Tour of Washington County Stage Race

MABRA's only stage race returns this weekend, courtesy of AVC.

The Smithsburg RR course is an exciting circuit with plenty of ups and downs all the way around. For the climbers, this is an opportunity to put the hurt on the rest of the field. For non climbers, conserve everything you can when the going might seem easy so that you have a full tank when the road goes up. None of these climbs are super long, but there are a few pitches that will really let gravity remind you of what you are lugging around.  If you have the legs, when the going gets really tough, that is the time to give it just a little more gas.

The finish line for this race is not actually on the course. You start and finish at the school with a neutral roll out to the left turn onto the course, and then on the final lap, you head straight back to the school. Pay attention to the landmarks between the final turn and the finish line. There are a few little climbs and then a nice wall to scale up to the finish. Knowing where the finish line is will keep you from sprinting and dying with 1k to go.

If possible, ride or drive this course before the race. Know the roads and turns. There is at leas one tricky left/right combination that if you mess it up, you will be in someone's front room.

The Time Trial is on the Boonesboro TT course, but is only 20k. This should make for some fast TTing. The start as always is at the base of a short climb, which is followed by a short descent and then 4 miles or so of fast rolling road. The turn around is at the top of the one big climb on the way out. This climb is short, but pretty steep. After you turn around you get to instantly go back down the way you came and then head back to the start/finish. This year they have put the finish line at the top of the short hill that you crested at the very beginning, this is for safety reasons, and also gives you something to sprint to.
The key to a hilly TT is to step on the gas on the climbs and back it off just a hair on the descents to allow for some recovery. If you do the math, two identical riders can ride the same average power and have different finishing times. Giving it just a little more gas on the climbs will allow you to maintain a higher average speed while easing off just a little on the fast descents will not hurt your average speed as much.

Get in a good warm up and have a look at the course before your race. After your ride, spin your legs out to help you recover for the afternoon's crit in Williamsport.

The Criterium is on the same course as last year's race in Williamsport. This is a great course with very little place to rest. One of it's biggest features is the screaming descent into a right hander that comes on the opposite side of the course from the start/finish. You may not think a descent can make a race harder, but it can. If you are at the front, you can pick your line and carry your speed. The further back you get, the more the breaks will go on and the accordion affect will be magnified by the relative speed of the riders at the front and back with the back marker having to kill it to close gaps as while the front of the field is at top speed.

The best advice is to stay near the front and keep your head in the race. Little lapses in concentration can cost you your place near the front since every other rider will want to be up there too. This course is exciting and a little bit dangerous so pay attention.

A big key to stage racing is recovery. After your race on Saturday, make every effort to help your recovery process. Have a routine and stick to it. Get refueled and cleaned up quickly so that your body can recover. Standing around chatting will not help. If you can stay near Hagarstown all the better to avoid the long drive home. Staying in a hotel can also take away some of the distractions that may arise when you are at home.  Eat and sleep early so that you are as close to fresh as you can be for the next days events.  One wrinkle in an event like this is the fact that there will be riders who are not doing the entire weekend of racing in some of the events. That means at the crit there may be riders who did not do the road race and TT. Even though these riders are not in contention for the overall prizes, they can greatly affect the way the races are play out. Knowing who is likely to be as tired as you are and who is fresh can make a big difference in the way you ride your race.