Stage one was a time trial, uphill and 2.5 miles long (aka 2.4 miles too long for my liking). There’s no bigger waste of time than racing a short prologue like this, even writing about it is less of a waste of time. You have to get to the race extra early to warm up and get ready, the warm up is like 60-90 minutes long, you have to constantly go back to the car to do things like find your ipod, talk to people in the parking lot, switch to race wheels, switch wheels cause you got a flat tire while warming up, go eat a gel, drink more water because it’s really hot out, go poop, take your water bottle cages off because that will save you approximately 1-4 minutes in weight, go poop again, take off your homemade ice vest because it has melted, put your aero helmet on because you need an aero helmet for an uphill TT where you average 17 mph, check the time, continue warming up, put the upper part of your skin suit on, which is difficult because the whole thing is soaking wet with sweat and water bottle water, weigh your bike, get heckled by the race officials about how heavy your bike is…the list goes on and on. Actually no it doesn’t. That’s about it. But it takes forever. And it’s all for less than 10 minutes of racing.
Despite the huge time chunk, and my fake complaining about wasting time (haha, like I have anything better to do), I do in fact like uphill prologues. I’m not particularly good at them, since I’m hugely obese–in bike racing you’re fat if you weigh more 160 or more–what I like about them is the opportunity to really suffer hard and turn your organs into bloody bits and chunks of no-longer-functioning dead flesh. A good uphill TT will leave you feeling as if you just swallowed a hand full of rusty razor blades. Actually, it’s the other way around. Swallowing a handful of rusty razor blades will make you feel as if you just completed an all out uphill TT.
Anyways, the last time I rode up the hill during my warmup I realized I felt pretty good. I got a number in my head for what I thought I might be able to do wattage wise. This ended up hurting my performance because I held back, still feeling really good and standing just about the entire time like former teammate Chris did last year to get 8th, until about a minute to go. The entire time I was fearing the inevitable implosion in my legs that would leave me riding tempo for the rest of the climb and losing serious time. The blow up never happened, and all of a sudden I found out that I hadn’t ridden hard enough. I go some serious hurt on in the last minute though, pumping out 646 watts during the last 45 seconds. There’s a pretty awesome picture of me passing my one minute man right before the finish line in the local newspaper. They got it all wrong though, and write that he’s passing me, and that sucks because he looks really slow in the picture. And on the next page, the section where they talk about the race, all it’s about is the road closures for the rest of the week of racing. People down here like their cars. A lot. Very few commute by bike and we’ve had some complaints from drivers about us being here already.
I finished 49th, at 8:58. Last year I was 48th at 8:59. The times were about 15 seconds slower this year, so my TT was definitely an improvement. The increased quality of field meant that I didn’t place any better though. Our two top guys placed 22nd (steve) and 36th (Ian). Then I went and sat in the river underneath the dam, where I always stand and soak my legs after this TT. This time there were some people fishing, so I asked them what they were fishing for.
Guy: “Anything that bites. Mainly turtles, I guess.”
Me: “I’ve always wondered if there’s snapping turtles in here.”
Guy: “Oh yeah, there was two big ones sitting right over there a minute ago. Bout half way between you and me I guess.”
Me: “Oh. I better stop wiggling my toes then.”
Guy: “He ain’t gonna hurt ya.”
I kept an eye out for turtles after that.
Stage 2. 110 mile rolling road race with quite o bit o wind. My goal was to either get in the break or sheppard Ian and Steve for the finish, which included two short and steep 20 second climbs and a long 300 meter uphill drag to the finish, all within the last 1.5 kilometers. An ideal finish for me, Ian, Steve, and Gabe. And David. And Danny and Jon. So basically our entire team. We were pretty confident that we could lead it out into the final two corners before the climb. “There’s no reason why we can’t be first in that last left hand corner.” We said this multiple times.
We all missed the 2-man move that went 15 miles in, then I basically worked on being near the front for the climbs and any time I thought there would be cross wind. We rode as a team near the front quite a bit, and constantly moved one another up throughout the race to avoid the chaos in the back.
55 miles into the race, in the longest crosswind section, I started following attacks. I did this until I just about blew up, then it got really strung out for the next couple kilometers. I was in some serious pain, then we finally took a left turn onto big highway and had tailwind for the rest of the race, including the upcoming 9 mile climb. I got dropped on the climb the year before, but this year it actually felt pretty chill. The first mile of it hurt, but after that there was enough up and down to recover in between the harder bits. At one time I accidentally went up to the front and got forced to follow an attack. Since I wasn’t sure how long or difficult the climb was going to be (memory issues), I didn’t do that again and just sat in the dwindling pack. Things pretty much stayed together for the climb and mostly came back together on the descent. The next 20 miles were nasty fast with a stiff tailwind. I’m not sure I ever got out of my 11. In the pack we still had myself, Ian, Gabe, and Steve. I felt great and decided that I didn’t need sleep that night, so I downed the rest of my caffeinated gel flask. With Gabe and myself, we were planning on making sure Ian and Steve moved up to the front leading into the final kilometer and I’m sure we could have had at least one of us in the top 10 had it not been for a big crash with five miles to go. Ian went down pretty hard. I slammed my breaks on as hard as they’d go. Someone behind me crashed on my rear wheel. I swerved to the left and avoided two guys that went down right in front of me. I continued death gripping the breaks as I ran over someone’s bike/a bike bounced up and hit me from the right. For a split second after that I thought I might make it, then out of nowhere I saw a guy rolling towards me directly in my path. This was it, I was going over the bars. I rode right over him, heard a small yelp as I ran over my teammate, and came out on the other side still on my bike. Astonished, I stood up to sprint and get back in the pack, but had to stop a few hundred meters later when I realized my wheel was broken. At first I thought it was flat, but got off and saw that the rim was destroyed. Completely un-rideable if I wanted to keep all my front teeth.
I ran back to the crash where all the cars had stopped and got a wheel change and finished 4 minutes down all alone.
I started writing the above a long time ago after stage 2 and pretty much lost most of my motivation by now. Currently I’m up in Pinos Altos, NM getting ready for Gila, which starts tomorrow. After a long day of travel yesterday it feels like we’re on the other side of the country now. Oh wait, we are. If you want to hear about a real day of travel, I’m going to repost my adventure down here last year. I’ll have it up tomorrow at some point.
Anyways, stage 3 was another road race. I finished 20th in a pack sprint that about 75 people were still left in. With 1K to go there was a huge pile up. Breaks were applied and with some quick and lucky maneuvering I miraculously I weaved in and out of the crashed guys on the ground (and the ones crashing all around me) and sprinted onto the back of what was left of the peloton, maybe 30 or 40 guys. I didn’t really have much left to sprint with after that and just road in hard to the line for 20th.
Stage 4 was the crit. I finished 22nd. I should have done much better on that stage since it’s so well suited to me and I felt almost invincible on the climb. Though I was strong, I was cornering pretty poorly (this was my first crit of the year) and I lost a lot of positions on the downhill, which I’d have to make up on the uphill each lap. I think I passed about 15 guys up the hill the last time. Makes me wonder how I would have done had I been positioned top 10 going into the final 300 meters.
Steve earned 15th on GC and 7th and 10th on two stages, so overall our team had a fantastic race. If I hadn’t been held up in the crash on stage 2 I would have been 20th on GC, and Ian probably would have been in the top 20 too, so it’s a bit disappointing seeing what could have been. There’s no time to dwell on the past though, at least not when you’re already at another race. It’s time to go crush it again tomorrow.