I wrote this yesterday. So it’s a day off.
That was a bit too much. By the end of it (yesterday at 12:30AM when I pulled into my parent’s driveway in Sherwood Oregon) I was getting a little worn out. I’ll start at the beginning:
Monday March 15th. Yeah, it was a while ago. But it only feels like…well about a month ago. Or more actually. Feels like an eternity but it went by like that. And by “that” I mean like the snap of your fingers.
Early Monday morning, 3 weeks ago, Sean stopped by at my house in Tucson to pick me up on our way to Agoura Hills, CA for the team training camp. It took some strategic packing skills, but we got almost all of my stuff, and his, in the back of his pickup before it got light out. I only had to leave behind a few odds and ends. Mostly food unfortunately. But no need to worry! I made sure we had room for my 50 bag pound of rice, 45 pounds of maltodextrin, and 30 pounds of beans. We said goodbye to Tucson as the sun began rising and headed for Southern California.
When we got to California, the gas price rose about a dollar per gallon and the sides of the highway were covered not in Cacti, but hundreds of thousands of billboards asking us to eat at McDonalds and then go to a gentlemen’s club.
Agoura Hills was super nice. The house we were staying at was at the top of a hill out in the country, overlooking a lake and just a scant few miles from the ocean. The rest of the team arrived later that night and we spent the next couple days killing our legs before San Dimas. On one of our rides, we met up with Ivan Dominguez which was pretty sweet.
Ivan was taking this picture here to the left. Joe said to him after he took the picture, “Ivan we don’t want a picture of you.” To which Ivan replied, “If you want one, Joe, I think you can type my name in on google and some will come up.” We all burst out laughing including Ivan.
We left the house on the 18th I think and drove to our next host house in San Dimas. The team split up here with Phil and Lang going to another house nearby. I previewed the TT course that night.
I’ve just decided to make this whole thing as short as possible because I don’t feel like writing very much or giving lots of detail. So sorry about that.
Next day (the 19th) was the San Dimas TT. I sucked. I didn’t go hard enough at all. I was pissed at my effort.
20th. Damn this race started out crazy. 1K into the course, 150 guys were funneled down as we made a left hand turn through a maze of cones and terrible pavement. I went on the left hand side of the cones, the side you weren’t supposed to be at, and tried getting back onto the right side of the road. I swerved in and out of the cones, dodging the largest potholes, as we went 30mph. I knocked at least one cone over and finally made it into the pack before the next right hand turn. My teammate Sam Johnson was right behind me and I remember thinking at the time, “Sam must think I’m a terrible bike handler, because this must look pretty bad from his point of view.” I asked him latter and he said, “Yup” in agreement.
The race was hard. We did 12 laps, 6.6 miles per lap with a couple small hills and one nasty steep climb followed by a fast decent and side wind section. It was hot out. The pavement was thick with cracks and potholes, manholes, park gate entrances, those one-way-only metal things that pop cars’ tires if they go the wrong way, and the odd oncoming car–both lanes were open to race on but not closed to traffic. All in all, it was awesome.
We were down to about 50 guys by our 10th lap and I was still feeling good. Not strong. Not good. No one felt good at this point, but I felt like I was doing better than most. In no point in the race was I ready to blow up, I felt decent on the climb, and I spent a good amount of time near the front racing smart and positioning myself well. I was getting pretty excited for the finish, since this was basically the Redlands field and placing top 10 (which I think was possible) in this hard of a race would have been very good. But I got a flat 10 miles from the finish. My wheel change was slow (around a minute. The support car was only carrying spare bikes. No spare wheels, so the guy had to take the bike off the roof and take the wheel off the bike before he handed it to me to put on my bike). Cancellara could have caught back on. But that’s about the only person I can think of. I did a lap by myself before the next group caught me. I finished 80 something. Ruined race. I was pissed.
21st, Sunday. I blew the crit. I found myself close to the back pretty quickly and kept taking terrible corners. And I mean TERRIBLE corners. I wasted a lot of energy and ended up getting dropped and pulled at 44 minutes in. 1 minute short of making the time cut. Pretty bad racing on my part.
Total hours ridden that week was 21. So much for tapering.
22nd and 23rd were spent resting at our San Dimas guest house. Only Sean and I stayed there. Everyone else went off to different guest houses. Our host family took us out to pizza! We drove over to the Redlands house Tuesday evening. Joe (our director), Sean, and I stayed with one family for Redlands while the rest of the team stayed up the hill a little over a mile away. We were invited up for dinner each night, though. And their host family made huge dinners.
24th Wednesday. We ended up riding a little under three hours today while checking out the courses.
25th Thursday. First day of Redlands. I put in a decent TT for once and placed 85th out of 190. Better than the San Dimas TT, but still not great.
26th Friday. First RR. 105 miles. I thought it was only 86 miles, and still thought that for like two more days after the race was over. After someone told me it wasn’t 86 miles I remember thinking, “Ahhh, so that’s why I was tired.” The first couple miles were slightly down hill through town with a tail wind. So it was fast. Easy to sit in, but fast. We did one big loop and four or five smaller loops with a climb. Positioning for the climb was tough and I ended up too far back on the last lap and got gapped off. I came in 90 something with a medium sized group. The race was draining but wasn’t super hard at any one time, other than the last time up the climb when gaps started opening up.
27th Saturday. Crit. I had a good crit. I was sitting in the top 40 or 50 with I think seven or eight laps to go (out of the 90 minute crit) and there was a crash in front of me. I jammed on the brakes, skidding to a stop. Everyone around me stopped, unclipped and took a free lap, entering the front of the field after a nice one-lap rest. I should have done this, but instead swerved around people, came to a track stand, and chased. I ended up loosing about 60 spots and the pack split up. I finished 100th or something. I learned my lesson. Take free laps.
28th Sunday. The ONE day where everything needed to go right in order for me to finish with the main group. This is also the hardest day of the race, by far, and usually ends up determining your GC spot. Only 20-30 guys typically make it to the end. The race goes around the downtown crit course twice, climbs up to some hills out of town around a residential area where it does 12 laps of the Sunset loop course, and finishes back down in town with five laps around the crit course. I only got to do four laps of the Sunset loop. I had a slow rear puncture that occurred sometime between the opening crit loops and the accent towards the Sunset loops. I skidded out on one of the downhill corners before we reached the main climb. I didn’t think anything of it, other than “holy sh—.!” I lost a few spots but sprinted back into the strung out field. We started the climb and I didn’t make the front group. Within the first lap, the groups were decided. There was a nine man breakaway, about 40 guys in the front group, and the rest were dropped. We picked up dropped riders along the way and our group, which was the only group left on the road, had about 30 guys. Maybe more later on. We trailed behind at about 2 minutes from the front pack. My rear wheel kept skidding out more and more with each lap. One section of the down hill reaches speeds of about 55-60 mph. At the bottom of the hill, we made a sharp left, followed by more down hill. My rear wheel skidded out each time when we took this left hand turn. I had been bouncing my rear wheel a bit to feel if it was flat, but I guess it’s more difficult to tell if you have a flat with tubular wheels. I had never ridden them before this weekend, so I didn’t know. I got off my bike and the group I was with quickly passed. I felt the tire. It had about 15 psi. I took it off as fast as I could and waved at one of the passing caravan cars. A guy leaned out the window and said there was no support. Looking back on it, I’m wondering why there were like five official cars following us but no wheels. Thanks Redlands bike race. So I screamed some terrible swear words and contemplated smashing the wheel on the ground. Some people who were watching the race (who’s lawn I was standing on) asked if I needed some tools. I said no and put the wheel back on my bike and road it a half mile more, where some official took my race numbers and wrote my info down. I took a short cut back to the top of the hill and sat with Spencer and Joe at the feed zone. Spencer had pulled out a few days earlier on the first RR from sickness. I spent the rest of the day being pissed at the world. And at the tire.
And now for some race pictures.
29th Monday. I couldn’t sleep at all the night of the Sunday race. I laid in bed for hours, used our host family’s computer to check my email. Walked around the sleeping house to look for things to read since I was bored with my current book. Drank some milk. I miss drinking milk. Then laid in bed for a few more hours. Sean and I had to get up at 3:30 to pack his truck and drive to Santa Monica, where Spencer had driven the night before. Spencer was giving me his car to drive back up to the Northwest since he was flying from Santa Monica to Europe on Tuesday. To race. Lucky guy. So we did all that, said our goodbyes, and I drove to the Bay Area (Belmont–just south of San Francisco) to stay with my grandparents for a few days.
30th Tuesday. I visited my other set of grandparents who also live in the Bay Area. No riding today, or yesterday. Summer has not reached this far north yet, unlike southern california.
31st Wednesday. I rode 5 hours hard in the hills. It was cold and it rained on my the last hour. It was a great ride. My grandmother made meat loaf. It was very good. I’m going to have to start making this.
1st of April, Thursday. I rode about an hour. Easy. Then went to an airplane museum with my grandfather, then started the drive over to Copperopolis, where I have a relative (named Carl) who I was going to stay with. I spent a good 45 minutes just trying to get out of the neighborhood though. I stopped at Safeway to get four dollars in cash for the bridge toll across the bay. I had left my debit card in my bike seat bag so I had to go back out to the parking lot to get it. I got back in line at the register. The woman in front of me paid with about 6,000 coupons. It took forever. I finally got out of there with an apple, two bananas and money to cross the bridge. It took me half an hour of driving back in forth on the same street to find my way to the onramp for the freeway (yes Grandma, I know I was supposed to just take a left on Ralston). Then I sat in traffic for hours. Because it’s california and I left at 5:30pm to drive across the city. Then I finally got to Copperopolis, east of the Bay. Look at a map if you want to know where it is.
2nd Friday. I pre rode the course. It was very cool. All on tiny back roads, supper crappy pavement, steep climbs, ZERO cars since it’s way out in the country, and big open fields mixed with forest.
3rd Saturday. Day of the Copperopolis RR. 105 miles. The Paris-Roubaix of California. I should not have started this race. I was drained from all the racing and traveling we had done over the past three weeks. Mentally and physically. The first time up the climb was easy. I went to the front and laid down some good power, just to open up my and everyone’s legs. No reason to kill it quite yet since my legs were feeling a bit bad. But enough to get the blood moving. I think everyone else must have agreed because the next time up was brutal. But before that, on the flat section 5 guys got up the road a ways. I waited until a small hill and tried to bridge across. I was 20 bike lengths from them and looked back to see the field strung out behind me. Cal Giant didn’t want anyone else up there with their guys in the move. I sat up, not wanting to catch the break and ruin it in case I had a chance to bridge up again shortly afterwards, solo. But when I stopped my persuit, the field sat up with Cal Giant on the front riding slow. Pretty soon they had a minute. By the end of the lap they had 2 minutes. The next time up the climb, the race broke apart. I was part of the third group. By now I was realizing my legs were trash today. The three groups came together after the climb. I sat on. We finished the lap, riding real slow. We started the third of the five laps. The break now had 3 minutes. The climb was super hard again. Seven guys got off the front now, about 25 were left in the group. We chased for a while, then everyone gave up. Five guys got away from us and then everyone REALLY sat up. I broke away and tried to bridge up to them. I made it to about 10 seconds away by the top of one of the hills, then on the decent they put a good 15 seconds into me. So now the race was five guys 3 minutes ahead or more, seven guys about a minute ahead (who I thought might catch the break–and did), and five more guys who were not going to catch anyone. And about 20 guys behind me who were soft pedaling. I decided to call it a day after finishing the third lap. It was time for a real rest week. I drove back to Carl–my relative’s–house and packed up my stuff. Ate some food and said goodbye. Then I started the longest drive ever back to Portland. I’ve driven longer distances before, but not solo and none have seemed that long before. I got home last night on the 4th after midnight and now I’m going to take a couple rest days. But I’ll be at King’s Valley and I need some vengeance for Dimas and Redlands!!!