I’m up here in the mountains guest riding with Horizon Organic p/b Panache this weekend and we’re two days into the three-day Steamboat Springs stage race. Like most red-blooded American weekend stage races, there’s a time trial, a crit, and just a single road stage. Normally I’m pretty mad about the lack of hard stages (the road stages) during a multi-day race. Is a time trial necessary EVERY time? And crits are only 60 minutes–come on let’s ride something hard, long, and painful that will make us sweat and groan… But, this time I’m not screaming for more. I had plenty of time riding my brains out yesterday, spending almost the entire 82 miles off the front with my teammate, Colby Pearce, destroying myself in a two-man team time trail.
The day before that (Saturday), we kicked things off with a 17km time trail. It was fairly flat, boring, and of course miserably painful. At the start tent, my one minute man was a no-show, then my 30 second guy (Hunter from Canyon) dropped his chain while back-pedaling 20 seconds before his start. I ran to the rescue and put it back on while he was clipped in and being held up by the start tent guy. I couldn’t let him miss his start. I needed someone to chase. I got his chain on just in the nick of time and he went off on, his chain followed shortly, again 20 meters down the road. With Hunter now fiddling with his chain on the side of the road and my minute man nowhere to be found, it appeared I’d have no one to chase down. It’s not necessary but it’s good for the moral to at least have someone in sight.
Despite not riding my time trial bike since Cascade, I somehow found some good aero-ness form yesterday. I blew by my 1:30 man 8-minutes into the race. Then I passed my 2-minute man shortly after that. Our director, Nick Traggis, had informed me that the back side of the course had a tailwind. Knowing this, I’d counted on being able to pedal less for the final 10 minutes. This was not the case. Even though it was a hot-dog-shaped loop, there was a head wind both directions! Pretty sure about this. I died hard and had to chomp some sizable holes in the sides of my cheeks during the final couple kilometers. I came in 4th, just 32 seconds back from Jim Peterman, the time trial phenom of the year. Colby was second at 19 seconds back so we had two in the top five and some good options for the road race the next day.
Our plan for the hilly road stage was to attack, then attack some more, then finally to make sure that we attacked later on and won by attacking. Things got off to a good start when everyone on the team attacked at least twice in the first three miles. We had Jackson, Josh, Kit, Brad, myself, and Colby all going with moves and countering everything that went off. I got away a couple times but got brought back. When things slowed temporarily I got away again with Drew Christopher of Primal and built a quick minute on the field before the first short climb. The gap grew and as Nick drove by in the team car to get to the feed zone he yelled out, “wait for help!” There’d be no way two guys could hold off the field for 80 miles by themselves on a course that hard. I began worrying that I was wasting my energy, so we slowed down a tad.
All ‘a sudden the field was upon us. Drew called it a day since he had a bunch of teammates back there and dropped off my wheel as I plodded on, doing my usual self-counter attack (100% of the time it works every other time). I glanced back and low and behold I saw Colby coming across to me. Solo. Mind you, he was second on GC, a known monster, has been training his ass off lately, is the former professional national champion, etc… He was NOT the guy you let bridge alone to a rampaging Kennett who’s content with riding in the wind for hours on end. Every other team lost the race in that blink of an eye when they didn’t close it down immediately.
I drilled it when Colby got up to me. Colby drilled it. I drilled it some more. Colby drilled it some more. Within five minutes our lead was over a minute. The entire Primal team was on the front and losing ground to us. The gap went up. I began to suffer half an hour later from the lack of draft (Colby is roughly 1/8th my size) and the hard pace at the thin, 7,000-foot mountain air. Maybe more like 70,000 feet. It felt like it. By the first turn-around we had three minutes. It held there until the base of the major climb (the course was a Y shape with two turn-arounds–one of which was at the top of the main climb).
As our lead grew, tempers back in the peloton grew when Josh, Jackson, Kit, and Brad continued their relentless smothering of moves going off the front. There wasn’t a team (or teams) with sufficient fire power to put guys on the front and lead a concerted chase that would bring us back. Kit had a rider spit in his face during the rising tension. I remember the first time I got spat in the face while on the bike. It was on the Shootout training ride in Tucson, which is more important than any race you or I will ever do.
I let Colby know that he had to lead up the climb since he was massively stronger than me going uphill. I was worried that we’d get caught, passed, and dropped on the long climb and the team’s race would be ruined due to my over-aggression. We needed to go hard. I told Colby to slow down at one or two points by whimpering. Words were just beyond me and the mental capacity for an actual sentence wasn’t even plausible. I wish I’d known the climb because the worst part about torture is when you don’t know when it’ll end.
The peloton blew to bits on the climb behind us as they ramped up the speed. Jim Peterman (1st on GC) and Robin Eckmann (3rd on GC) were doing what they could to bring us back. Robin’s brother, Yannick, had been dropped early on in the stage when he got a flat tire, which of course lead to Colby’s and my advantage since it meant there was one less strong guy to help chase us.
Colby paced us just hard enough for me to not blow up. There were three stair steps to the climb with two short descents. The whole thing was roughly 40 minutes. Amazingly, by the top we’d only lost 20 seconds on our lead and Nick shouted to us from the feed zone that the chase was disorganized and the field was shattered. A strong Alex Hagman of Jelly Belly, who’d just come off the tours of Utah and Colorado, was leading Michael Burleigh of Primal with a small gap to the next group of six that had Kit in it.
We hit the turnaround and railed the descent at full blast. The moto official behind us later congratulated us for our daring descent. “You guys ripped it!” He was stoked. Every second we gained on the descent was a second less that we didn’t have to pedal when the road flattened out. Wait. That doesn’t make sense.
We kept a strong pace for the final 20 miles back into town, both dying a million deaths during the last five, which never seemed to end. Colby selflessly told me to take the win since he’d most likely get the GC win so we did an awesome hand-holding celebration as we crossed the line—something I’ve always wanted to do. We came to a halt, utterly wrecked. We congratulated each other on the punishment we’d just dished out to ourselves–and the sheer crushing, humiliating punishment we’d unleashed upon the field. I’ve ridden in breakaways with some strong guys this year (Tom Zirbel, Freddie Rodriguez, Janier Acevedo, etc) but riding with Colby was the hardest yet. The guy has old man strength like you wouldn’t believe. We finished 2:23 on Alex and Michael.
While I was puking on the side of the road (I hope this isn’t a new habit of mine), the third group, of around eight, came in for their sprint finish. Kit, who’d been solo for 15 miles after the climb in an attempt to bridge to Hagman, was tragically gobbled up inside the final hundred meters by Josh’s chase group. Josh finished 5th and Kit was 8th. Four in the top 10 aint bad ‘atall.
The rest of our day was spent watching the most recent Muppet movie, hanging out at the post-race BBQ, listening to increasingly disturbing, and hilarious, shenanigans from Damo, and draining just on the verge of too many tequilas and beers back at the condo. Just on the verge but not quite over the limit, sort of like how hard I had to go on the climb without blowing up. It was a fun evening with everyone in good spirits. I hold myself in high regards when it comes to my brilliant sense of humor and I’ll say it now that the Horizon guys know how it’s done. Crude like oil.
Today we have the short 60-minute crit in the afternoon with the goal of defending our GC lead. Everyone’s legs felt pretty decent during the morning ride and considering the team’s performance yesterday, our hopes and confidence are high for the stage win as well. We’ll be on the lookout for hawked loogies this time.
We almost won again. Brad, Kit, Josh, and Jackson covered and drove a lot of moves for the first half hour without anything gaining much ground. Colby and I were up there too but sat back a tad to let the other guys do their thing. I went to the front for a long spell to shut down bridge attempts when we had guys up the road, and I also had a good time riding fake tempo on the front, hoping one of the breaks would stick. But with 20 minutes to go the cooperation among all the break groups was still to be seen. So we put everyone on the front for the sprint. Colby and I began taking pulls with less than 10 minutes left. I would have liked to have been up there earlier but we wanted to use the race as practice for when we had to defend a close GC lead.
It was down to Kit, me, and Colby leading Josh out with one to go. Kit pulled off and I took over with 3/4ths of a lap left. I wasn’t going that hard yet when Colby came around me. I’d been waiting to save it all for the last 500 meters since I didn’t think anyone would come around on the slight downhill part of the course but I should have just pegged it all out once I got on the front. It’s hard to believe it but this was the first time I’ve ever done an organized lead out. Ever! I could have taken us all the way to the final stretch with no problem at full gas, but my day was done as the field swarmed passed me. I had way too much left and I was pissed I didn’t get to use it. Colby dropped Josh off with 200 meters and Josh narrowly missed out on first, getting passed in the final 50 meters by Michael Dessau of Slipstream.
The team earned 1st and 2nd on GC, a 1st, two 2nds, and a 3rd on stage placings yet were still a bit bummed about not winning the crit.
As I drifted back towards the finish area after the race was over a woman came up to me and asked if I was Kennett. Yes, I said. The only one I know of. She was my escort (awe yeah!) for USADA doping control (awe no!). Actually, I was pretty excited to do this since I’ve never been drug tested before. It was sort of unexpected at a smaller race like this but the Colorado racing association had wanted them to come out at some point this year and I’m glad they were there, if nothing else but to put some fear into people.
They tested 1st, 2nd, and 5th on GC (they skipped to 5th so they could get Jim Peterman I believe). This lead me to wonder if USADA looks at results back at HQ, tracks up and coming guys, and specifically targets them for testing when they get the chance. I think it would make sense to do that.
I drank about a gallon of liquids and waited a little while to pee, though it didn’t take too long. Stage fright didn’t get me even though Colby said I was doomed to try and pee as early as I did. First I asked the testers if they’d accept a stool sample instead since I mainly needed to take a dump but they said no. They sort of laughed. Maybe.
The testing procedure was by the books, I assume. My tester gave me instructions on every minute detail, from how to open and inspect the vials to how to correctly hold me penis. He even helped me aim it in the cup! (A two-man job). Such a nice guy! I kid.
Other first time testees in my shoes might spend the next month worrying if their melatonin or recovery drink was laced with HGH, but not me. I did a CAT scan back in college as part of a psychology experiment (I got paid $50 for it) and they found “something” odd in my brain. I ended up having to go get a medical grade CAT scan and see a neurologist two or three weeks later because it looked pretty worrisome (like a tumor). It ended up just being a small void in my brain (shutup), which they told me wasn’t that uncommon. Anyways, I was worried about the possible tumor for about two days after I was told about it then I completely forgot for the two weeks in between before I got my next scan and saw the neurologist. So I don’t think I’ll be too worried about the test. It’s definitely not true thought that an innocent person has nothing at all to fear.
Thanks for all the excellent teammwork this weekend Jackson, Colby, Nick, Josh, Kit, and Brad. It was impressive to see what a super strong, well-run squad can really do!
It was great to hang out and ride with the Horizon guys this weekend and extremely satisfying to see that the boring two weeks of rest after Cascade and the following 3-weeks of brutal training paid off. This race has given me some extra motivation for Bucks County next week, not that I need it. My pants get tight just thinking about it.
Me putting the hurt on myself during the TT.
Colby actually managed to pedal the full three hours and eight minutes in this position, which made drafting difficult.
PS I’m joking you idiot.
Sorry for calling you an idiot just then. More team two-man team time trail action with the peleton nowhere in sight.
Damo Shanks was around for wrenching and entertainment this weekend. Mainly to teach young Jackson Long about the ways of the world actually. Mr. and Mrs. Long, sorry for returning a broken child.
Couple laps to go during the crit. Front to back: Colby, Kit, Me, Josh.
Josh on the crit podium with Michael and my ex teammate Colt Peterson.