Up until this race, I would have considered my 2010 season to be pretty lackluster in terms of personal results. I certainly feel as though I’ve had a crucial role in many of the team’s wins and successes this year, but I haven’t had a lot of my own glory. It may sound selfish, but a season without a personal win is pretty shitty. Luckily I avoided that bullet by winning the Tour of Park City, albiet a small race, but nonetheless a hard race, especially coming from near-sea level to fighting up mountain passes of 11,000 ft. But it was still a small, unimportant race in terms of “real” results.
Probably the only good results of my year before Utah were my 9th at Nationals and my 37th GC at Joe Martin, which was achieved by surviving a very hard and dangerous crit (not unlike my survival of Utah’s crit). But none of these results were even close to what I was hoping for and expecting out of this season.
Similar to this season’s timeline of ups and downs, my Tour of Utah wasn’t even going very well until the last couple days. I had a mediocre prologue, a terrible first road race where I got dropped on the first major climb of the day, an even worse 2nd road race where a combination of bad luck and bad pack-positioning had me riding in the groupetto after only 30 miles. I went through the motions at the time trial, going as hard as I could, but not really. If that makes sense. By the way, on my purchase list is a disc wheel and a front deep dish next year for time trialing. I also need to get faster.
It wasn’t until the controversial downtown Park City crit that I felt like I had a good race. Unfortunately, after the crit the only two of us Hagens Berman guys who made the cut were myself and Sam. It was hard to see the disappointment on the faces of the other guys on the team that had been doing much better than myself and had a better chance of doing well on the last day than I did. The 50% time cut off was harsh for that hard of a crit (which had something like 4,300 feet of climbing in 75 minutes at altitude). It may not have been fair to cut that many people from the race (about 45 people were cut). But on the other hand it helped me move up on GC (well after it was all said and done I was still at the back of the GC, just fewer people were between me and No. 1). Anyways, I suck at long, 20-60 minute threshold climbs (too low of a threshold for my big guns). But I’m good at super hard 1-4 minute climbs. I need to get better at long climbs and the guys that didn’t make the time cut need to get better at the short stuff. I doubt the race organizers knew exactly the outcome of their choosing such a selective crit course, but in their ignorance (?), their decision created a more well-rounded race that didn’t simply award the light guys that could go uphill for 30 minutes the hardest (well in terms of the real GC battle between the top 5 it didn’t really matter), but for the “little” guys like most of us, it did.
I made it through the crit placing 60 something I think (the correct results still aren’t up yet). And I was lined up the next day with about 85 other guys at the start of the 6th and final stage. The Queen stage: 100 miles, 100 degrees in the valley, 95 in park city, 11,000 feet of climbing, average wind speed of 19 mph with gusts of 64 mph (according to NOAA). The race was hard from the beginning, got easier for a short while, then was hard as hell for a long long time. I tortured myself for the last two and a half hours after having been dropped from the lead group on the first high mountain pass, and came in 22 minutes after Levi Leipheimer. I finally stopped pedaling after I crossed the line, slouched over my handlebars trying to breath, was escorted to a chair by our van, coughed, drank something, threw up, wheezed and coughed for a long time, then finally looked up at the deep blue sky and grey mountain peaks looming above on all sides and asked, “where the hell are we?” The same question Sam asked a moment earlier. Both Sam and I had finished. We were tired and delirious to the point of having a combined mental capacity equal to that of a very naive chimpanzee. With a slight mental handicap. On a bad day. That had just been hit on the head with a heavy brick.
I finished 59th that day and 67th overall on GC. Out of about 150 starters, there were only 71 finishers. If you take out Mike Olheiser and the two Cole Sport guys that were pulled from the crit (but continued to ride and somehow were allowed to start the next day), there were only 9 amateurs that finished the race.
It may not have been a win, a podium, or even a top 10. But 67th at Utah has been the best result of my cycling career, or at least the one I’m most proud of. It’s two days after the race now and I’m still tired as hell. I slept for 10 hours straight last night (actually that isn’t out of the ordinary). I feel like I could eat an entire 30 pound turkey by myself. With a large piece of artisan bread and gravy too (not that out of the ordinary either but you get my point).
My hopes for the last few races of the season are very high and I’m still motivated, especially for Univest. All I need is a little bit of good luck and I KNOW there is no one who can beat me in that race with that short uphill sprint to the finish. I can do 900 freakin watts for a full minute for F’s sake!! BRING IT ON BITCHES!!! YOU DON’T STAND A CHANCE!
But however this next month goes, I feel like I can end the season happy and content. To have completed the country’s 2nd hardest race after Tour of California feels pretty damn good.
Real race report to follow.