ATP Racing: What it takes to win at Purgatory

In a break from tradition, Green Line Velo driven by Zipcar riders were allowed to race the Purgatory Road Race in 2016. The team and volunteer-run race can only continue with enough able-bodied people at registration, marshaling, shuttling equipment and driving pace vehicles, thus team members that want to race must cover their shifts with two more volunteers. The extra effort allowed for a spectacular win by John Harris, who used the victory to springboard his jump to the professional ranks.


Everyone in New England knew John for his fearless riding and tireless legs. Upon joining Green Line Velo driven by Zipcar, he started to hone his tactical racing too, which became a deadly combination for his competitors. Chief among his tactical changes was saving his big efforts for when they really mattered. In the 2016 edition, big efforts mattered early. Johnny hit his 5 minute peak power starting on the first trip past Manchaug Pond in anticipation of the initial approach up Lackey Road. His effort continued up and over the top. It wasn’t a dig to win the race; it was an effort to stay in the front group that was fresh and excited, but also wanted to weed out the weaker riders.


On the rollers after the finish line, there were some big accelerations that took some sprints to keep Johnny right where he wanted to be - vigilant and at the front. After that he recovered and tried to sit tight for the next trip up Lackey Road. This would be a fast and decisive trip. While it wasn’t as hard as the first trip up, the pace was high over the top and through the entire lap. It sent riders out the back if they didn’t put in the right efforts and follow the right wheels. This second trip up Lackey would be the hardest hour of the race for Johnny.

With the front group established, things rolled along at a more comfortable pace. Comfortable is relative here, because riders were trading body blows trying to soften each other up. Each trip up Lackey Road was hard, but not nearly as hard as the first or last two laps. Johnny set his 10 minute max power on the second to last trip up Lackey. In an effort to set odds in their favor, twelve riders made this front group, including many favorites, like Ben Wolfe, Anthony Clarke and Chad Young. We will miss Chad at future editions of the race and are happy that he brought his great personality and strong work ethic to Purgatory in his all too brief life.


With the group fully established, the real fireworks happened on the last climb. Don’t forget that the finish line is well past the summit of the climb. You have to keep some matches for that finishing sprint, and Johnny played it to perfection. An initial acceleration just after the climb started got him up to speed and it was full gas from there. Three minutes later he crossed the line as the first win ever for the home team. Additionally, Dom Caiazzo, alum of Green Line Velo driven by Zipcar and every popular rider, came in for a close 4th place just 7 seconds behind Johnny in his first-ever attempt at the race.


As we’ve seen with the 2016 edition and previous editions, you can’t predict how the race will play out. You have to keep your focus and make the right decisions. Some years, like 2016, Lackey Road provides the decisive moment in the race. Other years, like 2015, catching most of the peloton off-guard can let the winning group slip away. How do you plan on winning the 2017 edition?