The 2009 BUMPS championship series finale was held in Waitsfield, VT on Sunday. The Allen Clark Memorial Hillclimb event has been running many years now. Although I am no stranger to Appalachian Gap, this was my first time entering this event. Some readers may have climbed App Gap as the prologue to the Green Mountain Stage Race. The only difference is the Allen Clark race is an individual start event, while GMSR is mass start.
Nearly double last year's number of riders registered Sunday. The forecast was a bit iffy, but a grand day materialized for uphill suffering. The valley was filled with low hanging overcast, but reports said the App Gap summit was basking in brilliant sunshine. No chance of overheating on this one. Long layers and wind shell were needed warming up.
Warming up, I wondered why in the heck I was racing. My legs were in a major funk from six hours of hard riding and rollerskiing over the prior two days, training for a big event next weekend. I was not concerned with my result, as I did not need any more points to defend my overall BUMPS lead. But I didn't want to suffer unusually bad either. I thought about "not racing it," just riding easy up to the summit. Yeah, right. I've never met a hill that didn't beg to be hammered.
App Gap summit
I went off at 10:24. The first 3+ miles of the climb are very gradual. I held around 20-22mph most of the time. My perceived effort was off the charts. In the drops as aero as I could get, my hamstrings and glutes were killing me. After about 9 minutes of this, I hit the steep part where the grade maintains 9-10% to the summit. My legs were now nicely tenderized. The unusual pains gave way to the normal cusp of hurling hillclimb discomfort. This is the "good" kind of suffering, the kind I live for. I passed many riders on the way up. Based on prior year results from riders I knew, I expected to finish around 28-29 minutes, not having tapered whatsoever for this event. I was shocked to finish in 27:01, good for 4th overall out of over a hundred riders. Kristen Gohr not only won the woman's field but set a new women's record with a 28:06 finish. There is a $100 prime for any man or woman that breaks the record.
Once again, I experienced the disconnect between how bad I feel and what the body can actually produce. Hard to say if I would have been any faster had I rested for this event. Probably not. John Bayley won overall with a time of 26:00. He's done sub-hour on Mt Washington in the past, so to finish within a minute of him on this duration climb is quite good. Perhaps tapering is over rated. Not being fresh certainly means higher level of mind over body is needed. You just have to tell your sore bits to shut up.
It took a bit to get BUMPS awards going, as all the age group points had to be recalculated after the race. It was worth the wait. Sponsors put up some great swag for age group winners and especially the overall KOM and QOM winners. Unfortunately, QOM Marti Shea was not able to make it due to a death in the family, I heard. I secured the KOM title with about 10 points lead (out of ~600) over Jeff Johnson (Battenkill-United). I was awarded with a bundle of resort and B&B stays. Check this out:
The Old Tavern, Grafton, VT - Two nights with breakfast and dinner
Inn at the RoundBarn Farm, Waitsfield, VT - Two nights with breakfast
Jackson Gore Inn at Okemo, Ludlow, VT - Two night stay in bedroom suite
Royalty Inn, Gorham, NH - One night stay
Willkommen Hof, Wilmington, NY - Two night stay with breakfast
Some premium stays in there to be sure. The bundle may be worth upwards of $2000. My wife Cathy was psyched. Maybe she'll begin to forgive me for chasing after all these hills. Looks like we'll enjoy some weekends skiing in VT, NY and upstate NH. Since only a couple leader's jerseys were given out through the whole series (I was the only male to wear one) age group winners were each given a jersey. They also gave me a fresh jersey. This is certainly the biggest award I ever scored from bike racing. I appreciate the sponsor's commitment to these events a great deal.
It is ironic that when the season began, I never considered chasing the overall BUMPS lead. I thought scoring a jersey after the first couple races would be really cool, but that was it. I figured there were too many faster guys that would scoop up points on Mt Washington, and I hadn't planned on doing both Mt Washington events. What happened was this. I did very well at Whiteface, the first in the series. No win though, but nice PR and bunch of BUMPS points. The three guys that beat me did not show up at Okemo. I place well enough there, another PR, that put me in the points lead. I thought cool, when I show up at Ascutney, I'll get to zip a leaders jersey on. That's a cool thing to have hanging in the closet with the rest of your jerseys. Only one small problem. The Newton's Revenge race up Mt Washington was the next race in the series. There were already guys signed up that would take the points lead from me before I ever got to Mt Ascutney. I wanted one of those jerseys. If I didn't do Newton's, it was unlikely I'd ever regain the lead to get one. So I capitulated and signed up for Newton's. I got the jersey at bib pickup and thought that might be the last time I wore it. I treated Newton's like a "C" race. Drove up the morning of and raced on two hour's sleep. No PR, but I did surprisingly well, well enough that I maintained the points lead. I would get to zip on the jersey one more time, at the Ascutney race. Well, to make a long story less long, Ascutney went well, then Equinox, then Mt Washington went south. It was hot that day. But I still kept the lead, and by now my lead was insurmountable. The guys that were faster than me were not doing enough races to take the jersey away from me in the remaining two races. Only the best five of eight count. I missed the Burke hillclimb when I did the 100 mile MTB race in Virginia. That means with Allen Clark, I finished 7 of 8 races in the series. What a trip it's been. 13 years ago I could not ride up a 250ft hill without walking. 70 pounds lighter and years of hitting the hills have made not only a profound difference in my physical health, but my mental well being also.
The hillclimb race directors did a fantastic job pulling this first ever series together. Countless hours were donated by many individuals to make this series happen. The normal logistic challenges were further complicated by a weak economy. Sponsors, especially ones that put up hard cash, are extremely hard to come by right now. Racer feedback I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. A bigger and better BUMPS series can be expected next year. There may be some minor tweaking of the points system. For example, some riders, myself included, feel the two Mt Washington events carry too much weight. There are several tweaks on the table for consideration. There's a very good chance we'll see Mt Greylock as part of the series in 2010. Maybe a Bolton Valley hillclimb. The dirt Mt Mansfield event is being kicked around too. Hard to say, but I'd expect to see at least 1 or 2 races added to the series next year. I think given the success of the series this year, we'll see greater interest in sponsorship next year. The goal is to grow the prestige of the series and increase participation at hillclimb events. It is quite exciting to ponder where things can go from here.
So how does one top off a series finale? By hitting some more climbs, of course! Brett Rutledge and I embarked on a short 37 mile loop after BUMPS awards. We started in Waitsfield, rode over dirt Moretown Gap, through Northfield, then back over to Waitsfield via Roxbury Gap. This was my first time climbing Moretown Gap. From Moretown (Rt 100B), it is a persistent bugger. The gravel was meticulously groomed. Kind of busy, but I suspect most of the traffic was color peepers. I've ridden dirt Roxbury Gap many times, but never from the Roxbury side. It is a much more difficult climb from that side. Given warming up, racing, and then a loop with two major climbs we hit hard, our legs were all noodly. A good day of riding indeed. I'll finish with a few pics from our Moretown/Roxbury loop. Thanks for reading.
Roxbury Gap summit
Near Roxbury Gap summit looking east. Cars were stopping to take pics of this, so I figured I needed to also.
Moretown Gap summit looking east