Monday, May 2, 2011

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

The Bennington Race Weekend: Tour of the Dragons is a new stage race based out of Bennington and Manchester, VT. It was a two-day event that consisted of an 11-mile individual time trail, crit, and a 100k-road race. I can remember hearing about this race last season at the Capital Region Road Race and the many fliers they left on peoples cars. However, I still have no clue why they called it the “Tour of the Dragons?” Is there some sort of background or history I am missing? The organizers seemed to enjoy the theme though by putting phrases such as “can you survive the dragons?” and designing a dragon onto the yellow, green, and polka doted jerseys. For all I know the organizers are just “Dungeon and Dragons” dunkies who thought it would be a cute name for a race.

As the journey to Bennington got underway our only concern was if we actually could get there. With all the flooding that has been occurring in the region a lot of roads have been closed, and for our teammates coming down from Potsdam and Massena, they found out in the Tupper Lake area it was going to be a lot longer trip than expected. Police stations had to be called just to make sure alternative routes were open. The only problem Kyle and I ran into was just northwest of Cambridge, NY where the road was down to one lane of traffic. Later our teammates that had been turned around before were once again turned around at this location seeing later that day the road was closed down. So 5pm arrivals turned into 7pm arrival to Bennington.

Our first order of business was to get ready and go check out the TT course, which according to the organizers was to be very technical, and indeed it was. There were some turns that if taken at full speeds from descents would have led to some road rash. Other than that, the only difficulty was the constant rollers that didn’t allow a good tempo, and some badly placed arrows that during our pre-ride almost had us turning into a driveway. With the difficulty of the course I spent the remainder of the night deciding if I wanted to use aero bars or not. At the starting house I was glad to see I wasn’t the only one that decided not to use them. I was also kind of disappointed the organizers didn’t have someone holding the bike for you at the starting gate. I know I was a victim of a bad clip in.

Waking up the next morning at 5:30am to get ready, we noticed that no other racers had taken advantage of our hotel. We literally could just role out from our rooms and be at the TT or the crit course in less than 5 minutes. To no surprise our crappy spring weather did not fail to surprise us once again with frost on the cars and rain in the air. It seemed only to really rain it’s hardest when WOE racers where on or about to start the course, go figure. Once we were done and back to the hotel, I think it took me less than a minute to stripe and jump into the shower. On the way back my legs just wouldn’t stop shacking. Then curled up under 5 layers of blankets in my bed and a coffee run made, we found out that we had some pretty strong riders and possibly some sandbaggers in our field. For some riders beat us by 5 minutes and I was in the best position in 27th place.

Next on the list was the Crit. I hate to say it, but it didn’t start off well for the organizers and officials. Results were backwards and they couldn’t keep track of who was who, in combining the under and over 35’s. Then their second mishaps was giving the cat 4’s a huge speech about not going to pull anyone and then pulling half the field after only 8 of 27 laps, with some still not being in trouble of being lapped. There were gaps, but dew to a crash, not weak riders. I was right behind the first rider who crashed. He simply took a turn to fast and went head over handlebar. He was okay, as I saw him walking around later, the bail of hay he crashed into……not so much.

As any roadie would do following their race, we found a very good cafĂ© and made camp to watch the remainder of the races. We chatted with some locals, met a few other racers, and let the caffeine raise our spirits. And just having a good time. Once our results were posted our brains started working to figure out how fast the winner of the cat 4 was. Tim’s calculation was 27mph, but after I had a pen and paper I got 26.5mph (not bad Tim for doing the rounding in your head). Still pretty fast. Again I thought sandbaggers. Then the next day we found out that we had a pro-cross racer in our field, and everything started making sense.

For the road race it was again an early start and off to Manchester, VT. But not without a trip to Dunking Donuts first, where there had to be about 40 grand worth of bikes in the parking lot. Fact: roadies love coffee. So we got to enjoy our coffees and enjoy the scenery on our way to Manchester. Great training area with lots of mountains to climb.

Going into the day we knew it was going to be an epic ride and one that gear choices would be a factor. In the staging parking lot, you could do a 360, and realize you were in for some hurt. Mountains surrounded us for about 300 or those 360 degrees. With that said, here is the profile of the course:

The only gearing I had was 39/26 and I paid for it. Dropped on the first major climb and missed out on the chase group because my legs were burning. I’d look around and riders would have small dinner plates for cogs, and I’m there grinding away.

Overall for the road race everyone rode strong. Kyle led the way getting 9th in his categories race. While Eric and Phil put in solid efforts. So all in all this turned out to be a learning experience, a really expensive training weekend, and all for a little sunburn. Figures for the road race, it would be really cold for the start and then become really warm for the finish.

Results for GC:

Kyle - 6th out of 10 finishers (15 starters) Cat 5 <35

Eric - 7th out of 12 finishers (13 starters) Cat 5 35+

Phil - 9th out of 12 finishers (13 starters) Cat 5 35+

Jeff - 33rd out of 44 finishers (55 starters) Cat 4

Until next time

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