Bertucco Report: Green Mountain Stage Race Wrap-Up

ABD and racing fans,

It's been a few weeks since the final stage of the Green Mountain Stage Race. For those of you following my Twitter updates, you know that it was a pretty rough 4 days of racing for me. Racing up Vermont's highest paved road on stage 3 nearly killed me. But I finished to fight another day which is more than I can say for a few riders who called it quits.

The final day was a brutal 35-lap crit that has seen me, in years past, spit off the back in just a few laps. For you St. Louis racing fans, imagine the University City crit (with the Alley of Death) and throw in a fast descent/hard left turn/out-of-the-saddle-strung-out big-ring climb combo, and you have the Burlington, Vermont criterium.

But I had been beaten and crushed by this crit so many times, I knew what it would take to survive the day. Knowing and doing are two different things altogether though. The following is a handy guide to surviving a race, any race, that you have no business surviving.

Step 1:  Win the sprint to the start line. VERY important. Miracle of miracles, I find myself neatly sandwiched between the top 10 GC riders who got call-ups before they let the rabid pack loose from our staging area. CHECK!

Step 2: Avoiding inevitable crashes. Early on in the race, the furious pace led to guys overcooking the corners. Despite relative good positioning early on in the action, I find myself delayed by a nasty crash into a wall of hay-bales. Fortunately, I keep it rubber side down; but I'm gapped off from the peloton and I don't know if my capable of catching back on.

Step 3: Believe. The next few seconds would be critical to my success or failure. "No f****** excuses, no f****** excuses" I repeated this over and over. Out loud. It was the only thing that got me through the next few corners. Profanity aside, I had to be smart too. Taking advantage of being off the back, I was able to carry higher speeds through corners that would slow most of the field I was chasing. Soon I was back and in the thick of it. Check!

Step 4: Remember your roots. There are no better crit racers than those who have been smacked around year after year at the collective slug-fests otherwise knows as Superweek. I just kept telling myself, "you are a crit racer, you are a crit racer." Which in a way, is kind of a lie. I race most crits terrified. Search even the most exhaustive race results database going back to the early 90s and you'll hardly find my name in the top 20 of any crit. But sometimes you have to BELIEVE THE LIE to survive. Check!

Step 5: Know WHY you are racing. This is important for all of you to remember. You are in the race for your team and/or yourself. So when yahoos behind you are shouting at you, you must keep a calm head and do what is right for you and/or your team. Single file up the big-ring climb, the rider in front of me loses the wheel in front of him. We are gapped and I must make a split-second decision about how to reconnect with the riders going away in front of me. I'm close to my limit, but I know the corners that lie ahead, so instead of going into the red-zone only to hammer on the brakes in turn one and have another blistering 5 to 27mph acceleration to deal with. I keep it going steady and hard, MY PACE, up the hill.

The rider in back of me takes exception to my technique and shouts, "If you can't close the gap, get out of the way!" I'm incredulous. Do yourself a favor, unless that guy shouting at you is your team leader (and even then, such behavior is really not acceptable), ignore him and race smart for you.

Sure enough, within the next two turns, I'm back on the pack and easily glide past the guy yelling at me who decided to burn one of his matches by getting back to the pack about 5 seconds before me. Check!

Step 6: Enjoy it. It doesn't matter if you finished in 34th place. It doesn't matter that the district representative will not be impressed by your performance. It doesn't matter that you aren't standing anywhere near the podium. All that matters is that you recognize that you did something really special. You did your best.

Now it's time for you to get ready for next season on the road. There's a whole calendar of races ready to try and tell you that you're not good enough. Too bad they're wrong. Really wrong.

-Marc Bertucco
New York, NY

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