Tour of Utah Prologue–Stage 5

I’m already forgetting what happened so I better get this down quick.  The prologue was a very short out and back up a hill and down a hill with a few turns and bumps.  I could have used a larger gear, but it didn’t matter.  I went out hard, a bit too hard maybe.  Or maybe not.  I got to the turn around and headed down hill (which was also in a slight tail wind)  The forest went by at 40 mph.  It was only false flat too, which made it feel like you were just an extreme beast, spun out in a 53×11 on seemingly flat ground.  Soon I was back in the start area sprinting towards the Utah state capitol building and in less than 7 minutes it was all over.  The first stage of the Tour of Utah was done and over with, three weeks of preparation and in 6 minutes and 45 seconds I was done with the first day.  It felt good to finally get this thing under way.  I spun down town and got a sandwich while the rest of the team finished up.  I was 85th.

Stage 1.  85 miles plus 10 miles of neutral.  I took a dunk in a fountain, grabbed my last bag of ice and stuffed it down my back, and lined up.  I snuck my way to the front and got a good spot next to George Hincappie.  He had a couple groupie girls trying to get pictures with him.  I poked my head around to get in the shot.  After way too many announcements and call ups and screaming from the crowd, we finally took off to the gun shot.  We rolled around town for five laps of a typical crit course length loop, then headed out to the mountains.  All of a sudden, the pace skyrocketed as we tour up through a canyon.

I attacked once I found myself near enough to the front to see the front.  I bridged up to Mike Friedman and some other guys and we worked pretty well for a few minutes until we were caught.  I immediately attacked again and got away with another few guys.  That move went away for a little longer I think, but was reeled in.  I took a look back, saw that we were caught, and immediately attacked again for the third time.  No one went with me so I got in the TT position and went on by myself.  Damn it I’m getting in the break today!!  That didn’t work.  I was caught one more time and this time I decided to rest a bit since there was a gigantic mountain coming up pretty soon.

The climb came a bit sooner than I was hoping for and I found myself struggling to hold my position as I slowly slipped back farther and farther on the climb.  The pace wasn’t brutal, but it was enough to pop me about a mile from the top.  I chased hard on the down hill, got into the caravan with a couple other guys, and we started going up hill again, a bit more gradual of a climb now.  I was in quite a bit of pain, but we were making up ground on the pack, just dangling off the back.  I shifted from my big ring to the little and my damn chain popped off.  I pulled an Andy Schleck and got off my bike, got the chain back on and started chasing again.  I was doomed now though.  I never made it back on, the guys I was with did.

The climb went on for another four or five or 20 miles, I don’t know.  I eventually got caught after the summit by a large group containing the race leader, Taylor Phinney, and my teammate Ian Crane.  I pulled hard off and on for a long time on the flat section in between the next major hill.  Highlights of this section of the race include getting a feed bag from Team Type 1 (which included a cream pie cookie), staring at the back of Ken Hanson’s calves, staring at the pavement, wondering when the next climb was going to start (my computer wasn’t working).

Finally the climb started.  I had previewed this climb so I knew what we were in for.  I decided to conserve all possible energy on the climb so I didn’t take a single pull.  I just sat on Taylor’s wheel and stared at his hub for a good 30 minutes while our group split in half.  The rest of the race: screaming fast decent, five minute climb, another screaming fast descent, finish line–no one sprinted.  We came in about 18 minutes after the leaders.  I was tired, but not enough to be satisfied with the race.  I really wanted to be in the break that day (the break never really formed for any large amount of time.  Sam was in it for a while after the first climb, but it got brought back and reformed like 8 times throughout the race).  Maybe I should have taken Joe’s advice and waited to attack after the first climb, to ensure that I had enough juice to get over the climb with the group.  But you never know when the break is going to go and I didn’t want to risk missing it.

Stage 2.  Ugghhh.  Stage 2 was much harder.  As a joke, Lang put an extra magnet on my wheel so my computer would read twice the speed and distance.  So I had no idea how far we had gone, when the sprint points were, when the feed zones were, how much longer I had to climb…etc.  I could have just divided by two, but that’s easier said than done when you’re in oxygen debt at 9,000 ft.  I was pissed at him and momentarily contemplated chopping his wheel in a corner.  I didn’t though.

Once the neutral section was over with, a Garmin guy attacked, beating me to the first attack of the day.  Damn it.  I chased his ass down though but was disappointed to see a long line of riders stretching out behind me.  We were both swept up.  I decided to rest for a mile or two and attack again.  Today’s stage was mainly flat until the last 4,500 ft climb up to Mt. Nebo, which topped out at an elevation of 9,300 ft.

We were going along at 35 mph when I slammed right into a nasty pot hole and my rear tire went flat.  I spent the next 15 minutes chasing as hard as I could, swerving in and out of the caravan as the peloton attacked and attacked itself, trying to let a break get away.  Road construction and a lot of little turns slowed the caravan down, sped it up to 40 mph, slowed it down to a stop, sped it up to 40 mph…It was impossible to just sit on a car and get pulled back up to the pack.  I feared my race was done and over with right there.  The whole Tour.  Luckily I did make it back to the pack, having burned about 7 of my 10 matches in the process.

I then sat in.  The break had gone without me.  I was not happy.  But there was nothing I could do.  Except get dropped about 20 miles later when the cross winds shredded the peloton into two large echelons, with a smaller one forming behind them–which included me.  I worked my ass off along with half of the other guys trying to get back on, but we never quite made it.  I think our group had about 15 guys, but we split apart on the Nebo climb.  After 70 miles of hard crosswinds, we had a HUGE climb to get over.  I ditched all of the guys that were still left in the break once we got to the bottom of the hill and went as hard as I could for an hour.  I was so out of breath during the last mile I thought I was going to cry.  Sometimes when you’re hyperventilating from going so hard, you get that feeling in your chest like you’re about to cry.  Fans on the side of the road encouraged me on, telling me I only had a mile left.  A few minutes later I was told I had “just a little OVER a mile to go!!”  Then I was told I had a quarter of a mile, no more.  Then I was told, “it’s just around the corner! GO GO GO”  Then, at last, I finally saw the 1K to go sign and I immediately lost 3 years of my life out of sheer disappointment.  I came in 24 minutes behind the race winner, Levi.  I couldn’t talk for a good 10 minutes after the race.  Less than 10 guys behind me made the time cut.  On the drive down we almost hit a cow.  Then we had mexican food.  Then Sean and I were dropped off at our host house, where our hosts had about 15 people and children over for tacos.  Sean and I got to explain bike racing for 3 hours straight, the whole time just wishing we could go stare at a wall.

Stage 3.  Stage 3 was a bit of a rest day, since it was only a 9.2 mile TT.  It was a very cool TT course since it was around a race car track.  Each team got a pit crew garage to hang out it.  And Cal Giant gave away a whole bunch of strawberries to everyone.  I went hard in the TT, but didn’t give it everything.  I finished 94th.

Stage 4.  75 minute crit at downtown Park City (at an elevation of 7,100 ft).  120 feet of climbing per lap up a long 10% drag on Main Street.  This was probably the hardest crit that has EVER taken place on US soil.  That’s not an exaggeration.  I lined up at the front, but after all the cutting and call ups were done, I was 6 rows back.  Despite the afternoon heat of 95 degrees, I was shivering and had goose bumps.  The gun was shot.  There was a big crowd and lot of screaming as we sprinted up the hill (race started on the hill).  I failed to clip in for a good 6 seconds as about 60 people went around me.  I got clipped in at last and se TORE up the hill at an all out sprint.  We blazed down the back side of the course and around five corners, then sprinted all out up the hill again.  The climb being around a 2 minute effort.  Already the pack was shedding riders off the back on the FIRST LAP.  It shed more on the second and third.  Soon I was at the very back, not having slipped back there, just that everyone behind me was gone.  I held on a bit longer and soon I was by myself.  I rode all out.  Most of my teammates had already been pulled from the race.  The first half of the race was the hardest effort I have done on the bike.  I continued to ride hard sometimes in a group, sometimes by myself.  I latched onto Jeff Louder temporarily as he lapped me, but decided that was a bad idea, not wanting to get DQed or something.  I went hard to the end and finished 64th.  Only 85 guys were left to race the next day.  Sam and I were the only two from our team.  We ate mexican afterwards.  I was a zombie.

Stage 5.  Cross winds and highway grade climbs marked the first 2 hours of the race.  Then a 2,500 ft climb up to an elevation of 8,500 ft.  I was dropped from the main pack on this climb.  I spent the next two hours riding hard with one other guy that was still motivated to ride hard.  I drank Coke after Coke after Coke from the team car.  I poured water, perpetuem, Heed, gatorade, Coke, and any other liquid down my back and on my legs.  I threw up a sugar cookie.  I threw up all over my bike and legs.  Too much Coke.  I continued to ride hard over another small 1,5000 ft climb.  We descended at 60 mph in a heavy cross wind, being blown all over the road.  At last we came to the final climb.  Just 40 minutes of climbing to go.  The other guy went up the road.  I struggled on my own, grabbing any form of liquid from the fans as they cheered me on from their lawn chairs.  I took a Twinkie feed.  I chewed it, spat it out.  Swallowed a tiny bit of it.  I had just about nothing left.  Still 2K to go.  Somehow I made it to the finish.  22 minutes behind Levi today.  Not bad considering I rode the last 50 miles of the race off the back.  I finished 59th.  I was delirious at the finish line.  I sat in a chair at our van, drank a Coke.  Started hacking up my lungs, threw up.  Drank some more sugar crap.  And slowly, I was able to function again.  I made the time cut.  I had just finished the Tour of Utah.  67th GC.  Somehow the best placed on GC for my team.  Sam and I sat in our chairs, brainless sloths, for a long time.  Sam had to go get drug tested.

That night we had a dinner party with all our host families.

It’s Wednesday now (the race finished on Sunday) and I’m still wrecked.

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