Dealer Camp

I got back  from Cascade and had just one day in Boulder before leaving again. This time it was to Park City, Utah but not for a race. This time it was for work. Hard, monotonous, boring work…that consisted of riding downhill mountain bikes for three days in a row with lift access so we didn’t even have to pedal uphill! It was awesome. By far the funnest time I’ve had on a bike in a while.

Here’s a video Alex put together with some GoPro footage:

We spent the mornings getting footage of new products and talking to manufacturers, while the afternoons (and all of Saturday) were spent testing out new bikes on the sometimes steep, rocky, rooted, sometimes smooth-bermed, winding, aspen-lined trails at Deer Valley. I crashed many, many times.

Probably the best story of the week came from Shane, who, on the last day, was riding a Jamis without a seatpost dropper and had to ride with the seat way too high the whole day. He took a hard blow to a very sensitive organ from the saddle (not the tip) while dropping down one of the double black diamonds. Not a nut shot but a full on mid-section penis shot. Dangerous to say the least. Later that afternoon he peed out a bloody scab. I saw the proof in the toilet bowl. Trip=success. (AKA Scab Burns).

Pictures from Will and Shane.

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Park City

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One of our favorite runs: “Payroll,”which made me wonder, “I’m getting paid to do this??”

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Shane, Stephen Downey, and me.

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Downtown Park City. Last time I was here on this nasty hill I was doing this in the Tour of Utah:

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Suffering like a measly lowlander.

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Since I’m currently on a two-week long rest I wasn’t concerned about training or keeping my diet in check. At all. Here we are sneaking into the VIP Raleigh tent for some eats and treats. We were also treated to a pretty amazing food stipend. I’ve been trying for years to get on a team with a food stipend.

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Not pictured here, but I tested a standard 26″ wheel Pivot Mach 5.7, an Intense Carbine 650B, and Rocky Mountain’s Element and Instinct–both 29ers. My favorite was the Mach 5.7. Best two descriptors: “Fucking” and “Awesome.” They don’t do the thing justice. Now if only I had a spare $6,000 lying around.

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Left to right: Stephen Downey (AKA Downey Soft, AKA Downey Hard), me (AKA Blade, AKA Kittens), Shane (AKA Sweat Pants, AKA Sideburns, AKA Sweat Burns), Alex (AKA Corn Town, AKA Alexy), Will (AKA Willheim), Brittany (AKA Brit AKA Brittanime Destroyer of Dan).

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Alex with $2000 in his arms. We got to bring some of the product back to the hotel room to shoot later at night in our make-shift studio.

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Trails everywhere.

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Cracked at Cascade

Arguably my favorite stage race of the year, Cascade has been one of my main targets this season. My primary objective (of the year) was to win the final Aubrey Butte stage, which is nice and hilly but not too hilly. The dream of winning it has filled many long rides over the winters. In fact, Cascade was such a big goal of mine I even wrote in my iCal “Peak of Lifetime” for the week of Cascade. Just so I wouldn’t forget I guess. Even the time I’ve spent training on the course over the years, on that baked, tar-melted pavement among the dry junipers, outnumbers any other race course I’ve ridden. Including races and training, I’ve done roughly 80 to possibly over 100 laps of the course.

So it made sense that I lost ALL of the form just two weeks ago. After I got sick at NVGP I never quite made it back. I got through nationals all right but was on the downslide even then. I’m just worn out from being up so high for so long (I’ve basically been going fast since March). I’d hoped that my legs would come back around just in time for Cascade. I thought that maybe I just needed a few more hard days of training after being sick, which I did. Instead, I got even slower and had the worst race of the year. Cascade has been my only bad one of the season (not counting being completely sick at Hood) so I shouldn’t be too upset. Still though, one blemish on an otherwise spotless nose still stands out. And since it’s the most recent race I’ve done, the unpleasant feeling is still pretty strong.

I’ve lost all motivation to go into detail about the stages or my time spent in Bend with the team, our hosts, and my family, which is unfortunate because I’m sure at one point I had something meaningful or funny worth saying.

Day One was the Prologue, held on an undeveloped mile and a half loop near a golf course. I set the 43rd fastest time out of 200. Off to a great start, I know. Actually, I wasn’t too upset with this and wasn’t yet aware of how shitty my legs, mind, and body really were. After crossing the line I had some of the worst quad pain I’ve had in a long time and had to unclip both legs for a good minute as I coasted around a small parking lot.

Day Two was the McKenzie Pass road race. I got over the first climb without too much trouble but completely cracked on the last climb at the finish. I was 80th or 90th. Can’t remember. My GC race was already long gone and depression came to eagerly take motivation’s place.

Day Three was the long-ass, horribly flat TT. I blew up in the first three minutes and decided to just go super easy after that and save what little legs I had for the next two days. By the turn around I had slowed up so much that I was averaging just 297 watts. In fear of not making the time cut after a guy racing a road bike with no aero bars passed me, I sped up on the way back. My legs felt horrible today. Absolutely worthless, weak, wobbly toothpicks ready to snap in half under the slightest ounce of pressure. I have better form in early November.

Day Four was the Bachelor road race. I followed a move and counter attacked once about half way in and spent 2 minutes off the front before getting caught and spending the majority of the rest of the day among the last five wheels. I finished 100 something in a large group. I met my family and Adelaide at the top of the mountain. I wish they’d been able to see me at ANY other race this year. We went down to the river in town and swam, had a picnic, and later ate dinner. This was probably the best part of the entire trip. I had a second dinner of Chinese food back at our host house. One great thing about this weekend was the amount of food our hosts and team manager, Allen, prepared for us.

Day Five was the crit. I pulled out after completing over half the distance at 50 minutes. I’d been coasting at the back for half the time, just watching the clock. I was still hoping to have enough legs to do a good finish on the last day.

Day Six was the real wake up call to how cracked I currently am. I guarantee that even with the fitness I normally have in the dead of winter, without any racing or hard intervals in my legs, I could make it to the finish with the main lead group on this stage. Today I had nothing. I got bottles for my teammates and helped position John, who was sitting 15th on GC. I got popped the last time up the steep climb and rode easy to the finish with Berry, who’s also had a recent vanishing of form. Fortunately John held on and moved up to 12 GC, giving Firefighter’s a very good result for the week.

All in all it was a super depressing race for me. I tried to enjoy my time there but it was difficult to see the positives. This has been a very successful year for me. But, living with consistent success can lead to ignoring those good times and dwelling solely on the bad.

I’m taking two weeks super easy/just commuting, which will hopefully allow enough time to train and gain back my fitness before Buck’s County in early September, which will be my last race of the year. I originally thought I’d do some cycleocross this fall but that plan just went out the window. Rest is way more important.

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Boise Twilight then on to Bend

Hello from Bend, WI. I mean Madison, ID. Or maybe I’m in Philadelphia, NM? Last week during the hour-long wait on the runway before my flight from Denver to Boise, I looked out the window into the night and suddenly realized I had no idea where I was or where I was heading. It was a full 15 seconds by the time I figured it out. This isn’t the first time that this has happened. I generally begin having these episodes more and more frequently by this time of year–after five or six months of constant travel throughout the race season. With my sense of place fading and my brain stewing into an unrecognizable pot of confusion, Cascade marks the fast-approaching end of the year.

But first the news. (I realize I used this joke just a week ago but I like it so much that I’ll employ it again). And by news, I mean the Boise Twilight race report. With most teams finally realizing that BC Superweek IS the shit, Boise Twilight had a small turnout this year. No more than 75 riders took to the start line, all vying for the second or third spot on the podium (UHC was there with six guys so second place would be pretty good goal). I crashed into a fallen body and went over the bars within 15 minutes of the start, no doubt caused by some idiot squeezing through a corner where there was no room left to squeeze. The crash and my resulting somersault through the air was topped off by at least two, maybe three, bikes and bodies crashing into my face. I suffered some very minor bumps and cuts, mainly to my forehead. My new Swift Carbon bike seemed to be worse off than me.

Having only mounted the shining steed earlier that afternoon for the first time when Allen got into town, and riding it for about an hour total (including the race), I realized that a bike this new must have been broken beyond repair in the crash. That’s just the way things work. Brand new bike, wheels, helmet, glasses, all with less than an hour of use, were destroyed. Not a doubt in my mind. I was very happily mistaken a few minutes later as the mechanic in the neutral pit looked things over, got my saddle, wheels, and bars straightened out, and sent me on my way.

I took to the front of the race for the next 40 minutes, following moves, attacking, and generally using up valuable energy in many  failed pursuits of primes and breakaways. With my saddle almost 2cm too hight (found that one out later) and an entirely new shifting set up (MicroShift), the race was half about dialing in the new gear, half about having fun in the sun, and half about getting opened up and prepared for cascade scoring a shit ton of free Cliff stuff at the sign in tent!!! Behold, my greatest mooching accomplishment to date:

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I’ve calculated that I came away with over 200 resale dollars-worth of product. The guy at sign in kept saying, “Don’t be bashful. I gotta unload all of this stuff,” as we dug deep into the many boxes. In hindsight, I’m not sure he was talking to me. I made two Hunchback of Notre Dame trips to the car and back with Blocks falling out of my jersey.

Anyways, I drifted a bit too far back with three laps to go, didn’t chop for three corners in a row on the second to last lap, and somehow found myself sitting 30th wheel, realizing that I wasn’t going to factor into the finish at all. Coming into the last lap, a separation occurred a few guys in front of me and the gap opened up. The race was up the road and I finished 38th. I didn’t care that much (I did care a little) and was just glad to not crash again. The crowd was great and it was certainly an exciting race. Downtown twilight crits always are.

The next morning Noah and I (Noah is Allen’s 13-year-old son) walked down the street to our free breakfast at the Marriott or Hampton–something fancy-sounding for middle-class people who’re pretending to be rich and too good for Motel 6 or Super 8. I had some bagel pizza things, sugary cereal, and some other sweet, refined flour and grease-soaked “food” while Noah had a waffle and high fructose corny syrup. I mean maple syrup. It was all very delicious.

Whilst leaving the fine establishment, Noah spilled an entire cup of apple juice on one of the guest’s feet. The poor guy was wearing flip flops. Noah apologized but the groggy patron, who’d most likely just woken up 47 seconds ago and stumbled his way downstairs to the breakfast area, barley managed an angry, jaw-clenched, “it’s all right.” It was not, though. Obviously not. Noah and I got the hell out of there before the hounds were released.

(Side story about Noah: he and our host mom, whom he’d just met, went on a walk down by the park Sunday evening while we were out riding and getting groceries. Noah felt the sudden and unavoidable movement of a large bowel and took to the woods as fast as his little legs could carry him. According to our host, he emerged a few minutes later wearing a sheepish grin and carrying a soiled pair of underwear (there were no leaves to use in the pine forest). As he was exiting the woods, a couple and their dog came around the bend. The dog may or may not have found and eaten from the pile left behind. I didn’t hear the full explanation of this part of the story).

Boise to Bend didn’t take too long and we got to our host house in time for a quick spin around the circuit race course, which I’ve now done 489 times. In the last two days. Tonight is the shortened 2.5-mile prologue (the prelude to Cascade, if you will). Unfortunately, the last, and therefor best, 400 meters of the course have been chopped off due to road construction. Making things even more difficult, the course has been closed for preview and pre-riding upon penalty of death because the neighborhood that it’s held in, like most of Bend, hates cyclists. Some of the homeowners complained that a few of the racers were unfriendly and confrontational last year while they checked out the fast, downhill corners of the course the day before the prologue (Those who don’t want to crash might consider this a necessity). But sharing doesn’t seem to happen after third grade. “Can’t we just run over them spandexed faggots without being given the horrid treatment of the middle finger in return?!! What’s the world coming to?! Don’t one of the amendments protect our God-given right to smash those two-wheeled freaks and their vital organs all over the road without being yelled at?!!”

We’ve had half a dozen confrontations with drivers in just the two rides we’ve done here—without breaking a single law other than being in the way and riding two-abreast…both of which aren’t breaking the law of course. Just the typical honking, screaming, and buzzing because we’re there and are slowing down the car behind us for 2.6 seconds. I get honked at, therefor I am.

Bend is being overrun with diesel-fumed rednecks and impatient SUV-driving moms on their way to everywhere and nowhere without a second to spare. Or maybe it’s just us that are overrunning the town. Cyclists need an island all to ourselves (Australia?) where we can be left to ride in peace without ruining everyones’ tight driving schedule of McDonalds–>24-Hour Fitness–>grocery store–>gas station–>McDonalds…all within a half mile of one another.

Although, today has been a relaxing day. Long and mostly uneventful with a short morning ride to open the legs and another one to gather borrowed equipment from Patrick of Full Circle (front tri spoke and skinsuit thank you very much).  Days like today, where we race for less time than it takes to deposit a solid poop, seem like a waste–an unnecessary expense of money and time spent away from home. Is it worth devoting an entire day to a four-minute race? Yes, of course. But only if you finish top 10. For the other 190 riders, the race starts tomorrow.

Catching up before Boise Twilight

I’m way out of shape. Not physically. I’m out of bike racer shape, which is to say I’ve lost touch with how to kill hours of down time by watching movies and facebooking. I used to be able to kill a day in no time, but today is taking forever. I’m here in Idaho for the Boise Twilight Crit, just hanging out in the Super 8 Motel with my teammate John Freter until the race tonight at 8:15.

We snuck into a breakfast buffet down the street earlier this morning (Saturday is biscuits and gravy day at the Marriott) and have been lying in bed ever since. Not in the same bed. Just two guys having a good time. We’re on our third episode of Two and a Half Men. I hate this show.

Since I left you hanging from a cliff after my last post I’ll have to go back and talk about the national champ crit because I know you can’t stand the wait any longer. It was flat, held on terrible pavement around the Capitol building, and the little bit of wind made it extremely difficult for breaks to stay away for more than a lap or two. I can’t sprint so my only chance was a breakaway. I sat in for the first hour at the back attempting to tail gun as guys shot out the back. I seriously don’t know how anyone could get dropped in this easy of a race but it happened to a lot of guys. I went with some attacks between 15 and 11 laps to go but nothing lasted long. I waited for another opportunity to attack again with a lap or two to go but had a hard time coming around Cash Call’s excellent lead out train (not because they were going fast–but because they were weaving across the road attempting to cash out everyone behind them in the corners). I finished 21st. I won’t be back to this crit unless I learn how to do a pack sprint.

On the other hand, I hear Boise Twilight is a super decisive course where pack sprints never occur not. My plan for tonight is to go on the attack earlier and get some primes and time off the front if I can manage it, get my legs in order for Cascade, and above all drink an extra large Slurpee afterwards. After our ride yesterday John and I both got Slurpees and both had green poop this morning. I hope 7-11 will be open late tonight. I heard that they used to only be open for 7 to 11, hence the name. Why they chose to have their hours of business between 11PM and 7AM is beyond me. I guess those are good hours for graveyard truckers doing their driving in the middle of the night.

I decided to go for a ride and just got back right now. I’d planned on just doing a boring spin around town but somehow ended up high in the hills overlooking Boise on a perfect climb with zero traffic (it was a closed private road). After the descent I stopped off in downtown near the crit course at the burrito place I’d been to with Spencer and Lang during our drive from Bend to Park City way back in 2010 in prep for the tour of Utah. It’s hot, dry, and sunny here in Boise and everyone was out and about. Should be a good race tonight with a fine crowd. Yes sir indeed. Yep. Yup. Yope.

Check out the live coverage of the race tonight starting at 8:15 central, 9:15 west coast.

http://new.livestream.com/usacrits/events/1949015

Elite National Road Race 2013

I’ll cut to the chase. I was 5th, just barley making it onto the 5-man podium for fame, glory, and riches beyond my wettest dreams. I was not stoked though. I was only coming here to win god damn it! But considering how “sick and shitty” I’ve been lately, 5th is pretty remarkable, according to Liam. After reflection, I have decided that I agree. It was the deepest national field ever (since there are now only 60 or 70 conti pros left), the course was super challenging, and I was on the tail end of a three-week-long cold. Still though, one of my favorite moments yesterday was talking to Adelaide on my cellular telephone after the race and telling her I got 5th, to which she gloomily replied, “Yeah I saw. Oh well.” She knew I’d only be happy with the win. I laughed about her reaction later, since 5th would warrant excessive congratulations from most people. Adelaide has only known me this year during my reign of success so she’s used to me only having great results or super strong rides.

I’ll get to the report, but first the news: the day before the race (Thursday), Michael and I rode the course for a little over an hour to check it out and open our legs after our day of travel on Wednesday. I personally felt like shit but once I could tell Michael was suffering I upped the pace and dropped him. I think we may have ridden harder during that pre-race recon ride than during the actual race. We got ice cream at the small country convenience store at the bottom of the hill afterwards.

(Note: we went there after the race too and the store owner gave us TWO FREE PIECES OF PIZZA!!!! Simply amazing, Wisconsin! When I become dictator of the world I will refrain from making your state part of my mid-continental sea. Instead, I will make you into an island filled with dairy cows, corn, and free pizza for all)!

Michael and I have been staying here at the Motel 6 in Madison, which doubles as a half-way home for ex-cons and recovering meth addicts. No joke. There’s a parole officer that stays here full time. When I first checked in, I saw the parole officer knock and then enter a room with a hand firmly grasping his still-holstered gun. I’m fairly certain that Michael and I are the only real motel guests. Everyone else is here for the long haul. They crowd the outside parking lot late at night to hang out and smoke cigarettes. Their children roam about the sidewalks during the day. One little girl was standing out there yesterday just yelling nonsense to nobody. Just screaming with her hands over her ears and unleashing what will one day become psychopathic anger into the street. These Motel 6 prisoners are dressed in pajamas all day long and seem to only leave their rooms to gather junk food from the downstairs vending machines. Loud doors slam and arguments boom down the hallways at night. I’ve already been asked by a friendly prostitute (or a really horny, tatted-out woman) if I’d like to come to her room. I declined. So that’s where we’re staying. The Motel 6 itself is in the bad part of town too. Late last night when I was out stealing wifi from Rocky’s Party Pizzeria next door, I saw about a dozen souped-up crappy sedans racing and doing peel outs in the middle of the road. Plus a couple gangs of croch rockets went by multiple times. I think the parking lot at Rocky’s Party Pizzeria is the local meeting spot for street racers.

The course was hilly, with one main climb and one steep wall. That first wall was short and steep and never really felt too bad to me. There’s a downhill after that, followed by a long stretch of flat road, some small bumps, then a fairly steep five minute climb. From there you go left after the top false flat section and barrel downhill for ten minutes and do it all over again for six laps total. Unfortunately, one of the originally planned hills was taken out of our course due to road construction, making our race extremely short at just 80 miles. As you  know, I don’t think any road races should be less than 100 miles.

It was hot and muggy but not too bad actually. I was pretty comfortable. I got in some last minute sauna training last week. Michael and I also had one of his teammates, Finn, handing bottles to us in the feed zone. This turned out to be crucial, as my $100 race fee didn’t go to any neutral bottles in the feed zone. None. Instead, USA Cycling divvied the $20,000 in race entry fees to the fully loaded cash prize list. Wait…

Finn, at 6’3″ 200 pounds, was the most graceful bottle feeder that I’ve ever had the pleasure to grasp a bottle from. Each hand off was a complete motion of fluidity and ease. I didn’t grab them, Finn coaxed the bottles into my hand. Every time I got an ice cold bottle from Finn it felt like a thousand tiny ice feries were having an orgy right in my palm.

Okay, NOW onto the race. But first a few quotables from the week: the first is from John Hornbeck of Hagens. The second time up the main climb I heard this roar of anger and dirty words come from Steve Tillford. “Keep your fucking hands on your fucking bars when you climb. FUCK!! FUCKING FUUUUCK!!!” I think there were a few other words mixed in there but that’s all I heard. I looked over to see him arguing with John, who replied with the most SoCal phrase I can think of: “Bro, chill out.” Followed by, “Dude.” This brought me much laughter. But of course, since I’m staying with Michael, the best quotes of the week came from him.

While we were talking about how amazing it was to get ice-cold bottles out of the cooler in the feed zone, as opposed to luke warm bottles, Michael suddenly became very angry that more people don’t realize that cold water is a performance enhancer in the heat. This little doozy came out of Michael’s angry lips a second later: “It’s fucking science!”

Another one: “I’m a one-woman kinda guy.”

Another while talking about amateurs VS pro tour riders: “They just don’t like to break wind. I guess in the Pro Tour they don’t mind breaking wind as much.”

While eating ice cream on a bench, Michael’s cone started dripping white cream all over his shirt and crotch. “Damnit. It slipped out.” Finn didn’t even need to say it but he did anyways…That’s what she said.

Michael is the master of unintentional humor.

Finally the race: We started out downhill for 10 minutes of brake-melting neutral coasting. Once we started racing I began to drift back into the pack farther and farther, having no interest in following moves or tempting myself with a dumb early attack. It worked and I avoided the early break, which was just one guy. The first time up the climb was hard but not impossible to crest the hill in the top 20. The second time was easier, thought it got hard again near the top during an attack. It slowed down a couple hundred meters before the downhill so I attacked on the left before anyone else got the chance. I knew it was going to hurt just as much following as leading. My move didn’t really go anywhere.

The third time up the climb was the one that counted. Five guys got away just over the top. A CashCall rider set off in pursuit on the descent. Roman Kilun (Mike’s Bike’s) went after him. I was the last to go and made contact with Roman a minute later. The eight of us all joined up part way into the descent and quickly built a good lead, working together and taking even pulls. With most of the major teams represented, I knew it was a solid move to invest my energy with. A lap later we had 1:30 to the field, though suddenly four more bridged to us (I think). After the fifth time up the climb it was down to ten. I’m not sure if we dropped guys on that climb or if it was really only two guys that bridged to us, but the final ten that would contest the finish were:

David Santos and Cole House (CashCall)
Stephen Leece (Cal Giant)
Cameron Cogburn (CCB)
Joe Schmalz (Elbowz)
Colby Ricker (Sonic Boom)
Kevin Mullervye  (Champion System) 
Roman Kilun (Mike’s Bikes)
Andrew Seitz (Panther)
Me

Our gap was holding strong and I thought it was obvious that if we let it come down to the final climb, Cogburn would win. He was lighting the climb up each time with ferocity normally reserved for a Kennett devouring a large hoagie. The final time up the climb (the sixth time), instead of stopping after the feed zone it continued on for another kilometer across the top false flat lumpy section. From there you take a quick downhill turn to the right and go straight back up another steep climb for about one kilometer. The final four hundred meters of this are the hardest, steepest pitch.

House was the first to attack and he did it on the steep wall that I said never hurt that much. This time it did hurt a tiny bit I guess. It was about 10K before the finish and broke our group into three pieces, with me not worried about following the attack and deciding to save my legs in the third group. A minute or two later we all came back together as I assumed we would and I attacked and got away solo on a short downhill. I immediately had a good gap and no one chased. Had I been feeling 100% that day I’d have gone for it and if those guys didn’t organize a good chase I’d have been gone for good. But I wasn’t at full power. I was faking it. I had been feeling pretty weak all day long and knew I’d blow sky high within five minutes so I sat up after a K and let them catch me. We went really slow for a long time after that with only a few weak attacks. I went a final time right before the final climb just to see if I could get some distance before the real fireworks went off. I was joined by Colby but we were both reeled in pretty quickly once the climb began.

At first, our pace was more mellow than I’d thought it would be and was happy about that. Leece attacked pretty early. I set a decent pace on the front. He hovered about 15-20 seconds up the road and nobody made a move until we were most of the way up the steep part of the climb. Cogburn went. I didn’t even try to follow. No one did. Shorty afterwards Schmalz went. For the rest of us, it was now obviously a race for fourth place.

Some hard, hurtful accelerations were made over the top of the climb by the five guys left in our group. We went down the short, 20-second long descent and Kevin and I pulled off the front as Roman came around. The gradient decreased for a minute and we all took the opportunity to attempt to catch our breath and get the acid out of our legs. I personally failed on both accounts. I was at the back now.

With 500 meters to go I was on the verge of giving up. I NEVER give up in races, so it was pretty disheartening for me to even be thinking this. We were all in massive amounts of pain at this point and there were about 2.5 minutes of the worst pain yet to come. Usually I relish this moment. I believe I can push much harder than most in the final minutes of a race, especially when it’s been hard all day long and the final effort involves climbing a steep wall. But the last two weeks had been far below ideal race preparation and the mental and physical toll were wearing on me. I’d only done a handful of rides in the last 20 days and my cough had just subsided on Monday. All of these bad thoughts were going through my head as I began to get dropped from the remainder of the breakaway. I would finish 10th, last of the breakaway. But somewhere I found that last little bit of will power and forced myself up out of the saddle. I passed two guys. Then I passed one more. Than one more. I was closing in on Colby for 4th but ran out of hill. Once we got to the final 100 meter flat section at the top there was nothing more I could do. I crossed the finish line in 5th a few seconds behind him and 24 seconds behind the winner, Leece. I know I shouldn’t be upset about this result but it seems like my whole season has been characterized by near misses and consistent decency. I’ve rarely had a superb race this season (or a superb race by my standards). I want to win. I want to win a stage of an NRC. I have a few more opportunities and hopefully this week of training/racing and the next week of intervals back home will get me up to my normal level so I can take out that Aubrey Butte stage at Cascade. Then there’s a month off in August to fully focus on getting fast before my final two races of the year: Green Mountain and Buck’s County (PS if anyone knows of a team I can guest ride with at Buck’s County, please let me know).

I rode three hours today for some extra volume and have been laying around in my sweaty bed ever since. Tomorrow is the crit. I will be attacking. I need more food. Chipotle is calling again.

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I am all that is disgusting…my arms and chest look huge. Photo by Erika Fulk of Detroit Spoke.

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Photo from USA Cycling. Left to right: Colby, Cameron, Stephen, Joe, me.

Moving On

After an out of the blue barrage of dissent from my director, I’ve left Team Rio Grande. It feels terrible to leave mid season like this but it wouldn’t have been feasible to race well or enjoy my time with the team after being talked to like I was. I won’t go into the details. I wish my teammates the best and greatly appreciate all the support I’ve received from our sponsors this year.

In happier news, I’m finally over my cold (pretty much). As you might remember from my last post, I had to pull out of Nature Valley before starting the last stage because I was so sick. I flew home a day later and began my long progression towards health. It lasted three days.

By Wednesday I was feeling well enough to fly out the next day to Mt. Hood for the final edition of that race. I knew I wouldn’t be going super well, since I was still fighting the cold, but had convinced myself that I’d get better once I got out there into some fresh Oregon air. I figured I could still be of use to a couple of my teammates who were going well at the time, Nick in particular.

Early Thursday morning at 4AM, when I got up to take a taxi to the bus station, my sore throat was back. When I got to Oregon I was already feeling like I’d made a bad decision to come out for the race. I felt okay on the ride that morning with the team—the first time I’d touched the bike since the previous Saturday. I didn’t feel “well” though.

Friday: the first stage was also my last stage. I attacked immediately, knowing that I had only a few bullets to spend to try to make an impact on the race. Part of me knew that I wouldn’t be starting the following day. Racing only makes a cold worse. Never better.

Since there were no pre-race instructions and no neutral zone (the official’s car just took off without a word) my move from the non-existent gun caught a lot of people off guard. Only 25 guys managed to come with me.

I went pretty hard for the first K or so until Steve Fisher (Hagens Berman) and Logan Owen (Cal Giant) caught me. We were soon joined by my teammate Nick and some more Cal Giant guys, making a group of six or seven. More guys continued bridging up to us.

As the move swelled in those first 10K, I discontinued my time at the front as I was unable to recover my legs back from going over threshold. I was fine to ride hard tempo, but anything over that and I quickly started to fade. Before we got to the KOM, Nick asked me if I was going for it. I said no, and that he should himself.

As we made the left hand turn up the KOM, the group had reached 25 or more riders with the rest of the peloton close behind. Cal Giant had at least six guys, HB had three I believe, we had two, and most of the other teams had one or two as well. But almost have of them were spit out the back going up the KOM and our group went down to 15. Still too big.

Even though Cal Giant had five in the move, our gap never went up to more than a minute because everyone who was pulling was just barely taping through. I had to recover for a good 10 minutes before I went to the front. Even though I was sick I ended up doing more work than anyone else over the next couple laps, wondering whether it was wise to continue on.

Mucus started flowing into my lungs and I hacked it up more and more as the race progressed. Great. I’d ridden it into my lungs and now I had a cough. I pulled out of the break and out of the race half way though, hoping that I’d at least helped the move enough for it to stick and for Nick to win. He’d been going for the KOM points and had been riding as strong as anyone else in the move. His chance for taking the short uphill finish sprint was good.

But the move was caught a lap later and the next move won it. I flew home and was sick for another week before I started training again. Yesterday was my first set of intervals and they weren’t the best I’ve had, though they weren’t the worst of the year either. Since my legs are still sore and a bit tired, if anything I might have done a little too much in the past half week trying to get my legs back before nationals (which start on Friday). I felt like I needed to get opened up though.

Over the past week, Adelaide and I have been staying at Lydia and Jeff’s apartment next to Boulder Creek. It feels like a vacation home with the river right there, a park and pool—situated right near downtown. One night we watched an amazing lightning storm. There were bolts of lightning going off every second in a 300-degree radius. We thought it would be a good idea to go walk outside to a large, vacant parking lot about a mile away to get an un-disturbed view. It did not disappoint.

The storm was coming directly towards us and the thunder grew louder and louder. The wind picked up and blew sprinkler mist from the lawn in the air towards us, a little taste of the drenching we would soon receive. A bolt of lighting struck down in the city and an eerie green glow illuminated the sky for about 10 seconds. A transformer had blown to smithereens. I made fun of Adelaide for being scared and wanting to leave. She wanted to outlast another girl who was watching behind us with her boyfriend on the running trail. Adelaide is strangely competitive.

When the rain stared, the other couple left. I wanted to sit right there through the whole thing but the rain quickly turned into a downpour with gumball sized hail. We ran for home, getting pelted on the head and shoulders from the massive hail. The lighting storm continued, giving all of Boulder and the surrounding area a free strobe light dance party. I was secretly hoping to get struck, like I always do because I assume the lighting will give me super powers, but we made it back unscathed, except for some hail bruises.

I now sit in the Denver airport waiting for my flight to Madison, Wisconsin. The road race on Friday is my main goal. The crit on Sunday will be a consolation just in case I don’t get the result in the road race. I have no idea how my legs and lungs will feel for the race. I’m guessing good but hoping for amazing like they’ve normally been this year. I’ll be racing for Firefighter’s this weekend and for the remainder of the season, trying to recreate this:

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