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Papillon: The Joe Papp Diary 2004
Joe Papp is a UCI Elite rider with the UPMC cycling team. He was a double stage winner at the 2003 Vuelta a Cuba (UCI 2.5) and in 2002 won the GS Mengoni Grand Prix, the BMC NYC Cycling Classic for elite amateur men and a stage at Superweek, among other events. Joe's writing is good enough to make boring races intriguing and intriguing races captivating.
Green Mountain Stage Race, Vermont, USA, September 3-6, 2004
Sunday, September 5, 2004 - GMSR Stage 2 - Road Race
Yesterday's great form and sunny skies were replaced today by heavy legs, a sore throat and chilly, overcast conditions. I wasn't looking forward to this stage to begin with, and feeling lousy on the line only served to bum me out a bit more. My only goal for the day - besides finishing as highly as possible at the end - was to win the only intermediate sprint of the day, which came after about 30km. However, by virtue of my second place on GC, no one was affording me any slack (which was funny, since I was doomed to drop back on GC by the end of the stage) and any hopes I had of going with the early break were dashed. After attacks that I'd gone with were chased down for the third time in succession, I sat up in frustration and watched the break finally go. Colavita had two in the escape (el Gato and Tyler Wren) and Perras's teammate Scott Z was covering it for Ofoto.com, so there was some horsepower.
The field throttled back to Sunday cruise speed, and we literally just twiddled through the Vermont countryside for the next several hours. While the first climb was hard by virtue of it's being a big old hill, we didn't go ballistic over it. Charles Dionne attacked at the top in hopes of getting away on the descent, but he was reeled in before the bottom.
Lynn Bessett looked like she was bored just sitting in the bunch, so she attacked with a Louis Garneau rider as we were turning onto a nice tailwind stretch of road. The duo quickly put over 30 seconds into the field, and even as eight Canadian riders massed at the front to finally ride tempo (presumably to help compatriot Randell), Lynn and the Garneau guy were holding off the pursuit!
Classic quote of the stage goes to Mark McCormack, who rolled up alongside me as I was following Randell, who was at the back of the rotating group of Canadians, and asked with his best Massachusetts accent, "You need a passport to be up in the front there?"
With the break still six minutes ahead of the field over the top of Middlebury Gap, it was the Louis Garneau team that started the chase. They put four riders on the front of the field and actually dropped the hammer quite ferociously, which certainly helped to bring down the gap by the time we reached the final climb. So a job well done for the riders in the lime green clothing.
Dorothy-you're-not-in-Kansas-anymore moment of the day was had while racing along a 3.5km stretch of gravel and dirt road, single file, trying to stay on Dionne's wheel while Peter Baker from Snow Valley drove it at the front. As the painful sound of large hunks of stone ricocheting off thin aluminium tubes echoed through the valley, we passed a fully-equipped Mavic service tent on the right hand side of the road, ostensibly to support riders who flatted in this inaccessible location. Was that the Carrefour de l'Arbre we just passed, Johan? I can't even imagine the real Paris - Roubaix.
Individual effort of the day goes to Stig Somme, the Norwegian who rides for Canadian professional team Jet Fuel. He set the pace up Middlebury Gap, and then, after the Garneau domestiques had all cracked, he took over the pacing on the approach to App Gap and then onto the lower slopes of the climb itself. He actually did 99% of the work on his own up until about 3km to go to the summit, when I stupidly said, "3km? That's all that's left?" It was just about then that McCormack, who would go on to win the stage - riding almost the entire climb in his 55 - praised Somme for his effort setting off in search of another victory at the summit. It was also the point where the road started to get surprisingly steep
With 1km to go, I was struggling up the mountain with Herriott and Somme, wishing I had an ice axe and some rope, or at least a bungee cord to hook onto Stig's back as he proceeded to drop Todd and me. Definitely the unsung hero-ride of the day.
I finished 21st just behind Todd and fell (though not unexpectedly) to 13th on GC. Eneas had very bad luck and flatted mid-way through the stage, and - given that there's no tradition in the caravan in most US domestic races of pacing riders back towards the field after they've had to stop for service - he lost over 16 minutes to McCormack. That put him in 47th on the day, which was still ahead of 55 other riders.
Definitely feeling like I have a cold coming on. While McCormack went golfing that afternoon at Sugarbush (?!), I tucked in for hot tea and a nap.
Email Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org