May 2, 2004 – Ahhh, the first race of the year in shorts and a jersey and boy was it hot! The Jet Fuel Coffee Team drove down to Massachusetts for a week-long training camp, book ended by two weekends of racing. We're staying in Williamstown, a town on the border of Vermont, where the riding is great.
Today was the first of the races, Jiminy Peak: 150km. The field was fairly strong with a Canadian contingent made up of the VW guys, Dom Perras (Ofoto), Aaron Fillion and the Jet Fuel Team. A long false-flat headwind section, leading into a 1km climb made the race tougher than expected. Off the gun a break pulled away and luckily Ryan (Roth) was in it; some of us were suffering for the first lap with bloated legs from the drive. It seemed at first like they would fly away, as we started in a tailwind section, but on turning into the headwind it was pretty clear that they were doomed. They managed a lap and a half off the front before succumbing to the pressures of the peloton.
Riders were trying to get away all over the course, but things were aggressive and the race stayed together. On the third of five laps a break rolled off the front on the descent from the climb – a straight, boring decent. It always astounds me when breaks just roll away in spots you would never imagine it possible. Suddenly we were jamming in the tailwind at 55+km/h and a second group had moved up to the break. It was definitely one of the decisive moments in the race and our team had missed the move. Oops!
We were covering moves, hoping that we would get into a charge that was moving across to the break, but no luck. Finally, in the headwind section some attacks started to gain some ground before being reeled back to the field. I followed a move, but it came back, went again and finally the elastic snapped. Stig and Thorben followed other riders across to this break and we became eight riders working well together. In the wind, the strength of working smoothly together was making itself shown. Without a huge effort we were gaining on the main break, little by little. Some of the guys were struggling but pretty much everyone was doing their turn.
Flying into the climb we must have been 20+ seconds down and on the first steep section one of the Fiordifruitta riders attacked. Three of us latched on and he dragged us up the climb. Over the top we caught the lead break and cruised down the descent with a good gap on the chase group.
Turning into the tailwind section the break was in complete disarray. Some guys were working, some trying to sit on. There were a lot of people getting in the way of helping to creat a good paceline. At 50km/h the little gaps that kept opening up were tough to close as the guys at the front were jamming. Slowly, things settled into a bit of a rhythm and we flew along with the wind at our backs. Turning into the wind though, things ground to a standstill again.
Perras launched on one of the rollers and no one responded. Sitting at the back I was in perfect position and attacked to get across. Kevin Bouchard-Hall (Louis Garneau) was the only other rider to make an effort behind and the three of us came together. Steadily we pulled away from the front of the race, with a minute gap leading into the climb with one lap to go. The key now was to stay away in the tailwind, as once we turned into the headwind I didn'[t think that the chase would be concerted enough to bring us back.
I was maxed out, and on the verge of cramping, working with the other two. Perras and Bouchard-Hall were putting in great pulls and I was doing the best I could, mainly trying not to look like I was suffering too badly. In the end though, my ticket was up when Perras attacked on a roller in the headwind. I couldn't hold Bouchard-Hall when he responded and was left dangling in the wind with the chase not far behind with four or five km to go. All I could think was how embarrassing it would be to get caught. I tried to ride a tempo that I could hold to the end.
Ahead, Bouchard Hall caught Perras and won the sprint, while behind I struggled just to get up the final climb. I made it in for the third and was pretty happy with my ride; I have some great power, I just need to get more racing in to hone my form. Tomorrow we race again – they say it's a tougher course than today's.
Andrew Randell, 2002 National Road Champion, rides for Jet Fuel Coffee.