After a very successful first year, race promoters and the town of Killington welcome back over 600 riders to central Vermont for the 2011 Killington Stage Race. This year’s professional fields are full of quality, and should provide for great racing for this year’s event.
Even with most of the domestic professional riders heading to South Carolina for this year’s professional national championships, the men’s field is full of regional and international quality. Leading the way this year will be the man to defend his title from last year, Canadian Hugo Houle. But riding alone this year, he will have his hands full with several top U.S. and Canadian teams looking to take the top spot in this year’s race. One rider on great form is Brett Tivers (Garneau-Club Chaussures-Norton Rose), having taken the top of the podium in this year’s Tour of the Battenkill. Brett will have a full squad at his disposal, and will look to take top honors once again in 2011. But the Canadian’s based Garneau squad will have a couple of New England regional teams nipping at their heels, including BikeReg/Cannondale, sporting Josh Dillon, who took 5th in last year’s race, and CCB Racing, who will back their hopes on last year’s King of the Mountain winner Dylan McNicholas.
The women’s field is one of the deepest in recent memory, with a field of 65+ to contest the 3-day event this year. Last year’s winner Sue Schlatter (Stevens Racing p/b the Cyclery) will be looking to her team to get her back on the top step, but Team Juvederm-Specialized will be bringing a full squad to the race, and have multiple choices for the GC, including Denise Ramsden, who took a podium spot in Redlands this year, this year’s Tour of the Battenkill winner Lex Albrecht, and last year’s 4th place finisher Veronique Labonte. But they better not look back, because they will find several regional elite riders that will challenge these top riders, including 2 recent U.S. collegiate national champions, Anna McLoon (Harvard) and Laura Ralston (NorEast Cycling), last year’s 3rd place finisher Audrey Scott (Team Bikeway), last year’s 5th place finisher and Queen of the Mountain winner Silke Wunderwald (Team Kenda p/b GearGrinder), and Anna Barensfeld (Missing Link Coaching Systems/Specialized)
Canadian riders Pierrick Naud (Rocky Mountain/Desjardins/Valeurs Mobili) and Veronique Labonte (Team Juvederm/Specialized) took top honors in the 1st stage of this weekend Killington Stage Race. Their wins however came in much different fashion.
Naud and the rest of the peloton had to deal with a 17-man breakaway that was trying to work together to secure a chance at the win. But when the break was caught, Naud went to the front and powered his way down at more than 40mph down the 500m finish stretch to secure the win and the overall lead in the race. Sam Witmitz, who’s Garneau-Club Chaussures-Norton Rose team was aggressive all day long, had to settle for 2nd while the U.S. was represented by Allan Rego (Farm Team Elite Cycling).
The women’s peloton was dominated by a 2-woman lead group of Labonte and Lindsey Myers (Danbury Audi), who were able to elude any chase by the main field and increased their lead to over a minute by the race’s end; a very rare feat on this circuit which general promotes field-size finishes. The best of the rest was led by Myers’ teammate Jennifer Purcell, who continues her fine form from the beginning of the season.
Tomorrow’s Stage 2 on Sunday is the 11 mile Long Trail Brewery Individual Time Trial, where riders will be looking to challenge for all the time they can get before the very difficult day on Monday. The queen stage is Monday’s Stage 3 Champion Systems Road Race, a 62 mile parcours with 3 major climbs including the grueling East Mountain Rd and the finishing climb up to the K1 Base Lodge on the top of the Killington Mountain Resort. Race updates will be posted on both Twitter (@KillingtonSR) and on Facebook (Killington Stage Race) throughout the weekend. (ed note: depending on internet availability)