words by Jay Robbins photos by Erica Robbins
HA HA HAA, WHAT!!
It wasn’t even 7AM on the fourth and final day of GMSR. Alex and I were up early having breakfast when a completely insignificant comment in our conversation prompted this loony outburst from Oscar. It came out of nowhere and through the walls; we thought he was still asleep in his bedroom which was adjacent to the dining room.
Oscar had been having this overly enthusiastic, high-on-life reaction since the beginning of the weekend, and it was getting more intense and more frequent with each passing day. It got to the point that even the most boring statement would trigger a response.
Matt: These bananas don’t taste very good.
Oscar: HA HA HAA, WHAT!!
An unfamiliar observer would wonder what the heck was wrong with him. But being in a tight circle, you couldn’t help but crack a smile or even laugh at the response. In fact, by the end of the weekend, we were all having the same reaction. We were exhausted, both mentally and physically. The suffering, the muscle soreness, the lack of sleep, it was taking its toll and we were all getting nutty.
So there we were. Day 4 of the Green Mountain Stage Race, the downtown criterium in Burlington, Vermont. It’s a criterium like no other I’ve ever raced, and I truly mean that. For one thing, the course is a very technical 1 kilometer loop with 6 ninety degree turns, filled with potholes and off-camber angles. There’s also a good amount of elevation gain. And, perhaps most importantly, the race dynamics of ending a mountainous stage race with a downtown criterium are completely different than normal. The super strong general classification racers like to go to the front of the race and drive the pace at insanity speeds. This tactic reduces the success rate of breakaways and solidifies their positions in the overall classification.
Staging is a critical part of this criterium. It’s the race before the race and anyone that’s done it before knows what to expect. First timers are often caught off-guard and at a disadvantage. Some racers line up nearly a half hour before the start as the previous race finishes up. When the course is clear, an official moves the rope and it’s a jockey for position to get to the second staging line. From there, the jersey leaders and top 10 racers are called up to the starting line about 50 meters up the road. Once they’re settled in position, the rest of the field is called up, and it’s a mad dash to the starting line.
The actual start is resemblant to the start of a cyclocross race. Everyone wants the holeshot. The fast pace and 6 turns per kilometer strings out the field single file. If you’re not in the front you have to worry about gaps opening that are often difficult to impossible to close.
Point in case, race leader and super-strong man Daniel Nuzzo-Mueller missed his clip-in at the start. Being the race leader, he had the first callup and was front and center, the perfect position. By the missing his clip-in he quickly slipped to the back half of the field. This nearly cost him the jersey, but a superhuman effort kept him the race lead.
Contrast to Daniel’s start was that of Alex’s. Instead of clipping in immediately at the start, Alex rode all the way to turn two with his pedal upside down before finally clipping in. This clever maneuver put him in the lead and out of trouble!
Ride Studio actually had all 4 of its racers reach the front row for the start, which was a great success given that none of us had earned a callup. After a tremendously fast and difficult race it paid off, with Matt, Alex, and Oscar all finishing in the lead group.
In most criteriums, finishing “grupo compacto” isn’t considered a successful race; however, in this case, only 31 out of 68 starters could claim such a feat. Over half the field was dropped and either finished down on time or was cut from the race. A surprisingly high number of GC contenders were in the latter half, which had good GC implications for the Ride Studio Team. Matt was the highest finisher and moved up to 16th on the GC, which is just one spot outside of upgrade points. This is a very respectable result for his first attempt at a difficult stage race.
On the women’s side, Celia had another fantastic performance, again standing on the podium from her performance at the criterium. It’s scary what she’s been able to do now that she’s on a good race bike. Look for a race recap from her in the coming days.
Additional photos can be found here.
HA HA HAA, WHAT!!