fastest time in the "general category" (or "GC") ranking. There are also points awarded to competitors for "King/Queen of the Mountains" (or "KOM") challenges and "Sprint" challenges, but we will come back to those later. Click the links for more details on speed and strava files, pictures, and/or videos. Click the pictures to make them bigger.

My Drishti was set on competing for the GC and overall win.

That being said - I also recognize that this is the Cat 4/5 race - I know it is not the Tour de France or even the pros. It is very small-time compared to those races. I promise to describe things as truthfully and as descriptive as I can/know how. I also promise to do my best to keep you on the edge of your seat and make you think that you are reading a description of the TdF.

2017 Green Mountain Stage Race (GMSR)

For story's sake, this weekend starts with a fist bump early Monday morning in Burlington, Vermont. It was Labor Day and three blocks of the city were barricaded off for the final day of racing. The fist bump was unexpected to say the least; an enthusiastic presentation of four small knuckles outstretched upward on a young arm. Though his arm reached only up to my chest, and his closed fist was much smaller than my own, it was rock solid and steady. I was immediately jealous of these attributes as I tapped his knuckles with a loosely closed hand that trembled with nerves.

"I hope you keep that yellow jersey!" he said without inhibition, even though I was a complete stranger.

"Thanks, Big Man. I appreciate that a lot!" I said half-bewildered by the encounter. I was straddling my bike, in full race gear, with a bandanna tied under my matte-black helmet; full reflective aviator sunglasses hid the uncertainty in my eyes, "What's your name, buddy?"

"My name's Everette and my dad's racing right now and he's doing really well in the sprints and in the GC! I hope he wins but there is a bit of gap right now, and I don't know if they'll bridge it up! Not to mention there are only a couple laps to go until the next prime!" he sputtered quickly.

He was surprised when it took me a minute to process all the information. He had all this information at the tip of his tongue, while his head at an awkward height that could barely peep over the top of guard rail but wasn't quite short enough to see under it either. I watched an unapologetic look of disappointment wash across his face when the most intelligent and engaging response I could muster was, "That's really cool. I hope he does good."

I had barely a clue what he was talking about- and the clue that I did have was all learned the previous night- sleepless and frantically trying to figure out how to race a "crit."

Crit - bike race where the course is deliberately short with multiple laps, including lots of corners designed to test cyclists' handling skills at high speeds. One small mishap likely means a crash.

My hands were still shaking with nerves for two reasons. The first was because I had never raced a "crit" before. The second was because I just borrowed a bike pump from a guy who crashed in an earlier race. He had road rash all down his left side. When I asked what happened he said "Yeah, that sucked but at least my head didn't hit the curb." There was an awkward silence and then he followed up with, "Here's my pump. Good luck out there! Defend that yellow jersey of yours!"

I pumped up my tires silently and went out to warm up a bit.

Let's back up again - The yellow jersey, in cycling, is given to the current leader in GC points. It is an awesome honor to wear the jersey, but it also is intended to make it easier for the rest of the racers to know who is leading in points, A.K.A. the guy they have to beat.

This crit race is the final stage of the GMSR. The starting time was getting closer and the racers began making their way to the entry corner of the race.

Before the race, a few of my teammates and friends made a big deal about how I was going to get a "call up" and how that was going to be a big help in the crit. I asked a couple times what that actually meant, but I didn't really understand to be honest.

"It's simple," Tim and Dan both said, "They call you up to the start line first, before anyone else. What don't you get?"

I am not quite sure what I didn't get, but I still didn't understand fully. Everyone was bunched up in the entry area and the announcer began talking.

"One second." I yelled. "I'll be right back." In all the pre-race commotion, I arrived at the staging area with my pockets still full of phone, keys, and a bunch of other random stuff I didn't need for the race. I pedaled up to the opposite corner, took out my headphones and phone, and left them with my lovely lady, Suz. I sucked back a HOTSHOT and made my way back to the group.

"We can start now?" the race official joked as we all stood waiting to be released to the start line. He then started talking about the race and the rules and blah, blah, blah... I zoned out.

Apparently, the announcer called my name. I didn't hear it. I didn't really hear anything until the kid next to me nudged me and said, "That's you, bro."

"What do I do?" I asked.

"Get up there, dude!" he poked fun because he must have thought I was joking.


I slowly pedaled up 500-feet from the staging area to the start line alone as everyone cheered.

I don't do well with boasting and/or inequality in any aspect of life. The solo pedal up to the line was super awkward for me. He then "called up" the 2nd and 3rd place guys to the start line. Then he allowed everyone else to the line. We stood there for two minutes. The longest two minutes of my short lived cycling career.

As it stood, I wore the yellow jersey, so I was in the lead. Trailing me by seconds was a kid named Robbie. Then, ten seconds behind him was Berk. So first place thru 3rd place were all within 20-seconds of each other. It was anyone's race, really. The difference being that Robbie had his teammate, Rees, at the starting line with him; and Berk had his teammate, Dustin, at the starting line with him as well. I, on the other hand, was solo, and had no idea what I was doing.
Stage 1 of the GMSR is an uphill "time trial." A time trial (TT) is a race against the clock. Each rider is released on to the course in 30-second intervals and the times are recorded individually. Coming from a triathlon background, I have a lot of experience in time-trialing and knew I was going to fair decently.

The effort is totally individual. Drafting off of the other riders on the course is not allowed.

Drafting is when one cyclist will ride close behind another. The rider up front does a lot more work than the person in the back because the person in the back does not have to fight air resistance as much but they both travel at the same speed.

TT in action
The GMSR TT course is 5.6 miles. The first 2.6-miles climbs about 500ft. It took me 8min 57sec. The rest is net downhill for 3-miles and was into a 10-12mph headwind. The only thing you can do to improve your time in a time trial is pedal hard and get into an aerodynamic position (areo). I am good at pedaling hard and getting better at being aero.

I finished 2nd behind a kid named Torin. I wasn't expecting to win, but I also wasn't expecting anyone to go 26 seconds faster than me. This kid had legs. And because he won the 1st stage, he got to wear the yellow leader jersey for Stage 2. My effort analysis for the TT is here if you want more numbers, but for non-bike-nerds, I will save the jibber-jabber. Long story short, it was pretty much right on point with what I expected I could do. I averaged 388-watts for a duration of 15minutes and 40seconds.

A "watt" is a unit of power commonly used by cyclists to quantify effort. It is basically how hard the rider can push the pedals. Think of it as weights on a barbell in a gym. It just measures how much overall work you can do on a bike. 388watts for 15minutes is right on point for me. For comparison's sake, 388watts is equal to half of a "horsepower" when describing an engine in a car. Not too shabby considering I run on infinity miles per gallon, eh?
Torin donning the Yellow Jersey after the TT

On my to the start line of stage two, I stopped at a coffee shop in Rochester. I was in my bike attire, late, and ready to get in, get a coffee, and get on my way. However, a woman came up to me at the register, introduced herself and asked how the race was going. She was clearly excited about it and wanted to chat. I didn't have much time but I ended up chatting with her anyways. I am typically late to anything I do, anyways. In chatting with her, I learned that her son won the GMSR a couple years ago and was now off racing somewhere else as part of a different team. We ended up talking for a little longer than I noticed, and ,though I wish I could have talked more, I was now later than even I wanted to be. I told her it was awesome meeting her and her husband, then left for the start line. After random encounters like that, I now had a big smile, a new friend, and a great feeling overall. I didn't really expect to talk with either of them again despite them telling me that they were volunteering on the course for stage three tomorrow. I have them my racing number to look out for, but, at most, I'd wave to them on the course as I passed by. Nevertheless, Vermonters are some of the best people on the planet.

Stage 2 was 54 miles and called The Bridges Resort Circuit Race. It was my very first race on a road bike and to be completely unfiltered and frank it was not much different than my very first sexual encounter with another human.

At first, much like I did with the opposite sex as a teenager, I built up both experiences in my head to be more than they actually were, and I over-thought a lot of details. I "put the bike race on a pedestal" if you will.

Through inexperience in each, they were both very uneventful, they were both over a lot faster than I wanted them to be, and the both left me wondering, "Did I do that right?" "Was that good for you , too?" I was very unsatisfied.

During the race, there were a few failed attempts to break the pack up (this is when a few riders will power up ahead of everyone else and start working together to "break away" from the pack). This is also when a "gap" forms. When cyclists refer to a "gap" they mean the distance between the leaders and the rest of the pack. Consequently, when a gap forms, the pack usually starts to work together to catch up with them. A break need to be just at the right timing and with just the right racers to make it last.

Torin wore the yellow jersey well for Stage 2; too well, if you ask me. Typically the person in the yellow jersey will shy away from getting up front and doing more work than necessary. He has 26seconds to give after all. It's our job to beat him; he doesn't have to beat us. As long as the pack stays together and finishes together without someone breaking out ahead, the lead pack will all be recorded with the same finishing time. If all the finishing times are the same, he stays in the lead. It doesn't matter how fast or slow we go today if we all stay together and are awarded the same time, Torin will remain in the lead because he won the Time Trial yesterday by 26 seconds. Long story short, Torin stayed up front and did a lot more work than he had to.

Besides a few small and feeble attempts at a break, no one did anything. Everyone finished at the same time.

The only other thing I am going to add to this description of stage two is that there is a "GC Time Bonus" to the first five people physically across the line. So even though we all finished in the same time, in a big pack, there is a bonus for winning. The first person across the line gets a 15-second bonus deducted from their overall standing in the GC time. This doesn't mean much for the single stage of racing but is pretty huge for the overall GC standings.

Robbie finished first across the line.

My analysis is here. To sum it up, I averaged 215-watts and the group finished at 2hrs and 16min. I made a couple of moves, but I lacked the bike racing experience, confidence, and intuitiveness to have instigated any more than I did.

I was so frustrated at the end that I put my running shoes on immediately after the ride and peeled off 4 miles at about 7min/mile pace. Not the best idea when we have another 65 miles to ride tomorrow but honestly, I felt like we didn't even ride at all. To put it in perspective, I could have covered the same distance faster if I had been riding all by myself.

As a matter of fact, the Monday before the race I rode the stationary trainer for five and a half hours at a harder effort level than we rode stage two. 

However, I was still in 2nd place overall for the GC. I was still behind Torin by 26 seconds, and I was heading into stage three with semi-fresh legs.
Stage two finish

Setting the scene for Stage 3:
This course is extremely beneficial to the type of rider who likes going up hill. The person in 3rd place, right behind me,  is from Vermont- he is a phenomenal climber. Torin, still in first place, is also an incredible climber. Had conditions been different on Sunday morning, I am almost positive Stage 3 would have ended differently.

As we signed in at the start line, I was just as surprised as the rest of the field when I noticed that the 3rd place rider, going into his strong suit, on his home turf, did not sign in to ride. I did a mini-happy dance in my head, but then was brought abruptly back to reality a half of a second later when I remembered it was 42 degrees outside and down-pouring.

I went back to my car after I signed in. I needed to stay as warm as I could before the ride started. When I got back to my car I noticed a message on Facebook from a stranger, which immediately warmed my heart again (unfortunately not my fingers though).

It was from the woman I had met yesterday and she wishing me luck.

When I meet someone new, I always shy away from telling people specific times, placings, or speeds when they ask, "How did XXX race go?" Obviously, people want to know numbers and placings, and there is a time and place for that; but, better than that are feelings and experiences and thoughts during the race. The former are all relative, I try to honor that as best I can. The magic is in the effor that people put forward; not how fast they can go. I also try and focus on how much fun I had, and how awesome the people and crowd were at the race more than how "fast" or "slow" everyone went.

When I met Tamme at the coffee shop, she asked these leading questions. Deep down I knew she wanted a number, a time, how fast I went. I decided to dodge the inquiry and just talk about how awesome the day was, how nice it is to be in the gorgeous state of Vermont, and how I am looking forward to racing more.

If I had told her a specific result, the conversation would have been immediately taken over by times and performances (which in my opinion, is not much of a conversation). But, if I talk about how awesome everything else is, and how lovely Vermont is, and how awesome everyone around the race  is, it invokes a "next level" conversation. A conversation about feelings and stories and fun times; rather than comparing results for 20mins. Tamme, her husband, the barista, had a really great conversation. We briefly got to know each other, rather than compare times on a surface level.

Furthermore, if I had told her my time, Tamme might not have decided to look the results up herself and track me down on Facebook to send me this truly lovely message...

After this, knowing they were going to be cheering me, a complete stranger, on kept me happy.

I didn't quite know if Suz was going to be able to get on the course or where she was going to be, so knowing exactly where Tamme and Bill were going to be helped. It gave me a reason to fight the cold and miserable weather and get there.

They told me that they were going to be right around mile 60 out of a 65-mile ride. I wanted to get there and I wanted to be in first. The first 60miles were freezing cold and uneventful again. The only thing I can really recall is getting made fun of for wearing ski gloves and winter shoe covers. They were both heavy and soaked, but I could feel all of my fingers and toes for the entirety of the race, which is more than most of the field can say.

Numb limbs don't climb mountain roads well. Stage 3 consisted of climbing 1,200ft up Middlebury Gap, then riding down, and was to finish on the top of App Gap, a 1,600ft climb. I was warm the whole ride and I sang, "if you like Pina Coladas... gettin' caught in the rain...."

As we started the turn onto the final climb, I stripped off my show covers and gloves and I tossed them to the side of the road (I went back and picked them up later). We were all still mostly riding together again at this point. But about half-way up the road, around mile 58, I heard Torin yell, "This fucking sucks!"

It was right then I knew the day was mine. In my head, I was still singing, I knew that Tamme and Bill were right up the road, and my legs felt great.
The finish Line at the top of app gap

App gap finish line - Robbie up front. Me directly behind him. Like I said, the kid rides with heart.

My good friend and fellow teammate, Dan, started 10-minutes before my group. He was in the 50+ division. He was a big reason why I got into cycling and pretty much the only reason I signed up for GMSR in the first place. My group was closing in on him up ahead.

I had to put on a show. I threw down a couple hard pedal strokes to break away from the group and led everyone by Dan. He yelled, "Go gettem, Haff!"

I replied with, "I am about to light App Gap on FIRE!! WOOOOOO!!! LET'S GOOOOO!!!"

That was all I needed. A few minutes up the road, I saw Tamme and Bill. They started jumping up and down in the rain. "FOUR-FOUR-TWO... THAT'S BILLY! GO BILLY!! GOOOO!" they yelled.

I went. Hard.

I powered up the last 2.5miles of App Gap in the howling winds and sideways rain in under 16min and with more power than I put out for the Stage 1 Time Trial.  Robbie was right behind me most of the climb and we both put a hurting on one another, pushing each other to go faster and to not give up. It was the best kind of hurt.

Robbie rode with a lot of heart and was able to power by me with 200-meters to go. I finished in 4th place for the stage but I got what I wanted: the yellow jersey and the lead on the GC going into the last stage.

I think an unspoken bond forms between two people who suffer like that together. I threw my bike down at the top and Robbie and we hugged it out- I'll remember that climb forever.

The bond was moments later half-broken when we both saw the GC standings. I was up front, he was 2nd by ten seconds and Berk made up a ton of time by winning the stage, putting him in 3rd over-all (remember that the GC rankings are cumulative times from all stages), only ten seconds behind Robbie. The three of us- all within 20-seconds. Fourth place was 1min 12sec behind so despite an epic implosion by one of us, this would be the final podium, but in what order would be determined by Stage 4 - The Crit.

Berk and I rode down the backside of Middlebury Gap together (this was immediately after the first climb of the day's ride) with another strong rider named Luis. Out of all the riders in the race, these two were my kind of people. We would yell and hoot and holler at each other the whole way down the mountain chasing the lead pack down like little kids. Little kids who almost forgot that it was still low-40s, pouring rain, and epic-sorts-of-wet-and-slippery. We topped out at 49mph and didn't blink an eye. We literally didn't blink an eye; to do so would have meant crashing.





Suz and I invited Berk, his girlfriend, and his teammate, Dustin, back to our place for dinner. Lots of bike talk ensued. I learned that Dustin's brother was killed a few years back in a cycling accident with a truck in Boston. Long story short, I had an eerily similar encounter with a garbage truck going thru Harvard Square. It was early in the morning, I was heading south on Mass Ave and the dump truck was on my left, taking a right-hand turn without a turn signal on. I do not particularly enjoy being right next to a truck like that on the road, so I sped up to pass it just as it began to make its turn. I locked up the brakes and skidded into the side of the truck; specifically, the gas tank. I ricocheted off and onto the curb. Had I been going slightly faster, I would have been engulfed by the front right wheel well; had I been going slower, I would have been underneath the rear wheels.

Being a cyclist in the city is incredibly dangerous even if you do everything correctly. Though a lot of cyclists do not do anything correctly and it gives us all a bad rap. People in automobiles get insanely annoyed with bikers - sometimes because we are doing something inappropriate and we might deserve a honk of the horn. Please, if you are driving, remember that you are in a 2,000+ lbs vehicle and you might not see the huge crack in the road that a biker swerved to avoid or any other obstacles out there.
The next day we all stood at the start line of the crit together.

I need to set the stage further here so bear with me...

I'll lead off by saying that (almost) all is fair when it comes to bike racing- less any physical or malicious contact or actions a rider can go as fast or slow as they want and they can fight for position behind other riders wheels as aggressively as they can tolerate. 

Though I had an awesome time riding with Robbie and Rees over the stages, and I just shared a really delightful meal with Berk and Dustin; they are both on the same teams respectively. They are going to team up against me and against each other to fight for their team to get the win. Dustin helping Berk and Rees helping Robbie. This is how it goes.

Throughout the stages, I also made a few friends. Torin is out of the running for the GC but is a phenomenal crit racer - he didn't have a teammate in the race so maybe he'd help me a little. We got along great and shared "kudos" on Strava. I gave Arturo an extra HOTSHOT at the start of Middlebury gap yesterday when he complained of cramping. I gave a bunch of lead-outs thru the previous days to people who were no longer in the running for GC. I was hoping to call in a favor or two from these guys but you never know how races are going to go or if you can count on a helpful hand.

Pictured below. Described by the race director: One kilometer (.62 miles) per lap. A  six corner, very technical course in the heart of downtown Burlington, Vermont. The course has some irregular pavement, cobblestones, manhole covers and grates. Due to the technical nature of this course and irregular surface conditions, participants are encouraged to make a walking inspection of the course. USE EXTREME CAUTION

The Race Rules
25 laps with sprint "bonuses" The first four people across the line on the 5th lap and on the 15th lap get 8,6,4,3 seconds subtracted from their GC time respectively. The winner of the crit over all gets 15 seconds subtracted and then 11, 8, 5, 3 for the next four riders. This ensures for an exciting race. The person in the yellow jersey has to defend and carefully plan moves to not burn their legs out going for bonuses but also keep track of everyone else in contention. For example, a rider could be the first across the line for laps 5 and 15 and then sit back resting in the draft of other riders, then sprint up to take the win on the last lap because he hasn't put in as much of an effort to keep up with the pack. In this case, all other things being equal, the winning rider would 31 bonus seconds PLUS however much time he actually won the race by.

My race was almost over after the first turn... Close encounter with the barrier.
Without further ado, the gun went off and so did we. The "neutral" first lap went by in an instant.

My plan from the start of the race was to hammer the first five laps hard and take a piece of the first time bonus. I didn't need to win the 8seconds but 5 would be nice.  Then I could reassess things with a little more of a cushion.

I knew that these guys weren't going to drop me from the lead group. I'd be within 2 seconds of the winner no matter what, so the only thing I focused on was the bonuses. Berk needed the most bonus time so I knew him and Dustin were going to hammer hard from the start as well. Here is where team tactics come into play a lot.

Not only can Dustin and Rees help Berk and Robbie break away to acquire the time bonuses but they can also take time bonuses themselves, and hence blocking me from getting them. Even though they realistically aren't in contention for a GC position, if they get bonuses, I don't. And that means their teammates can make up more time on me.

Back to the story. As mentioned before, the first lap is controlled and neutral- we will use this as a baseline reference.

0.6miles and 6 tight corners went by in 1:42 or about 20.8mph.

The next three were a little faster at a decent pace- about 1:30ish for each lap.

Much like boxers in the ring, we were all trying to feel each other out before throwing jabs. The fifth lap came and we gunned it. Berk went off the front and I followed with a hard effort it to keep up with him. We flung ourselves around the six corners at 26.3mph. Berk won the lap and took the eight second bonus, I was 2nd across the line and took the five; Robbie didn't contest the time bonus, which I thought was strange.

My GC lead was now 15-seconds ahead of Robbie and 17-seconds ahead of Berk.

Torin and Robbie working well together off the front.
Only a few laps after that, somehow, Torin broke away up front. I was caught offgaurd; Robbie took off after him and successfully latched on to Torin's draft.

This was the absolute worst scenario for me. Torin fell out of GC contention but wants to stay up front and win the stage for bragging rights. Robbie will work with him to collect time bonuses and also lengthen the gap between him and I.

The 15th lap was the next bonus but by the 8th is when I realized how tired my legs were. I was doing a lot of the work in the pack chasing the two men up front. No one wanted to pull thru or help- it seemed like everyone was in survival mode.

I started yelling as I took corners, "Pull Thru! Let's GO! Bring em in!" I got less than a reaction and  realized why when I looked back. The person holding the position right behind me was Robbie's teammate, Rees. It was a really good tactic. He held my wheel tight for a few solid laps. This means anyone who did want to help me out would have to make and effort to overtake Rees and me to get up front. I knew if I wanted to bring Robbie and Torin back to the pack I was essentially on my own. Given their fitness levels and power, this was a near impossible task. I lead laps 12-15 solo at a super consistent but increasingly difficult effort. 25mph each lap. My legs were screaming and the two of them were still far ahead. If this continued, Robbie would undoubtedly take first place.

Rees still guarding my wheel
The Rees/Robbie duo delivered another blow at the end of the 15th lap. I watched Robbie sprint ahead of Torin for the 8 second bonus and though I pounded my pedals at 680watts for 15-seconds to end the 15th lap. My heart broke when I saw Rees sprint by me at the last second (this wasn't unexpected as he had sat in my draft for the past seven laps and now had semi-rested legs).

I not only gave back the 8-second cushion I had worked for, but Torin and Robbie looked strong up in the front. I apparently had no help and my legs were roasted. We took the first corner of the course again and I heard a spectator yell "Nine seconds!" meaning that Torin and Robbie were nine seconds ahead of the pack.

I was fucked.

I was also being fucked with. And I didn't have any idea how to fuck back. I had to do something though.

The sprint contest of the 15th lap mixed up the pack behind me a little bit and Rees was right in front of me after the first turn. I yelled out loud, "FUCK!" three times. I saw Rees grin. When I saw how he reacted to my exclamations it sparked an idea.

I yelled up to him, "YOU OWE ME ONE! LET'S GO DUDE PICK IT UP!"

This is Robbie and Torin pulling away up in the front of the pack.
Now, I've claimed ignorance many instances up until now. I won't, for a second, claim that I was ignorant on this move. I was riding in the yellow jersey and I yelled up to a cyclist on another team "YOU OWE ME ONE!" His teammate was now in the lead for GC, so, yes, at surface value, this is quite possibly one of the most douchy things that could have been said in the moment.

However, I didn't yell to Rees and truly think he was going to repay me for my efforts.

 I yelled up to him in hopes I'd catch him off guard. I was Lt. Kaffee screaming at Col. Jessep.


Rees reactively yelled back at me with a snarl, "I don't owe you shit, dude! I don't owe you a damn thing!!"

Rees covering my wheel tight STILL!
He was absolutely right. And I knew that. But he just did exactly what I was expecting him to do. He slowed down to yell at me just enough.

Out of nowhere, Berk and Alvaro swerved by him and popped out in front. I grabbed right on their draft and the two of them put down some serious power.

Alvaro was on Team Patch. I had met and friended them at the end of stage two as. Team Patch raced super hard and no doubt they were ready to throw down some power with me.

If Rees wanted to put the nail in the coffin, all he would have had to do was keep his cool, accelerate thru and fake me out. Essentially, he could have acted like he was going to help me catch up to his teammate but really sandbag his pulls and slow the pack down.

Instead, he yelled back from the witness  stand, "YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT I ORDERED THE CODE RED!"

Leading the Pack
I knew Alvaro, Berk, and I were going to reel those two in. The very next lap, the same spectator at the corner yelled, "six-seconds!" we were closing in.

Another lap. Another shout, "Five Seconds!"

There were eight laps to go and the three of us were in the zone.

The first corner came around again, "four seconds!"

We caught them with five laps to go and I resumed my place at the front of the pack. If I could have beat my chest without crashing right then, I would have.

I completely sandbagged the 20th lap. Then again the 21st lap. I swear I was barely pedaling. A different spectator on the backside of the course yelled, "Come on! What are you doing?!"

I was double-dog-daring someone else to step up to the plate and challenge the lead. No one stepped up.

Benjamin D Bloom took some epic pictures of this race. The full gallery is here.

A couple other racers jumped up in front for laps 22-24, but not at a pace that could have shaken Robbie or I. We knew it was going to come down the final sprint.

And he knew he had to make the first move.

I expected him to attack with his teammate, but Robbie caught me off guard heading down the hill to end lap 24 and start the final lap. He bombed around that corner hard, and he took an inside line so tight that I thought for sure he was going straight into the barrier.
Still Sandbagging

This kind of move takes a whole lot of heart, it takes even more guts, and it takes a ton lot of skill. I was in awe.

I tried, but given the previous efforts and how the race went, I couldn't come close to matching the line he took around the corner or the power he was pushing. He was off like a bandit. I gained a ton of respect for him and how much heart it took to make that move.

I could barely hold his draft. We started the final lap pushing 734-watts for 12-seconds and then opened a gap on the rest of the group ourselves. We bombed around the course at 27mph taking turns I had no idea I was capable of making.

It was just him and I going in to the final sprint. But, the way he raced, I was happy he pulled up fast and won the stage.

If you need video evidence of any of this feel free to watch the Strava Fly By here. It color codes all of us who uploaded a GPS file. I get chills re-watching it. And I get chills re-reading some of the comments on my Strava files.

The overall gap between Robbie and I was 4 seconds. The four-day race was 6hours and 24minutes and the first/second place difference was by 4 seconds.

Here is a link to the finish line video.

Racing bikes is insanely fun. I walked away with the yellow jersey, more new friends than I could have ever imagined, and a group of guys that know how to dig deep. I also took $280 for winning.

Dan, Tim, and I recapped over a beer and fries. Luis (the guy Berk and I bombed down Middlebury gap with) and his friend, Edison, who also raced, came up and asked to get a picture with me. I held back tears as we snapped a few pictures and they both sat down with their daughters and wives on the patio as we watched the woman's race. I used part of the $280 to cover my table's food and beers and then used the rest to tacitly cover their two families' tab.

This weekend of racing not only brought out the best in a lot of people, but it moved me. Truly deeply moved.


  1. Billy, excellent write-up, I really enjoyed the story behind the several brief posts on Slack. Great to learn how it all came together. You may already have experienced this, but one of the best parts about doing these write-ups is going back years later and re-reading. It's amazing what you forget and then are reminded. Best, Jeff vdD

  2. Very nice info. Well guys if you are having hard time in finding the perfect event space for your New Year Eve celebrations then I would suggest you to have a look at the party spots at eventup.com. I just made the reservation for my family party and still they have some venues available.

  3. In recent years, track events have started getting really big, even though most of them are smaller than they used to be. If you are curious to know more about racing sport, here you can get more information about it.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I also want to have these items with my neck gaiter. Wonderful stuff to read and I am so delighted to find this valuable article that is amazing. Appreciate it!