With professional cycling via the Team TIBCO and Podium Ambition programs now in her rearview mirror, Sara Headley experiences the Green Mountain Stage Race in a new light and on her own terms. The 32-year-old, living in the San Francisco Bay area, returned to Vermont with her husband, Mike, who acted as soigneur, photographer and driver of Goldie the Westfalia. They share the weekend in photos, quotes and insights.
Vermont is gritty. No matter why you are there: to race, to visit or to live, you have to be willing to work harder than usual. You have spend time getting dressed for the cold, cleaning muck off your shoes, warming up after being outside. Vermonters are awesome.
GMSR is the closest I ever came to a classic-style stage race in the US. I hope more women and top teams take on this race because the race staff works really hard to make the race a top experience. The main appeal for me was the crit in Burlington, my old college town.
It's been refreshing to jump into some racing post pro cycling retirement. I've loved it. It reminded me of why I started racing in the first place. As a pro, I spent so much time racing away from home, racing according to the team strategy, and attacking when I was directed. During GMSR, I raced with experience and instinct, having fun with it and realizing that I didn''t have any pressure to perform. I couldn't have been happier to be back playing the game. It made me giddy.
When I saw rain in the forecast for Stage 3, I messaged Brad (Velocio designer/CEO) to see what his thoughts were about clothing. He was positive that I should wear the ES Rain Jacket, and after an hour of staring outside the van window at the pelting rain, I decided it would be for the best. It kept me cozy for the entire 4 hours. My husband Mike, who so kindly warmed up the van and prepared hot cocoa for me, was impressed at how comfortable I looked afterward. I was grateful for Brad's advice because without that jacket, I would have frozen.
Living in a van is something Mike and I had been exploring for awhile. I, for one, don't really want to live in a van long-term because I love where we live now in San Francisco. Mike thinks he wants to live in a van, so I suggested we rent one for our road trip through New England. We drove to Portland, Maine to get "Goldie,' then up and down Vermont's historic Rt. 100 for 5 days, down to Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, and then back to Portland. "Roll in, pop up, camp out" became our daily motto. We loved the variability of our backyard. After the time trial, we parked on a Forest Road in Granville and had the whole afternoon to spend near the river. Every day we had a different person giving us the peace sign, honking or telling us how cool our van was. I'm used to living out of a suitcase, but we were constantly unpacking and repacking my bike and bike bag, which proved to be a nuisance. I didn't have much internet either, making it a truly retro experience. Overall, the van life is like being a kid again - eat, play, sleep. Fun.
I always loved home stays, but I was also fortunate to have some of the most welcoming hosts while racing as a pro. The tricky sleeping arrangements taught how, as an adult, to pass out anywhere. In Vermont, my former college rowing coach offered us a shower at his place, and the following night, we had another shower at a friend's house in Burlington. #VanLife, but better.
This go around as a privateer meant having my husband, Mike, at my race. GMSR is well supported, yet on a 30-degree morning, Mike made me pancakes with plenty of Vermont maple syrup before I even got out of bed. He made every recovery drink, drove every mile of the whole trip, and took care of all of my equipment including the cleaning duties. He also cheered the loudest at the crit while taking all these images. He was a one-man support team.
Vermont is gritty. The GMSR is amazing. Van living is fine (for a spell) and there's no reason to leave cycling after pro riding. More to come.
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