Nature Valley. Nationals report to follow

Let’s get back to it. Ok, NVGP stage 4? I think that’s where I left off, which means I need to dig deep into my memory bank and start remembering what happened last week. This will be difficult, because a lot of the same things have happened: travel, bike racing, riding the bike, eating, sleeping, making fun of Spencer’s mom. As I recall, stage 4 of Nature Valley was a crit. In fact, now that I think about it, I didn’t write anything about this stage. I could check, but that would mean leaving this page that I write in and I’d have to open a new window. That’s too much effort. Actually, in the amount of time it took me to write these last couple sentences, I could have checked. Too late now. Stage 4 was a crit.
A crit.
I’ve been reading a lot of Kurt Vonnegut lately.
I was rolling up to the line about 20 minutes before the race when someone in the crowd called me over. It was CJ, the guy who hosted me last year for this race. I talked to him for 5 minutes and by the time I actually got over to the line up area, I was at the back. So after the kid’s one lap race ended 15 minutes later, I rode around in circles behind the pack for the next 10 minutes until we finally started. I tail-gunned for the first 15 minutes of the race. Tailgunning is when you’re at the very back or close to it and you let a small gap open up in front of you before each corner. The guy in front of you will break before the corner because the pack slows down a bit when it takes a turn. When you go through the corner, you don’t break at all, or you break a lot less, and you catch up the the guy in front of you, all while getting to coast. You continue to coast while everyone in front of you has to sprint out of the corner–you’re still carrying more speed than them. I’m sure I just thoroughly confused some of you non-racers with this, but I won’t go into any further detail.

I began moving up in the 150-man pack and avoided getting split off the back when the pace continued to get harder. I was feeling better than the past two days, but I was still feeling sick. And I could really feel it over the last 10 laps, which were blistering. I think I finished 100th, in the same time as the main group. I took an easy lap, found my teammate Soren sitting on the sidewalk, shaking his head saying “that was really fast.” I agreed. We rode over to the team van and I had a coughing fit that made me throw up on the grass. I took another cool down lap as the course was being de-constructed, and then changed and we all went out to dinner–which was paid for by the team!!! I think we got back to our host houses around 11:45pm. Late crits aren’t good for sleeping.

Stage 5: This was probably the hardest day, since it was the only real road race we did and it was also the hilliest. I was feeling slightly better than the day before, so about 20K in I bridged up to a group that was just getting away in a cross wind section. I was the only non-pro, which I felt good about. Here’s a couple photos during this attack:

Here’s a link to get to all the picures:

Me on the back of the break sucking air. I think I stayed there for a good five minutes before I started taking pulls.

The group looked good, but we weren’t working fluidly. We needed a bit more cooperation, or a few less guys. And everyone was thinking about that–dropping a few guys so there’d be more cooperation, which in turn was why people weren’t working very well–because they didn’t want to go too hard then get dropped when the attacks came.

The field looked content to let us go though, and there was still a good chance the break would last until the end of the day–when it would most likely be chased down on the finishing circuits in town. But…two of my teammates tried to bridge across, not knowing I was already up the road. A Kelly Bennefits rider chased them down and asked why they were chasing down their own teammate–him wanting the break to succeed so his team, which had the leader’s jersey, could start setting tempo instead of responding to attacks with the wrong combo of guys in them. My two teammates looked at each other and hung their heads in shame as they retreated back into the fold. It was too late though, their attack had inspired others to try the same and the field was soon back to riding hard. We got caught after about 15-20 minutes off the front. I don’t necessarily think my teammates singlehandedly ruined the break’s chances, but they didn’t help. They now owe me a cheeseburger.

The rest of the race was hardish over the steep climbs, and my lungs were at full gas over some of them, but nothing too hard to shatter the field beyond repair. Soren eventually got in the lasting break of the day and earned the red jersey for the most aggressive rider. We heard from some other teams that he mainly sat on in the break, so we think the race media (who decide who to give the red jersey to) wanted to give it to our team since we had multiple aggressors throughout the day, which was good for an amateur team.

Anyways, I’m boring myself writing this so I’m going to finish it up quick. Long story short, I was too far back on the final climb and a huge gap opened up a few riders in front of me as we crested the hill and rode over the top, flat windy section before descending back into town. I was ready to be done anyways, and since I didn’t care about GC placing anymore, I dropped out of the chase group once we got to town. I rode 3 of the 4 finishing circuits, riding really slow. I can’t remember what place I got.

Next day and final stage 6: This is a day when you don’t want to have a chest cold. It’s a 20 lap race that goes up a 22 percent climb. It shatters immediately on the first lap. Imagine doing Nectar Way in a race, but there’s also a false flat section of 300 meters, then another small rise of 100 meters of 8-10% before heading downhill. I think I lasted in the lead group for about 5 laps before getting popped. Funny thing was that once I got popped, I recovered fairly quickly and chased for another three laps or so without losing any more time to the field. They were about 15-20 seconds ahead of me FOREVER. And on a steep climb, it feels like they’re just within reach too, even though they aren’t. In fact, I felt so good (relatively) that I was the only one in my chase group to take a pull for about 4 laps. The gap started rising after that as I lost steam and the pack gained steam. I think I did a total of 12 laps before being pulled–to get a finishing time you only have to do 5 laps. I finished 70th I think, but after the race was over I crossed the finish line again, which messed them up and they have me down as 54th or something. Not that it matters. My final GC was 101st maybe. Even though I was very sick throughout the entire race, I still did much better than last year, making breaks in both road races and even doing better on the last day, which was the most anaerobic day of all.

The team rode home from the race, which took about 2 hours. I probably shouldn’t have ridden home. I felt very sick and tired. But it was a good ride along a bike path and it was warm and humid out. I think the only reason my cold didn’t get worse throughout the race was due to the hot and humid air. If I had been in Oregon doing this race, I’d probably have pneumonia or mono right now. I’ll upload some more photos from the trip later. Time to go ride.

Lang keeping his people informed about him.

I went through a lot of watermelon this trip. I mean tissues.

The sky turned a very strange glowing orange when we got back from the cancelled stage 3 road race. Tornadoes make the sky orange I guess.

Before stage 5, just hangin out.

Lang’s quote for this picture: “Ok Kennett, when you see the cars start forming echelons up the road, that means it’s a cross wind.” No joke, Joe told Sean and I something very similar to this before the start of the race.

Another one of Lang’s quotes for this picture: “Phill, I’m going to need you to go get my wind vest.” This is our director, Joe, by the way, who we both love and hate.

After the last stage.


Soren and Lang. Lang’s crying. He went THAT hard.

Lang and Terra, a friend and fan of our team.

Terra taking us on a cruise of either Minneapolis or St. Paul. I was never sure which was which. I don’t think anyone really is.

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