Friday morning, Marco and I received an email from Andy:
You guys don't happen to have an extra left shimano shifter? Mine seems jammed damn.A short while later, another email:
Guys think I'm screwed.. Left shifter's messed up... obviously no time fix. Take off without me.. don't want to hold you up."Crap," I thought to myself, "this sucks!". The weather forecast for the 3 days was bad enough news. Now this! "Oh well," I thought, "I guess it's just me and Marco."
A couple of hours into our drive, we had crossed the border and well on our way to Killington when we got another email from Andy:
You guys on the road already? Figured out what's wrong.. works finally."Alright," I yelled out loud, "we got our sprinter back!" Marco and I were both happy about that.
Getting to Killington took awhile. We left before 7:00 but didn't get there until 4:00. The drive along I90 went pretty quick but things really slowed down once we left the main highway. It seemed everyone and their cousin had left for the Memorial Day weekend. We sat helpless as our ETA gradually stretched from 2:40 PM to 4-something. I stopped looking after awhile. We did eventually get there, with Andy arriving just 2 hours later.
|The view from our chalet.|
The forecast for Saturday was for rain but it looked like it was going to hold off until later in the day which suited the three of us just fine. We could deal with Sunday and Monday`s rain later but it would be nice to at least start the stage race with some sun. Our race didn`t start until 9:20 so we had plenty of time to strategize. There really wasn`t all that much to strategize about at this point. There was one intermediate sprint and there was the finish and both came at the end of the same fast downhill. In all likelihood, Andy would be left on his own to freelance but Marco and I could at least mark any potential breaks. We had fun devising different scenarios.
|Unloading the bikes for the start of Stage 1.|
|On the start line for Stage 1 wondering whether I`m ready.|
Stage 1 consisted of 2 laps of a |30k circuit. The first 11k of Stage 1 was easy downhill with everyone content just to sit in the pack. But after turning the corner onto Route 100A, the pace gradually increased for 10k to the top of the KOM. The first time up the climb took some effort but wasn`t too tough.
|Getting ready to go (unsuccessfully) for the 1st KOM.|
|Andy and Marco hanging tough at the top of the KOM.|
After the KOM there was a fast descent and then more climbing before a fast 5k downhill to the finish line. The first time past the finish line was the intermediate sprint and it seemed that after the KOM one of the "Tall Socks" guys had it in his mind to try taking the sprint solo. The pack let him hang out there for awhile but once we started the long downhill, he was quickly reeled in. I attacked right away as soon as we had brought the "Tall Socks" guy back with Andy jumping onto my wheel. We got a gap and stayed away until about 1k to go. I hung in there until 500 m to go and then I was gassed. Andy finished it off for the intermediate sprint.
The second time up the KOM climb was tougher. A group of 3 guys got away and, though they didn't look too threatening at first, they gradually began to eek out a sizeable gap. "There go Andy's sprint points up the road," I thought. I was halfway back in the pack at this point and had to go onto the shoulder to move up to the front. "On your right," I called as I moved up towards the front of the pack. I attacked the pack as soon as I reached the front to prevent anyone from easily getting onto my wheel and did an all out effort for about a minute to try and establish my own gap before settling into a more reasonable rhythm. Upon reaching the break, I just sat on wheels. Apparently, my bridging up to the break injected some pace into the pack and the break was quickly brought back. The pack may have eventually brought the break back on their own but I wasn't taking any changes.
After the 2nd KOM, the pace for the next climb was much harder than the first time up. Marco was vigilant at the front of the pack to make sure nobody got away while I stayed a few riders back with Andy just behind me. I kept checking every once in awhile to make sure our star sprinter was still there and when all of a sudden he wasn't I tried to look further back. Andy wasn`t in sight. "What the heck?" I pulled onto the shoulder and eased up to allow the pack to pass. Andy was at the very back.
"Rich, my calf cramped up," he said.
By this time, the road was starting to flatten out. "You ok now?" I asked
"I hope so," he answered but he didn't look to confident.
"Come behind me on this side," I said. Andy dutifully moved in behind me while I brought him back up towards the front of the pack. As we neared the front, the shoulder gave way to broken-up asphalt so I eased onto the main road but no sooner had I merged when the guy to my left changed his line in front of me forcing me back onto the crap asphalt. "Pstttttttttttttt..." the sound of air leaving my tire was the last thing I wanted to hear.
"Fuckkkkkkkkkk," I yelled in frustration. I passed through the rest of the crap asphalt before pulling over. Fortunately, the SRAM wheel car was right behind me and, in record time, the guy replaced my rear wheel with a brand new Zipp. But the pack were well on their way to the sprint finish by the time I got going again. "Out of contention again," I thought. Ironically, the same thing happened two years earlier where I flatted in roughly the same location. I crossed the line 1:13 behind the main back.
After crossing the finish line, I found Andy and Marco. "How'd you do?" I asked, doubtfully.
"I got it," he answered.
"YES!" I yelled out loud. My mood went from downbeat to elation in a fraction of a second.
|Andy gets down low for the sprint win.|
|Andy takes both the leaders jersey and the sprint jersey on Stage 1.|
It rained through the night but fortunately the rain had stopped by Sunday morning. Sunday`s Queen stage didn't start until 9:10, again leaving us plenty of time in the morning to strategize. Andy had 18 points from taking both sprints on day 1. It was possible that he already had the Green jersey locked up but if 2nd place was taken by the same guy each time then he wasn`t out of the woods yet so to speak. Checking the results, we saw that indeed Mathew Payne of Jordan Racing had taken 2nd place both times. There were 6 points up for grabs on stage 2 with 4 and 3 points, respectively, available for whoever took 2nd and 3rd in the sprint. With Andy at 18 pts and Mathew at 12 pts, if Mathew won the intermediate sprint on and Andy was shut out then he could lose the jersey. We devised a plan for Marco or me to try and break away early to scoop up the intermediate sprint win. If we were chased down, in all likelihood it would be the Jordan team doing the chasing and Andy would have the luxury of sitting on wheels until the sprint. If they didn`t chase us down then we would scoop the points and Andy would have a lock on the jersey.
|Andy was in a pretty good mood to start Stage 2.|
It`s customary for the jersey wearers to be called to the front at the start of stage 2 so Andy and the winner of the polkadot jersey, Travis Burleson, were called up. Marco and I occupied positions at the front of the pack and the three of us rode at the front through the neutral zone and up to the start of the first climb which came about 5k in.
|The leaders jersey and KOM jersey at the front of the start line.|
The first climb wasn`t particularly steep but at 3 km long it wasn`t short. One thing we wanted to guard against was the possibility of someone attacking the first climb and causing a gap so Marco went to the front and set a steady tempo which just hard enough to discourage anyone from jumping off the front. While Marco set tempo at the front, I dropped back to mark Andy's nemesis. I found him at the back of the pack with the rest of his team mates. I seemed to blend right in which surprised me. I figured that, like us, the other team would have been strategizing about how to take the Green jersey from Andy's shoulders but it wasn't until about 15k to the sprint point that I over heard them talking about it. I couldn't make out what they were saying but it was clear that they were devising some sort of plan on the fly. With about 5k to go, Payne and his team mates began to make their way towards the front which was my cue to find Andy and Marco.
I found Andy and Marco at the front of the pack with Marco still setting a steady tempo and Andy on his wheel. I thought to take my turn and took over from Marco with Andy and Marco just behind me. "Let him go," I heard Marco say to Andy. Without turning my head and steadily pushed on. After about a minute, I looked back, somewhat surprised I had a gap. I pushed on while steadily increasing my power. I had just passed the 3k to go (to the intermediate sprint point) sign so knew I could maintain about a 5-minute interval power. I kept checking back but nobody chased. I heard from the guys afterwards that, apparently, the plan devised by the other team must have consisted of watching Andy because by the time they thought about the guy up the road it was too late. I took the intermediate sprint and, with it, the 6 points available. Mathew Payne was mathematically eliminated.
|Kurzawinski scooped the intermediate sprint points to secure the Green jersey.|
Shortly after the intermediate sprint, the road makes a sharp right onto North road for the start of the first KOM. This was the last we saw of Andy which was fine. His job was done. For the next 7k, Marco and I struggled to maintain contact with the front of the race. Over the course of the KOM climb, the pack split into 3 groups with around 10 guys in the front group, another 15 in the 2nd group, of which Marco and I were a part of, and the rest behind us. Marco was able to bridge back to the front group before the top of the climb. Fortunately, for me, the 2nd group similarly bridged back up to the front group on the subsequent descent. I dodged a bullet there. So by the time we got back into the valley leading to the base of the final climb. Marco and I were together with a large front pack of around 25 guys.
With around 5k to go before the base of the final climb, I heard the familiar "Psssttttttt..." Only it wasn't me this time, it was Marco. Of all the luck... I stopped, for two reasons. I wasn`t sure where the neutral support was and I had a spare tube and CO2 cartridge. It wouldn't have done any good because I had clinchers and Marco had Tubulars but I didn't know that at the time. The 2nd reason was to help Marco to bridge back up to the front of the pack. Neutral support wasn't too far behind so Marco was able to get going without losing too much time. I was prepared to work with him to try and bridge back to the front pack but just as we got going, the 2nd pack of around 15 guys zoomed by
us. We quickly jumped on that train and worked with them to close the gap to the front group. By the time we reached the base of the final climb. we had reached the front group.
The final climb was ~9k and ~25 min of agony. The day was really heating up by that time and, with no wind, the heat played a factor. I started the climb riding with Marco but while, he had a Compact crank, I had stuck with my 53-11 and so had to climb at my own pace. While I wasn't able to stick with the top 5 guys, I did finish within 10 seconds of the next five, taking 9th place on the stage. Marco struggled, with his replacement wheel having a strange cassette configuration on which the smallest gears were too large for his chain and had to do the climb in too large a gear. He still managed a respectable 14th on the stage. Andy finished, 25 minutes later, well down in the standings as is customary for the Green jersey bringing up the lantern rouge :)
|Nearly at the finish line (I'm 3rd wheel. Not sure what I was looking at.)|
|Marco at the finish of Stage 2.|
|Andy on the podium again for hanging on to the green jersey.|
|Celebrating Andy securing the Green jersey.|
Sunday's Stage 3 TT was pretty much a formality. Technically, Andy did need to finish the stage to officially keep the Green jersey but neither Marco or I had much chance of a GC podium spot. For each of us, it was more a matter of seeing what we could do. The forecast again was for rain but again the rain held off and instead turned into a gorgeous day. We all finished the TT within the top 15 and the race was done by 9:45. Can't beat that! We did have to wait until 12:45 though because Andy was on the podium AGAIN. But the waiting wasn't too hard to take while sipping some freshly brewed Long Trail beer.
|Andy on the podium for one last time.|