Thank you to:
Russell for getting me on the wheel and sprocket composite team.
My teammates for the week–BK, Dan, and Andy. And also a huge thank you to my host houses over the last 12 days and 11 races: Tony’s family for Hood and CJ and Jen Faulkner for Nature valley.
The last three stages have gone by too fast.
I’m mainly going to talk about the Mankato road race, because that day was just plain bad ass. For one reason, my teammate won. I’d like to say I had a hand in it, but the truth is I didn’t even know he was in the breakaway (which got away at mile 15) until we were about 10 miles from the finish.
Saturday–My plan was to be in the breakaway again and this time stick it. Andy, the guy who won, began placing me up near the front when shit began going down at around mile 10. The pace was fast and attacks were going and getting caught constantly. For my first attempt, I picked a good one that stuck for a few minutes at least. It seemed like a great group, with first just three of us and soon about eight. That easily could have been it. But the pack was still hungry and brought it back before anything substantial happened. I went again a little later without success.
We turned right, and the headwind became a cross wind. A bunch of groups formed as the pack got spread out a bit and this is when the winning break got formed. I bridged up to the lead group of 20 or so, some dudes attacked, some of us followed, others behind us attacked, blah blah blah until finally there was a group of 10 or 11 up the road with Andy in it. The breakaway was quick to gain 30 to 40 seconds on the pack, as we continued attacking to try and bridge up or bring it back. I went three times, each without success of getting away from the damn peleton for more than a minute. One time I followed Sam Johnson as he attacked off the front and nearly flew off the road as my front wheel chocked on a large piece of gravel going around a turn. I secretly hoped that someone else back in the pack would eat it hard on the gravel there and cause a pile up so the two of us could be left alone to get up to the leaders. But unfortunatly no one crashed–most of the people here like to crash by:
A) clipping a pedal around a corner of a crit
B) touching wheels of the person in front of them while descending at 45 mph
C) looking up at the clouds while day dreaming and running into the person in front of them
B) something else equally stupid. Did you realize I just said B again? Because the first time around, I didn’t.
Somewhere in the next mile or two, three other guys got off the front and I wasn’t in it. I was pissed. I attacked hard this time and brought their 30 second gap down to 10 seconds in no time, but I was dragging the entire peleton, which isn’t what I wanted to do. I eased up and let their gap grow again. I wanted them to stay up the road so I had someone to bridge to, work with, and catch the lead break. I sat second wheel as the pack slowed down up a false flat and regained some strength before I made my next attempt. Here’s where I made a big mistake. I should have gotten my teammate Dan on my wheel at this point, since he was trying to do the same thing I was. I didn’t see him, or even think about any of my teammates while I was doing this though, an amateur mistake.
A minute or two of soft pedalling behind the guy in front of me and I drifted off to the far left side of the road and stopped pedaling, showing that I was going to drift back off the front. But instead of doing that, I slowly started pedaling, then without standing up to sprint, surged and began hammering on the pedals. I looked back after a few seconds and saw that I had a large gap already. I kept on hammering, with the group of three up ahead of me by less than a minute.
I got to within 20 seconds of them, and couldn’t get any farther. I held them at half a minute forever. 20 minutes into my attack they had a minute on me. At this point I was hoping they’d just slow down or one of them would get a flat or something, but I had no such luck. At about 30 or 40 minutes in, I had around 5 minutes on the peleton and the three man chase group was getting smaller and smaller up the road. No chance of catching it now.
The three chase guys eventually caught the breakaway and after about 35 miles by myself, the pack caught me. My day was done. My legs were toast. After it was clear that I wasn’t going to catch anybody, I had decided I’d just go hard for as long as I could and hope for the most aggressive rider’s jersey. But that didn’t happen either so if you look at the results, it doesn’t look like I did much yesterday. But I can assure you, I came very close do doing a lot!
One thing that could have really helped in my attempt to bridge up to the three guys would have been a race radio. Why you ask? Because about 15 or 20 minutes after I got off the front, my teammate Dan did also. He got to within a minute or two of me before the pack caught him. It’s possible that if we had communication, I could have sat up right when he got off the front, let him catch me, and then the two of us could have worked together, caught the three guys, caught the break away, driven it super hard and sacraficed ourselves, and gotten Andy the win AND moved him into a top GC position. What I’m basically saying is that if we had had that one simple piece of equipment, we would have won the entire Nature Valley grand prix by at least 45 minutes. Probably much much more, considering how many levels we’ve gone up since downing two cases of FRS in the last week.
The rest of the race was like this: I got caught, I was tired, very tired, I sat in the back and talked to Dan, two guys crashed right in front of me going 40 miles an hour or more, I didn’t crash (barely), Dan and I had to chase back on after the crash, I got really thirsty, some guy on another team told me Andy was in the break, we got into town, I sat up on the first of four finishing circuits when we got to the steep hill, I got pulled after two laps and got a huge chunk of time added on to my overall.
The other two days:
Friday–The day before the Mankato road race (the one I was just talking about) was another evening crit. It was really cool and had tons of people watching again, which is fun. I started taking the corners better as the race went on, and actually moved up to mid pack, sitting 40 or 50th with 4 laps to go. Then I started taking terrible corners and within 2 laps was already sitting at 100 something place. I’ve realized that crits are all about cornering and positioning. Speed is second, specailly when the crit is flat.
Sunday, which brings us to today. Today was an anticlimatic day for me. Under normal circumstances, I would have loved today’s crit. It was a 1.2 mile nasty brutal circuit with an 18% average grade climb for about 400 meters, then a false flat, followed by down hill. 20 laps. Basically it would have been like doing Nectar Way hill repeats.
But even before I began warming up, I knew my legs didn’t have it today. I hopped on the bike to spin around and it felt like I had already raced 80 miles. Yesterday’s time off the front was a do or die move that I knew would either be super bad ass and place me in a top 5 spot, or make me finish 100 something for the rest of the week. And even though it failed, I don’t regret laying it all out there like that because that’s how I race damn it!!
Back to today’s race. The Stillwater crit. We started at the base of the climb. I was positioned 60 guys back (the top 25 GC plus all hte jersey wearers got a call up). I went hard as hard as the pace would allow up the first climb, the full width of the narrow road was clogged full of riders and fans–of which there were thousands–and I couldn’t pass anybody. But that didn’t really matter because my legs gave out very quickly and witihn four or five laps the pack was splintered and gone, with poor kennett left behind.
My legs were so gone today that I wasn’t even breathing hard while going up the hill. I could have nosed breathed for most of it. Anyways, Andy–who was trying to do well in GC and also sprint points, came up from behind me after lap five or six and I drug him around the course a few more times to try and save his GC time some harsh harrasment. But we got pulled at about the half way point. I know it was supposed to be a brutal day, but I wasn’t even that tired after doing it because my legs just had no glycogen in them at all and wouldn’t let me go hard. Stupid legs, I aught to teach em a lesson and ride 100 miles tomorrow. That’ll show them who’s boss.
Overall, NVGP was great. It showed me that even the pros aren’t really that much stronger than me. They may be tactially much smarter and have way better sprints and cornering skills, but those guys are going down!!! SOON!