Coupe des Ameriques, Sutton, QC by Bobby Bailey
Coupe des Ameriques, Sutton, QC by Bobby Bailey
I can’t believe this is the first time I am writing about this race…oh wait, it is the first time that I am old enough to do so. Either way, no excuse, and if you have ether been to Sutton or the Le Coupe des Ameriques, you would know why I said that.
We GMBC and Vermont Racers know how to TT. We are lucky to have a great summer series where you get to practice your TT skills and learn how to push yourself in the Race of Truth. In Sutton, they call it the Contre-le-montre. I prepared for this TT like it was the Olympics. I wanted to leave it all on the road and therefore took care of every race day logistic. I got up early, caffeinated, ate some oats and protein, and got the race with plenty of time. Since we hade both driven and ridden the course already I knew the plan was to do one thing….go as hard as humanly possible for 20 minutes. I am not going to bore you with my warm up protocol since I have done so several times before but I nailed it. I put the efforts and calories that I needed and got on my perfectly prepped S-Works SHIV with enough time to open up on the road and then race. I was 5th from last to start so I knew that I was surrounded by the strongest riders. My goal was to pass and not be passed. I blasted out of the start gates and pedaled with anger. I literally told myself that with every passing second, I was significantly closer to the fisnish. This plus the same 3 lines from Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” motivated me to push as hard as I could. MY average HR was higher than usual by about 4bpm but my power was spot on. With only 30seconds between riders I found myself looking up the road more than I was looking at my numbers. About 2miles in I passed Alberto standing on the side of the road with a flat. I knew I had to do a good ride for our team so I just snorted and shifted into a harder gear. By the turnaround, I had passed both my 30-second and 1-minute man which confirmed that I was at least going fast. My average speed was at 30.3mph when I caught a 3rd rider. I just kept pushing and ended up finishing at about 19.43minutes, fastest in my field by 1-minute and fastest overall. Alberto hitched a ride and was allowed to continue due to the mishap-rule.
That afternoon was a “short” Road Race. It was a 10mile lap with some hard rolling hills and a flat fisnish. Listen up promoters. If the climbers wanted to win on a stage like this, they could have. If the sprinters wanted to win, it was on the climbers to hurt them. This IS multidimensional racing. The Trek-Bontrager guys adhered to the tactic of anyone in the break but me. They fired off more attacks than one of Michael Vick’s dogs. Each time they would get a gap. The breaks they established would have worked if they either A. let me bridge, or B. Did not chase each other. They chose to duke it out in a sprint and I was happy to oblige. Some unlikely allies on the Tall Tree Cycles team also wanted a sprint and showed me some Yellow Jersey courtesy and helped me keep the pace high at the end. These guys killed it and really kept the finish fast knowing that any slowing would have been a guaranteed attack, or 3 from Trek-Bontrager. At 200meters to go, I jumped from about 33mph and was able to win the sprint for my second stage win. With me winning, and Alberto showing the field that he is one of the stonrgest riders, the final day would prove to be decisive.
Decisive it was. I went into the race with a 41 second GC lead. The 60 mile RR was packed full of hard rollers and one several-km climb with about 15km to go. My goal was to get into a breakaway with the top GC guys with hopes that their teams would keep the field from chasing. It seemed like the safest bet but the Canadians had another plan in mind. I am not sure what the French words are for “if you are not from the US do not come to the front, pull, think about pulling or even race your bike” but I am pretty sure that’s what was said. I consistently looked back and saw 90+ riders engaged in a group ride with Trek-Bontrager attacking 2-3 at a time. If I bridged, they sat up and the field chased. If Alberto and I did not take to the front, I would have lost by a half-hour and to a breakaway of an entire team. My only tactic was to try and be stronger than a 10-man team and….the entire field. Alberto and I tried. We even recruited the help from Sheldon from BikeMan and the Tall Tree Cyclists but the constant barrage of attacks from Trek-Bontrager. The only way I can describe the isolation is to say that it felt like being cornered in a locker room by a football team and being given an atomic-wedgy in a French speaking province and you are screaming in English. .
In the end, a large group got away after I was isolated on the final climb. I pulled for what seemed like the last 10k but the power of the masses was too much and the breakaway put 1 minute into me. I lost the yellow jersey and ended up 4th on GC.
Here is what I did win though. I won two stages in dominant fashion. I earned the respect of the entire field although did not do care to race their bikes, recognized that I had my work cut out for me versus a 500lb gorilla. I also learned that Alberto Citarella is a monster of a team mate and although he is new to the tactics of elite-level racing is strong enough to effect change in any race he enters. He pulled until he was cracked and then pulled some more. I can honestly say that I owe my 4th place overall GC place to his efforts and dedication.
So, Sutton is a beautiful town with a great race. I will be back for the food, the hospitality and of course the racing. But if an entre field is going to declare war….next year I will bring an army!