Stage 1 Road Race:
10 mile loop with about 300+ feet of climbing per lap. Seven laps for a total of 71.75 miles.
Our start time was at 3:15 and it was sunny and 75 degrees. Just like last year the attacks started as soon as we were let loose. Logan (HB) got things going by taking a solo dig off the front as soon as we were let loose to race. This was status quo for the first couple of laps before a small group that included Jesse(HB), Ian(Audi), Steven(Bikesale), my teammate John and Max(HSP) got free and clear. This was when we realized the dynamic of this race was going to be a little different. Everyone in the break was officially in the Pro/1/2 field. Our field was still all together in the main pack. We didn't really want to help chase them down since John was there but we still wanted to launch attacks to see if we could get someone clear. I guess I know how the Cat 3 women feel in some of their races. As soon as any of us jumped it was usually guys from the Pro/1/2 field that worked to chase us down . When the five man break finally developed a gap of around four minutes the rest of the field started attacking again. At one point my teammate Alex and I jumped off the front and got a gap. We hoped the 1/2 guys would wait for other Masters to give chase and then jump on. Again, it was the 1/2 guys that chased us down. At first it didn't make sense to me but in reality that's just racing and we just had to deal with it. After that we just stopped attacking.
The five man break ended up staying off the front, finishing with a 3:46 gap on the field........The Pro/1/2 field that is. Our field was still all together and we were going to battle it out in a field sprint at the end. Since it was a stage race, time is key and the rest of the Pro/1/2 field were not about to just sit up and watch us sprint it out. Even thought we had different numbers than the Pro/1/2 field it was hard to figure out where guys in our field were positioned. We just had to go hard and hope for the best. When I crossed the line I had no idea of how I finished. We had to wait for the results to be posted to find out. I ended up 7th and we found out that Tom won! He had no idea. Most of the field finished with the same time so the short time trial Saturday morning would get things sorted out.......at little.
Stage 2 Time Trial:
Prologue style TT on a flat, two mile out and back course.
Four miles.......Easy, right??? Not so much. You don't have the luxury of ramping up and getting into a nice rhythm. You pretty much have to kill yourself right from the start. Based on our stage one finish I was starting right behind Todd(Guinness) who can kill it in time trials. I tasked him to be nice to me when he he flew by. In reality that probably wouldn't happen. After my mechanical in the MoE Time Trial I was a little nervous at the start. I was pretty sure I had fixed the issue but it still crossed my mind.
I knew that I would fhavea head win going out. The wind was there but it didn't seem to be that bad. It hit you a little harder after coming around the one big bend on the course. Before I had time to really think about where I was on the course I saw the sign for the turn around. I made my way around and looked up to see how much time Todd had made up on me. Hey!!! He's not right on my ass! Better than that, it didn't look like he had made up much time at all. That gave me motivation to push a little harder (if that was even possible).
It was nice to have the wind at my back but it didn't make it any easier. Boom! there's the 1K sign and then the 200m marker. I got in my 54X11 and put myself in the hurt locker. I soon realized that that 200m marker was probably more like a 400m marker. My brain was telling me it was time to stop but there was still a ways to go. I hit the line and looked back to see where Todd was. Not only did I hold him off, he only took six seconds from me! Todd won the race and I finished third. I was pretty stoked! I don't suck at time trials but I'm not usually going to be a GC contender after at TT stage. I think I left it all out there and was happy with my time. My teammates were all lined up right behind me so if I faultered hopefully others could take charge.
Stage 3 - Criterium:
It's the same .67 mile course that has been used for years as an individual event. It features a long straight, slightly uphill start/finish section followed by a beyond 90 degree right hand turn. After negotiating though a round about it flows downhill into a quick right left combo (on a shitty road surface) and into the fastest section of the course. After a wide sweeping right turn it heads over a little rise in the road before another right hander that leads to the uphill finish. It's a fun one!
We lined up for our 4:55 start and for the first time ever in a stage race I got a call up for sitting third in the GC. That was cool! Last year we raced for 75 minutes. I had hoped to just to make to the time cut before getting pulled. I ended up finishing with the pack and was probably almost as happy as the winner. This year it was cut to 60 minutes. For some reason the pain and suffering were not part of that cut.
I think I've only raced in a handful of crits where I felt great the entire race. This wasn't one of them. Just past the midway point as we made our way through the final corner I lost focus for a few seconds and didn't notice that the guy in front of me started to drop off. I finally looked up and realized what was happening. I got out of the saddle and hit the gas I moved by him and had dig as hard as I could towing a handful of others with me. I caught back on just as the field bunched back up before turn one. The next two or three laps were painful but I did finally recover and started moving back up.
The announcer made it pretty clear to us and the rest of the world that the break away group was about to see the tail end of the main pack. Yes, they were about to lap the field. . Once they did catch on and mix back in with us it became a complete cluster F*#k for a few laps. Ian and a couple others caught us just as we rounded the corner four while we were strung out single file. They were able to get back up near the front before we bunched back up before turn one. Others were not so lucky and it became a frantic mess. Most of us were trying to let them get through but others were not so willing. It made the next three or so laps a little sketchy and I was just trying to stay out of trouble. Things got back to normal just in time for us to get ready for the finish. Just like stage one, the Pro/1/2 guys in the field were down almost two minutes but our field was still all together so there was no panic.
With five to go I was feeling pretty good so I worked hard to get near the front. I knew we were all together so I just wanted to make sure there were no time gaps. I came through in 6th place and held on to 3rd in GC. The only interesting thing was that Robert (Olympia Ortho) had only been a few tenths down from Todd after the TT. He managed to get a one second time bonus during a prime and vaulted a whole second in front of Todd to take over the lead.
I was now seven seconds down but my teammates were still all lined up right behind me, none of us more than 20 seconds back. Sunday's race was going to be a shootout.
Stage 4 Road Race:
90 miles. It incorporates reverse routes and climbs of IVRR, Vance Creek and the State Individual TT course. There are five good climbs and all of them have the capability of blowing up the pack.
When we lined up on Sunday we noticed the usually attrition that happens during a stage races. Some miss time cuts, others just don't have the will to continue, especially when they knew that Sunday was not just going to be a 90 group ride with food stops. It was also Father's Day so some might have just wanted to stay out of the dog house! The weather was all over the place. It was warm, cold, sunny, rainy, windy.......all at the same time...I think. We took off and once again the attacks started early.(I think Logan was the first to attack on every stage) Last year I think the winning break got away about eleven miles in at the base of the first climb. This year it happened about four or so miles in. Logan(HB), David(HSP), Patrick(Audi), Steven(Bikesale) and my teammate Kyle got off the front and never looked back. Once again (because we didn't need to) no one from our field got in the break so we didn't have to do any work to bring them back.. Ian(Audi) was the GC leader and was back in the field with us. His team moved to the front but it didn't look like they were going to try to get Ian up the road. They just sent tempo so others weren't willing to try. Last year I got dropped on the first two hill but managed to make it back on both times I finally got popped on the last hill (many did) and rode the last seven miles solo. I was nervous all the way up to the first climb. I knew when it was coming and kept looking at my Garmin in anticipation. When we made it there I was happy to find that I had good legs and had no problem making it over with the pack. In between climbs are lot of riding in flat and rolling sections in the valley. It was raining off by this time but not too bad. This was a stage that would have been nice to race separate from the Pro/1/2's Again, because we had a teammate up the road we didn't want to help chase them down but with only seconds separated our field it was crucial to try to put pressure the guys sitting in first and 2nd. It was going to be hard to do that if the 1/2's tried to chase us down like they did in stage one.
We received our first time gap from the official which was two minutes. Then four, then six......The race was over at that point for the Pro/1/2 field. I was hoping that we could now launch attacks without them feeling like they needed to give chase.
The 2nd climb was fast approaching. It was the feed zone climb that ran up the back side of the Vance Creek course. It's not a brutal climb but I got dropped for the 2nd time last year. It wasn't because of bad legs but because some dumb ass threw his musette bag over his shoulder and it landed between my wheel and front brake. I was hoping to avoid that kind of shit this year. I started out in good form but did end up struggling a little near the top. I looked back and saw a handful of guys dropping off. I gave it a couple big pedal strokes and was able to tuck back in before the descent. The descent is super fast and if you are not on with the pack at the top, catching back on is almost impossible. After flying down the hill we settled in on the long flat section in the valley and I took time to mow through some food. The weather started to get a little nasty again. I can't remember when it was but at some point Nikos asked how I was doing and I realized that I wasn't feeling great, not horrible, but not great. I wasn't going to be doing any attacking at this point. If Todd jumped I would do my best to go with him but other than that I was just going to sit in for a while. We had a long way until the next climb so I hoped I would recover by then. Not long after that Joe(HB) who was in our field attacked hard off the front. My teammate Aaron followed and after realizing what was happing Rob, the GC leader took off to bridge. His teammate Brad took of a few seconds later to try to help him close the gap. I was ready to go but to my surprise Todd made no attempt to join them. Maybe he thought thought that Rob wouldn't be able to climb well on the last couple of hills and he would take advantage then. We all moved to the front to help Audi set tempo. Soon enough the group of four disappeared up the road. I figured Aaron and Joe would kill it on the climbs and Aaron could out sprint Joe for the stage win. Aaron could take the overall if it worked out right and I had no problem with that.
After our team was up front for a while Ian finally moved back to the front and took charge again. The pace picked up. Every once in a while Brian(HSP) came to the front and took off but other than that things stayed the same. We soon found out the breakaway group had over a 10 minute gap. Wow!!
We came to a large bend in the road where we could see across the farm land to where the course would eventually take us. We looked across the fields and could not see any riders or cars. Things were looking good for Aaron's group. I was going to lose my podium spot but didn't care. Aaron should be able to get 3rd or better and that was all that mattered. A short while later as we were approaching the next climb we rounded a bend and there they were. Crap!! Audi must have been pulling harder than I thought. I was sure we wouldn't catch them. I still wasn't feeling great abut now I had to be ready for any attacks by Todd or Rob. We started up the climb and after all the work that Aaron had done he started to drop off. Tom also was slipping back and for a brief moment I was ready to let off the gas and ride with them. Tom yelled at me to GO! and somehow I managed to find a little motivation and started moving up through the pack. It's amazing what you can find in yourself when think you have nothing left. I made it over with the group and settled in for the fast descent. We had lost another group of guys but I was still in with Todd and Rob.
Things started heating up after that. The pace leading up to the next climb was super fast. I turned and noticed that I was the caboose of this train but didn't feel like moving up. I just made sure I didn't lose the wheel in front of me. The next climb was brutal. Ian attacked and that started a fire. Nikos jumped to attack Todd and the two of them got a gap on the rest of the field. It looked like Todd was having trouble hanging with Nikos but by the top of the climb we were all back together. I had noticed that Rob, the GC leader struggled some and I was hoping that he would completely blow up on the final climb up Michigan Hill. I was finally starting to feel good again and so before we hit the final climb I moved towards the front. I had been hiding in the back for so long that I think some of my teammates thought I'd been dropped. Nikos told me he was going to attack Todd again and sure enough when we made the left turn to start the climb that is what he did. The pack was all over the place and I told myself that there was no way I was going to get dropped after 80 miles of racing just to limp in at the end. I went flying by Rob and I thought for sure he was done. Todd had managed to get on Nikos' wheel and I figured that with Rob gone hopefully Nikos would drop Todd, take the stage and overall and I'd still hold on to get third. I just kept a steady pace and when I reached the top Nikos and Todd had a slight gap. If it wasn't for a few of the 1/2's I think they may have been able to get away. I looked back and to my surprise there was Rob. He managed to pull himself over that climb and hang on with the pack. Now it was going to be about a seven mile shootout to the finish.
The last seven miles of the race seemed to be the fastes. John and Zach came to the front and set tempo.
They had us strung out single file which made it almost impossible for anyone to attack. We were going to be coming in hot and I hoped the 1/2's would not interfear with our finish. We finally saw the 1K sign and all I wanted to do was to make sure I didn't get gapped for any reason. I had a good finish Rob, Todd and I finsihed the stage in the same order we finished on GC. It was my first time on the podium for a stage race and I was super happy. The podium went five deep and Nikos and Kevin came in 4th and 5th. It would have been nice to get someone on top step but that's OK. Well after almost 200 miles and 7+ hours of racing it was finally time to eat like it was my last meal. Fun times were had.......for the most part.
photos 1 & 4 by Kirsten Reed
photos 2 & 4 by Denise Phillips
photos 2 & 4 by Denise Phillips