This years Tour of the Catskills adventure could likely be described as our most civilized implementation ever. Thanks to Greyburns' organization, we had a big comfy house to stay in over the weekend. We had a hot tub, nice deck with a BBQ, lots of space to veg out, and even a foosball table!
We were rollin as a big crew, which included Me, Andrew, Gerald, Sam, JRoc, Nigel, and Duncan, with his newly minted Passport on his first trip to the US.
First up was the stage one 12mile time trial. After we rolled into Hunter to pick up our race numbers, we had some time to fuel up and pin on numbers, with Nigel coming up with the most novel number pinning approach. The shakedown from the ITT was that I finished up 4th, just off the podium (doh!), Andrew finished a couple minutes behind me, and the rest of the gang spread out through the bottom half of the riders.
Next up was a 90km stage taking in a couple really tough climbs, including the infamous Airport Road Climb, with pitches upwards of 20%. About 5km before starting the first climb of the day, my rear tire punctured. Crap! Andrew rallied the troops, and en masse, the team stopped for me like we were pros. Duncan gave me his rear wheel, and we got going again, chasing as a team to try to catch the pack. Unfortunately, we ran out of road before we hit the first climb, and when we hit the climb we saw the carnage of what the climb had done. Groups spread out all over the road, with the leaders out of sight.
Andrew and I spent the rest of the stage chasing, not giving up, and in the end kept the gap to the winners pretty reasonable, at five-and-a-half minutes. The rest of the group survived the stage, with Gerald and Sam riding together and passing dropped riders, and Duncan grovelling home, being over-geared on the spare wheel he had received from neutral support. Nevertheless, he was in good spirits, having done his part for the team.
The dinner that night probably would have had PETA banging down our doors if they knew what was going on. Ribs, chicken, burgers were on the menu....I'm sure there were some carbs in there somewhere!?!? Oh yeah, JRoc had made a delicious pasta salad. After pigging out like cavemen, it was time for a long night of chillin', watching episode after episode of Gold Rush.
After the finish of road race numero one, and having been scared by the steep climbs, we had made our way to the bike shop down the road from the start/finish to grab some new cassettes with easier gears to make sure we weren't totally screwed for the next day's crazy finishing climb, Devil's Kitchen.
The second road race saw Nigel and I go off the front early. After flatting the day before I was keen to try something crazy to make up lost time. Nigel had been directed off course the day before and was keen to make amends for that. We found ourselves at the front of the bunch about 10km in. Nigel ask if I wanted to go. I nodded, he accelerated, and with a hard push we got ourselves a gap.
For the next 10km or so, Nigel and I worked together to build our gap, which got out to a maximum of 45 seconds. After awhile Nigel found his legs hurting, his gears skipping and encouraged me to continue on without him. I made it over the top of the first KOM solo, but the long descent off of it allowed the group to get back to me.
In the pack I started my recovery mode. There I found the rest of the guys, who were also in conserve mode in anticipation of the final climb. Andrew was always well placed near the front of the bunch. And Sam, Nigel, and Duncan were all looking comfortable sitting in the wheels. Unfortunately our team was not without any mechanical troubles this day, as Gerald had a mishap that was causing havoc with his front derailleur; not an acceptable situation when touring the Catskills.
On to the final climb, and Andrew's conservation strategy began to pay off. The rest of the guys climbed past me as I began to pay for my earlier efforts, having not had the prescribed dose of hero biscuits that morning. Andrew hung tough near the front of the race going over the top, put himself into a good position for the sprint, and took out a 6th place on the stage, which is an awesome result on such a challenging parcours.
Once I finally dragged my carcass over the climb, Duncan paced me to the finish. I was lucky to have his wheel to follow. But we weren't out of challenges yet. Over the top, a storm started, the temperature dropped, and rain and hail came falling down on us. Not fun. Gerald made his way to the finish solo, having suffered an early mechanical. We made our way back to the house to warm-up and celebrate another Catskills wrapped up.
Luckily, Greyburns' wisdom paid dividends this year, as he booked our accommodations for an extra night. So there was no need to pack up and drive home after finishing the brutal stage. Not only that, we could have a civilized brunch the next morning before heading home.
A very well executed Tour of the Catskills! Thanks to the crew for all the fun. See you all there next year.