I’d made the trip to the 2017 Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont with every intention to race. To race really hard. The first stage was a TT where I had finished 17/59, placing me 36 seconds off of first place. That was great: I’d turned up at a light race weight and the windy day meant that for a less big rider conditions were not ideal. All in all, a good day out.
Stage 2 was a 108 mile road race over rolling terrain. I had every intention of making things happen. After three miles I got up the road with a group of two others. After two small bridge groups made it up to us at miles 40 and 50 of the race, our group stuck it and held on to the line. Out of our group of nine I only managed 7th place, but had secured enough points to take the Sprint Jersey out on the road, as well as to be just a couple of points off of the KOM jersey too (second place at the end of that stage). A fair few mid-race sprints to be in both competitions, especially for being in the break from the go, meant that I didn’t have too much left for the finale.
Stage 3 was in the worst conditions I have raced in: 40 degrees and constant heavy rain for 103 miles with over 8,000 ft of elevation gain. Either way, I had every intention of winning both those jerseys. The first sprint point for the Sprint Jersey I took out. As it was the only sprint point that meant I had increased my lead in that competition. For the KOMs there were five, for which I went all in throughout the day, getting first place in 4 of them. After getting in the day’s break which took until mile 40 to form, a small bridge group eventually got up to our group of 6 about 20 miles from the line, taking us to 12. I knew at this point I’d bagged both jerseys. I knew at this point that I was sitting 8th on GC, on 36 seconds back, and I knew that the winner would come from our group. I was still feeling strong, despite attacking and sprinting for all the points throughout the race. As we closed on the line I didn’t feel that the group was working as well as I wanted- too many people. I could have stayed in the group. I felt good. Might have had enough to take the win from the group, might not. Probably would have placed well though, definitely enough to improve my GC position of 8th. However, it wasn’t likely that I’d gain 36 seconds in that manner.
Ten miles to go, I attacked. I was hoping that I’d get some help, but apparently no-one was interested. I went for it. I still had two climbs to go- Baby Gap followed by App Gap, which formed the race's summit finish. I went all in- if I was going to get those 36 seconds I needed to find them somewhere on the road which meant I had to go. I didn’t want to just go for the stage, I wanted to go for the stage, the GC lead and my KOM and Sprint classifications. I wanted everything. I forced myself up the first climb which I must confess, is longer than I had remembered from the last time I had done the race in 2014. Oh well, nothing to be done about it. As I crested, I got a time check from the moto ref of 1 minute. I thought that wasn’t bad as I’d been out front about 20 minutes and apparently had a bit of space. I pressed on towards the final climb. It wasn’t easy but I forced it as best I could. I got more time checks: 1:15…1:30…1:45. Could this be real? I hit the bottom of the final climb. I’d been out front alone for 35 minutes and had 1:45 on the chasers with the last 2 and a half miles to go up to the summit finish.
There’s not too much else to say at this point. I exploded into a thousand pieces on that final climb. The conditions were horrendous- up 7% gradients into a vicious headwind. I could barely turn the pedals. I blew up big time. Half way up the climb I’d lost all my 1:45 and was passed by the front group of 4. I didn’t even have the legs at that point to keep their pace (which was only marginally faster than mine) for more than a few pedal revolutions. I was suddenly feeling all of the preceding 102 miles of racing on that day. I was feeling everything. As I turned squares desperately trying to edge toward the summit and the end, I was passed by more of the riders in the breakaway. One by one they passed. I eventually after what seemed like endless suffering wheeled over the line. I ended up 10th. I’d gone all in, hoping to win it all, but instead lost my chance at a stage result. I had marginally improved my GC position up to 6th overall, but was now over two minutes off the leader. The final day criterium offered little hope for much GC movement so I ended up 6th overall at the end of the stage race. I finished up winning both the Sprint and KOM classifications.
I wanted absolutely everything, all at once, all in one race. I’m confident that I would have had a great shot at the GC and stage podium had I not attacked but saved it for the final climb. I almost certainly wouldn’t have won the GC that way, but would have had a shot at the stage and would have made a much better jump on GC and up the rankings. But I attacked. I went out and tried to take it all. I’ve played the race over and over- coulda, woulda, shoulda. The permeations of what could have been have swirled around my mind, but now they have settled. If it had worked, it would have been immense: KOM and Sprint classifications, stage and GC in one stage. I was caught a mile from the line; I’d come up short. I failed. I lost the shot at a stage win. I didn’t get on the GC podium.
But, I’d do it again.