By Peter Oliver

It turned out to be four days of sun and fun and nothing but sun and fun. What can only be described as perfect bike-racing weather blessed the entirety of the seventh edition of the Green Mountain Stage Race on Labor Day weekend. And of the 837 riders who registered for the 10 separate fields in the race, the guys who seemed to have the most fun in the sun were Canadians, at least in the elite men's field.

On the way to taking the top four spots in the final general classification, Canadian riders were also winners in each of the four individual stages. Perhaps it was about time. Over the years, Canadians have been extremely well represented among the elite men's riders, constituting roughly a quarter of the field. But while Quebecer Genevieve Jeanson was a dominant force among the women in the first three years of the race, no Canadian man had finished atop the standings until this year.

This year's podium-topping Canadian turned out to be Trevor Connor, a 34-year-old veteran from Victoria, British Columbia, who won Saturday's 72-mile Bridges Resort Moretown Circuit Race and the 103-mile Mad River Road Race on Sunday to secure enough points for the overall victory. Just behind in the final standings were Mathieu Toulouse of Montreal, winner of Friday's Egan's Big World Hill Climb, and Dominique Perras, the climbing whiz from St. Lambert, Quebec.


American cycling enthusiasts can at least take solace in the Canadian logjam from the fact that Connor rides for an American team, a small outfit out of western New York sponsored by Chris Cookies and Swan Cycles. Call him Canadian with an asterisk.


While Kristen Lasasso, the winner of the elite women's race, was not Canadian, it is perhaps the result of some coincidental irony that she hails from a town called La Canada in California. By winning a few precious bonus points in the Burlington Criterium on Monday, Lasasso came from behind to edge out Amy Dombrowski of Jericho, Vermont, for the win.

Dombrowski, who floats as easily uphill as a hawk rising on a thermal draft, had won the two mountainous stages, the opening hill climb and the Mad River Road Race. But while Lasasso was never a stage winner, she stayed close throughout, and in a race scored on points rather than time, it is consistency that really pays off. Her winning margin of two points over Dombrowski made it the closest race in GMSR history.


"It was a very successful weekend with a great turnout," said race director Gary Kessler after the race was over. "The weather was ideal, and what's really important to a race promoter, it was a relatively safe race. A lot of that is due to the good weather and the great job of road-surface improvements by the Agency of Transportation. One important measure of this year's success was that we had fewer serious injuries than ever."


Unfortunately, a rider who sustained one of those rare, serious injuries was Granville rider Malcolm Appleton, the elder statesman of the local riding community. In a freak accident, Appleton crashed just a few yards after the start at Mt. Ellen of the Mad River Road Race, while competing in the citizens' field. He sustained a broken hip and was transported to Central Vermont Hospital in Berlin, where he was mended and will begin a recuperation process that could take several months.

Several other local riders managed to have a bit better luck than Appleton. Top among them was Charles McCarthy, competing in the elite men's race. McCarthy relied heavily on his exemplary climbing skills to finish a highly respectable 20th overall in the 130-man field. It was his third year competing in the elite field, and the result was by far his best. He also enjoyed the crowds that came out in support of the riders.


"The perfect conditions attracted large crowds for the finishing 500 meters up App Gap on Sunday," McCarthy said. "They were easily the biggest crowds I've ever experienced in the road race. The Valley seemed to be swelling with people this weekend, and I'm very pleased that so many made the trek to the top of the gap to cheer on racers. I certainly appreciated it."

Other local riders competing included Jim Komarmi, who finished 31st in the Category 3 field; Larry O'Toole, who finished 51st on the Masters 40-and-over field; and Matt O'Brien, who ended up 42nd in the men's Category 4 field. Bob Dillon, competing in the Masters 50-and-over field, was satisfied with his performance through three stages but chose to skip the final stage, the criterium in Burlington, to visit the injured Appleton in the hospital.

Caitlin Curran, competing in her first major bike race, was also going well but was disqualified in a rules technicality after the third stage. Junior riders -- those under 18 -- are required to use special gearing on their bikes, a requirement that the neophyte Curran was unaware of. Still, her 11th-place finish in Saturday's circuit race suggests that she has a promising future ahead of her.



If local riders fared well over the weekend, the local community fared even better. With visiting riders bringing along family, friends, coaches and others, the race attracts approximately 1,500 people into The Valley for the weekend and, in some cases, several days longer.

When riders return post-race questionnaires, they often cite the chance to spend a fall weekend or longer vacation in Vermont in addition to the challenge of competing as a major appeal of the race. As one Canadian coach said, after appreciating all that The Valley had to offer: "We ought to annex Vermont as the 13th Canadian province."

The bottom line: The race brings between $500,000 and $1 million to the local economy through lodging, food, gas and other expenditures.

"The GMSR once again proved to be tremendously challenging and hugely rewarding," said McCarthy. Not to mention safe, Appleton's injury notwithstanding. And economically productive. It doesn't get much better than that. Especially if you happen to be Canadian.

 Local cyclist and author Peter Oliver lives in Warren.