Second half of Nature Valley 2013

(Written on Tuesday)

I’ve learned that you should forget your failures just as quickly as your accomplishments. To dwell on either is to practice the art of status quo—stagnation.

This past weekend I came close to my greatest result on the bike yet. Had I not gotten sick, and assuming I would have placed near the front of the field on Sunday (a no-brainer), I would have wound up 8th overall. At an NRC that’s pretty decent.

But what you could have done doesn’t mean a damn thing. The important thing is what you did. Actually that doesn’t matter either. The only thing that really has any worth to it is what you can do.

Enough hypothesizing. Onto what happened in the race:

Stage 4

The Minneapolis Uptown crit is a pretty big ordeal. It has somewhere between 30 and 900 thousand of spectators, plenty of annoyed traffic circumnavigating the blocked roads, and a large VIP tent. The VIP tent has food—little sandwiches, wraps, shrimps, cheeses, and crackers. I didn’t have any though. I was leaning over the fence just looking at it when a guy on the greener side of the fence asked me what I’d like. Suddenly the food lost its appeal once the legal means of obtaining it was offered. I said I’d pass since I’d probably throw it up half way into the race. The Uptown crit, unlike the Saint Paul crit, is fast and hard.

For me it was hard because I was doing a poor job guarding my position. I’d get chopped in and out of every other dag-nab-it-all corner. And I never quite made it up far enough to get out of the scrum. My legs were there but my head wasn’t quite in it I guess.

I avoided the many crashes of the opening laps and got to witness Brad Huff of Jelly Belly tear into a guy for two laps straight, angrily pointing his finger in front of and screaming right into this guy’s face (while cornering mind you. I was impressed). If I were that guy I probably would have immediately apologized, peed my pants, and dropped to the back of the pack. But this guy didn’t do that. Instead he argued back then proceeded to crash himself out the lap after Brad was done yelling at him. I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy. He just slid out, likely out of fear.

The reason Brad was yelling at him was because this guy had chopped both of us super dangerously before the last corner of the first lap. I don’t know how I didn’t crash when he did it. It was so bad it was actually malicious, as if was trying to cause a pile up behind him. But karma came back and slammed this fucker into the pavement at 30+mph. Thank you baby Jesus!

From then on out I stagnated mid pack, riding like an uncaring wimp. I began moving up near the end and thought I was safe with two or three laps to go sitting 30th wheel. But a gap opened up just two guys in front of me on the last lap. I came around in the final 100 meters and was just a single second off the tail end of the lead group but of course the time is taken from the front of the group to the first gap, so me and three other guys were awarded a 9-second time gap. Fair enough. I should have been farther up. I placed 28th on the day and moved down to 14th on GC. I wasn’t too concerned about this though. From the rumors I’d heard, the group tomorrow would be smashed to smithereens. And I knew for certain that I was going to be the jackhammer that helped done it.

Stage 5

The Menomonee road race takes place in the steep hills of Wiscaaaansin. The course is 101 miles including four, 2.5-mile finishing circuits through town. The last time I did this race was 2010 and I was sick as a dog. I was gapped off on the final KOM climb into town and finished like 15 minutes back. This time I was also sick but finished 20th and moved back up to 13th on GC.

A slight trickle in my throat was all it took for me to know I was infected during my warm up. My teammates had been getting sick from each other throughout the week. Note: the most beneficial thing a teammate can ever do, in my opinion, is to not show up to a race when sick. Just stay the hell away! (Unless you’re me. In which case you probably aren’t contagious. Ever. So don’t worry about it).

I put the viral thought in the back of my mind, convincing myself I was just parched. I drank extra water.

It took a few little rollers before my legs felt decent. Even the neutral section hurt me a bit as we trucked along at a very ‘neutral,’ friendly pace of 541 watts over the little bumps. The opening attacks to form the breakaway didn’t last long today once the red flag dropped. Six or seven brave souls guys got up the road fairly quickly and Optum set a medium pace for the next 25 miles or so. I sat in, waiting for that second KOM, which was the nastiest climb of the day. It was short and steep, and I was told that it would determine the race’s outcome. A strong group would most likely get away there, or the field would be so hurt and shattered from that climb that the winning move would get away on the following 3rd KOM, which was just a few miles after the 2nd.

I was the first to attack on the steep slopes of that crucial KOM #2. I didn’t give it full gas since I wasn’t quite sure how long the top rolling section was before we went downhill. Janier Acevedo (Jamis) and six or seven other strong guys came around me and I did a big effort to hop on the back of the line. We tore up the rest of the climb and pretty quickly started working at the top (Not me. I sat at the back like I new I should. I had no teammates and a great excuse not to pull: weak amateur!) I was hurting pretty bad but we had a good gap by the time we got off the top section and descended down to the flat.

Unfortunately we got caught here by a hard-chasing Optum train, lead by Tom Zirbel, which was protecting Friedman’s yellow jersey. I bided my time then attacked again on the next steep KOM a few miles later. This time I didn’t have nearly enough in my legs to get a solid gap since I’d started the climb like 20 guys back, due to poor positioning. I led the field up the climb and swung off when I saw that again, Optum was chasing me and fellow Pacific Northwesterner, Morgan Schmidt.

I wasted no time and attacked 30 seconds after we were caught and got my gap. I pegged it hard to establish some daylight between me and the field, hoping that others would follow and the field would shatter over this top rolling section, but no one else deemed it wise to disrupt the steady, crushing pace set by Optum. They were just too strong for us today I guess. That or everyone was riding like wimps.

The rest of my race, until the final series of climbs into town, was spent in the pack being bored and pissed off that the race was so easy.

When we approached the final five or six mini climbs before the finishing circuits, I was attentive and followed half a dozen moves. Each time I thought there was a chance the field behind was doomed, but alas, they were continually saved by the strength and cohesion of Optum. Finally, once all the hard attacking was done, it was the semi soft attack on the flat that got away and won the day. Optum just let it roll once they saw that there wasn’t anyone up there that was going to be a threat to Friedman’s jersey. I’m glad the stage was won with a hardman effort though. Travis Mcabe was in the early break all day, which was caught like 20 miles from the finish, then he went again with that last attack and helped drill it all the way to the line for the win. Well done sir. That’s how bike races should be won.

Stage 6

I spent Stage 6 in bed. I amassed a total of 21 and a half hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, which I believe is a world record if I’m not mistaken. I have never been knocked out this hard by a cold before. Here’s what my sleep schedule entailed, starting Saturday night. I slept from:

11pm Saturday night to 10am Sunday morning.

10:30am to 5:30pm.

6:00pm to 9:30pm. Then I was back to sleep by 11pm.

I woke to eat a few times and to pack my bike for the trip home on Monday morning. Almost the entire time I had terrible nightmares about missing the final stage of the race, only to periodically wake up and realize that I was currently living that nightmare. I was clinically depressed all that day and the next. I’m fine now though.

As quick as the cold came on, it’s now almost gone. I thought there was no way I’d be fit to race Mt. Hood by Friday but now I’m having second thoughts. Maybe they’re dumb second thoughts. But, since there’s a pretty cheap one-way ticket available, I’m tentatively planning on flying out there to meet the team on Thursday morning. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow.

During times of depression, as well as elation, it’s good to remember that your fortune can change in a heartbeat. One second you’re crushing fools off the front of the race, the next you’re laying in bed, missing the race altogether. And then, with some luck, you’re crushing it again half a week later. Time for me to go eat a ton of hot and sour chicken soup to get over the last drips of this cold.

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