Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

2014 Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race

The annual stage race that brings racers from all over the PNW and ton of racers from north of the boarder started off with a twist this year.  Gone were riders in alien looking helmets on funky looking speed bikes.  This year everyone had to start the stage 1 TT on standard, mass start bikes.  You could not use a TT specific bike frame, TT aero helmet, disc wheels or wheel covers.  I for one was not happy with this change.  I get why it was done but I put a lot of time in on my TT bike and love tuning in the "wind cheater" to get as fast as I possible can.(which isn't really that fast)  Anyway, I got over it and tried to figure out how I could make my Tarmac go faster.  I put on a 101mm wheel in back and an 82mm up front, bought a little rain/aero cover for my helmet and, well, that was pretty much all I could do.  I went out on the course the night before to try to figure out aero position.  I rotated from setting my forearms on top of the bars to riding low with my hands in a fist on the hoods to in the drops.  By the end of two laps I still had no idea which was faster.  We'll see.

Stage 1:  TT
The weather was holding but as I rode to the start it started to sprinkle.  Really???  It only lasted about a minute so I'd have nothing to blame if I had a shitty ride but myself.  My start time was at 10:44AM and my teammate Alex was starting 30 seconds behind me so I was hoping to be a good rabbit for him.  In addition to me and Alex we also had Neal and Jack racing the Masters 35+ field. 

I think I lost a second or two at the start.  I didn't want to jump the gun like I did in Walla Walla where I got a two second time penalty.  This is only a 10K course so seconds could count.  I got off to a good start and quickly rested my forearms on the bars and got up to speed.  I didn't feel comfortable at speed so I moved down to the drops and left them there for the duration.  I've been in solo breakaways going as hard as I could but this still felt weird.  I felt like I was going fast but I'm sure I was way slower then if I were on my TT bike.  The nice thing was at the short kicker on the back side of the course it was easier to jump out of the saddle drill it over the top.  I felt pretty good most of the race but could feel myself dying a little with about 2K to go.  I just stayed steady and then at the sharp left hand turn that was about 250M from the finish I jumped out of the saddle and road it like a finish sprint in a road race.  I felt like I did OK but in the end I was sitting 8th, 29 seconds back.  My teammate Jack finished 25 seconds back and was sitting just in front of me in 7th.  Alex was 43 seconds back and Neal was 1:30 back.  When we saw the results HSP's Brad was in first with teammate Todd in 2nd only 4 seconds back.  Dave(OOA) was in third, 10 seconds back and his teammate Jeff was 5th., 21 seconds back.  We'd have our work cut out for us if we wanted to move up. 

Stage 2:  Crit
I was able to park my RV in my usual spot right near the start/finish line.  The weather all day was pretty nice and I got to watch some good racing early on.  We kept checking the weather and it looked like the rain was going to hold off until after everyone was finished for the night.......NOT so fast.  Right when the Pro/1/2 women were getting ready to start a cell moved in and it started to pour.  Right after their start they had a huge crash that took out about 10 of them.  My mood quickly shifted.  I was not looking forward to racing this 8 corner crit in the rain.  About half way done with their race the clouds parted and it started to clear up.  When we took our warm up laps I was happy to see that most of the course had dried up except the road along the finish stretch.  I still took some pressure out of my tires.

It's always hard to make up any time in a crit, especially a 30 minute crit.  30 minutes is way to short for a crit for guys at this level but the race director has to figure out how to get all the races in before dark so that is what we were stuck with.  We knew HSP, OOA and the Canadian team Shox would be keeping tabs on the field so we knew it would be hard to get the bonus primes.  We really just wanted to win the stage.  Things were going fine until a guy made one of the worst, bonehead moves I've ever seen in a crit.  He took out Brad who was the GC leader and sent at least four others to the pavement.  I really don't know how I didn't go down. I ran over the back of Brad's bike and thought I was going to go down on my left side.  Right then someone else bounced off me and I think it helped me to stay upright.  The crash sent Keiichi Otani to the hospital and my teammate Neal hurt his wrist and although he was able to finish the crit he was not able to race the next day.  Luckily Brad was able to get back in the race. 

Alex took off hard with two to go and really got the pack strung out.  This was perfect as Jack and I were able to get in a good position near the front of the field.  Jack was lined up right behind and moved left to start his exoneration right before the final turn.  Todd(HSP) who was working for Brad was done with his work and swung wide to the left to slow us down.  I got caught up in that but Jack was able to fire through on the right side.  He ended up crossing the line in 2nd and I came through in 6th.   With his time bonus for finishing 2nd Jack was able to move up a place to 6th.  The rest of the GC pretty much remained unchanged.

Stage 3:  Road Race
The weather in the morning was not bad but the forecast was calling for thunder storms right about the time were about half way through the race.  I decided to over dress a bit just in case.  Since there were a good handful of us that were between 20 and 30 seconds back we knew that HSP, OOA and Shoxs would be hard pressed to let anyone get a sizable gap.  Alex was over a minute back and he planned to try to get of the front early to see what would happen.  Sure enough not long after the start, Alex and a couple of others that were sitting about where he was took off hard and got a gap.  Now Jack and I could just sit in and not waist any energy.  We waited for the GC guys to react.  For a while they did nothing but soon Todd came to the front and worked just hard enough to keep the break in check.  Todd, Brad and Dave (OOA) kept this up off and on for a while.  They just made sure they didn't get more that 35 to 45 seconds up the road.  When we reached the Mud Mountain climb for the 1st time we could not see the guys in the break.  I think because of that the pace up the climb was fast.  That is when I realized I had good legs and was able to sit near the front and respond to any accelerations that were made.  The I saw a guy up the road moving backwards.  Shit, it was Alex!  We were on him fast.  As we went by I looked and told him to slide in but when he looked over I could tell something wasn't right.  I didn't realize for a while that he was no longer with us.  I found out later that he had gotten ill and actually puked twice during the climb and ended up dropping out of the race.  The pace we kept up the hill also caused several guys to drop off the back.  This was going to be a brutal one.  Jack and I were now the only two left.  There were a few more attacks on lap one but nothing really got more than about 10 seconds up the road.

Sometime during the start of lap two Darren(Shox) who won the RR last year, and Jeff (OOA) who was sitting 5th in GC took off.  I almost went with them but wanted to see what Brad and Todd were going to do.  A few seconds later Todd took off hard and joined the other two.  Shit, I should have went with him.  Those spit second decisions can be killers.  I was sure that someone would panic and start to chase them down but no one did.  Crap, now it will be hard to jump without HSP, OOA or Shox shutting it down. 

The break started to get out of control and eventually they built of a 2:00 minute lead.  The weather was starting to play a roll as well.  At times it was raining about as hard as it could but then we'd roll into stretches that were bone dry.  The wind was slowly starting to pick up as well.  I started to realize that not only would we be NOT moving up in GC  but we were now in jeopardy of dropping spots.  I did not want to sit around and just let that happen.  Shawn(Vertical Earth) who was sitting 4th and also in jeopardy of losing his GC spot decided to come up and work with me at the front.  Not a single other person was willing to help.  I didn't care.  We kept at it and started to make up a little time.  After a while Jack and Matt(Audi) joined in and we actually had a nice little pace line going for a while.  It broke up soon after and I think Shawn had enough and jumped off the front.  No one went with him.  Soon enough he got a nice gap and now there were four up the road.

We hit the climb for the 2nd time and this time Tim(Starbucks) set a really fast pace up the hill.  I fell in right behind and sure enough a few more guys dropped off.  Near the feed zone I decided to attack and got a small gap.  I kept it going all the way through the uppers side of the course until we reach the downhill.  I mainly wanted to prevent anyone who got dropped from catching back on during the descent. 

Fast forward to the 3rd time up the climb.  Once again Tim got to the front and set an even faster pace.  I was still able to sit right near the front.  This was my first time racing with Jack and I know he can sprint but was super happy he was still with us at the top of the climb.  He admitted it was starting to take a toll but he was still there.  Once again I decided to try to put a hurting on the field near the top and once again got a gap.  The same two Canadians that chased me down on the last lap bridged up to me again.  I yelled at them to pull through so we could do something and one of them looked over and shook his head.  I asked them what the f*ck was the point?  They said nothing and sat on my wheel.  After the descent Shane(Mighty) gunned it and got a gap.  Once again no one went with him.  I decided to go and wouldn't you know it.  My buddies quickly bridged up and got on my wheel but did not pull through.  I started to wonder if many of these guys were actually hurting and it was all they could do to try to keep this whole thing from blowing up.  OK then.....I'm just going to keep attacking.  The next two times they were quick to close me down but I didn't even wait a second before jumping hard again.  Holy Shit!! I think they finally had enough of me and let me go.  Oh Shit!!......Now I had to drill it hard to catch Shane.  It took a minute or so but as soon as I hooked up we started trading pulls and but the time we made the hard left hander for the start of the last lap we were half way between the dwindling field and Shawn.  After another minute or so we hooked up him. Now it was the Shane, Shawn and Sean show.  I was worried that Shawn was going to be super tired after his solo effort but he didn't skip a beat.  It was actually Shane that was hurting a bit.  He took about two second pulls while Shawn and I did about 20 seconds each.  Shane was not just along for the ride.  I think he only skipped one or two pulls at the most. 

I had not thought of actually catching the trio up the road.  Last we heard they had a two minute gap and I didn't think it was possible to make up that much time with less than one lap to go.  Add the fact that now some of the podium contenders left in the main field would not just sit and just let us go without a fight.  I was just hoping to get some mop up time and maybe move up a place or two.  We were really cruising and it felt good.

We reached the climb for the last time and I was in a zone.  I told them we needed to drill it up the hill because it would be the last chance the field had to put a stop to this little thing we had going.  I moved to the front and we hit it pretty hard.  Shane is a big guy.  He probably had 30 to 35 pounds on me but he was latched right onto my wheel.  How can this guy climb so well?  I think the pace finally took a toll on Shawn.  About half way up he started to fall off the back.  The feed zone was crazy.  It was packed with people and they were yelling like crazy.  They kept yelling 30 seconds......30 seconds?  Go, Go, Go!!  Shit,  the pack is only 30 seconds behind us now???  I asked Shane if we should wait for Shawn.  If he could recover on the flats it would help us out.  Right then we made the turn at the top of the climb and we could see three guys just up the road.  At first I thought they were just stragglers from another field but I quickly noticed that there was a lead car with them.  Holy Shit!!!  That was Todd, Jeff and Darren.  We made up almost two minutes in less than a lap. That is why the feed zone crowd was yelling so loud.  We decided to forget about Shawn and put the hammer down.  I did about a 30 second pull and flicked Shane to come through.  He told me he wasn't able to match my speed but would help if I really needed it. At this point I was really feeling it and didn't really need much help but wasn't sure how long I could continue at this pace.  A short while later I flicked him again and he pulled through.  He took a short pull and then told me he would drill it on the down hill section.  I finally looked back for the first time and the only one in site was Shawn.  I realized that we really didn't need to worry about getting caught and totally focused on bridging up to the leaders.  Sure enough when we made turn to head downhill Shane drilled it and led the charge.  We were f'ing flying!  It wasn't happening fast but we were gaining more time.  We were now only about 15 to 20 seconds back.  Could we do this?  The road flattened out some and I jumped back to the front.  I took another super long pull before flicking my elbow again.  Shane pulled through and told me he'd do whatever it took to pull them back and that in no way would he try to out sprint me at the finish.  He is a stand up guy.    Soon enough the three started to notice that we were closing and started going harder.  That, along with the super crazy head wind started to slow our progress.  Right before we took the right hand turn with about 2K to go I took one more look back.  No one was there.  Shane led me down the road up to where there was a short kicker.  I jumped in front and got out of the saddle. We were still closing on them but were running out of time.  Little did we know that since on paper, Brad was first in GC, Todd took absolutely zero pulls the whole time they were off the front.  He was fresh and when he saw we were still closing with only 2K to go he jumped hard off the front.  He was flying and with 1K to go I knew he was going to take the win.  Since it was a stage race and all about time I told Shane that we needed to keep going hard to the finish.  We mad the final left hand turn that was about 300m from the finish and we went a hard as we could.  Todd finished 24 seconds in front of us and Darren and Jeff were only 10 seconds up.  I crossed the line in 4th.  I quickly swung around so I could see how much time back everyone else was.  I finally had time to think.  Todd and Jeff were probably going end up 1st and 2nd but I realized that there was a chance that I could get the third podium spot. 

I waited at the finish line with my eyes on the clock.  I expected to see Shawn to come through next but to my surprise it was Dave(Oly).  There was no sign of Brad.  I looked at the clock and did in fact move up to third in GC.  That was a super hard race and I was glad it paid off.

Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 Olympic View Road Race/Masters State Championships

It was another Saturday of racing where no one knew exactly how to dress.  If you looked at the forecast online it showed the typical half sun, half cloud with 70% chance of rain.  Will it rain, will the temperature drop significantly when it does?  This was the Washington State Masters Road Race Championships and we didn't want to get caught off guard by anything. We all decided to dress for the extreme.  You can always strip gear off, right? 

It looked like it could rain at any minute but at the start the conditions were, well, OK.  Along with me, Aaron, Nikos, Mike, Kevin and Ed lined up for the Masters 1/2/3 40-49 race.  Other teams were also well represented and we knew we were going to be in for a tough race.  The course isn't that tough on paper.  There is one gradual climb  not long after the start and a short grinder about 3k from the finish.  Looking around we noticed that there were a slew of sprint specialist in the field and if any of them were still around for the finish sprint it could get ugly for us mere mortals.  Once again our plan was to get 1 or 2 guys off the front in a break.  I was going to keep my eye on Jeff Reed(Starbucks) and Aaron Shaw(HSP).  They are two that have been luck getting into successful breaks so far this year.  There were others to watch but I figured most of them would wait for something to happen and then try to jump on.

Not long after we were released by our lead car Jeff Reed took of and Todd Gallaher(Guinness) quickly joined him.  I was near the front and ready to go but decided to see how the rest of the pack was feeling.  No one else wanted to join the fun and I decided to just sit in near the front and see if anyone got nervous.  Jeff went into diesel mode and Todd decided to sit up. Soon enough Jeff was just a speck on the road in front of us.  A short while later I looked over at Aaron(HSP) and said, "You know we can't just continue to let him ride off the front like this, don't you?" 
Aaron smiled and said that there was over 60 miles to go in this one and he won't be able to hold it riding solo.  Did you see what he did at IVRR a couple of weeks ago?
Still, no one responded for a while but when we reached the short climb 3K from the start we started racing again.  After the descent the pace towards the finish line was super fast.  We were strung out single file.  Jeff had held his lead for over a lap but as we took the right hand turn after the finish we could see him up the road.  Everyone slowed up a bit, deciding to just let him dangle off the front for a while before reeling him in.  The only thing wrong with that is Jeff doesn't give up and as soon as we slowed he hit the gas and started to increase his gap again.  I hadn't really done any work so when we hit the climb I attacked hard just to see what would happen.  A few guys jumped on and even though we got a little gap it all came back at the bottom of the hill.  After that a small group of us started working pretty hard and after about a five minute effort Jeff was finally brought back.  It didn't looked like he was hurting at all and he was immediately able to slide right back near the front of the pack.  A few moments later Brad(HSP) took off and again, no one decided to go with him.  He too disappeared up the road. 

Brad held this for quite a while and I actually thought that if we didn't do something soon he might be able to pull it off.  We started the final lap and it was now or never if we didn't want Brad to solo in for the Gold.  Nikos, Doug(Audi) and Jeff(Starbucks), yes, Jeff, took off hard and got a gap.  I was surprised that no one from Bikesale or Olympia Ortho made a move to go with them.  We started up the first climb and Aaron(HSP) looked over at me and asked if I was OK with what was going on.  I told him if the three of them were able to bridge up and work with Brad then I was super comfortable with it.  I told him that if a group of strong guys responded hard to try to bridge we'd have to go with them.  Right as I finished my sentence Rich McClung jumped hard with a couple of guys in tow and Aaron and I quickly responded.  As we made the turn at the bottom of the hill I looked back and realized we had a gap on main pack.  It was kind of a cluster f*ck at first but Rich finally got us organized and we quickly increased our lead.  Soon enough we hauled in the three in front of us but Brad was still up the road a bit.  There were 11 of us and right away I noticed that that about four of the guys with us were just happy to be there and were doing zero work.  One of them was Aaron but we knew he was going to just tail gun until we caught Brad.  After we got our double pace line going I finally took stock at who was in our group.  I soon noticed that none of the big time sprinters made the break!  Now we not only had motivation to catch Brad but also to keep the main pack from catching us!

It wasn't long before we caught Brad.  He sat in the back and took a rest while about six or seven of us kept the rotation going.  We had no idea how big our gap was so we couldn't start playing games.  With about 10K to go we finally got word that we had well over a one minute gap and I knew the State Champion was going to come from this group.  I looked around and knew Rich(Broadmark) and Mike(Bikesale) would be my two biggest threats in an all out sprint and that Jeff, Aaron and Brad could make a move and possibly get off the front.  Now the small solo attacks started and they didn't stop.  We kept our eyes on HSP and Audi who along with us also had two in the break.  We were not going to let either of them go without Nikos or I jumping on.  Jeff(Starbucks) was still feeling good after all the big efforts he had put in and of course put in a couple of attacks himself.

 It was starting to get hard to respond to all the attacks but both Nikos and I were still feeling pretty good and when we finally got to the short climb that was 3K out Nikos jumped hard.  I sat up and waited for others to respond and as soon as they did I jumped on and took a free tow up the hill.  Near the top of the steep sections I saw that everyone was just lining up behind him so I decided to jump hard to force them to work a bit.  I wanted to see if we could drop a couple of guys and also really wanted to be one of the first to hit the steep, winding descent.  It had rained off and on during the whole race but seemed to be mostly dry now.  I wanted to be able to take it as fast as I could and keep the packs strung out before the last 1.5K.  I was the first to hit the finish stretch and I swung wide through the turn, forcing about four guys to go past me.  We ran straight into a pretty strong head wind and I was sitting in great position about four wheels back.  I looked back and saw that Mike(Bikesale) was right on my wheel and it was pretty much single file all the way back.  I was going to wait and pick my time to sprint.  I was feeling pretty confident. 

With about 450m to go Jeff Reed jumped from behind and as he came by he yelled, "Get on my wheel!" I normally would be more patient but based on how he'd been riding all day and how fast he went buy I decided to take a chance and jumped on.  We were flying!  I looked back and saw we had a gap......a small one but a gap none the less.  It felt good.  Jeff was going to give me a perfect lead out!  It seemed  too good to be true.  Jeff had gone so hard, so early that with about 300m to go he blew up and pulled to the right.  I had no choice but to just put my head down into the wind and hope for the best.  I went as hard as I could but I could tell I was not going to have the juice to do this for the full 300m.  I had to just hope everyone else was dying too but I knew they were lined up behind me just waiting to pounce.  At the 200m mark (which was probably at 250m) Mike(Bikesale) jumped hard and got a small gap.  Rich(Broadmark) came by next and I got on his wheel.  It was short live.  I couldn't hold it and as the finish line got closer and closer I just waited for the swarm to engulf me.  With about 50m to go I was still sitting 3rd but then one by one they came flying by and I couldn't do anything about it.  I ended up 7th and Nikos 11th. 

Jeff still managed to hang on for 9th and after the race he came up to apologize.  I told him there was nothing to apologize for.  That's just bike racing and we took a big chance and this time it didn't pay out.  It has for each of us before and will again.  He then said, "Yeah, I guess I didn't hold a gun to your head and force you to jump with me!"  Exactly!  We were a little disappointed but we both knew we left it all out there.   I was super happy for Mike.  He played it perfectly and deserved the win!  On to the next race.

2014 Tour of Walla Walla Stage Race

Actual conversation I had with someone from work when they found out I was taking Thursday and Friday off from work:

"Are you doing anything fun during your long weekend off?" 
"Yeah, I'm heading over for the Tour of Walla Walla!"  
"Oh, we've done that!  If you have the chance you have to make sure to hit  (Enter Winery Names here) while on your tour!" 
"Oh,  you checking out Whitman? No, wait.....did the law finally catch up with you...ha ,ha, ha?"
"No.......and No comment!"
"What, then what are you going to do over there?"
"Actually it's for a bike race.".........moment of silence......
"Oh, like STP?"
"Yeah, just like that."

Yeah there are a lot of great vineyards, a university and yes, a maximum security prison but to me and the community of local bike racers it is the location of one of the best stage races in Washington.  Four stages over three days on great courses against a lot of guys we don't usually get to race against makes the long drive worth it.

About half of us that were going decided to head over Thursday afternoon.  It gave us a chance to settle in to our house and enjoy an evening cruise around the TT course.  When we left Bellevue it was raining.  When we crossed over Snoqualmie pass it was raining.  When we reached the Tri-Cities, it was raining and yes, when we reached Walla Walla it was f'ing raining.  We looked at the forecast and it showed that the next three days were supposed to be nice.  None of us felt like getting soaked so....... What else is there to do around here?

When we got up Friday morning the weather was nice but the wind was blowing like crazy.  We got out on the TT course for a spin and even though it was super windy it only seemed really bad in a few sections.  It was supposed to be just as windy on Saturday so we knew what we'd be in for. 

Stage 1 is only for the Pro/1/2 field, Masters men and Cat 3's.  All other fields start off on Saturday morning with the TT.   I think it has rained during this stage at some point in each of the last few years but there was no chance of that today.  We talked strategy and even though we are all decent time trialers we knew that last year Todd Harriott destroyed everyone in the TT and put a minute on the 2nd fasted time.  He would be hard to drop in this race (he won Stage 1 last year in a five man break) but we had to give it a shot.  All of us had been riding well so our plan was to attack, attack, attack and then well, attack some more in hopes of getting rid of some of the TT specialist.   We found out from Alex that unfortunately Todd was not going to show due to personal reasons but, the Evolution team from Oregon was bringing up another strong team this year and we still had our work cut out for us.

Stage 1:  Waitsburg Road Race.
We had six strong guys lining up for the Masters race and were eager to get things going.  We were doing two laps on a mainly flat course that has a nice, steady 3K climb to the finish.  It's a tough stage in the fact that guys want to establish the pecking order before the TT.  We rolled to the line for our start and we were told that we pushing each start out 15 minutes.  Back to the RV for another quick piss.  We rolled back and were then told everything was being pushed back an hour and, the Pro/1/2 race was going to be shorted to the same length as ours.  WTF was going on?  After anxiously sitting around for another 45 minutes we were told Stage 1 was going to be cancelled.  Without going into details, here is the email we all received from the promoter:
I want everyone to know how bad I feel about today's stage cancellation.
WA State requires certified flaggers on State Highways, Friday's course requires 7  . Not following these rules puts any future event in jeopardy. Arrangements had been made well in advance,"the best laid plans" sometimes simply don't happen. Time was our enemy, a start later than 5 would have put you, the riders at risk, something I refuse to do. Again, I am sorry about today's cancellation but we still have 3 stages of great racing ahead of us.
Michael Austin-Race Director

I'm not really sure how this happened but after receiving the new it was cool to see about 250 guys hit the course for a hot lap before heading back to town!

With the stage being cancelled it was a whole new ball game.  Now it was just a typical two day/3 stage race and the TT specialist could put themselves in a happy place.

Stage 2....I mean 1 - Time Trial.

The course is 9 mile semi circle with a nice punchy climb about 3k in. Our start times seemed to be pushed up by about an hour to what they had been in past years.  My start was at 9:41.  The weather was pretty much perfect and for the first time I can remember there was basically zero wind.  I got a good warm up in and rolled to the start.  I didn't really have a plan except to go as fast as I could for as long as I could.  It took off and as soon as I took the turn out of the gate I had a nasty little coughing attack.  My allergies had been acting up since we arrived in town and I'd been hacking up shit most of the previous day but felt fine at the start.  It really put my breathing out of whack and I was worried I wasn't going to be able to finish the race.  This went on until around the time we take the right hand turn that leads to the climb.   I coughed a big ass ball of phlegm out and then it stopped.  I tried to get into a rhythm and remembered what I was here to do.  The rest of the race seemed to go OK but I never really got into a really good rhythm.  I shifted gears a lot more than I usually do on the back side of the course and was kind of bummed when I crossed the line.  I ended up with a time that was about twenty seconds faster than last year and it was only good enough for 11th place, 1:13 back.  Alex was in 10th and Nikos 14th and Tom 18th.  Oh well, on to the crit.  Kevin and Neil were a little further back.

Oh, and on a side note, this was the first time in a bike race that I've been busted for cheating.  I guess during the final 10 second verbal countdown I must have took of a fraction early and was docked two seconds.  That two seconds dropped me down a spot to 12th. 

Stage 3 - Downtown Criterium:
I love this crit.  It is fast, exciting and usually a lot of people line the streets to watch.  Alex was sitting 10th, I was 12th and Nikos 13th, all of us just over one minute down.  Since we weren't sitting high on the GC we just wanted to have a good showing.  We'd attack, go for primes, try to possibly get someone off the front and if not, get someone lined up for the sprint at the end.  I was chosen to be that guy.  The race went well and we took a bunch of primes but with four laps to go we were all together.  A couple of attempts were still made to get guys off the front but I could tell we were in for a mass sprint to the finish.  With two to go Tom drove hard to the front and really got the pack strung out.  I was sitting about 6th wheel and kept my eyes on Brian(Fischer) and Rob(Audi).  Tom dropped off and Nikos took over and as we came up to the last two turns things were looking good.  We rounded the 2nd to last corner and we were flying.  I was right were I wanted to be and but just before the final turn a guy who had been going hard like he was either going to lead someone out or go for the win just sat up.  To avoid braking I moved slightly to my left (not where I wanted to be) and readjusted.  The only problem was a crosswalk that had a section where the curb jetted out into the course.  I had to immediately squeeze back in right next to the guy that sat up.  I was slowed up for just a split second but I lost Bryan's wheel.  Although I had a good sprint I could only manage 6th place.  I was happy with that.  But there's more.  Apparently there was a major issue with the finish camera and they worked hard to sort out who the top five were and then just gave everyone that wasn't gapped 6th place with the same time.  It's a stage race and time is the key but it just felt like the whole weekend might just fall apart.  So, me and about 40 guys were listed with 6th as our finish.

Stage 4:  Kellogg Hollow Road Race:
This one can be super brutal.  Three years ago I finished 4th.  Two years ago I was dumped on the last climb and last year I finished 2nd.  If you are not at the top of your game there are a lot of factors that can kill you in this race.  The climbs, the weather, the wind, oh, and the competition!  Anyway, all our guys were feeling good we knew Evolution would really work hard to control the race and not let anyone get too far up the road.  We figured we could at least make it a hard race and attack as much as we could.  Soon enough Kevin got up the road with three others, two of them being from Evolution.  None were high up in the GC so the pack let them go.

Things slowed down and by the time we reached the first climb it had gotten pretty boring.  About 1/3 the way up I decided to attack hard.  John(Evolution), who was leading the GC quickly got on my wheel along with a few others.  I knew he wouldn't do any work but I was surprised non of the others did.  I decided to just push on.  We were closing on the break fast but I was only willing to do a certain amount of work.  Just about the time I was thinking of sitting up Rick(Fischer) came flying by and took the lead.  Here we go!  By the time we finished descending we were all back to one big happy group.  I finally had a chance to catch my breath and took a quick look back.  Our field was not as big as it was 10 minutes ago!  After that there were a lot of small attacks but nothing unmanageable.  When we reached the first climb on the last lap it was Nikos' turn to initiate some pain.  He took off hard and really strung out the pack.  Once again by the time we hit the flat section the pack was a little smaller. 

By the time we crested the final climb we were down to about 25 guys.  It was time to think about the finish.  With about 4K to go Tom came up beside me and told me to follow him to the front.  We had four guys up front and with about 2K to go Alex attacked.  He got a small gap before the group responded.  This was awesome as the pack really got strung out.  When they brought him back he waited a second and then went hard again.  This really gave me a chance to pick where I wanted to be for the finish.  I looked around and saw Rick and Warren (Fischer) getting ready to hit the gas help get Bryan to the line.  I hooked onto Bryan's wheel and at the 200m mark (which was way longer than 200M) he took off.  I was locked on his wheel and with about 40 to go I swung hard left and made my move.  It was almost perfect.......almost.  I passed him right as we crossed the line.  I jumped a fraction too late but was totally happy with 2nd place and the effort my team put in to put me in position to win. 

I think our overall results would have been better if we would have raced stage 1 but it was still a super fun weekend of racing.

Tour de Bloom (Crit)

We had made camping reservations a long time ago in Wenatchee for this race.  A few weeks back I decided I needed a break and planned on skipping out on the Omnium.  A few days before my wife bought a brand new SUP board and saw that the weather in the Seattle area was going to suck starting on Saturday.  Wenatchee was looking good so since we still had the reservation we decided to head over.  Since I wasn't planning on racing I decided that I would only do the crit and just hang out and enjoy the weather the rest of the weekend.  My start time wasn't until 7:00pm on Saturday so that would give us plenty of time to hang out.  I'll spare you the boring details of our day and skip right to the race.

I knew the field was going to be small and normally I might opt to just wait and jump into the Pro/1/2 field but their start wasn't until almost 9:00pm and I wanted to be well into food and beer by then.  Minus a little wind the weather was perfect but as I warmed up I wasn't too excited.  I told myself that if the field was too small I'd just pack it in and head to the bar......Easier said than done.  Once you've kitted up, warmed up and rolled to the line it's hard to shut your game face down and just call it quits. so........

They had a pretty cool atmosphere going on around the course with loud speakers everywhere and several beer gardens.  We took off and right away the pace was really high.  After about three laps I took a look back and noticed there were already only five of us left.  I looked at who was still there and all of them were strong.  It was going to be a tough 40 minutes of racing.  Along with me were Martin(Este), Greg(Cycle-U/Apex), Warren(Fischer) and Jeff(Oly Ortho).  Jeff had already told me he was just glad to have made the break.  I knew Greg and Martin would want to try to take solo flyers off the front and Warren was going to be my stiffest competition if it came down to a field sprint. 

The primes were all for Omium points and since I wasn't doing all three races I told everyone I'd back off on those laps.  We got in a good rhythm and all took turns at the front.  On every lap someone always tried to attack on the short climb to see if they could get away.  I could tell when we were about half way through the race that no one was going to get dropped from this group. 

When the officials turned off the clock and started counting down laps we saw the rest of the guys up in front of us.  We were going to lap them before it was over.  I started to think about the finish and decided that with about three to go I was going to try to slot into 3rd or 4th wheel and camp out there.   Then, with one to go I made a plan to attack as hard as I could about halfway between turns two and three.  Hopefully I was the only one with that plan.  We started the final lap and right after we crested the climb and pushed through corner two I slowly started to shift up.  BAM!  I swung hard to the right and went as hard as I could.  Just before I reached corner three I took a quick look under my shoulder and saw I had a small gap.  I took a really aggressive turn through corner three and had a great line.  I shot out of corner four in my 23X11 and kicked as hard as I could.  I was all in and just prayed no one was on my wheel.  With about 50m to go I knew I had it but still went full boar to the line.  Thank God I did.  If the line was a few meters further Warren may have been able to pip me at the line.