Prologue: I should have loosened up my grip on the breaks going around the corners. It was a fast 2 mile course and every squeeze of the levers loses a couple seconds. I felt good but didn’t have the best tactical race for this reason and ended up 92nd at 16 seconds down on the winner. Fun race though.
Stage 1: Mckenzie Pass RR. This was a surprisingly short road race, at just 75 miles. The first 20 miles were mostly down hill and flat, with a few small rollers. I got off the front a couple times, but nothing was sticking for long. I should have just sat in and conserved energy for the 20 mile climb we were approaching, but I thought a break would go before it and I wanted to be part of it. Plus attacking early was my job. I lead the pack around the left hand turn as we pulled off of the highway and onto the smaller forest road, which quickly went up hill. From there, I slowly lost position in the pack for the next 30 minutes until I finally got dropped as the pack shred to pieces. The group I was in rode hard for another 10 or 20 minutes until we had a big pack of 25 or so riders. Teammate Spencer was in there with me. Then shouts of “groupetto” were called out as riders felt there was no chance for catching back on and their legs began dictating their now dwindling egos.
At last, we crested the mountain pass at 5,500 ft and tore down the other side and road hard into Sisters. We could see the pack up ahead off in the distance and our pace-line was blisteringly fast. A little too fast, and guys started missing turns on the front.
After we made our way through town, the chase lost all impotence and there were only three or four of us willing to spend time on the front.
When we got to the final climb of the day, I went to the front and held what I thought was a reasonable pace for a groupetto to do that’s making sure to not get time cut. But as we came over the steep section, a few guys hammered it. Spencer and I jumped on the train and partook in what I was sure was bad form, in ditching the other 20 guys in our group. But within five minutes of hard effort, I could see why we were going so fast. Another large group of 30 guys was up the road. We caught them and started going straight by, but their yelling forced us to slow down and ride with them. I was content. My legs were pretty close to being done. I came in mid pack of the large group, getting a time the same as the 96th guy.
Stage 2: The Skyliners TT. Not much to say about the TT. I was pretty spun out on the way down in my 53X11. I needed a bigger gear, but didn’t care too much since I was out of GC contention by a lot. I came into the race hoping for a top 25 on GC and a top 10 finish on a stage, but the GC goal was out the window by the first RR.
Stage 3: Mt. Bachelor RR. I was determined to not get dropped on the first climb of the day again, like I did last year. I even warmed up on the trainer for 20 minutes before the race. Basically, the race starts out with a 10 mile climb, then goes down hill for a long time, then has rolling hills until finally another five mile climb to the finish. Last year I got popped about half way up and rode in with a group, bonking hard, and finished dead last with only 2 minutes to spare to make the time cut. This year I made it all the way until the final kicker up to the KOM, about 2.5kms from the top or less. It was frustrating. Much better than last year, but still very frustrating.
On the decent, I caught five guys and we started the rotation. An hour later, we were caught by a much larger group of about 12 guys. But only six or seven of us would do any consistent pulling. Unlike last year at this race, I did a huge amount of work. I was clearly the strongest in the groupetto, and I was paranoid about making the time cut, so I pulled too hard. The guys behind yelled at me to slow down, move left, move right to keep them out of the wind, ease up on the climbs. I told them I was trying to impress United Healthcare but they wouldn’t listen. Anyways, long story short about six of us made it to the top of the climb together, I rode off the course in the last 100 meters accidentally (damn confusing cones in the parking lot finish area). And we all made the time cut. I was tired. My teammates did pretty well on the stage. Sam got in some moves, and Lang and Chris finished in the top 50. Sean and Spencer made it up the climb as well in good position.
Stage 4: the crit. This was dumb. I was lined up on the front, ready to get some revenge since my stomach was full of anger, and the stupid race officials made us take a lap. When I got back around (after having taken a short cut through the center of the course) I found that I was now lined up near the back. I cursed the officials many times but they were not struck down by lightning. I was doomed to race at the back of the pack for the rest of the night, since this course is very stupid and is near impossible to move up when you’re 150 guys back from the front. Unlike last year though, where I also raced near the back, this year was super easy and I spent most of the time breathing through my nose. Just shows how taking the corners better and having a little extra power can save a lot of energy. I tried moving up but could never really make any progress. Afterwards, Chris, Spencer, my mom and my friend from Iceland, Einar, went out for dinner. Even though it was a frustratingly boring race, big NRC crits like this are always exciting with all the fans and friends cheering you on.
Stage 5: Auberry Butte circuit race. This was the only day of the entire stage race that REALLY mattered to me. I knew from Nationals that I could have a good ride here. My watts/kilos threshold is low for doing well on long climbs, but shorter climbs suit me much better. And Aubbery Butte is all about that. A super hard race (only 100 finished out of 150). It was 100 degrees. I had ridden the course 20 or 30 times this year and knew it better than probably anyone in the field except for Sean, who lives on the course. My job was to get in the breakaway again, like at nationals. I tried hard for the first two laps, and almost got popped the second time up the Feed Zone section/Archie Briggs climbs because I had been off the front right before and gotten caught on the feed zone climb. I held on though, at the very back of the pack, and vowed to stop attacking. Of course, that’s when the break went. I was happy though, because that meant that at least the next lap was going to be easy. It was not easy, but it was less hard.
This brings us to lap 4, which was also very hard. I can’t remember much about it. They blur together now. Lap 5 was the worst. I made it over the feed zone climb and the fast section afterwards. But then broke down on the Archie Briggs climb. The pack split into three groups. I had a moment of mental weakness here. I think I could have held onto the second group, but only made the third group. I took second in our group sprint 5kms later, finishing one minute down on the lead group. This was possibly the hardest race I have ever done. I finished 54th.