Future plans

I had a killer day of intervals today.  Killer.  My powertap said that I surpassed even my wildest dreams.  8×4 minutes on a super steep, closed-to-the-public-via-gigantic-million-dollar-gates, road up Parrot Mountain.  My only concern with how good I felt is that I just used up my legs’ best day of the year on a damn training ride.  If so, it wouldn’t be the first time that this has happened to me.  What gives me hope this year is that it didn’t happen in January or February like usual, so even if it was my best ride of the year it was at least during the race season and close to a race.

In other news:

After Enumclaw I decided to start getting good at time trials.  My 45th place there was the last straw.  Or is the saying “last draw”? I’m not sure.  No one does.  To get good at time trialing, I’ve heard one must practice on the time trial bike.  As it stands now, I generally lose around 50 watts in the TT position, gathered from the few times I’ve TT’ed with power data.  So training on the TT bike is what I’ve been doing.  It may not be quite enough time to get good by hood.  I’m not sure if a week will cut it, but it’s a start.  So far I’ve been on the TT bike on the trainer every day for the past five days.  My plan is to ride it every morning every day that I have a ride.  If I still ride like a little girl by next year then I know it won’t be from lack of practice and is likely a lack of wind going in my favor.

To help kick-start my new approach and happy feelings towards flat time trials that require pacing, skill, balls, and aerodynamics, Jack VanderZanden has loaned me with some go-fast-wheels and go-smart-pacing equipment.  Both of these things come in the form of a SICK set of wheels.  Observe:

In case you didn’t see, that’s a powertap stuck inside of that Zipp disc…which is quite possibly the badest piece of equipment known to man.  And in case you’re my mom or grandma, I’m using “bad” as a good term.

And to add to the arsonal, check out this bad boy.  Our new team-issued Razor TT helmets:

Now onto my future plans, which I alluded to talking about in the title of this post.  In Kennett’s future lie two paths.  This fall, after race season has commenced, I’m thinking of either going down to the southwest to work for a national park doing trail maintenance and living in the mountains, OR become an Alaskan fisherman.  One of the two.   I’d like to work on one of them crab boats you see on Deadliest Catch, but I heard they don’t take people who’ve never worked on a fishing boat before—and that they don’t take people who don’t own an endless supply of the world’s worst attire for extreme wet/cold conditions: hooded cotton sweatshirts.  I used to own a few of these but they’ve all disappeared.  I lost my last one in a bar a couple years ago when I took it off to dance and left it at a booth.  Some jerk stole it, for it was gone when I returned for it.  If I were to die tomorrow my only regret would be losing that sweatshirt.  That, and chipping my tooth on a small pebble lodged in a Snickers bar I found on the road one day.

Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race

It’s only been a day off but I’m already forgetting what happened this weekend so I better start writing quick. That’s one of the main reasons I write in this blog–to make sure I remember things because if I don’t have a written log of it or at least some photos, there’s not a chance I’ll even remember being there come a year or two down the road.

I wrote that last paragraph a few days ago. Now it’s even later in the week and I barely have a clue what race I was even talking about.

Pre stage 1: I picked up Quinn in Lake Oswego. I shouldn’t have done this because he was the eventual winner of the race. We drove up to Seattle and arrived to Sam’s house-sitting house, where Kai, Sam, Christine, and some other people were staying. Sam had gotten out burrito making ingredients for Quinn’s and my late arrival. Plus we ate the last bit of carrot cake. That burrito and cake were the highlight of the weekend. The rest of it’s just about racing:

Stage 1: The next morning we woke up early and I used a gigantic french press to make coffee. I’ve never used one that big, so I was a little intimidated. I think it was the third pot of coffee made, so there wasn’t a ton of pressure on me if I failed, but nonetheless, it was a daunting task. I ended up filling it too high and the grounds ended up mixed in with the coffee, but it was salvageable. Some day when I grow up I hope I’ll own a french press that big.

Stage 1 still: It was a TT. 10Km long and 12.5 minutes if you were fast. I was not fast. I was average, finishing 45th, which was slightly below average since there were 77 people in the race. I blame it on my lack of using a disc wheel or front deep dish, and my lack of training on the TT bike and lack of overall preparation. I’m also pretty sure it got a lot windier when I went off.

Results: Chris was 5th, Ian 12th, followed by Steve, Lang, and me.

Pre stage 2: It’s still the same day as stage 1 (Saturday). Now we find Kennett sitting in a coffee shop (Starbucks) with Chris Parish and his gf Katja. Kennett just used his last $2.41 on his Starbucks gift card on a small hot chocolate. Starbucks is expensive. After heading next door to the QFC grocery store for lunch, Kennett is not sure why people are willing to spend so much money at Starbucks when there’s free ‘Seattle’s Best’ coffee at QFC.

The three are now joined by Lang and Dan Harm and sit by the fake fire place that doesn’t give off much heat. Oh yeah, it was super cold today. I spent (I’m going to stop writing in the third person present tense now because that was annoying and I don’t really know why I started doing it) anyways, I spent the ENTIRE day being cold. I woke up on the couch that morning pretty warm actually, but once I got out from under the blankets I spent the entire rest of the day being cold. The day before, Friday, it was 70+ degrees and sunny down in SoPCW (Southern Pacific Northwest–like SoCal, you should start using this phrase by the way). And now, on Saturday up in miserable Washington where it rains 370 days a year, it was overcast, drizzly, and 55 degrees. I think my body was in some sort of super shock, because while everyone else said they were cold, no one seemed as frigid as me–coming from the tropics of Oregon. My fingers were numb all day!

Anyways, I ate most of a large bag of potato chips (because it’s light food and I’m trying to get light) and some food I brought from home (apples, smashed bananas, some warm keiffer that had been sitting out for a long time and was fizzy, and I finished off most of my pre-cooked oats I brought in some Gladware. I’ve stumbled upon a great discovery on that note. You take your steel cut oats and cook em like normal. THEN you cook them even longer. I’m talking about 45, 60, 70, even 90 minutes or more. I think I cooked these for 90 minutes. Just kept adding water to them to keep them from burning. I forgot once so they did burn a bit, but not too badly. Then you add a lot of salt and a few tablespoons of butter, and almond milk or regular milk. The final product is a bowl of oats you can be proud of. A bowl of oats you can be proud to cal Son, even…if you’re looking forward to eating your son with a spoon.

Stage 2: It was a 70 minute, figure 8 crit. Super tight turns around a little park in downtown Enumclaw.  I was excited for the course, since I knew it would present a good opportunity for slow people to get dropped.  I lined up right at the front and followed Lang’s hole shot move right from the gun.  I sat up a bit after the first corner and let a gap open up to him since everyone was sitting on his and my wheel.  Guys came around and he was caught.  I held top 10 or so for the next couple laps and waited for a good opportunity.  I knew there would be carnage at the back of the pack right now (or assumed there was) and didn’t want to throw away my great spot on a worthless attack.  I waited until lap 3 I think before I went for it.  When some people attack they can’t get a gap, or a bunch of people latch on immediately and a good break is formed.  When I attack usually neither of these things happen.  For some reason I always get a big gap immediately, by myself.  Problem with this is that I don’t have the strength to go solo for long.  Very few people do.  I don’t know if it’s the way I handle my bike that scares people, the way I smell, or just my superb timing, but whatever the reason is, I almost always get a gap when I really attack hard.

I got my gap a couple times but nothing came out of it.  I lead Ian out for the first time bonus prime and he won it.  I stayed near the front.  It began to rain lightly, just enough for someone to crash on every lap–evidenced by someone in the pit sprinting to rejoin us as we went by the start/finish.  I began taking the turns like a turtle hauling a dump truck without any wheels.  Niiiiiiice and slow.  No need to crash here and break my collar bone.  At one point I attacked, got brought back eventually and just sat on the front for most of 3 laps because I didn’t want anyone going down in front of me.  I didn’t see any crashes luckily.  I hate people who want to see the crashes.  While it was raining and the crashes were going down in full force I heard a little kid cry out, “Crash, Crash, Crash!!!” as we went by.  Crits are stupid.  We spend hours and hours training hard and preparing ourselves so we can come to some 60 minute crit and break our collarbone and spend the next two months in a sling?—just so a bunch of idiots who don’t even care about bike racing can watch us crash and laugh.  People like to see human pain and suffering.  Just think about all the violence we love watching on TV and in movies.  Crits, unless they’re safe ones with a big hard hill that strings things out and keeps everyone in check, are NOT good for the sport.  If we want suburban or downtown racing, do what they do in Belgium and get a 5K course and make it a Kermes.  That’s real racing.  And it’s not a crash-fest either.

I actually enjoyed the crit, despite the fear of crashing.  After-all, it was fun and exciting.  When you really think about the bike race you just did, despite how much it hurt or how crushed your spirit is, you have to admit that it was more fun than 99% of anything else you ever do.

Anyways, now that I’m done with my little rant on dangerous crit courses (I’m mainly made because I just want more road races), I ended up a too far back to even think about contesting the sprint with two to go.  That’s not entirely true.  If I had wanted it badly enough I could have gotten to the front and in the process crashed a few guys out or nearly crashed them out, but I didn’t want it that badly.  Maybe in a few weeks at Tulsa Tough I’ll want it that badly, but not here.  So I finished in the top 20 somewhere and made the same time as the winner.  Unfortunately I was the only one on our team to finish in this group and they gave everyone behind time gaps.  This meant that I was now ahead of Lang on GC.  He’d beaten me by 0.1 seconds in the TT.

For dinner we ate a crappy Mexican place next to the crit course.  I say crappy because this was the one and only time EVER that I’ve sent something back to the cook.  I ordered nachos, as did Lang, and out came a plate full of cheese.  Somewhere underneath lay the chips, but I never found them.  There was also supposed to be meat on them, though I couldn’t find that either.  I had assumed they’d come with pico de gallo, lettuce, beans, you know–regular nacho type ingredients, but the only thing on there was a pound and a half of melted cheese and a few chips.

Later that night when Lang and I drove to his Mom’s house to stay the night, I had a real dinner.  Lang’s mom had made chili and a huge batch of jalapeno corn bread.  It was delicious.  Especially with honey and butter.  I fueled up, knowing that I’d be spending quite a bit of time in the wind the next day.

Sunday Stage 3:  Goals for the day: win.  Win everything.  The GC and the stage.  To win the GC we’d have to put time into the Team Exergy juggernaut, which was actually only three guys.  Quinn, Kai, and Sam, were first, second, and third on GC.  The GC was very close, with the TT as the only major decisive stage.  I was down by a minute, so I’d have to be off the front in a small breakaway if I was going to think about GC glory.  Realistically, our best GC guy was still Chris, who was only down by 10 seconds or so but if he was going to move up much he’d have to drop all the Exergy guys from the group which was not likely.  A break was the only way to win today, and usually the overall winner wins from a breakaway like Sam did last year.  This post is getting long so I’m going to try to keep it down to a minimum.

The course was 86 miles.  Six laps of a fairly flat course save for one 7-minute undulating climb and then long, mainly false flat descent.  I told everyone before the race that I wasn’t going to attack right from the gun, which I need to stop doing, and I didn’t.  I attacked before the gun while the race was still neutral.  I wasn’t aware of how long the race was supposed to be neutralized–which was well past the corner I had thought.  My angry waves at the lead car didn’t make the neutralization end any sooner either, it just confused the driver and everyone back in the field.

Steve got away on the first lap but was caught part way up the climb.  The first time up the climb was hard.  The field split into a bunch of little groups with only 20 or so of us in the front group.  I attacked on the downhill as soon as my legs allowed, just like everyone else in that group did, but nothing stuck and the whole field came back together.

The second time up the hill was a lot easier.  I attacked at the top where it gets real steep and got a little group with Chris in it to pull through a couple times on the descent, but only temporarily.  The field caught us and the same thing happened on the downhill with everyone attacking and going nowhere.

On the flats, though, a bunch of little breaks dangling up the road somehow merged together to form a large group of 20.  Exergy was put under pressure here as Kai was their only guy in it.  Sam pulled it back.

Third time up the climb.  I can’t remember.  I don’t think it was that bad or that memorable.  I can’t really remember if it was memorable now that I try to remember.

I attacked later on the downhill and got away!  To my delight, one guy followed and we worked fairly hard, but not that hard, until the top of the climb.  The guy, an H&R Block rider, didn’t seem fully committed and his pulls felt a bit weak, though we needed another guy working with us if it were to succeed anyways.  We were caught a little after a lap off the front as four riders came up to us, going hard.  The field was right behind them.  I latched on over a little riser as my breakmate went backwards.  I pulled through once but we were pretty much caught a few hundred meters later.  I got onto the wheel of the next guy who attacked from the field and then attacked him as he sat up, thinking it was hopeless as the field pulled up right behind us.  It wasn’t hopeless, for my attack worked and I was gone once again.  Solo.  But not for long luckily.  A new H&R Block Canadian bridged up to me a kilometer later and he was fresh, ready to smash the pedals.  I sat on him a bit more than I normally would, letting him know I had just been off the front for a full lap when he asked me if I wasn’t feeling good, eh.  I let him pull all the way up the hill, and then we were caught.  Not by the pack though, by three other guys including Chris that had likely attacked right at the top of the hill.  We worked together and my legs were getting pretty toasted, but we didn’t have enough cohesion to stay away and we got caught basically right where the field caught me the first time.

The last half lap it was ALL ABOARD THE SAM JOHNSON EXPRESS!!!!  All aboard, get your tickets out!!!  The train’s leavin the station at 12 sharp!! ALL ABOARD!!!  Turns out Sam had been the main guy chasing my breakaways down.  SJ vs KP.  Master vs the protege.  Sam pulled all the way to the hill as everyone decided to just rest up and conserve for the final time up the climb, where the field finally went to bits.  I held on for a long time but mentally cracked right at the last riser before the feed zone at the top.  Sometimes if you’ve been on the front all day or off the front in breakaways all day you get the mentality of “ahh screw it.  I did my part already.  I’m done.”  Spending time in the wind is sometimes as equally mentally draining as it is physically draining, sort of.  I got this mentality with a few hundred meters of climbing to go.  Actually I had it at the base of the climb but managed to somehow hold on till 200 meters to go.  I sat up, deciding it wasn’t possible, let a gap open as I saw that I was the last guy in the group, immediately regretted it and started hammering to catch back on as the slope turned into the double digits.  In hindsight, I know I could have dug just a fraction deeper and made it if I had stayed mentally strong, but instead I spent the last miles of the race chasing with a small group and finished 25th, 24th overall GC.  Ian won though so my time off the front was not for nothing.  GC stayed pretty much the same at the very top, but Chris did move up to 4th and Ian to 6th.  Steve moved up to 10th GC and Lang had a terrible mechanical part way through the race and spent most of it chasing and finished off the back.  I was happy for the team’s success but disappointed in my own result.  Pretty much like most of the season so far.  Things will change though.  My good legs are coming…soon.  It’s just a matter of lining them up with the right mindset and then it’s crushing time.

Some photos from Wheels In Focus.


Me and my giant helmet riding up the hill in break #1.

Oregon State Championships RR

The day started like any other. I woke up nauseously hungry from my calorie-restricted diet of fruit salads and chicken broth soup, I stepped on the scale, thought about all the climbing at Mt. Hood and Cascade Classic and every other NRC race of the year…thought about not eating breakfast, started making breakfast anyways, chased Thomas around the yard trying to get a dead bird out of his mouth…!!?? Thomas had caught another animal! He comes through with a double victory this week! The victim this time was an unsuspecting quail, its short life ending in Thomas’ slobbery mouth, bones crunched and lungs collapsed in an agonizing spasm of pain and suffering as Thomas cruelly, and without remorse, bloodied his mouth with warm quail meat. This would be my goal for the day too.

Thomas’ kill gave me motivation to bring that type of bone-crunching furry to the OBRA state champs that afternoon. I angrily and savagely devoured two pancakes with fruit. And I crushed a cup of coffee. And furiously drank a couple liters of water. A small breakfast by my normal standards, but hey, I have to become a “light and nimble” bone crushing beast, not a gigantic mammoth-like bone crushing beast. I need to be like the Kangaroo mouse, agile feather weights capable of great feats of strength. Kangaroo mice are known to take down much larger prey than their own body size. The average Kangaroo mouse is eight ounces but regularly kills prey such as large lizards, snakes, weasels, juvenile emu, and white foxes (all that prey being up to 15 pounds!) Pretty amazing and almost hard to believe…but that’s nature for you. (Another little-known fact about Kangaroo mice is that they never drink water. They get all their needed fluids from their prey’s blood).

My mom, brother, and I drove down to Silverton for the race with me envisioning myself as a great white Kangaroo mouse named Thomas T, blood-thirsty for lizard meat and quail liver. The previous day I had gone on my first ride in five (FIVE!!) days. After Joe Martin I took four full days off the bike and on Friday I finally broke the hiatus with a short ride. My legs felt stiff but strong. I was easily pushing decent watts and had to hold back. It was amazing that I felt so good. The first time in months that I’ve felt somewhat fresh. I’m going to start incorporating this rest thing in my training more often.

After Friday’s good sensations I knew I would have some energy to burn off. And since the race was relatively short at 70 miles I decided to make things hard from the start–which I would have done anyways no matter what. The course featured four rolling laps with 6,000 feet of climbing in total. A strong tailwind on one straight of the course and a strong headwind on the other. Unfortunately there was no cross wind since the ends of the rectangular course were short, but I knew it would be an attritious race anyways.

I got away very easily on the first tailwind climb with Team Veloce’s Michael Palmer. I was amazed the pack let me get up the road like that. Maybe they were planning on letting me wear myself out. I wasn’t sure if that’s what their plan was, but I knew they’d be making a terrible mistake if they gave me too much time so I punched it and accidentally dropped my break-mate a half mile later when we got to the short crosswind section at the top of the climb. Whateves. The course turned a corner and I was blasted in the face with wind. I tucked into a tight ball as tight and small as a Kennett can get and continued to drive it by myself for a good 15 minutes or so until I saw two guys finally start to come across. I sat up and let them catch me, then drove it immediately when they got on my wheel. One guy was immediately dropped and went back to the pack for some R&R. It was going to be a hard race after all and off the front in the wind was no place for those who weren’t content with going all in.

The other guy who stuck with me (a Team Oregon rider named Stephen Bedford) helped drill it from there on out. He was taking some big pulls and sprinting up the small risers while we stuck it to the field. I was impressed with how strongly he road…those first 30 minutes. I knew he would crack pretty soon after we finished that first lap as he began coming off my wheel on the longer tailwind climb when we started the second lap. By now we had two minutes, which wasn’t even close to enough for me to attempt it solo for the next three laps. I coaxed Bedford on, trying to get our gap up to four or five minutes before I either dropped him or let him sit on. Another seldom-known attribute of the Kangaroo mouse is its ability to lure its prey in with its coaxing pure. The mouse actually purrs like a friendly cat, brain-washing its prey directly into its skeleton-filled den.

Now I don’t want to screw anyone over in a local race (though I’d have no problem doing it in an NRC because all those guys would do the same to me) so my plan was to keep drilling it with Bedford until our gap was four or five minutes, let Team Oregon back in the pack keep the peloton in check and smother any bridging moves, and then ride tempo to the end and let Bedford keep on my wheel for a podium placing. Either that or attack with one lap to go.

This all went to shit as we came across the finish line a second time to start the third lap. By now our gap was 3:50. I looked behind me to see how Bedford was doing while we went up the tailwind climb and saw I had a large gap. My instincts kicked in as I saw weakness and I punched it. Damn it. This was a dumb move. I knew it. I slowed down a second. My instincts kicked in again and I continued to turn the screws the rest of the way up the climb. Damn it stop it Kennett you idiot!!! I had a sure thing just a minute ago and now I was sabotaging the whole plan because of a pair of itchy legs!

The Kangaroo mouse is known for its quick thinking and decision-making. Its rationale, though, can sometimes become befuddled by the mud and blood of battle. A National Geographic episode I saw last week shows a Kangaroo mouse attacking a large snake in the Sahari desert. The snake is badly wounded and the Kangaroo mouse circles it, moving quickly and precisely, coming in with slashing fangs every half second. The snake can’t even react in time to get in ONE self-preserving strike, not that it would matter, since the Kangaroo mouse has developed an antibody to fight this particular type of snake venom. Anyways, the snake is about to die when the Kangaroo mouse, now tired from the fight, gets a whiff of another prey animal nearby. Without thinking it bounds away in a full sprint and happens upon a large desert tortoise, easily 120 or more pounds. The mouse, which has tasted blood, attacks the tortoise without even thinking about what it’s doing, slashing at the hard shell with its claws, jump- kicking the sturdy legs (kangaroo-style), and climbing up on the back of the tortoise to gnaw on the top of the tortoise’s head. The tortoise hardly notices the mouse is there for 20 minutes and slowly plods on in search of tortoise food–which I’m pretty sure is just smaller tortoises. Finally, the tortoise realizes the mouse is there and sucks its head and limbs into its shell in fright. The tiny mouse furiously scratches and bangs its head on the tortoise shell for the next 18 hours until it dies of exhaustion, only managing to slightly dent the thick tortoise shell in a few places.

I heard later that Team Oregon had wisely been setting tempo on the front, making sure our gap didn’t get out of control in case this exact scenario played out. My lead over Bedford quickly grew and within a few more miles he was no longer in sight. I slowed down to a more manageable pace, tucking on the descents and going hard tempo everywhere else. I finished the third lap. Only 18 miles to go. I had no clue how big my lead was. No one told me for miles so I had just been riding at what I felt like I could do and not use up all my glycogen reserves before the last lap. I was out of food. I had brought two bars, two bottles of Hammer Perpetuem, and one flask of gel. That adds up to a staggering 1500 calories–staggeringly low that is. Normally I’d bring along another thousand calories of bars and gel even for this short of a race. I like to end the race with extra food in my pockets, and usually do. Just knowing you have more food to eat if you need it helps. When you run out of food you start thinking about it…about how screwed you are and soon you start feeling the beginnings of imaginary bonks. I never bonked today, but my energy went way down on that last lap. I didn’t bring much food because of my wight-loss plan for Hood. Plus 1500 calories would have been plenty if I hadn’t been off the front all day. One of the stages of Joe Martin last week was 110 miles and I only ate 1500 calories, but I spent very little time in the wind.

Anyways, I’ll wrap things up here. On the longer tailwind climb I finally got a report on my time gap and it was all the way down to 1:28 on three chasers. I kept going hard until they came into sight with about 13 miles to go. I pondered my options. Let them catch me and sit on or keep the gap the same and hope they start playing cat and mouse with each other. I looked down at my WWMTD bracelet (What Would Mark Twight Do?) and decided to keep going hard by myself in the headwind.

I finally gave in and sat up when I saw they were just letting me dangle. Time to be smart now since I no longer had the legs to ride dumb. I was caught with precisely I don’t really know how many miles. In the first couple miles of the race I had torn my wheel speed sensor off my front fork since it had come loose and was getting caught in my front spokes. I am SICK of that damn ancient technology and I’m finally going to bight the bullet and get a more up to date bike computer.

I was caught with about 10K to go and sat on. The chase group contained Scott Gray (Team Oregon), Rob English (Hutche’s) and Brad Winn (Team S&M). They rotated through for a couple miles until Rob launched a strong move on a steep riser with three miles to go. I had been pretty confident in my ability to win the uphill sprint from that group until that moment. My legs were gone. Gray and I got onto Rob’s wheel at the top OK, but I knew I might be screwed for the sprint coming in a few miles. Brad was dropped during the attack and it was now just the three of us, with me still sitting on for the next couple miles. Rob and Scott slowed up as we approached the final few kilometers. In hindsight I should have attacked on the first riser with 1200 meters to go, but I figured they’d cover the move and I’d have even less left for the sprint. The final short, steep riser approached as Scott lead into it with Rob next and me third. With 200 meters to go Scott punched it and opened a gap on Rob and I. I came around Rob but knew I was doomed for 2nd. There was no way I was catching up to Scott at that point. Normally that’s the type of finish that suits me perfectly, but not today for I had already burned a full book of matches. Lesson learned? Probably not.

After the race I ate some food and immediately felt better (no shit). In fact I was feeling good enough to ride home. Galen Mitterman and I set out in the deteriorating weather for Keizer, where he was staying, then I continued on by myself to Sherwood, ending a fun 130-mile day. One of my favorite parts about local Oregon racing is getting to catch up with everyone before and after the race and it was fun seeing everyone again. Two more days off the bike before I can start training again…here we go.

Feed from my brother.

Check out Oregon Cycling Action for race photos.


As some of you may know, a rider in the Giro d’Italia died on stage three this week. His name was Wouter Weylandt and he was just a year older than me.

I didn’t feel that much sorrow when 9/11 happened. I didn’t personally know anyone that died there. And I don’t really feel anything tonight after 5,500 people in Africa died of HIV/AIDS yesterday (the daily average by the way). But strangely I did feel something when I heard about Wouter’s death and as I watched part of stage four when the pack rode slowly to the finish in mourning, no racing. A single person’s death can mean more sometimes because it’s not a statistic, but I don’t think that was the reason. I guess I don’t really have that much in common with the 9/11 or HIV victims. I do have a lot in common with Wouter and everything that he was working towards that was suddenly gone.

The people I felt most sorry for were Wouter’s teammates. I can hardly imagine how I’d feel if one of my teammates were killed in a race, or if I were killed and my teammates had to deal with that. I have no idea how I’d react. We spend so much time together during the season; they’re really some of my closest friends. And of course I felt terrible for Wouter’s family. I don’t think a family can ever get over a death as unexpected and sudden as that. People may say or think, “at least he died doing what he loved.” And they’d be correct. Although, at the time it’s hard to see that if you’re the bike racer. As cyclists, we spend most of our time looking to the future, looking around the bend for the next, bigger, better thing to happen. Looking for a downhill damn it! A new team, a win, a category upgrade, the next season when “everything will be different and better.” But usually there is no downhill around the bend, just more climbing.

It’s very hard to appreciate the moment in this sport. When you’re out on a long, cold five-hour training ride by yourself it’s too boring and miserable to soak it in. When you’re attacking your breakaway at mile three you’re too excited. When you’re brought back by the peloton after being caught and you’re suffering up a hard climb going backwards through the cars you’re in waaaaay too much pain. When you’re back home going over the race in your head for hours on end you’re too depressed. And when you’re back out training the following week you’re too excited again, looking forward to that next race where you’ll inevitably spend the entire time looking forward to the finish line. The future is always on our minds. Maybe it is for everyone and it’s a human flaw, not just a bike racer’s. Although it’s cliché I’ll say it anyways: you have to appreciate the moment, because like for Wouter, the future may never come.


We train month after month, year after year in hope of one or two great performances.  Long dry spells  between victories and even longer spells of bad fitness and bad luck paint the dreary picture that is the life of a pro/aspiring pro cyclist.  Will it ever come?  Will the cycling gods ever look upon me and grant me the legs and the brains to have that breakthrough performance?  Will all the work be worth it when some day I get to stand atop the podium, or is it the journey that’s important?  Is the summit the victory or is the real triumph overcoming and embracing the pain and drudgery while climbing the mountain side?

For Thomas T. Tabernackle Peterson III, no metaphorical questions plague his mind today, for he has tasted the sweet, gamey meat of victory.  Today he stands tall on the mountain top.  After months of hard labor, barking at empty trees, chasing phantom squirrels in the wood pile, and occasionally even chasing real live squirrels across the yard into the blackberry bushes, Thomas T. has found GLORY!!  HEAR YE, HEAR YE, Thomas T got one!!!  Praise the Lord Thomas T nabbed a squirrel!  The drought is over.  After 16 long months, a squirrel victory has once again been brought to the Peterson household.  Oh joyous day!  By the gods of zircon, let there be much celebration and much merriment!

The face of a champion.

Thomas took a few victory laps around the house to celebrate his catch and give praise to the squirrel gods.

That’s a fine looking specimen, Thomas.  A fine looking specimen indeed.  It will go nicely, stuffed and mounted, over the mantelpiece.

OK, Thomas that’s enough parading around.  You’ve been doing celebratory hot laps for 35 minutes now.  It’s time to get your recovery food in and elevate those legs for tomorrow’s stage. Rolling around the parking lot looking for team directors to talk to isn’t going to get you on a pro team. You can let your results speak for themselves today.

Post-squirrel poop. Possibly the first ever caught on camera. Victory laps now up to 45 minutes and counting and I still haven’t caught him yet to throw away the disease-infested trophy.

“Stay, Thomas. Staaaaay…”

A Recoverite dog bone distracted him temporarily and I chucked the squirrel in the blackberry bushes for a gopher to eat.

Well done, Sir. Well done. Go put those feet up and update your Twitter.

Joe Martin Stage Race. Stage 3 and 4

Stage 3

No personal results today, though I certainly had the legs. But DAMN did we have a good team race! The main goal was to keep Chris’ 8th GC or improve on it. Joe’s second goal for us was to “flow” into a move if it wouldn’t take too much energy. You know, just gliiiide right in (soft pedal even) if we saw something just easing it’s way off the front. Problem with that is that in an NRC race, flowing into moves happens about as often as Joe drives the speed limit.

It was hot out today. 80 or more degrees and humid. I was a bit worried about nutrition since I couldn’t find my hammer flask. I was the proud owner of three fine hammer gel flasks just a few days ago and now I’m at zero. I melted one in the microwave last week at Gila when I was thinning some honey, I gave the second one back to Sam, which was on loan to me, and now I lost one somewhere yesterday after the race. So I loaded up my pockets with Hammer and Snickers bars–both would be in goo form pretty soon anyways in my pockets.

My legs felt terrible during the neutral roll out. They felt even worse when the attacks started going. There were maybe six or seven miles of flat and rolling hills, mainly down hills, before a short, steep wall followed by an undulating climb. This is what I sort or remember from last year, and what the race packet said.  All of a sudden I realized the climb was just around the next couple bends in the road. I was sixty guys back with Dan. I needed to get up front fast. Dan and I rode hard up the inside line and got Chris and the rest of the guys on our wheel just in time for the wall as we rounded the final corner and BAM there it was. I felt good going up it. Not good. I mean it hurt really badly but I was able to climb near the front. I can’t remember for sure, but I think the peloton blew up pretty badly the first time up. I was in the second group just behind a small group that contained Mancebo and the other major GC guys.  Behind us I worried that Chris hadn’t made it into my group, but was pretty sure he could solo across if he had to later when the climb flattened out a bit and we (hopefully) would slow down.

The front groups came together pretty quickly after the short downhill before the next, less steep climb. Things came back together completely over the top of the climb, for the most part, and Dan Harm caught back on and led us to the front with, Dan Bechtold, me, Spencer, and Parish forming a pretty legit line up near the front. A couple of the pro teams were wary of us being up there and tried to give us some shit, but Dan’s six-foot-six menacing stature kept things in our favor.

Dan Harm, who’s a guest rider for us this week, dug super deep today and every day. He was on his way to an Olympic invite for the team pursuit on the track with his pro team OUCH up until a recent management disaster. Unfortunately the team sponsor bailed just a short while ago so he’s focusing on road for the future. Anyways, despite being super fast for 15 seconds four times in a row (team pursuit efforts) he doesn’t have his former road fitness yet. He’s almost there, but every time up the hill the first three laps he was off the back and it the caravan, chasing his brains out to regain contact. Every time he managed to catch back on when things slowed up a bit over the top in the crosswinds. One minute you’d think you’d seen the last of him for the race, the next you’d see him charging through the pack with a back full of bottles from the team car and yelling at us to get on his wheel and get up to the front.

Second time up the hill and I was feeling even better than the first. It was a good thing too because this time the field shattered again even harder when the breakaway was caught at the base of the climb. RealCyclist had kept it in check and Mancebo punched it HARD after a lead out from one of his teammates right at the bottom of the wall. I dug pretty deep there and kept close to the front after helping bring Chris and the guys up on the inside again before the climb.

The field shattered behind as legs blew apart. At the top of the climb during the crosswind section things came to a dead halt as Mancebo was left alone in the now 20 or 30 man group. This might be wrong by the way. I can’t really remember what happened. A small group of six or seven had just escaped from Mancebo part way up the flatter part of the climb. Everyone was attacking the shit out of him since all his teammates were dropped when he drilled it up the wall and was forced to ride hard in the wind on the longer climb. So when things died down at the top with the new break up the road with 20 seconds, and everyone was looking at each other and Mancebo, I took my opportunity and went for it. No one followed. I immediately had a large gap. I sat up pretty quickly though since I knew I couldn’t close the gap to the break by myself in the cross and headwind section.  Soon enough, attacks lead the field up to me. A Kelly Benefits rider was the first to come across to me with a small gap on the chasers and I put some pressure on the pedals as he grabbed my wheel. He came around after my pull but before we knew it we were caught. I went hard again and a few guys other guys rotated with me at the front in the gutter in the gravel, hoping to break things up behind us. We sat up.  More attacks went. I followed a few, feeling good, but quickly sat up on the front to block when Dan Bechtold got across with a move. It looked promising for a while, but was too big to succeed. Dan knew it and attacked out of the group. A few guys got on his wheel and attacked him up the next small riser and made it onto the back of the break that was up ahead. Dan missed out on latching onto the break. Just by a bike length or two, and came back to the pack blown to smithereens. Talk about a let down. He was kicking himself all night for that.

The gap opened up immediately after that bridging move got to the break. Almost all the pro teams were represented in it. Maybe all of them, I’m not sure. But now Mancebo was left alone on the front again, waiting for his teammates to catch back on. We went super slow for what seemed like an hour, but was maybe only 20 minutes, and the rest of the field slowly caught back on over the next half lap. Another move of five or six got away easily. I saw how easily they had escaped, and attacked afterwards a few times but was chased down by Garmin. I was beginning to worry about how many guys were up the road now. Usually I just try to hang on in these things, but today was different. I felt like I could almost make a difference in the race…

The third time up the wall was the easiest by far (still not easy though). I was feeling super good that time, positioned top 10 or 15 most of the way up. Chris put in a strong move on the wall but didn’t go anywhere. Mancebo was having none of it. Things slowed up again at the top when Mancebo was alone on the front with no teammates. The gap to the now-gigantic break was five minutes and increasing. Mancebo’s GC position was doomed. It looked like it was a for sure thing at this point, with only one more time up the wall and hill, the tailwind section, and then seven or eight miles back to the finish line once we got off the circuit. But no, it was not to be. Realcyclist, the most powerful and dominating domestic team in the US would find its saviour in the form of three amateurs on Hagens Berman.

Chris was in 8th GC, and while that may not be enough of a reason for an established pro team to send its last remaining guys to the front to work, it certainly was for us. Joe put the word out for us to chase it down, and Dan B, Dan H, and I were the three workhorses for the job. The gap immediately started going down once we got up there. We joined the three remaining RealCyclist domestiques at the front, along with Michael Sencenbaugh and his teammate Thomas on Trek Landis for some “through-and-off” with three quarters of a lap to go until the final time up the hill. I think Joe actually just wanted to live vicariously through us and enjoy some good through-and-off from the team car back in the caravan. (Joe likes himself some good through-and-off BTW if you didn’t already know.  It’s the best way to get in shape today).

3:50…3:20…3:00…1:20…The gap was coming down fast. Dan blew himself up. The other Dan was gone. Mancebo’s teammates blew themselves up. We were all going all in. Nothing to spare. Pretty soon it was just a couple of us on the front with Mancebo right behind, licking his chops as hope was regained. Chris was sitting in the pack with Spencer, readying themselves for the last time up the climb. I put in a few final big 600 watt pulls as we came to the base of the climb and blew the F!!! up with 300 meters of false flat to go to the base. Not wanting to cause a gap in the line, I gave the guy behind me a hand sling and I veered off to the right, teeth baring and nostrils flaring as the rest of the pack came around. The break of 20 was caught right then and there as we turned the corner and Mancebo lit it UP on the wall as he passed them. The field splintered behind. Guys were blowing up left and right. Seeing all the pain and suffering gave me motivation to give it one last go. Somehow I had partially recovered in those 20 or 30 seconds after blowing up and I put in another effort up the climb. I rallied hard. Harder than I have gone this year by far. I was wheezing and snorting like a stuck pig with asthma and no inhaler in sight. I chomped down on my gums, not caring about the damage I was doing to the insides of my cheeks. I couldn’t taste the blood.  I went frickin hard. And made it back into the group before the short descent, just in time. Only 45 guys in the pack now. I held on up the next climb at the very back. I was deep in the red. DEEP. I went to a place reserved only for those wishing to die…soon. I was that guy in the dungeon chained upside down with a spiked iron mask clamped tightly on his face, scorpions pinching his testicals and rats gnawing at the gangrene on his earlobes. The guy just wishing for it all to end.

But it didn’t. I made it! The top of the climb! Just the crosswind palteau now! Some brief downhill, another short uphill and I’m 100% in the clear! Wait. Crap. Nope. I’m done. A tiny gap opened up. A TINY gap opened up in front of the rider I was sitting on. I was the dead last guy in the line. He was the second to last. There was nothing I could do by the time I had the brains to think about it. I should have just jumped and covered it but the pain I was in was all I could deal with at the time. I couldn’t be expected to put myself in more could I? It would be inhumane! To ask a sane person to add more kerosene to the flames at their feet. Not possible. Now (a day later as I continue to write this) I look back on it and say “Man, what a wimp! I should have just dug a little deeper.” But right now I’m sitting in bed with a nice cool breeze coming through the window and a nice, relaxed heart rate at 43. A stomach over capacity with mexican food and dreary eyes are my only discomforts.

I got a power feed from Joe when the caravan started coming by. I regained strength as the H+ ions cleared out of my legs and I hammered once more in a last ditch effort to regain contact. Too little too late though. My race was over and I knew it. The caravan was still in sight though, so I set a hard tempo in hopes that the pace would slow down at the front of the race again. It did not. Attacks were going hard at the front. I heard that Chris put in some moves. And so did Bissell of course. They won the race with Jay Thompson. Mancebo stayed in yellow and Chris kept his spot in the top 10, moving down to 9th GC. Chris took 15th on the day and Spencer 18th.

I let a group of five guys catch me and we rode most of the way back real super easy. Then Michael caught us with a couple miles to go, having bridged solo across from his groupetto (that he was driving) and tried to hammer some more at the front of ours. He got yelled at pretty quickly by everyone. No need to go hard now. The time cut was well within reach and tomorrow was going to be a hard, hard day.

Here’s a picture of the hairy beast we know as Chris Parish.  Photo from Podium Insight.

Side note: The night before for stage 2 our van had been parked in a Wal-Mart parking lot–the staging area for the race–and was missing upon our return from our 110 mile race. We rode from the finish area to the Wal-Mart after the race (another five miles in traffic by the way) and found that our van had been transformed into a truck. Either that or it was gone and someone had parked the truck in its place. We assumed the worst, that it had been towed. After all, it had been parked perpendicular to how you’re supposed to park in the parking lot. It was taking up at least five spots. Then we suspected something even worse. That it had been stolen. The key had been sitting on the tire.

We argued and yelled at each other for a minute, not knowing what to do, before we split up and rode around the parking lot looking for the keys under other cars. If the car had been towed, the keys would be laying on the ground possibly.  If it had been stolen…well we’d just look for the keys first, how about that.  I kept my eye out for clues that could lead us to the solution of the mystery.  Where could the car be and what happened to it? Clues. An out of place foot print. A dropped business card. A dodgy-looking eye witness. A scroll of old paper with a pirate’s dagger pinning it to a door…

Instead we found our van. It was on the opposite side of the parking lot with the keys inside on the center council, unlocked. A miracle. We celebrated our good fortune with Qdoba burritos and greek food from the place next to the Qdoba.  Then we celebrated some more by going to the grocery store for more food.

Today’s end of stage: (Saturday–stage 3). Tonight was different. A complete turn around from yesterday’s stress and worry. Joe was so proud of the way we rode (like a real live pro team in a real live pro race) he decided to take us out to a fancy Italian place down town on the team’s dime (a very rare occurrence so we knew he was happy with us). We showed up in our team T shirts, compression socks and shorts. Reeking of sweat and BO, salt encrusting our faces and gel packets still stuck to our backsides. We came directly from the race, H+ ions just barely wearing off as our ungainly upper bodies swayed in fatigue above our massively un-proportioned legs followed our noses to the smell of excellent Italian food. It was race night for us and our dirty faces and gaunt cheeks showed it, but it was also prom night for everyone else. And wedding night. And parent’s weekend the weekend before graduation at the UofA. And of course, it was also just plain old date night, evidenced by the man who kept grabbing a fistful of his wife’s/mistress’s ass right in front of us. People were dressed up. Like, in dresses and suits and ties even. The place was packed. We used a valet service. It was classy.  We smelled of old socks.  I enjoyed the irony.

We went through 12 bowls of bread before our waiter wised up and brought us our food. After a huge, fancy Italian feast (I got an extra large plate of fettuccini and salad) we were informed that our GIGANTIC bill had been paid for in full by a guy, named John Elrod, that had earlier come over to our table to congratulate us for all our hard racing. He had been driving a motorcycle for the race and said he was tired from just watching us. Anyways, he took off after chatting with us and later our waiter informed us that he had paid for everything. We were ecstatic. It was very cool to have someone (a complete stranger) appreciate what we do and how hard we work and it certainly made up for a lot of training rides where people honk, buzz, and flip us off.

Stage 4

It was even hotter today. 90 degrees with 100% humidity. At least. Possibly 120% humidity.  It felt good though. Like summer. I’ll take that kind of weather over 45 and raining any day. The course was technical, hilly, and windy. Perfect. People’s legs were going to be tired. RealCyclist was going to be dragging today. Bissell was ready for the kill. The entire pack was ready for the kill, including me. I took some warm up laps and felt strong. The hill was perfect for me. Steep, short and to the point. No bullshitting today. This was not going to be an easy crit course and no one was looking to try and make it easy.  It was going to be ON all day long for 90 minutes of sweltering, fast, heated racing.  Boo yeah!

We started with a tiny field, down to 70 something riders after yesterday’s attrition. I went backwards immediately, not yet feeling the corners too keenly. I used the hill to move up on every time though and felt ok using up some extra energy there. Breaks went and came back. I didn’t attack. I was saving it today. I knew the move would come in the second half of the race and I was GOING to be in it damn it! I moved around with ease as others blew themselves apart (ok not with ‘ease’ but fairly confidently). No one was crashing like last year’s edition of the race, which is a good thing for us racers. Bad for spectators.

I followed a string of attacks at the front for two solid laps as Mancebo lead the charge. Kelly riders, Bissell, Fly V, Pure Black, everyone was countering. I tried not to put my wheel in the wind. Mancebo got across but Bissell chased it down as I sat right behind them.  The field had gaps everywhere behind us. More moves went. Finally something began to look somewhat established with about 20 laps to go. Now was the time to be patient and trust that others would bridge up there.  I was in the position to latch on.  With 15 or so to go (these are big laps–1.2 miles long and like 3 minutes each), I heard Joe yell from the side that it wasn’t a good move for us. This meant to go to the front. Again. Second time in a row. I could hardly believe it. Little old Hagens Berman going to the front to do RealCyclist’s dirty work. This meant my (personal) race was over. But if it meant protecting Chris’ GC, fine by me. If I’m going to be a pro I might as well get used to pulling on the front because that’s one thing I’m damn good at and can do all day long. And to tell the truth, once I got up there again it felt pretty good to be able to do it in such a hard crit where I knew most of the field was just suffering to hold on.

I got up there and by then it was just down to Josh Berry on RealCyclist now. Damn, has Josh gotten strong this year.  He and I are about the same height, so trading pulls went pretty smoothly.  I kept looking around for some of his RealCyclist teammates to come help with the chase, but he was the last one left.  Mancebo was fresh out of teammates once again.  These guys have been on the front of the peloton since Redlands.  Cesar Grajales (RealCyclist) was in the move up the road, though he wasn’t in a good position to win the GC with Bissell’s Jeremy Vennel and Frank Pipp up the road with him.

Josh and I traded pulls for a couple laps and we slowly crept up on the break. The gap was 23 seconds. Then 20, then 17. At 17 seconds the counter attacks to bridge up blew both Josh and I off the front for a couple laps. By the time things settled down again and we got back to the front and the gap was already up to 25 or more seconds. A number of guys had bridged across to the break or were in the process of doing so.

On the front with under 10 to go.

Follow the link here for race photos at Podium Insight

We kept at it. I spent almost two full laps on the front alone with seven or eight to go. With six to go Chris got chopped in a corner and his front wheel got eaten by a crack in the road.  He went down, but not out.  He hopped back in the pack with five to go.  I was still at the front I think.  I was going into the red here as I realized that every last little bit of energy I spent meant seconds for Chris’ GC placing, and possibly the difference of the pack catching the break or not catching the break.  The gap was at a monstrous 40 seconds by now.  There was no possible way I was going to see the front of the race again with the way I was pulling, so it was all in till I had nothing left.  I took one last pull on lap five.  I’m writing this the same day it happened but already I can’t remember what happened. I do know that with four laps to go (I think) a Fly V-lead attack blew past me at the start/finish line as I lead up the headwind climb and my race was finally over. I didn’t even try to stick with the splintered group.  I think there were ten guys up the road and maybe 30 made the final selection of the peloton.  Not me.  I went out the back with a number of other guys and rode it in at a medium tempo, trying to keep Spencer in the money on GC.

Mancebo ended up losing his yellow jersey and moved all the way down to 7th.  Cameron Peterson of Fly V won the stage and Frank Pipp moved into the yellow jersey.  Chris went from 9th to 13th, battered thoroughly from the hard week(s) of racing, the pavement, and the dissapointment in losing his top 10.  Though, we were still pretty damn happy to help him achieve that result. HB has never had the legs for that good of a result in an NRC before and it’s rare to have a true amateur even close to top 10. We rode proudly to protect it and I was happy to have felt so strong today and yesterday and been an important part of the race, though I was really hoping to go for that stage win today. I honestly think I could have gone top five if I had played it out smart and gotten in the move earlier on or conserved to bridge up to the break. This type of course was designed for me and my legs were on my side today. Oh well, time for some serious rest because I’m beat.

Joe Martin Stage 2

I had a terrible race. All that needs to be said about it is that I got gapped off on the long climb with 30 or more miles to go and was too lazy to close the gap. I figured someone else would close it, but everyone around me was too gassed to do it. Before I knew it I was off the back and getting dropped. I finished with a large group over five minutes off the back. I rode like a wimp today. I need redemption tomorrow.

Joe Martin 2011 Stage 1

Oh man that hurt good. Really good. It was just a 2.5 mile time trial (a second under nine minutes) but the coughing from lung inflammation is just coming to a halt now, eight hours later. I was just getting over my cough from racing up at altitude at Gila, but this uphill TT brought it back. The pain in my legs lasted half way down the hill after the effort was done, and even back at the car in the parking lot I was having dizzy spells as I tried to open a can of Coke, which ended up spraying all over the van door. It always feels good to go that hard and know that your effort was near max capacity. Now if only I wasn’t racing a bike that was a full three pounds heavier than the UCI limit…

The course starts out with a short, low-grade downhill section, followed immediately by over two miles of climbing with pitches just touching the double digits. It’s important not to go too hard during the first 500 meters and blow your wad, like my teammate Dan unfortunately did, because it only gets steeper and harder from there.

I rode conservatively for the first half of the race, not really knowing how fast or hard I was going since I was racing without power or heart rate. It felt easy though. Too easy in hindsight. I could have and should have shaved some time off in the first 2/3 of the race if I had gone harder there, even if it meant less power in the final third of the race. With 1K to go I started laying the hammer down and with 250 meters to go I slammed it through the ground up the steepest ptich. When you end a TT with the kind of effort I did at the end, you know you left too much in the tank. I put about 20 or 30 seconds into my one minute man in the final 300 meters. Nevertheless, I feel like my performance was somewhat close to what my potential was, which wasn’t that great for today (but not too bad for a bigguns like myself): 48th at 59 seconds down from the winner (Mancebo of RealCyclist–no surprise there).

Photo courtesy of Cyclingnews.

I’d say the big upset of the day was my teammate Chris Parrish, who finally broke the top 10 in an NRC stage race. Although, I guess I wasn’t surprised at all. He’s been close with an 11th GC at San Dimas, and has had amazing form lately with a 24th GC at Redlands and a 20th GC finish at Gila, but the top 10 has eluded him and the HB cycling team up until this afternoon. We’ll make sure he keeps his 8th place or improves on it over the next three, difficult stages.

Tomorrow is a 110-mile, hilly road race and the day after is basically the same, at 104 miles of steep but short hills as well. Sunday’s a technical, 90-minute crit with a hill too. I’m looking forward to each stage as the hills are just short enough for me to thrive on, hopefully, and maybe I can put my large old legs to good use at the finishes.

Gila Stages 4 and 5

Stage 4: 90 minute crit through downtown. Usually NRC crits are hard and strung out for the majority of them and I haven’t been able to contribute to the action other than just hanging on. This one wasn’t that bad. In fact, I’d say it was one of the easiest NRC crits I’ve done. But I never attacked. I spent the entire time moving up, and moving up, and moving up…only to see that I was still mid-pack. I don’t know what it was, but for some reason I never quite got to the front and attacked. In the back of my mind I was waiting for a last minute attack with a few laps to go, but even that never panned out as I was still too far back. I was pretty disappointed in how I rode the crit, since I had the legs to at least make a few attempts. My teammate, Chris, got off the front with five laps to go with a few other guys and Dan attacked a few times as well. We all finished in the pack, the officials giving everyone the same time after the confusing finish where there the lap board said “1 to go” for two laps.

Stage 5: 106 miles with 9,500 ft of climbing. My goal for this race was to get in a move early, as there would be no chance for glory later on when the big climbs started. At this point I had nothing to lose in terms of GC either, so I was all in. Dan and Lang were also planning on getting into the break, so the three of us stayed near the front and went with moves during the first six miles of fast, tailwind, highway-grade rollers. Everyone was too eager to get in the move, similar to the first stage, and nothing was sticking. At one point Dan, Lang and I were all there up the road with a group of other guys. It seemed too good to be true, having three teammates in the same break, and it was. Shortly after that move got brought back we took a left turn onto highway 152 and began the cat 4 climb out of town. It was the hardest cat 4 climb I’ve ever done. It started out with a strong false flat crosswind section on newly chip-sealed pavement. It was guttered hard on the right side of the road and gaps from blown legs and blown tires created big holes in the tail-end of the peloton. Lang, Dan, and I were at the tail-end of course, having blown what was left in our legs a few minutes before.

I think I had about a half match to burn for the day. My legs were shot by day 5 and attacking those few times in the first couple miles (where the break gets away “every time”) had burnt that last half match. So now I was screwed. I could have held on if no one opened gaps up in front of me, but after jumping across a few large holes and doing an all out sprint over the top of one of the risers on this cat 4 climb, I was too far in the red to recover for the next uphill sections. Lang and I got back on after a short decent with another group and he made it all the way to the peloton. Dan was gone by this point and I started getting absorbed by the cars. I held on and surfed the cars for a while (still uphill) until a group of a few guys came up from behind. I worked with them until we all split up going our separate ways.

The undulating climb never seemed to end. My legs would never clear up and the descents were all out sprints at 52mph to catch onto passing cars. The pack was still right up ahead and at one point I finally saw that I was going to catch back on. A short descent in the cars and I’d be there. Wrong. As the road curved and I saw that there was more uphill, I knew the rest of my race would likely be contesting for last place.

After the final uphill section and the blistering tailwind downhill section, six of us began rotating through fairly hard on the flats. We picked up individual riders and eventually merged with a larger group to make a good-sized laughing group of 20 or so demoralized guys. The pace was still high though and who knew if the field would slow down a bit during the headwind here? We kept it up hoping to see them around a bend. All of a sudden I had a glimmer of hope that the pack was just up ahead. It turned out to be the cat 5 B field though. We passed them but our pace was never quite the same afterwards. Fewer and fewer guys took turns at the front. Riders were dropping off, getting into sag vans and team cars. For a while it was just me and one other guy at the front. Even that was too fast for some of the guys’ moral and I found myself off the front of the groupetto–never a good idea. I sat up and it looked like the chase was off. We got re-passed by the cat 5 B field, which was actually the cat 5 B chase group. When your groupetto gets passed by the cat 5 groupetto, that’s when you call it a day.

A few of us planned on finishing the race and took a right turn to complete the out and back section of the race that goes up a cat 2 and then a cat 1 climb. Everyone else took a sag vehicle or went left to complete the loop back to the finish line. I went right and rode up with a few guys chatting, going at 200 watts. I thought about my options here. I wanted to finish, yet I knew the more recovery time I had from now to Joe Martin (which starts on Thursday) the better. I decided to just finish the damn thing. There were only 40 miles anyways (almost all uphill though).

I pulled off to the left side of the road to grab some food on the descent from my mom in the feed zone and almost crashed in the process. I realized my front tire was at almost zero PSI. I had just been descending at 50+ mph. That was close. By the time I put on a new wheel I heard someone say the leaders were coming back up the hill and I figured I could hand a bottle to Chris or Lang. It ended up being another 15 or 20 minutes until the race came by, and at that point I had lost motivation to ride for 90th place. Resting up for the next stage race was the smart thing to do anyways.

I got in the van and we followed the fragmented race to the finish line. But I couldn’t take it for long. I got out a short while later, took my race numbers off, put my shoes back on, and rode the rest of the way by myself. I couldn’t stand sitting in the car seeing everyone else ride.


At first thought I was pretty disappointed in how I did. The last two stages in particular. But looking back on the first two stages, I’m satisfied. I think I was one of the more aggressive riders during stage 1. I had the legs of ten horses that day. Maybe I spent a little too much, but it could have gone differently and paid out more. Some other universe…

Day 2 was very hard. In years past I would have been off the back during a stage like this one. As it was, I was able to stay with the group the entire time without every going off the back. If it had been a little harder, I know the group coming to the line would have been half the size and completing the race in the front group would have felt like a much bigger achievement.

Day 3 was just the TT. I rode hard but tried to conserve somewhat for the next two days.
Days 3 was pretty crappy. I didn’t ride with guts. That’s the one stage I really effd up on.
Day 4. Eh. I gave it a go when I could and it didn’t work out. It could have gone much differently though if the peloton was in a different mood. Apparently this year’s race was much different than in years past. No breakaways went all day until the big climbs and a lot of the guys trying to get off the front in the first 10 miles ended up being off the back for the rest of the day.

Chris had a great race and killed himself 12 times that last day to finish 17th, taking 20th GC. Lang also finished with a 39th GC.

I’m in Arkansas now, trying to get a few more hours of recovery before tomorrow’s uphill TT.