To start things off, I’d like to thank the Hampton Inn for allowing me to gorge on a large, delicious, and more importantly, free, continental breakfast yesterday morning before the road race. Let’s not get distracted by any unimportant details about the previous three stages of the race, how I got to the race (which is always a stupid, boring, waste of time to put in a blog but for some reason everyone always includes it in their race report). No, screw all that. I just want to talk about the breakfast.
I awoke from a sleepless night Sunday morning at the wee hour of 5:45, which was actually 4:45 since it was daylight savings. The hotel room was dark and dank and smelled of sardines and sweat. My teammates, Lang and Dan, and I got our bikes and bags down to the car without conversation so to not wake Rhae, Lang’s girlfriend who was leading the GC for the women’s race. But the conversation was muted for another reason as well. We were anxiously anticipating a glorious feast. We had six simple words on our minds, and nothing else: “Hampton Inn all you can eat.” At least, this is all I was thinking about, I can’t speak for Lang and Dan, though thinking of anything else would have been pure blasphemy, in my mind. The previous morning I had eaten a pretty sizeable breakfast at our own hotel’s continental breakfast. But our cheap-ass hotel only served the bare minimum. Cereal, bagels, some small apples and oranges, and muffins. Pure sugar basically. Kennett cannot survive on sugar alone. Kennettron requires meat for big races.
So at the unreasonable hour of 6 AM, we got in the car for the short drive over to Allan’s hotel: the Hampton. There, we were greeted by Alan himself at the door, who snuck us inside and lead us to the bustling breakfast room, that was crowded with bike racers readying their glycogen stores for the 85-mile road race, stage 4 of the Madera stage race.
I bulldozed my way through the crowd with saliva dripping down my chin and an animalistic snarl on my lip, fire in my eyes. This was Kennett’s food! No one else shall share in the bounty! In a blaze, I had loaded my breakfast platter with more food than a full-grown anaconda could swallow, and I hurridly brought it back to our table for round #1. There would be three or four rounds. Here’s what I ate: two egg and cheese omelets, toast, two sections of waffle with honey and peanut butter, seven sausages, one or two overflowing bowls of honey nut Cheerios with TWO percent milk, a bowl of instant oats and fruit, and three cups of coffee. Right before we left to head out for the unruly early morning race (which started at 8 for some reason), I packed a large post-race lunch that included fruit, a water, a granola bar, bagel and cream cheese, a pastry, peanut butter for some bananas, honey, and a muffin. If I had been thinking more clearly, I would have gotten another bag and packed a second lunch (a post-post race lunch), but the high dose of caffeine and sugar I had just ingested had flooded my brain with crazed-sugar-induced thoughts. I was riding a cocaine-like high, muscles twitching like a horse ridding itself of flies, fists clenching and unclenching in agitation, my dilated pupils the size and hue of large chunks of black coal. I stepped out into the early morning darkness and could see blue sky up above where everyone else saw a black sky filled with stars. This is when you know you’re properly fueled. I was ready to race.
Stage 1 was a 10 mile, hilly time trial on a super cool road out in the woodlands of Central California. I couldn’t get my legs to go fast enough while turning a big gear, so I ended up 17th. If only they could have turned that same gear at a higher cadence…
Stage 2 was another 10 mile time trial. This time flat and on a somewhat windy, tree-less rectangular course. The road surface was terrible, like the first time trial, with big potholes and bumps. My groinal region has seen better days. Also of note: I was stung by a bee during the time trial but didn’t notice until a few hours afterwards. I guess the pain from pedaling outweighed the bee’s stinger, which was still stuck in my forearm that afternoon. The strange thing was that I had no swelling at all that day, but the next day after the road race, and the day after even, my forearm grew by two pant-sizes. I finished a sloppy 44th in this time trial. My excuse was that my legs were tired and weak.
Stage 3 was a crit. I decided to go on the attack for a change, as I usually prefer to sit in and wait for the sprint in most races. I had nothing to lose, GC-wise, since I was out of the top 10, or likely out of the top 25 even. And Dan was sitting 2nd GC, so covering moves and eating up time bonuses would make good use of me. I got things going with a bunch of fruitless attacks and breakaways for the first 40 minutes of the race. Then I decided to take a little rest, which meant that the winning breakaway could finally get going and be on its merry way without me. And this is what happened. Almost. I immediately went back to the front when I saw the gap opening up, with a large number of guys in what looked to me like the winning move. I pulled for a bit, then some other guys pulled and it came back. Another move went. It came back. Then another and another. This kept happening, with me being super smart and realizing that none of these attempts were going to work until the field finally sat up after bringing one of them back. So I waited for that moment. The field sat up at last when one of these moves had been brought back, and no one else tried to go. The front end bubbled up and I came screaming by on the outside. I spent a little over two laps off the front before five guys bridged to me, including Lang. Seven laps later we came to the finishing straight and Lang led me out for 3rd, having to close down a large gap when the guy in front of him took the final corner poorly. I started my sprint way too late though, missing out on 2nd by half a foot due to my miss-timed burst at the end. Oh well.
Stage 4 was the road race. The circuit included a lot of flat, wind, a horrible pave section of pot-holed road that had sections literally as bad as riding cobbles, followed by five or six somewhat steep rollers right before the finish. Lang and I got on the lead moto’s wheel during the neutral roll out, waiting to attack at the gun. We heard the race would be un-neutralized at the first turn. We came upon the turn and Lang almost went the wrong direction, which meant I would get to attack first. It ended up being the only attack, since I got away clean. Two other guys bridged up to me shortly afterwards and we had the day’s break right there. Pretty simple start to the day.
Dan was sitting 2nd GC still, and the third place guy, Logan of Ride Clean, was in the break with me, so I was sure Cal Giant wouldn’t let us get much of a lead. And they didn’t. They kept us at about 1:30 the whole day until the fourth of five laps. By then, my two breakmates were starting to crack a bit. Logan had been taking the strongest pulls, with me conserving quite a bit since my legs had been feeling pretty bad all week, and also since I didn’t want to put Dan’s GC position in serious jeopardy by helping Logan get too big of a lead. But that didn’t matter, since at the end of the pave section, the gap was down to just 10 seconds or so. I attacked them, got away, and grew my lead over the peleton while I hammered over the rollers. Two new guys bridged up to me and we had a new 3-man break. I helped drive it for the first half of the last lap, until I found out that Lang was in a four-man move behind us, just 45 seconds. I used this as an excuse to sit on for the final few kilometers. I was running drastically low on energy at this point anyways, since I’d been off the front the whole day and hadn’t brought enough food. Stupid mistake. My large breakfast had all been burnt away and I had sucked the last few drops of maple syrup out of my flask. I was really wishing I’d eaten just a bit more for breakfast or had brought a second apple pie for race food. Not bringing enough food is hands down the stupidest way to lose a race. I got beaten in the sprint and took a close 2nd. Again, I came around too late in the sprint, just like in the crit. Though this time it was more my legs that got beaten, not my tactics. I was pretty upset about the 2nd place after being out there in the wind for the entire race, but I can’t complain too much. I got to have fun in the sun (all day long, since it was Sunday). And that’s what counts. Ha. Ha. Yeah right.
Unknowingly, I helped one of the guys in the break leap into 2nd GC since we had over two minutes on the peleton at the end, which put Dan back to 3rd GC. Before the race, we’d discussed our tactics for the day and we’d only taken note of the top five or six on GC that we thought were within striking distance to Dan’s 2nd, and this guy had been further back on GC. Dumb mistake on all our parts. I moved up to 9th GC, and Lang moved into 7th. Not a bad showing for our first stage race of the year. A few tactical errors kept us from getting a stage win and 2nd on GC, but otherwise it was a good weekend.
Lang after the crit. Time to go eat Mexican food across the street from out hotel at Burrito King.
We nabbed a full bag of Scooters from the free food cupboard at the hostel before we left for the race on Wednesday. If we could get them to sponsor our team, I’m confident we’d increase the number of podiums for the year by 10 times or more.
Nothing better than Nutela on banana. Unless you also add almond butter.
Just two guys…having a good time, having a good time.
If I had only eaten this last bit of waffle during breakfast instead of saving it for after the race…
…I would be smiling here from winning the road race instead of scowling over 2nd.
Sponsor-approved photo. Lang loves hammer bars for all occasions, training, racing, a mid-morning snack, and even at the office. Hammer bars provide you with a scientifically-proven blend of carbohydrates, protein, and fat that fuel you all day long.
I podiumed in two stages and took 9th overall and all I got was five bucks and this stupid T-shirt…
…boo yeah! That five bucks bought me an incredibly delicious chili verde burrito! And the shirt turned out to be the perfect napkin. And yes, I used ALL those hot sauces.
The long, round-a-bout drive home took Dan and I through five or six diverse bioms. Here we are appreciating the calming hills of the happy California cows commercials.
After climbing up several thousand feet, we came upon the lowland mountain biom, which featured tens of thousands, if not tens of billions of environmentally-unfriendly windmills. These wind turbines divert the earth’s natural wind direction, causing massive climate change world-wide, which is single-handily responsible for killing the polar bears.
Our destination. We drove WAY out of the way for this. Was it worth it?
Yes. The chocolate dinner from the bulk section was definitely worth it. We both ate so much directly from the bins, though, that by the time I got started on my bag of chocolate nuts, I was feeling pretty ill. In fact, I woke up later that night back up at Big Bear with a stomach ache that kept me rolling around in pain for an hour. Still worth it.