Every year Team Sixcycle RK&O sends a handful of its racers to Vermont to compete in the 4-day Green Mountain Stage Race. Last year the team was led at GMSR by Bruce Fecheyr-Lippens who scored a top ten finish.
This year with several Team Sixcycle-RK&O riders heading to Gateway Cup in Saint Louis the same weekend, the team’s GMSR squad was smaller than in past years, with Ashley Doane, Daniel Cleiman, and Ben Fackler headed north to represent the team.
After a series of exceptional results throughout the summer, including a strong race at the Tour of the Catskills and GC podium at Tour de Millersburg, the team’s objective was to support Ashley in each stage and as a GC contender. Given the strength of the field and the challenging course, this would be no easy task.
Stage 1: TT Prologue
The opening time trial starts off in Warren, VT next to the quaint “mom and pop” general store, surrounded by historical houses, a quiet brook, and lots of lush, green trees. But don’t let the picturesque scenery fool you — Stage 1 is a grueling, cannibal-style uphill TT that requires some serious strategy.
The challenge begins with a 4% climb lasting approximately 2 miles, during which you need to gauge your effort very closely. Starting off too strong at the gun will guarantee a blow-up halfway through the stage. After the initial hill there is a 2 mile stretch with a combination of moderate uphill and downhill sections, where it’s essential to stay as aero as possible and not let your wattage drop.
The final kilometer includes a steep “dip” followed by a hard uphill sprint finish, assuming you have some juice left in your legs. The finishing times are always fairly close, but in a short TT, every second counts. All 3 Sixcycle teammates finished within 1 to 2 minutes of each other and the leader with Ashley placing 7th overall.
Stage 2: Circuit Race
The second day of GMSR is by far one of my favorites: a circuit race with one moderate KOM and a slight downhill finish. This is the first opportunity for climbers to gather points and the long downhill following the hill crest allows for the sprinters to easily “catch-up” to the leaders.
This also means that the finish often ends with a bunch sprint and is a great opportunity for us “non-climbers” to shine. My strategy was therefore to sit in the peloton, only follow break attempts that I thought had a chance to stick, and conserve energy whenever possible.
As we approached the final few miles, a smart rider attacked and stuck it to the finish! The rest of us ended up sprinting for 14th, 15th and 19th after a sketchy bunch finish.
Stage 3: Appalachian Gap Queen Stage
This is the day that defines GMSR: a 70 mile course finishing at the summit of App Gap, a 3 miles climb averaging 8% and peaking at 20% close to the top. This is the day for climbers to prove their worth!
It was a tough day on the saddle with Ben going with an early attack and staying away for most of the race, only to get reeled in on “Baby Gap” (App Gap’s less formidable precursor), at 15 miles or so before the finish.
From there, the peloton started to shed riders as the climbers set a punishing pace up the last miles before the final stretch. I managed to stay with the lead group until the base of App Gap, at which point most of us exploded and went up at our own pace. Luckily for Sixcycle RK&O, Ashley was right on form and placed 8th only 3 minutes behind the winner!
Stage 4: Burlington Downtown Criterium
Last day of the stage race!
By now all racers are tired, but the atmosphere in downtown Burlington is so welcoming that we can’t help but get excited to race this tricky 6 corner course! As the crowds cheered us on, we raced hard and Ashley crossed the line in 8th place for an awesome 6th place GC overall!
Photos by Michael Keuhn