A few crashes, some hot weather, and super strong fields. Respectable finish in the first stage race of the season.
The Killington Stage Race was this weekend in Vermont. I competed in the Men's Cat 3 field, in my first full season as a Cat 3. I raced the Green Mountain Stage Race last year, so I have some familiarity with stage racing.
Stage 1: 85 mile circuit race with 4 loops around a long 2-3% climb, and then a long 5-6 mile descent.
The race started out pretty chill, the temperatures were pretty warm, and weather was calling for thunderstorms. I was focused on staying in the peloton, and figured there wouldn't be a breakaway, so I just wanted to finish with the main group without losing any time. On lap 1, as we went up the long, gradual climb, nobody wanted to put in work on the front, so the pace slowed signfiicantly. This resulted in 2 small-ish crashes that took a few riders down. The 2nd crash, I had to stop to not run anyone over, and had to sprint back onto the group to stay together. I thought this was the end of it, until on lap 2, 1K from the top of the KOM, a 3rd crash occurred, and I had to stop to avoid going down. Of course there was an attack at this point which caused a huge gap to open. I tried to chase on, and figured I'd catch on the descent, but the group was moving way too fast. Utimately, I would have to ride the next 40 miles off the back. I ended up riding with a group of 4-5, and finished the race, losing 14 minutes. A bit disappointing, but glad I didn't go down.
Stage 2: 61-mile road race with 4600 ft of climbing. I knew the name of the game was going to be fueling. I needed carbs, and electrolytes on this race to compete. The race started at 9:30 but it was already 70+ degrees and going to get into the 80s. There is a short, steep 7-8% climb at about mile 5 and then a long 15-20 mile descent before the first major climb of the day. On that first climb, the first pitch is 15%, and despite setting a new 5, 10, and 20 min power record by over 5%, and pushing close to 5 W/kg, I was shelled out the back of the climb. I kept the pressure on through the entire climb, which took about 17 minutes, and ended up in a chase group of about 4-5. By the feed zone, we had lost 1-2 minutes. At this point we got a good paceline rotation going, and picked up dropped riders for the next 20 miles. By the time we got to the bottom of the final climb, we had a group of 8-9. The final climb is a 4-5 mile, 1200ft climb with pitches exceeding 15%. At this point, I wanted to just finish strong, but I was struggling. I finished 40th/55 on the road race.
Stage 3: A 10.6 mile ITT, with 350 ft of elavation. I wanted to give this what I had, but after the previous 2 days, my legs were feeling like Jello. I had a power target in mind and was going to focus on that. Even with a 9:32 start, it was hot...pushing 80+ degrees. I also have very little experience pacing for a Time Trial, but was determined to stay aero and focus on my power output. I set a 2nd highest ever 20 min power, and passed 2 people, so I considered that a huge win! I also paced the TT very well and ended up 35th, my best finish of the weekend.
Wrap up: Ended up 40th on GC. The 14 minutes I lost on day 1 cost me 10 places. Having come into this race in some of the best form I've had, I wasn't going to be able to compete with the field. The top 6 finishers on GC were all juniors, under the age of 18, and have a ton of promise in thier future cycling careers. Overall, I had a great, fun weekend, and was supported by great teammates who provided feed zone support. I do have some more/new confidence in my abilities to compete at the Cat 3 level.