This year's first Dave Jordan Grant recipient, Sebastian Bobe writes about his experience at Killington Stage Race. His efforts was not lost with the amount of valuable experienced he gained.
The car ride was long and stressful. I was (and still am) new to this side of cycling so I didn't know how this trip was going to be. Considering the fact that this is my first time racing a stage race and riding more than 35 miles in one shot, I thought it was going to be good experience and a time to have fun with my teammates. Once I got there, I got on my bike right away with my two teammates, Giona and Eamon, and we rode an extra 10 miles on our way to registration. Getting on my bike that Friday before the race gave me a feel for the mountains of Killington and it actually eased my anxiety of the race.
Stage one was a bummer. I was all ready to go, water bottles for the feed and gels to last me 2 hours. The team rode to the sign-up area, which was an easy 5.5 mile descent that we’d be climbing up for stage two. On the way there I realized my derailleur wasn't working properly and I knew that I couldn't finish 39 miles on one gear going up, down and up hills. You need gears for that. Luckily Sram had neutral bikes for riders for cases like mine and I was able to snag one of their bikes before the start of the race. The race started off pretty fast considering it was a stage race and everyone said they’d take it easy for the first day just so they could prepare themselves for the next. That was my plan as well, I could use all the energy I can get. Sadly, due to poor positioning from my bike at the start, I had to feed off the back of the peloton. It was my fault that I got dropped 7 miles into the race but with an average speed of 24 miles per hour in those 7 miles was an accomplishment for me. I finished the stage by myself and saw what I could do as a rider on this new terrain. I wasn't mad, I was just looking for a new strategy for the next day.
At dinner my whole team was discussing day 2. It was the hardest stage of this event and going into it I had confidence knowing that if I could get in good positioning at the start and stay with the pack, I’d be able to race a better race. 2 miles into stage two, two of my teammates attack and the whole field bites and accelerates. I was ready for this so I went to go shift my light gear to a heavier gear to stay with the pack (because then we were heading into some downhill). However my derailleur did not comply with me because apparently it just wanted to mess-up my whole event. As I watched the field slowly slip away from my grasp I wanted to accept defeat. I was going to finish solo. Channeling my inner eye-of-the-tiger crit-racer persona, I got in my curls and tried to chase them down, but they had already gotten away and there was nothing more I could do. I stopped, got off my bike and called my dad half-way in tears and asked him what to do. He told me I should just finish the race and do what my 14 year old sprinter legs could do. It felt so defeating watching the other categories slip by me but I knew I had to shake it off since I'd been riding solo this race. I got really emotional looking around and seeing how amazing the road really is and that I was going to finish even if I collapsed dead at the finish. The last 15 miles were brutal, especially the climb. I didn't even care that I finished an hour later, I was just satisfied that I had finished and that I did that all by myself. At that point, I used all the energy I had left to cruise back to KMS.
Stage 3 was going to be my first time trial ever. I was completely shot and I knew what to expect so I kept pushing because I knew that it was going to be over before soon enough. My legs died 1 mile into the TT and I ended up getting passed by my three of my teammates. I was fine with that because I knew they had way many more miles and much more endurance than me. I put in a hard last 3k to go and saw my teammates there cheering me on. I didn't care that I came in dead last, all I knew was that everyone had my back and I that I still have a long way to go.