Green Mountain Stage Race downhill

The Green Mountain Stage Race Continues to Attract Top Talent

By: Jim Rutberg  October 18, 2023

The Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont has become a must-race destination for aspiring stage racers.

More that 700 amateur and professional cyclists gathered in Vermont for the 22nd edition of the Green Mountain Stage Race (GMSR) from September 1-4, 2023. Already one of the largest, if not the largest, pro-am stages races in the United States, GMSR experienced a 30% surge in registrations compared to 2022. With athletes representing 33 States and several countries, including more than 200 riders from Canada, the Green Mountain Stage Race has become a must-race destination for aspiring stage racers.

Large and Competitive Fields

Large and highly competitive fields are some the most attractive aspects of GMSR, according to Race Director Gary Kessler. The Men’s Pro-1-2 race started with 130 riders and was won by Owen Wright (CS Velo Racing), with Christopher Prendergast (Jamison Cannondale) in second overall and Cormac Mcgeough (Good Guys p/b in third. The Women’s Pro-1-2-3 field started with 76 racers, making it one of the largest women’s pelotons of the year in a US stage race. Just as impressive, 109 Juniors (U19) lined up for the 4-stage race.

GMSR Rainy Women's Crit

According to Kessler, GMSR’s female participation has historically hovered around 10% of total registrations. In 2023, that percentage jumped to about 17%, across the Women’s Pro-1-2-3 and Women’s 3-4-5 fields. “One thing I tried to hype up for the women was that it's just more fun to race in a field with 76 people, rather than one with 19. The strategy, the speed, the tactics that go into the racing, how you use your team, all of that is just so different when you have a larger peloton.” By the end of the final stage, Emma Betuel (Fount Cycling Guild) won the General Classification by 14 seconds over Hayley Wickstrom (3T/Q+M Cycling), with Florence Howden rounding out the podium in third overall.

Cultivating a Positive Racing Environment for Juniors

Over the years, Kessler has made a particular point of curating a competitive field of Junior racers for GMSR. Rather than take a hands-off approach to registration, Kessler evaluates the young riders who sign up for the race. In some cases, as with 2023 Men’s 17-18 Time Trial National Champion Andrew “AJ” August, elite juniors are encouraged to compete in the Pro-1-2 field instead of the Junior category. At the other end of the spectrum, Kessler encourages novice teens to compete in the Men’s Category 4 race, where they are more likely to have a positive and competitive race experience.

“We've really tried to develop the junior fields,” explained Kessler. “So, we had 109 registered in the junior race this year. But there were probably another 25 or 30 juniors in other fields, who I felt shouldn't race in the Junior field. I'm careful about not putting new and inexperienced Juniors in with a bunch of Cat 1 and 2 Juniors and US and Canadian National Champions, basically.” Kessler’s motivation in two-fold. On one hand he wants to create a competitive environment for elite-level Juniors to race head-to-head, gain valuable racing experience, and showcase themselves to potential development and professional teams.

On the other hand, Kessler says, “I don't want juniors to quit the sport because they come for a four-day race and are dropped, day after day, and they're two hours behind. That's not a fun weekend for them.” Moving an inexperienced Junior to the Men’s Cat 4 field can be beneficial, even though they’re racing against adults. “The stage distances are shorter for the Cat 4 field,” commented Jeffrey Poulin, a USA Cycling Official for 23 years and one of the long-time Commissaires for GMSR. “For example, on the circuit race the Juniors race 74 miles, whereas the Cat 4 men race 37 miles.” By proactively managing the placement of Junior riders into appropriate categories, GMSR preserves the elite status of their Junior race and creates positive experiences for less experienced young riders so they’ll come back and aspire to the elite Junior race.

GMSR Stage 2 Junior Winner Rapheal Parisella

Kessler’s efforts to cultivate competitive Junior stage races have paid off. Not only does the GMSR field one of the largest and highest caliber Junior pelotons in United States, but also several past GMSR competitors are experiencing success in top-tier international competitions. Hugh Carthy, the British cyclist currently racing for UCI WorldTeam EF Education–EasyPost, won the Junior race at GMSR in 2012. Derek Gee, the Canadian rider who animated the 2023 Giro d’Italia with four second place stage finishes, won GMSR in 2015. American rider and Team Ineos pro Magnus Sheffield, who won the 2022 De Brabantse Pijl semi-Classic, won GMSR in 2018. And AJ August, the 2023 Men’s 17-18 Time Trial National Champion who was elevated to the Pro-1-2 field for the 2023 GMSR and won the Stage 1 Individual Time Trial, won the Junior stage race overall in 2022.

Professional Experience for All Riders

Consistently attracting large fields of amateur and professional cyclists to rural Vermont for a late-summer, 4-day stage race is no easy feat. Kessler, his small staff, and an army of volunteers have kept the Labor Day Weekend event going for more than 20 years by focusing on rider experience.

Kessler recalled a rider from the 50-plus field who told him, “I race almost every weekend in Colorado. I love to race my bike. But now I know what it feels like to be treated like a professional.” The GMSR Race Director added, “These things people say, over time, they really stay with me. So, we have podiums every day, banners and backdrops, a rolling enclosure for safety, challenging courses to suit different types of riders. Whether you're a Cat 4 or a Pro-1 racer, you get treated to a professional experience.”

Kessler and Poulin emphasize that professional-level officiating and impeccable course safety are keys to the long-term success of the Green Mountain Stage Race. Working with communities and state and local police, all GMSR fields are protected by a rolling enclosure and controlled intersections during road and circuit races. On the officiating side, Poulin says bringing USA Cycling Officials together for 4 consecutive days has been great for professional development. “All the officials stay together in a ski lodge,” Poulin explained. “And you just kind of live and breathe cycling for the four days that you're there. In the evenings we exchange stories about what happened that day, and three people jump in with opinions on how it could have been done differently or better. And it’s like that nonstop for days.”

Race information and complete results from the 2023 Green Mountain Stage Race at available at The 4-day stage race is held annually over Labor Day Weekend in communities near Waitsfield, Vermont.