In the continental scene teams tend to ride bikes from slightly lesser known brands or brands making headway in the US Market. Now the name Eddy Merckx is well known to most cyclists in the US, but the bikes that don his name are still just beginning to make their impact. It's been really fun to work with a company that is invested in the team and utilizing the team to make an impact on the US market. They've been amazing to us all year to make sure the bikes are dialed, ready, and performing their best. I have nothing but positive things to say about the SanRemo76 race bike I've been riding this year, it does everything you'd expect from a high end carbon frame. It's light, handles well, and is stiff while still being comfortable. That being said, I'm not here to talk about the road bike.
I've been flirting with the idea of a cyclocross bike for a long time, not so much I'm interested in cyclocross but I love testing the limits of where I can get on skinny tires but I get nervous of breaking frames, wheels, and shredding tires on the single track, double track, and gravel I like to explore. When I signed up for the Crusher in the Tushars gravel race my Mechanic Zack Foley reached out to Merckx about a cross bike for the race, a week later this awesome ride was built up. Light Carbon frame and Ultegra disc hydro, there wasn't much to complain about. In the gravel race it was amazing! The power transfer was almost identical to my road bike and it dealt with all the road crud like a gem. More comfortable in part to the bigger tires (Clement LAS) and the frame built for tackling bumpy cyclocross courses. The disc brakes were super nice as we tackled some seriously high speed gravel descents dropping from 9,000ft to the valley floor in only 5 short miles. Full gas, 70km/h on gravel and the bike felt stable. Can't say enough about that!
After the Tour of Utah I had 3 days to explore and enjoy Park City, to say the least I didn't touch the road bike and took this guy out on all the single track and gnarly gravel I could find. High in the mountains the bike brought more smiles to my face than you can imagine. Taking on the single track of Park City was a blast on the bike. I found some incredible views and just got to relax after a long week of racing. In terms of riding the bike kept a smile on my face the entire time. I may be weird that I really enjoy taking on the single track on a cross bike, but I think it's a ton of fun. You really have to focus on the lines and really focus/be careful in the technical sections. Sometimes on a FS mountain bike it's just gotten to easy. The bike always had solid traction in the corners, held it's line, and was super predictable and stable. Ripping through the tree's, across the ridgeline, and through the canyons in Utah was a great way to end my time in Utah. Super fortunate to get such an awesome gift and looking forward to many more adventures on this bike in the future. Maybe I'm crazy but I love the skinnier tires and road based geometry for anywhere I go. Thanks Merckx for being an awesome sponsor and for making a bike that really is incredible! Now go out there and rip it up!
The 2016 Tour of Utah is here and unlike the last time I was at the race in 2013 this year I’m racing it. 3 years ago I was in Park City, Utah getting in some big miles for my last year of running eligibility at the University of Virginia and hanging out around the race while it came through Salt Lake City. Even before seeing it live I followed the Tour of Utah religiously. Utah has always had a special place in my heart. My parents met here and were married in Guardsman’s pass in a high alpine meadow the race passes twice on stages 6 and 7. My grandparents owned a house in Park City until 2005 and still rent over the summer. I haven’t missed a year in Park City since I was born and consider it a second home and a favorite vacation/relaxation spot. I grew up watching cycling with my Dad so the opportunity to see a big time race in one of my favorite places was a treat. To see it in person three years ago was awesome. To be here preparing to race it just 3 years after moving from cycling to running, hard to imagine honestly.
Regardless, here I am, about to start the biggest race of my life. To some it’s another day at the office, but to me it’s more like racing a grand tour, I’m not sure if I’ll ever compete in a bigger race (but you never know I guess). I'm rarely nervous for racing but this is a littler different. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was part filled with excitement and part nervous of the firepower and parcours of the race. It's going to be a long week and a serious test no doubt. Since the beginning of the year, racing the Tour of Utah was one of the big goals. Here’s to a great week with a good team and hopefully proving we belong.
Meet the Riders
Meet the Staff
1. Follow my Instagram and Strava for daily updates.
2. Follow the team on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Each day a photo album from Les Morales will be on Facebook.
3. Follow the Tour of Utah on Twitter and Instagram (#ToU16).
4. Download the Tour of Utah TourTracker App (Apple or GooglePlay). The app will have live video streaming of each race day along with details about the race and a text news feed. You can even re-watch the stages later in the day or whenever you want.
5. Check out the TourTracker website with all the same functions as the app.
6. Fox Sports Network 2 will also have both live and delayed opportunities to watch the race. Schedule here.
The Schedule for the week, all times MST (August 1-7th):
84 miles, 6,679ft of climbing, avg. speed 43.1km/h (26.8mph), avg. HR 146, avg power 229, NP 288
The first day started with a 12 mile neutral rolling through Zion National Park. An incredible backdrop to the start of the Tour of Utah. Apparently it took an act of Congress and an early start to close the road through the park for us to race on. Well worth it so much thanks to the state of Utah and the race organizers. Once in a lifetime experience that I will always remember. It was great to relax and enjoy the scenery until we rolled out of the park and the real racing began (See what it took to make it happen here). After such a long neutral the break was likely to go quickly as the World Tour guys called for a pee break, truly establishing the break. Matt and I were each in a small move but I was too far back when the move went. It wasn't necessarily hard to make the break from a physiological standpoint, it went quickly after only a couple hard attacks, but the sheer mass of people was hard to get to the front and make a move. Just a lot of guys that wanted the break to go quickly and poor positioning meant we had no one in the break of 4. Six more chances and lots to learn.
Still, not a bad day to sit in for the team. After climbing out of Zion National Park we had a brief downhill to the sprint point and then the road tilted upward for 47 miles before a 17 mile descent into Cedar City where we did three 4-mile circuits. The team stayed together all day and while steady the pace wasn't super hard. There was a 15-20 minute section as we neared the top that definitely stung a bit as we approached 9,500ft but the team stayed together and we made it safely over the top and down the descent into Cedar City. With 1 lap to go Matt got to the front and kept the pace high and Chad in good position. Chad is focused on GC so not necessarily hunting the stage, but always looking for opportunities he ripped into the final corners in good position but as the sprint got hectic and no doors open he didn't risk anything coming in safely with the rest of us on same time as the stage winner (Kristofer Dahl-Silber Pro Cycling). While we didn't do anything spectacular today, everyone got over the climb and is feeling good. Another hard day tomorrow with a nasty finishing circuit in Torrey, Utah. Stay tuned.
99 miles, 9,435ft of climbing, avg. speed 39.6km/h (24.6mph), avg. HR 153, avg power 224, NP 289
Today the race started out ballistic. Silber was in yellow and was trying to get someone in the break so they wouldn't have to work all day and Garmin was marking them to ensure they had help. A couple solid groups got some time with Lupus riders in them, but nothing stuck, it kept coming back together. Thomas attacked into a good move, but a dropped chain saw him hit the deck hard. Later he would make it back to the field, but had to finish a hard day with some serious road rash. Hopefully some more motivation for future days. Finally, 40 minutes into the race, it seemed a group was set and the field was happy. Then a couple guys decided to bridge, a couple more, and the racing was back on as we went down this sweeping decent through a rock canyon. It was absolutely beautiful event if I could barely look at it. We had to get back out of the canyon and the climb out was brutal and at full speed. After trying my best to get in the break I was on my limit as the field hit the climb. The entire field split and I came off the back in a group of about 30 riders. Looking up the road there were group everyone, the breakaway getting reeled in and 3-4 "chase" groups all over the climb. Another group formed and Chad came over the radio, "Hey guys, you need to bridge now", I replied, "yea Chad, we're off the back and hoping to come back as we roll over the top.
Eventually the break was brought back by a group of 20 or so, mostly just the strongest riders in the race, the GC contenders. Over the top GC contenders even started attacking. On the descent it all came back together and stayed full gas and our chase group kept on the gas to get back to the action, but it stayed too fast. It took another 20-30 minutes for a small break of two to get up the road and the entire peloton sat up and the break was officially established. Our group came back and the climb up Boulder Mountain began at a relatively relaxed pace, everyone was cooked from the super hard start. From there Silber controlled but let the gap reach as many high as 7:30 over the top of the climb. The team stayed together, ate, and drank and let others control as we raced down to Torrey where we did two larger loops through town. There were some minor tense moments with wind and a small 1.2km climb, but for the most part it was controlled and we could sit it and focus on being well positioned and getting to the finish. Matt and I rode near the front to protect the guys for cross winds and then settled in for the remaining time. After his hard crash Thomas lost a little bit of time right at the end but the rest of us came in together 2:07 behind stage winner Robin Carpenter (Hincapie) from the breakaway. A hard start but an otherwise relatively simple day. Tomorrow is flat with a big steep Cat 1 climb right before the decent into the finish. Should be the first day the GC contenders really start to show.
The longest day of the 2016 Tour of Utah was also one of the simplest. 140km in an essentially flat valley before taking a right hand turn off of highway 89 and up the 15km climb over Mt. Nebo and into Payson, UT. The stage brings us out of Southern Utah and into the Wasatch front stages. With the first true big climb of the race all the GC contenders were on edge. The plan for me was to sit and wait a bit for the break to roll after being a little overly aggressive yesterday. As we ripped out of town though it seemed like everyone was ready for the break to go as soon as possible so I went up to the front and started covering moves. Unfortunately I never quite found the right wheel to follow, the last guy to go across went on the other side of the road, solo, just as I was reeled in for my bridge attempt. Four more days to try and get in the breakaway. At one point I thought I was good, I looked back field was across the road, I was making it up to three guys with 4 more up front and then all of a sudden it was squashed and then the field completely shut down. A couple more attempts but that was it. Afterwards it was sit in all day and fetch bottles.
After being above 7000ft for the first two stages it was HOT in the valley and we went through bottles like crazy. Eventually we made it the right hand turn and the race officially got on, with the breakaway all but reeled back in Jelly Belly set a solid tempo. I was on the left hand side just off of Jelly Belly’s train with all my guys on the other side of the group. I drifted back and started moving over when a big crash took Barry Miller and I down. After finally getting untangled and my chain back on the bike everyone was long gone. I didn’t see my Garmin and apparently lost it in the crash and couldn’t find it on the ground, the biggest travesty of the crash really. From there I rode my way into the groupetto without too much issue, the legs were actually feeling pretty good and I got home no problem. As for the contenders it was a hard day that really separated the best guys. Jelly Belly went to the front and just smashed it, within 2km of the climb starting there were only 15 guys and none of my teammates made the selective group. Lachlan Morton attacked and was joined by Andrew Talansky and Adrian Costa. They went over the top together and were never seen again, with Lachlan taking the win and the leader’s jersey. Chad attempted to bridge to the first chase group but couldn’t quite get there. He, Chris, and Nicholae had to settle with the third group on the road. Chad, Chris, and Nicholae now sit at the same time as 20th place. Still some big days to move up into the top 10 and more days to chase breaks and stage wins, lots of great racing to come! Tomorrow a deceptively “easy” day, doubtful it will pan out like that as we come into the Salt Lake Valley and deal with a rolling course and wind.
94 miles, 4,504ft of climbing, avg. speed 45.1 km/h (28.1 mph), avg. HR 139, avg power 226, NP 284
A day that looked easy on paper promised to be a difficult day. Riding 2.5 laps on the Mountain View Corridor highway. Always slightly up or down and just enough wind to make it a little difficult it was a long 3.5 hours of racing. I hunted the break as hard as I could but watched teammate Nicholae get into the move and settled in with the team for our laps of the highway. We got a quick wave from the breakaway as we made the turnaround as Jelly Belly controlled the front. It was an uneventful day as we made our way along the route. It's a getting a little late in the stage race as we passed halfway and today was as challenging mentally as physically. Eventually the laps finished and we began to position for a possible crosswind section as we turned on to 3 finishing circuits in Kearns, UT.
We got through the corner in perfect position but the crosswinds didn't materialize as we ripped down the hill onto the circuit. As the peloton eased back slightly, Chad attacked hard on the left catching what was left on the break and continuing on. Eventually his group off the front swelled to 12 with two laps to go. The peloton began to fan out through the finish line and I thought his group had a good chance. A turn later Silber came to the front and turned on the pace, it took an entire lap but eventually Chad and company came back and Matt instantly struck out with 2 others, but he wasn't going anywhere. Silber was riding all out and it was hard to just hang on the wheel. The quick pace left it a day for the pure sprinters with Travis McCabe taking the win. Still a good day for the team with Nicholae in the break and a couple attempts at the win on the finishing circuit. Three hard solid days are coming here at the Tour of Utah for us to shake things up.
Today's stage started on Antelope Island on the Great Salt Lake before ripping across the causeway to the valley before heading up two solid climbs before dropping back into the valley and toward bountiful for two hard finishing circuits lined with American flags with one nasty 2km climb that was sure to break things up. Thomas got in the early break of 11 almost immediately and the rest of us covered a couple dangerous moves to bridge but the high speed kept everything together. Eventually the field settled and the gap jumped to 3:00 almost at the click of a finger. The remainder of the day was controlled by a combination of Jelly Belly and Hincapie. The only real stress occurred on the twisting descents off of North Ogden Divide and the fast run in on highway 89 as people kept hitting road crud. I spent the day grabbing bottles and positioning the guys.
Into the base of the climb the breakaway was in sight and I had Chad and Chris right at the front, we made the left and you could see the climb. Gradual for a while and then kicking up. I thought I saw the top and tried to dig in but as we got close to the top I was dangling and then saw the 1km to the KOM sign and the climb bend to the right and kick again, nope, that was it for me that day. The race really began as the peloton hit the climb. Joseph jumped in the first move to go from the group over the top as they continued to chase the few breakaway riders still ahead. As they began the climb for a second time Joseph's group became the lead group catching the last breakaway rider to stay away. Matthew Busche attacked Joseph's group and went solo over the climb but was brought back by a motivated peloton, or what was left of it, before he went over the top. Attacks continued to fly but the peloton stayed together along the tailwind top section leaving 25-30 riders to come together for the finish in town. Chris, Nicholae, and Joseph all stayed in the small select group with Nicholae finishing up in 12th.
Another big GC day at the Tour of Utah. A fast downhill start kept the group together and more tense racing in the valley meant it took a while for the break to roll, finally the field sat up, the yellow jersey peed, and the break was established and Chad had made it, perfect. The middle of the race was relaxed as the two big climbs of Guardsman's Pass and Little Cottonwood Canyon loomed in the distance. The break began the climb with 2:00 on the main field and Chad rode away from the group and was just caught as they crested the top of Guardsmans Pass at 9,600ft and began the big descent down Big Cottonwood Canyon with only 4 guys remaining. The main group whittled down over the first climb and I came off with 5km to the top. From there I was just getting home after a day of working for the team, but the race continued up front.
Nicholae attacked at the bottom of Big Cottonwood and bridged to Chad's group with one other rider. They made contact at the base of Little Cottonwood with 10km to the finish, all up the canyon. Nicholae attacked the group and only Ben King remained. They were both reeled in by the shattered peloton. Joseph flatted at the base and Chris was caught behind a split in the main group by a motorcycle that crashed. Chris ended up in the second group on the road just missing a top 10 finish 1:37 behind stage winner Andrew Talansky. It was a great day for us with representation all day and plenty of racing throughout the day. One more day to go.
The final day of the Tour of Utah, the last chance to get in the break, and the last day I'd have to worry about a big day tomorrow. The start was fast and furious as the break tried to solidify. Over a small climb hard enough to split the field, but not enough for the break to go. Onto small roads and a crosswind section, still nothing went. Though Kamas and the first sprint, still no break. Slightly uphill on Mirror Lake Highway, big group, Cannonade drilling it back. Finally just before turning up Wolf Creek Canyon the break went, I saw it and shot around to the right hand side and was left along, the field sat up and I dug deep to get there. I wasn't sure I could make it, but had a little help from Janier Acevedo and we got there. Finally made the break, a serious big relief. The break was a mess, we didn't rotate well and it was choppy and on edge. We headed up the steep first KOM together and hit the top as rain, hail, and win came down. We got to the top of Wolf Creek Ranch and wound through the swooping roads on top of the ridge, but the descent never seemed to come. Meanwhile the peloton was exploding. Talansky (yellow jersey) and two others were bridging and the break still wasn't working together. Finally the descent began in ernest as more rain began to fall. The break split up on the descent and we hit the bottom a shrunken group of 4 with the chase group coming and the peloton full gas. It was definitely madness back there.
We got to the bottom of Empire Pass and began the climb. Robin Carpenter looked at me and told me to be careful the start was really steep, don't dig yourself in a whole. I told him I knew the climb well and was dropped from the break shortly thereafter as the road turned up. Chris flatted as the peloton was full gas coming into the climbing, the entire team waiting for him and pulled him back to the group but it was such a big effort and he still started the climb behind the main group. When I was caught Lachlan was off the front and looking good, then the Talansky group, then more groups, still no Chris. He finally got to me but it was clear he wasn't going to be a factor today, bad luck on the final day, but another decent day for the team. I came in with Ben King representing Virginia well. A big relief to finally get in the break and put a nice cap on a hard week in Utah. Looking forward to another opportunity in the future. What a cool experience to race in the state that has been such a part of my life growing up. Twice racing past the high alpine meadow my parents were married in and having my grandparents (30 year Park City residents) at the start and finish today was an unreal experience. Until Alberta.
Keep those pedals spinning,
After 5 weeks on the road together it was nice to say goodbye to my teammates after the Tour de Beauce, but after we dispersed to go home and spend some time training alone at altitude it was good to get the crew back together in Bend, Oregon for one final test and tune-up before the Tour of Utah begins August 1st. The Cascade Cycling Classic was a great place to come and put the final touches on the legs while getting in some recovery after spending the last 2 weeks sleeping above 7,000 feet.
The Roster: Barry Miller, Chad Beyer, Chris Horner, Matt Jeannes, and Nicholai Tanovitchii
Stage 1: McKenzie Pass Road Race
Matt and I were tasked with getting in the break to ensure we didn’t have to work and control the race before the finish line in the lava fields atop McKenzie pass. It might have been the easiest break I have ever gotten in to. Two guys attacked and Matt followed, then four more and I half jumped but let it go until I realized I was off the front and in no man’s land, three came around I got a free lift to the group. I looked back and a few more were coming across but the field was all across the road riding easy. Our big group immediately worked together and we had a minute pretty quickly.
The course was relatively flat and open except for one kicker 17 miles in. The field eventually decided to chase as Hincapie missed the move and we rode extremely hard up the hill as our gap shrunk to 30s. Over the top we had lost about half of the riders and only 1 amateur was left in the group. We went over the top and got immediately on the gas with 8 guys riding all out. For a while it was tense as the gap stayed around 50s but eventually it went up to 2:30 and we could settle in to our tempo.
For the remainder of the race nothing interesting happened besides a minor flat and as we headed up the 1-2% grade before the real climb our gap began to fall. We had dropped one and the remaining were having trouble rotating through as the long day in the break took its toll. Matt continued to ride his brains out to give us a little gap on the climb. As the climb finally pitched up Jacob Rathe (Jelly Belly) attacked and Bjorn Selander and I joined. We rode hard and I was definitely in the box but knew I needed to give back to the work Matt had done. After 3km of climbing though it was too much and the field came by at what seemed like Mach 10. I sat in for a little but eventually got spit out the back after the long effort.
Barry, Chad, Chris, and Nicholae road well and all finished in the small main group at the finish line atop McKenzie pass. The first real GC shake-up would occur in the time trial the following day. Last year Nicholae took yellow, so we had high hopes of another solid result.
Stage 2: Crooked River Time Trial
Time Trials are time trials and this one was as uninteresting as the rest. I was riding my TT bike with shallow wheels and tasked with just riding tempo. It was a long day yesterday and I might be needed to control and help teammates tomorrow if they placed well in GC. I rode out easy and tried to push a little more on the way home. Respectable but plenty left in the tank put me in 37th on the day. Nothing to write home about. Unfortunately none of us had good days and our GC hopes were done after the day. The next three stages would be all about getting a stage result.
Stage 3: Mount Bachelor Road Race
The plan was to avoid the break today and let other teams work so we were all fresh for the finish. That almost played out but when a big group with some GC contenders struck out Chad and I followed along. Chad sat on as teammates of GC contenders did the hard work to establish the break. Elevate missed out and chased all out. Apparently they were down to their last man when we were finally caught with 70km to go. The race settled a little but another move went with 4 jelly belly riders and I jumped along to make sure we had someone there. I had sprint points from yesterday and thought maybe I could snag the jersey but we were caught with 400m to go till the sprint point. From there Rally controlled the race and Matt and I positioned our fresh climbers. Chad stuck with Lachlan and Robin Carpenter when they struck out but Lachlan pulled away and Chad and Robin were caught by a big group as the road flattened out. Barry countered with about 3km to go and almost stuck it for 2nd behind Lachlan but was caught 150m from the line. We didn’t come up with anything on the stage but were active and there all day. Getting old being 4th-8th and not 1st-3rd, but we're right there!
With an early start we had plenty of down time in the afternoon and I got to enjoy a nice float down the river. No complaints about that. Bend was a cool spot to race for the week.
Stage 4: Downtown Criterium
More rest today. Chad and I were in a competition to see who could do the least power over the 75 minute four corner race. Chad got in the break that stuck to the line so he definitely lost. I avoided any mishaps and relaxed. Chad ended up 4th or 5th in the sprint. I just wanted to have headphones or someone to talk to because that was a boring 75 minutes.
Stage 5: Aubrey Butte Circuit Race
Considering we’d come up empty handed so far in the race we decided to roll the dice a bit and stack the break. We had 3 guys in the move of 12 or so with just Matt and I to relax in the field on hope the break would stick. I honestly had a chance to get across as the break was rolling but thought we had enough representation and at least one guy should be in the field and give it a go if the break was caught. The remaining 4 laps were fairly boring an uneventful. We ripped around the rolling course with Rally controlling and other teams helping randomly and keeping the break just close enough. With about ¾ of a lap to go an Rally running out of guys KHS came to the front and put in some big digs and by the time we hit 10km to go the peloton was rolling. Up the climb to the feedzone and through the false flat uphill drag that led to 5km to go Matt kept me positioned and ready for the hits to come as we tackled the final short hill before the run in to the finish. The break was now coming back fast. We hit the base of the climb and I followed Lachlan and Robin. As we rounded the corner and it flattened slightly I could see the break. Chad had attacked and was off front but we were coming quickly. I paid dearly for following Lachlan and Robin too aggressively and got popped on the second roller just as the break was caught. Chad stayed in the front group and finished dup 7th on the day. I was way too aggressive in going with Lachlan and Robin and think if I could have ridden more within myself I would have been with the group that caught those two on the flatter sections. Sort of a bummer since my legs felt good, but a lesson learned all the same.
Regardless of the results the team is riding strong and showed it all week, always present and being a part of the finishes. I got in some great time on the pedals in the break and gained some confidence after 2 weeks at altitude. Now some rest and the Tour of Utah begins on August 1st!
I first heard of the Crusher in the Tushar last year while training in Park City, Utah. Between being totally cracked and having a little difficulty tracking down a transfer entry I didn’t make it down to the small town of Beaver, Utah to see what all the hype was about. With Beaver being the home of the Lupus Racing Team Mechanic and superstar Zack Foley and made sure to plan my altitude camp with a trip to Beaver to take on the Crusher. At 69 miles with 10,000ft of climbing Burke Swindlehurst’s race manages to feel all uphill, well except for that 6 mile cross wind section. Fortunately the backdrop of beautiful gravel roads meandering their way throughout the Tushar Mountains across high-mountain meadows and past alpine lakes make all the pain a lot more bearable.
The big question for the race is what bike you’re going to run. There’s a whole section on the website dedicated to which bike races should run. I had spoken to Zack a ton about the setup but was really only left with a road bike set up tubeless for the occasion. After racing I’m really glad Eddy Merckx stepped in and sent me out one of their Eeklo70 carbon cross bikes with Ultegra Hydro disc brakes. Life saver. The deep gravel and ripping decent on the col de crush would have been a bit much for the road bike. I think if you’re looking for straight speed the cross bike is the way to go but the comfort and gearing of a mountain bike wouldn’t hurt!
My bike showed up on Thursday in Beaver and Zack built it up and dialed in the measurements. A few quick adjustments the night before and some fast rolling tires (Clement LAS) and it was ready to go. Super fortunate to have Zack have my measurements plugged in and dialed so even though my first ride was the race the bike fit like a glove.
The next morning the town was a buzz with cyclists and the Pro men got rolling up the Canyon at 8am sharp. 10 miles of gradual uphill pavement into a beautiful canyon kicked off the race before the true racing began as we turned right onto a dirt road and the steep grade stretched out the field. Before the 5 mile climb was over I found myself in the second group and chasing across the top as it continued to roll uphill past multiple alpine lakes just catching the group as the road tipped slightly downhill.
The valley road leading in to the first dirt section
After grinding for 20 odd miles the race finally got fun as we got in a group and ripped through the pine tree forest and across the meadows with gravel flying and tires skidding through the turns. Eventually we popped out of the high meadow with huge views down to the valley below and the crazy decent began. I went flying into the first switchback and had to readjust multiple times as I skidded through the thick gravel hoping I didn’t slide off the mountain. Our group split a part a bit as guys went flying down the mountain navigating high speed corners around the mountain and tight switchbacks to the valley floor reaching speeds on gravel up to 45mph.
Eventually the gravel ended and pavement took us further down to Junction as the group came together to battle crosswinds before turning off the highway and back onto gravel. As the gravel tilted upward and turned more to sand the group completely separated. I regrouped a little on the rollers before the big climb but never saw the leaders again. I began the ascent back up the descent rode as hard as you can at altitude, which wasn’t very hard for me. I was still able find a groove and catch a couple people before getting to the top and rolling back across the high alpine meadows.
I thought I was feeling pretty good on the rollers until Josh Berry (Jelly Belly) caught me, cheerfully said “hey buddy” and promptly left me in the dust. The remainder looked easy on the profile but was anything but. It was just a long grind in thick freshly laid gravel where even though it looked flat you were still going slow and wondering how in the world you were going to get home. I had 5th place in my sights for the entire race but no matter the effort I couldn’t bring him back. Finally I found pavement again and the last two kickers to the finish. As I turned into the finish at Eagle Point 5th place started coming back to me. I was riding as hard as I could but still finding limited legs and even less oxygen as we topped out at 10,000ft.
Racing at high altitude is such a useless feelings, you just have no gas and in the end I couldn’t catch 5th place before I enjoyed the relief of the finish line. Driscoll was upset I made him push to the end but I had nothing else in the tank except enough to get to the finish. Some great food and relaxing at the top as I waited for Seth and company ended a "nice" day. After rolling back to Beaver we jumped in the creek to cool off and hit the road. A great experience for sure, but an experience that has to wear off before you consider doing it again. I'm sure I'll be back, but I'm not sure I'm over the shell shock yet...
After Saguenay we drove 2 hours south to Saint George where the weather turned for the better for the Tour de Beauce. Rain and cool weather became 70's and crystal clear blue skies, a welcome change. Nolan and Evan left after Saguenay to race the North Star Grand Prix in Minneapolis while Barry and Mike filled in the gaps in our squad for Beauce. The race was a mix of fresh riders and riders still trying to recover from Saguenay finishing just two days before.
Stage 1: Saint George - 185km
The peloton felt tired on the first stage. A group of 3 disappeared within 5km and the field went back and forth between attacks to start a second break and moments where we were barely pedaling and spread out across the entire road. After 50km a group of 5-6 with Chad finally got free of the field and the pace in the group slowed even more. The gap to the break went up to almost 7:00 before Rally, Silber, and Jelly Belly decided to control the pace, but they waited further still to really start chasing. A crosswind just strong enough to make the racing hard but not split the field beat down on us all day. Thom, Matt, and Mike did a great job sheltering the rest of us all day to ensure we rode as easy as possible. With 30km to go the break still had 4:00 and would hold it to the line. A stiff 3km climb split up the chasing peloton leaving about 30-40 guys left (myself, Chris, and Barry included) but otherwise provided little interest. Chad sprinted to 3rd 1:17 ahead of the reduced peloton and took the KOM jersey in the process. A good start to the week.
Stage 2: Mont Megantic - 171km
The second stage, along with the TT to follow, really set the GC for the week with another long day with a stiff 5km climb at 9.4%. 9.4% may not sound that bad, but there is a downhill in the middle and the first 2km is all over 12%. Ooff. The racing at the beginning was on and off with splits in the field occurring and coming back together as the pace stayed fast on the rolling hills around Lac Megantic. Eventually a big group got away with Matt and Thom, unfortunately they also had 3 guys from the break the day before high on GC so we had to set tempo to keep it close. Starting at 60km we rode the front to keep the group close but it was a fight the whole way. The breakaway worked full gas to stay away. Myself, Mike, Barry, 3 Silber riders, and 3 Jelly Belly riders all rode the front to keep it close and under control. The break never had more than 1:30 but we weren't bringing back much time either. Matt and Thom eventually got dropped on the last loop up the 1km 12% climb we did three times and came back to work bringing the chase back. Eventually the gap started coming down but with 25km to go when I got dropped up another big roller they still had 35s. The peloton kept working and while they didn't quite catch them the winner came from the peloton with the break getting caught on the climb. Chad lost some time on the climb but still sat top 10 overall. The team road super well and controlled the race, but the day was also incredibly hard. Even for Chad who sat on all day it was a long grind that never allowed time to relax, just steady solid riding all day with a hard final 5km. Many of us weren't jealous of Chad having to ride the TT all out the next day.
Stage 3a: Saint Prosper ITT - 19.4km
The time trial has been a little bit of a week point for the team this year. It's self admittedly not Chad or Chris's best event and the rest of us were taking it easy after the huge effort yesterday and focused on ripping the afternoon circuit. I cruised the TT and really enjoyed not having to die a slow death on the 20km course that may have seemed flat according to the race guide, but was assuredly never flat. Chad and Chris unfortunately both lost a bit of time to the GC contenders who all finished in the top 10 on the TT. Without a real GC threat anymore we focused on getting another stage result or two to finish off the race. First up the circuit race in the afternoon.
Stage 3b: Saint George Art District - 80km
After racing the TT in the morning we had time for a nap before the afternoon circuit race that started at 6:00pm. After feeling a little sick the last two days I completely crashed after the TT for 3 hours, barely waking up for our pre-race meeting. After 3 hard stages of racing we thought the GC teams would want an easier afternoon to relax for once, meaning the stage winner could likely come from the breakaway. All hands on deck for the guys that rode easy in the TT to get in the break and see if we couldn't do something special. Barry started the stage off by smashing it and we were in two small breaks that got brought back. My legs seemed to be feeling better and I attacked over the KOM line and started the break of the day as 6 riders joined me. We rotated smoothly but we weren't really smashing it just a steady paceline. We still got 1:30 but it wasn't enough to stay away as we ripped downhill for the last 7km.
The circuit finish was extremely sketchy with a bridge crossing where the peloton funneled from a 3 lane road into a 5ft. wide road across a dam before a couple turns and a super steep 200m climb to the finish line, like 15%+. The break was caught just before the bridge and it became a crazy mix of guys form the break going backwards while others tried to sneak in to the peloton flooding over us. I think I sat up 3 times and then slotted back in trying to stay safe into the finish. Eventually I committed to giving the stage a go, but hit the climb in the very back of the lead group and while I moved up in the first half the leaders were too far away and I sat up and rode easy the last 100m into the finish. I wish I would have committed to the stage and been ready for the peloton to catch us since my legs were feeling really good and the finish would have been good. It's another lesson learned and I was hopeful the legs were coming around for the last couple days, maybe the sickness would be put behind me.
Stage 4: Old Quebec City Criterium - 70km
The team was hoping the four corner criterium would be simple and another place to recover before the hard final stage, but that was not to happen. The course was essentially 700m uphill, flat, 700m downhill, flat. I still contend I've never suffered more and pedaled less in a race. Every time up the hill it was stiff and an initial break that would have allowed the pace to relax was brought back by Hincapie. Eventually another break went and it sort of relaxed, but I was so on the edge it never felt easy. After the race it seemed liked everyone was in the same boat, reeling from the past 3 days of hard racing and 4 weeks of being on the road.
Stage 5: Saint George City Circuit - 122km
The last day brought 12 laps of a 20 turn circuit in Saint George that included a steep fall to the river and a hard 1.3km climb back to the top of the course. The day was sure to be an attrition fest an another opportunity for the break to disappear for the day. The team was definitely hurting a bit and I fell asleep between breakfast and the race start still dealing with the stupid cold. I thought I'd either be off the front in the break or off the back, crossing fingers for the former. Matt jumped in 2 early moves in case the tight roads let the break roll early but everyone felt good enough to keep it interesting. I ended up in 3 moves with the last one getting 20s and I thought I'd actually done it, but we got brought back heading into the hill on the 3rd lap and I literally went from off the front to out the back as the peloton stormed up the hill with Thom joining the break that formed.
Missed it by a move. I settled in to a group just off the peloton but knew even if I got back I wasn't doing much, the break was gone and Axeon (yellow jersey) was in full on control mode riding the front. I made it to the feed zone and decided it was time to get healthy. A pretty bad day for me, but at the same time I could have tried to last in the race and never cover any moves and just survive, but that doesn't help anyone and isn't the plan, I did what I could and then pulled the plug. The rest of the race was fairly boring as Axeon controlled the field for the entire race and brought the break back with 2 laps to go. They retained the jersey and only 11 guys finished in the lead group, that's a HARD day.
In the end Beauce had some ups and downs and we would have loved to come out with a couple more podiums, but we rode well as a team and rolled the dice when we could. The race was hard, but lots of fun and I look forward to coming back. For now though, I'm really enjoying being at my parents new home in Raleigh, sitting at a coffee shop, and not having to race my bike tomorrow. A much needed break before heading to Utah for some altitude training, then Bend, OR for the Cascade Cycling Classic and then the biggest event of the year at the Tour of Utah.
Keep those pedals spinning,
**All the awesome photos by Les Morales, www.lesmophoto.com, facebook.com/lesmoralesphotography,
Stage 1: La Baie
The first stage at Saguenay was quite the day. While it may be summer back in the states, it was a cold spring day up here, 40 degrees and a consistent rain for the 11, 15km circuits. Fun times. We bundled up and hit the circuit full gas. Within 5km a group of 4 slipped away, Evan chased and I attack to bridge, taking one Silber rider along for the ride, with teammates in the break I was stuck to make it alone with no help. I got within 5-10s but just couldn't close the gap completely and popped as the field came back to me. Even with the field chasing the break had 40s at the start finish. Forced to chase the team got to the front and set a really stiff tempo and backed off to keep the break close. It never got more that 1:20 and we began to reel it back as the laps counted down. When the break was 30s up the rode, attacks flew on the one hill on the course, Thom and Chad covered and went up the rode. Evan was rested and ready to go but flatted at just the wrong time and missed the move. Eventually the break whittle down and Chad and 8 others came back, likely due to the freezing conditions. All bets are off when it's 40 and raining. Thom rode amazing in the break and even significantly outnumbers he finished 4th, saving the day a bit for us. Today was just about survival and even though we made a couple mistakes we weren't completely empty handed. Tomorrow is going to be a balmy 55 and cloudy at the start, a huge upgrade form today. We'll see how it plays out.
Stage 2: Kénogami
What a wild ride today! Silber had a pretty good hold of the race after yesterday's clinic so we knew they would want today to be controlled and relatively easy. With most guys over 7 minutes down in the overall the break had a good chance to make it to the finish today, it would allow Silber to ride an easy tempo and get some recovery from yesterday without having any change in the overall classification. So the plan was simple, get guys in the break, preferable two, and anyone not in the break watched over Thom and made his day as easy as possible to keep his GC position high. I covered like crazy until the move went after 2.5 (of 13) laps. Two guys were up the road when Silber came to the front in force and I knew they were ready for the break to roll, I bridged across along with a couple of guys and the break was formed. We rode hard for a lap before being joined by a couple more and a solid 1:30 lead on the peloton. I'm not sure on numbers but I think we had ten, with Jelly Belly and Garneau each having two riders.
Maybe a lap or so of that and then I looked back to see a rider from Silber and Cycling Academy join us. What? The peloton was only 35s away with one 12km (7.5 mile) lap to go, with plenty of sets of fresh legs among the mix I just tried to be a huge anchor in the break hoping it would get brought back and Chad could fight for the win, it was a good finish for him. The Cycling Academy rider (Guillaume Boivin) rode the front hard almost the entire lap with little help from the others to stay away from the chasing group. The group worked really well but once the gap was established we rode pretty easy. By the second KOM line we had ridden easy for a couple laps, just tapping through on a paceline, I put in a soft attack and took the points and looked back to a decent gap with 2 chasing, we jumped in to a hard tempo and rode away from the break. We never got a lot of time, maybe 40s, but they weren't chasing hard. At this point I took the remaining KOM points, now tied for the lead in that competition, and thought I had a good chance to win. The Cycling Academy rider wasn't too strong, and I liked my chances 1 on 1 with the rider from Race Clean (Canadian National Team). Then things got weird with 4 laps to go, the 2 Garneau and 2 Jelly Belly riders bridged across and we stopped working hard. More guys from the original break came across and then we just stopped riding. Eventually Race Clean and Jelly Belly attacked and only Bruno Langlois and I could bridge. Finally we were back riding hard and working together.
Into the final climb with 2km we went. That climb was rough, but I attacked as it leveled out anyway, but didn't get much of a gap and Boivin went right back to the front to drive it. With 1km to go Gus Morton (Jelly Belly) attacked and I was able to follow, instantly we had a gap, oh boy, wait, do I have a chance to win. Not expected. I pulled through with 600m to go to ensure we stayed away to the line but couldn't get him to come back around. Into the final corner (300m to go) I punched it and started sprinting as hard to the line. Not ideal, but the tail wind help and while Gus was on my wheel the whole time he never came around. I definitely crossed the line in complete disbelief. I spent the last 3-4 laps just hoping to salvage a podium, standing on the top step was such a bonus! Wild amazing day. We've been knocking on the door as a team for way too long. So pumped to finally get something positive for all the guys who have so much talent and have been smashing all year. A much needed morale boost. The team did a great job riding all day, protecting Thom and taking care of business. Thom lost a little time to me and one or two other GC riders but remains in the hunt in 9th within striking distance of the podium. 6:00pm criterium tomorrow for stage 3.
Stage 3: Chicoutimi Criterium
The 2.2km, 25 lap criterium played our simply in the field. A crash in the final corner before an intermediate sprint point really calmed the race down. A break rolled as Silber came to the front and controlled the race, with Chad up the road we relaxed and settled in to the pace. With about 10 laps to go the pace really picked up and a chase began to catch the break. The gap went from 1:45 to :45 with 2 laps to go as Silber chased all out. We formed as a team to set up Nolan for the sprint if it came back and keep Thom in the front and out of trouble, it never did. Chad sprinted from the break to take 3rd on the day, another podium for the team! Awesome. From our perspective it was a great day, the guys that needed to ride easy rode easy and are ready for Stage 4. Stage 4 should be a complete mess with the GC only four seconds apart and another rainy day with temperatures in the mid 50s. Here we go....
Stage 4: Chicoutimi Circuit Race
The last day of a stage race can always be interesting as teams that have worked all week begin to tire out. My job was to get in the break and sure up the King of the Mountain competition. The rest of the guys were there to protect Thom in hopes of moving him up the general classification. He was less than 1:00 off the lead and only 30s from the podium. The last circuit was hard and with temperatures in the 50’s as rain came down there were going to be plenty of people not finishing the last day. Chris and I followed early moves until a group of 8 formed along with Alex Catiford (the rider I was tied with on the KOM lead). On the third lap a Devinci rider attacked on the climb and I followed along and we built a good lead of 2:00 to the chase and 3:00 to the field. I took all the KOM points and we were riding well together when he double flatted. With 85km to go I took to the rode alone, it was a long lonely journey from there. I built the lead to 4:00 but knew the only way I would make it was if teams were happy to let me hang out there and the GC contenders played games with each other.
I spent a lot of time out there on the alone with Phil yelling encouragement and updates from the car. For 70km it was just me, the car, and two motos for company, that and dreams of another victory. Thom got in to a chase group of 8 guys and had the benefit of sitting on since I was up the rode. With 3 laps to go I still had 1:30 but was hurting and knew it was likely over, but you never know. A lap later I got over the climb and a small chase with Matt caught me over the top. I drove the front so Matt could rest. Evan caught us and I dug a little deeper so he wouldn’t have to pull either. Honestly it just felt great to sit on someone’s wheel for a little bit as the group rotated through. With one lap to go the field was all together, and by all together I mean there were 25-30 guys left, Nolan, Matt, Evan, and Thom were all there. I kept the pace up and tried to hang on the climb, but eventually the legs were just done. Thom rode amazing in the finale and just barely missed a small split of 4 that battled for the stage win but came across the line 6th and moved up to 4th on GC. It was a great last day for the Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay for the team.
Rain, grit, and a good day tearing it up with teammates and friends
The Philadelphia International Cycling Classic is one of the most historic races in the US. Since the inaugural race in 1985 it has changed names, distances, and courses but remains one of the most famous races on the calendar. Until 2005 it was also home to the US Pro Championships, where the top American in the race was given the stars and stripes. The famous run in and finishing climb up the Manyunk Wall are written into American cycling lore in a similar way that the Fleche Wallone finishing climb of the Mur de Huy is. All week I’d heard stories about past editions, the crazy crowds on Lemon Hill, the madness of the lead-in and climb up Manyunk, and how fun the race is. I was definitely looking forward to a great day of racing and the opportunity to experience this American Classic.
One of the big changes in Philly has been the shortening of the race, from its original distance of 251km (156 miles), to a mere 177km (110 miles) means the racing is on all day long. I finished the distance in just over 4 hours, averaging 27.5 mph (44kmh) for the circuit. I have to say I’d love to see it lengthen back out and finish later in the day when more people would be out watching. The event also hosts a Women’s World Cup, the main event for the day, but I have to imagine it’d be better to have the women finish at 6 or 7 o’clock for maximum rowdiness, just my $0.02.
Our race got started at 8:00 in the morning and the race got rolling real quickly. We went up Lemon hill with a pretty small crowd watching; then again it was 8:15am. The backside of Lemon always provided some tense moments as two hard right-handers strung the field out. We’d start flying back down Kelly drive toward Manyunk single file with gaps between little groups fighting to get back to bring everything together. Then as Kelly drive heads in to Manyunk teams start ripping it to position their riders at the front in case of any splits occur up the wall. This basic scenario played out for 9 laps.
Tom and I were working on getting in the break and for 3 laps I was in top 10 up Manyunk chasing a split that never came. On the 4th lap the elastic snapped for a group of 10 over Lemon Hill with both Evan and Chris up the road. I bridged to the break with 2 to go, mostly to ensure I was there on the last lap for Chad. Thomas did a leadout for Chad and Nicholae with 2 to go so they were positioned perfectly going in to the final lap.
The break got reeled in shortly after and teams began their positioning, with Mattheiu, Chris, and Myself there to support Chad and Nicholae. Leading in to Manyunk was wild! We were riding between 30 and 35mph teams as drilled it at the front to position their riders. First UHC took control, a little too early and running out of guys, Hincapie and Rally took over with Silber coming to the front as well. Matthieu did an amazing job floating just behind the main trains so we could go as late as possible. As we headed into Manyunk up a slight uphill (still 30+ mph), then I made a big mistake. Matthieu had done a ton of work already but as a gap opened to the left and I asked him to move over, but his legs were done (rightfully so), and I got caught on the wrong side of his wheel and took myself to the curb as he went backwards. Chris was quick and got off my wheel and took Chad up but he lost a ton of places and started the climb outside the top 20. He did an amazing ride to take 6th, but I’ll be frustrated for a while thinking what if. He had the legs to get to the podium for sure, just let him down in the run-up to the last corner before the climb.
At the end of the day, even with my mistake, it was a good day for the team. We had two in the break; Matthieu had an amazing ride from splitting the field, winning the sprint jersey, and did a great setup for the finish. Chad rode to 6th and Nicholae 13th, even with poor positioning. We were active, followed every move, and definitely played a roll in the race, we’re just waiting to get a little luck and get a win. Philly was another good opportunity to learn from mistakes and gel a little more as a team. Now we’re off to Canada for 2 stage races and more opportunities to get some results.
Keep those pedals spinning,
**All the awesome photos by Les Morales, www.lesmophoto.com, facebook.com/lesmoralesphotography,
After waking the legs back up at the Crit in downtown Roanoke it was off to Winston Salem for my first Pro Road National Championship, followed by the Winston Salem Cycling Classic, 4 days of racing, Time Trial on Friday, US Pro Road Race Saturday, and then the Winston Salem Cycling Classic Criterium and Road Race Sunday and Monday. Fortunately I got to take the crit day off and rest, but it was still a huge weekend.
The Time Trial was on a tough 48km out and back course on an old two-lane highway with huge rollers. Always uphill or downhill and never flat meant a long day in the saddle that was going to seriously wear on people, and if that didn’t the 8am start definitely would. Even with early start the high humidity meant Mike and I were sweating buckets on the trainers as we warmed up. With the hard course it was important to go out easy and slowly pick up the effort as the race progressed. Of course, you don’t always execute the plan. I went out smashing, constantly thinking to myself, easier Bryan, easier, but the combination of inexperience and excitement for nationals was a problem. I went flying in the first quarter and suffered for the remainder. No excuses, but it was a pretty bad day for me. Low power, poor results, but a lot of experience gained. Mentally I never really thought through and prepared for the race. Last year I spent a lot of time “winging it” and having success, but the game is changing and I needed to be more prepared. I hate to waste the chance and effort but it was a good lesson learned.
US Pro Road Race
The road race was a hard 187km affair on a 16km city circuit throughout downtown Winston Salem. Rolling terrain with one particularly steep hill 1.5km from the finish meant it was going to be a race of attrition and filled with a ton of late race attacks. We had to get someone in the break and make sure Evan, Chad, and Chris could get to the finish as fresh as possible. On the second lap I jumped in the break and we rolled smooth for the next 6 laps. Not pulling hard, just tapping through, but still building a lead upwards of 5:00. Somewhere between our group and the peloton was a chase group that kept attacking itself as most guys already had a rider up the road, Barry made sure we had representation there as well, a perfect setup. While Rally was represented it wasn’t the guy they wanted to go to the finish so all of a sudden the gap started coming down fast as they put 10 guys on the front, with most of the time being brought back by Tom Zirbel, fresh off 2nd in TT.
Next thing I knew the peloton caught us, and by peloton I mean 30 guys, and shrinking fast. For half a lap I didn’t see anyone from our team and covered every move that was remotely dangerous. Eventually Mike and Chad came toward the front and we both protected Chad as best we could. Mike made a huge move to get Chad up the road into a good-looking break, but that was eventually rolled back in. I covered more moves, and eventually got Chad up the road in a group of 7 before coming unhinged in a group of 12 that were chasing the break. A good day, but eventually there were no legs left. Chad went on to place 4th, just missing the podium and being beat in the sprint by Alex Howes (Cannondale) and Travis McCabe (Hincapie) along with the solo winner, Greg Daniel. We rode well as a team, executing the plan, and gave our best rider for the day a chance to win. A podium would have been nice, but we can’t have a ton of regret from a good day in the saddle.
Winston Salem Cycling Classic
After an off day, it was time for more city circuits on a slightly adjusted 12km course with a longer climb and a couple more turns. We had a similar plan to US Pro with the hope to keep Chad, Chris, Nicholae, and Thomas fresh for the finale and the rest of us to ride until we couldn’t anymore and set them up however we could. Mike and I were in a couple small breaks but the break to stick went up the rode on the climb when we were a little too far away to get in it but Chris jumped in the move to make sure we were represented. Amore Vita almost immediately got to the front and kept the pace hard and the break close. As Amore Vita ran out of guys the attacks started flying and the climb started to take it’s toll as huge splits were happening all over the course. Sometimes I was on the right side and sometimes on the wrong side, but always making sure Chad and Nicholae were on the right side and if not bringing them back (Thom had a mechanical and didn’t finish).
This continued until two laps to go where tired legs had me out the back, somehow we got back on but when we got to the field Nicholae and Chad had missed the important split of the day with 6 riders ripping away, 55s up on the field. Mike and I immediately went to the front and rode all out to bring it back, when we were within 20s we hit the climb again, with already tired legs and a hard threshold effort to bring the break back Mike and I both went out the back on the climb. From there Chad had to manage by himself and ended up 8th out of the remaining riders but we never got him back to the right group. It’s frustrating, but some tired legs and poor positioning hurt us. If we would have been there earlier and gotten to the front we could have brought the group back, but the hill was too much for Mike and I. We’re getting better and closer but we’re just missing a little something. It will come, but it needs to come soon, we’re all really sick of being just outside the good placings. Chad is riding super well right now so I know if we can get him set up right he’ll be good in the finale. We’ll ride our butts off for him again at Philly and see if we can’t get on that podium. The team is starting to gel more and more and we definitely have the best team for the next three weeks that we’ve had all year. Looking forward to it.
Keep those pedals spinning,
The Virginia Blue Ridge Criterium marked a bit of a going away party for myself as my parents move away from what has been my home since we moved here in 1998. The event is part of the push to change Roanoke into an outdoors town that brings tourism and fun times to the area. Roanoke is an awesome town with beautiful mountains, hiking trails, rivers, and plenty of great outdoor activities to go around and the city and county are starting to show Roanoke off to the world. Since leaving for college Roanoke significantly updated their river greenway system, revamped some mountain bike trails, started a youth mountain bike team, brought a big time marathon to town, and most recently had Deschutes Brewing decided to open their East Coast operations in Roanoke, some huge changes. When I left Roanoke for college I didn’t think I’d have any interest in coming back, but now, now it seems like a pretty cool place to be. Roanoke is definitely headed in the right direction and bringing a big Pro Criterium with good prize money should definitely help the city move in that direction (Had to get some home town bragging in).
Leading up to the race Corey Davis and I had the opportunity to visit a couple of schools to talk to the kids about the race, cycling, and a lifetime of exercise and good nutrition. It was awesome to see the kids get excited about bikes, ask questions, and have a little break from school. I also signed my first autograph, I'm not sure the kid knows how unknown and not cool a middle of the pack continental professional cyclist is, but…I’ll take what I can get.
The lead-up to the Criterium was actually a little hectic for me, between school visits, packing up my childhood bedroom, talking to local TV station, and getting in a couple good training rides the days filled up fast. Mostly though, I just got a little too nervous and emotional as I left my childhood home. It’s sort of all fine until you realize you’re leaving and then it’s oh wow, it’s actually happening. The day of the crit I think my heart rate was through the roof just sitting on the couch trying to calm the nervous energy. The Roanoke Crit isn’t exactly a big race on my calendar but since I was leaving the next morning and it was in my hometown, the pressure seemed liked it was on. I spent the morning finishing some packing and getting a last visit to Sweet Donkey for pre-race pastry and coffee with my sister. I tried to take a nap but had too much nervous energy to fall asleep.
Eventually it was time to throw the kit on and ride the 30 minutes from my house to the crit course. A cool opportunity to ride directly from you home couch to the race. I got there just in time to say hi to some friends working the event and for the rain to begin gushing out of the sky. All day it had stayed away but as the women’s race was underway it came down in droves. If nerves weren’t on high alert, they were now. By the time we headed to the line the rain had finished, the sun had set, and a group of 75 guys sat anxiously on the line. Being the seasoned Pro I am I took my call-up and immediately went backwards because I couldn’t clip in off the line. Don’t worry, I’ll figure it out eventually. After being on the receiving end of a Curtis Winsor super smash I finally made it toward the front just as I saw the field sit up with three guys up the road, yup, I’ll take that, and immediately jumped right and across the gap. From 30th to off the front in a straightaway, thanks Curtis. The break was solid with Chris Young (Rally), Corey Davis (Guttenplan), myself, and one other. Chris did a lot of strong pulling but we weren’t super smooth when Mike Stoop (Guttenplan) joined the move. After sitting on for a lap he attacked and I followed right away with no one else from the break tagging in. That was essentially it for the night. On rainy days it’s best to be off the front and the break usually goes early, as a small group working together is much faster in the wet corners than a peloton fighting for position. We were gone and away probably 10 laps into the race and kept hitting it for the next 20 laps or so before we were gone for good. It felt like we hovered at 8 seconds forever, then 12 for a while and then it ballooned up to 45 seconds almost instantly. Game over. For the remainder of the laps I got to enjoy the crowd and figure out how I was going to beat the best crit rider in Virginia.
The entire time the crowd was amazing, from my sister screaming on the back straight to cheers of my name as we ripped down the homestretch. It was definitely a night I will remember for a long time. Eventually we got close to lapping the field, but we eased up and let the field sit 20-30 seconds ahead of us. I didn't want Stoop snaking through the field faster than me and getting away. Laps went by as I kept looking at Curtis for advice, trying to figure out how to shake Stoop. With four laps to go and the peloton still dangling ahead Curtis told me to attack Stoop. 5 Minute power v. sprint power, we’ll see how it goes. I was a little antsy and attacked into two left handers, which Stoop took so much better than me I got zero gap. I didn't wait long to hit it hard again. As the road tilted slightly up at the Start/Finish I hit it. Boom, gap open, Curtis jumping up and down and freaking out on the side. Let’s go. Look up, oh crap, the field is right there. At the same time I jumped 3 guys went free of the peloton and the peloton sat up, 20s became zero seconds in two turns.
I hit the back of the peloton through a technical right left uphill section and took it slower than I had the whole race. My teammate saw me and immediately hit the front full gas to keep Stoop off the back of the pack. With three laps to go he and I were trading pulls going all out to stay off the front, with 1 lap to go Stoop’s teammate went back and collected him into the back of the group, three turns later they came flying by me. That was it for me unfortunately, my legs out of gas from the last three laps trying to keep him away, but the slowing peloton and poor timing of my catch slowed me down too much. Maybe if I would have waited another lap or two, or the peloton hadn’t slowed or, or, or… It could have been the perfect sendoff and for a couple laps I thought I’d actually done it, won the hometown race my last night at home. Alas, Stoop got the better of me and I had to deal with the second step on the podium. It was still an amazing time. A post race Burger and fried Oreo at Jack Brown’s finished off a hell of a night. It was amazing to have so many friends and family come to downtown to cheer me on, check out a bike race for the first time, and withstand the threat of rain to see it all happen. A huge thank you to Roanoke for an amazing sendoff. Roanoke will always be my hometown and I look forward to frequent visits in the future, to enjoy the amazing roads, good food, great people, and a wonderful place to grow up. Thanks for the memories.
Keep those pedals spinning,
The next stop on the Pro Calendar after Joe Martin Stage Race is New Mexico and The Tour of the Gila. Based out of Silver City, NM at 5,895ft it brings altitude into what is already a hard stage race. 3 hard climby road races, a 26.1km (16 miles) Time Trial, also not flat, and a Criterium in downtown makes for a solid 5 days of racing. The team finally worked out Nicolae’s Visa, so he’ll be a welcome addition to the team for this race and beyond. This week will definitely be a battle of attrition, cross winds, and your ability to adapt to the altitude as we top out over 8,000ft.
Stage 1 - Mogollon
The first day brought a hill top finish on Mollogon but not before a ripping fast 140km brought us to the base. From Silver City we dropped down into the valley cruising at about 60-80km/h for the first half hour of open racing. Between the drop of the neutral flag and the turn on to the climb the peloton averaged 50kmh (31 mph). A small break of four got away through the first feed zone after the course finally leveled out and it was controlled and steady from there on out with one minor exception. About 5km to the turn for the climb a dog made its way in to the peloton. I’m not sure if people didn’t see it or what but it was never pointed out and no one every yelled “Dog” or anything, next thing I know I wiz past it just barely to the left knowing for sure a crash was coming. Surprisingly it was a small crash as most everyone avoided it but it caused a good sized split in the field as the racing for the corner heated up. Nolan and Oliver were caught out of the split and missed out on the action, the rest of us prepared for the hard climb. Matt and Mike made sure myself, Chad, Chris, and Nicolae were in good position as we made the right hand turn and began the climb. Mollogon is broken in to two parts, about 1.4km that tops out at 10% and then a 2.2km plateau before the real climb begins with 4.5km to the finish. The plateau is honestly the most important part of the race as there is always a ripping crosswind coming across the wide-open field.
Jelly Belly set a hard tempo up the climb and punched it into the cross-wind causing instant chaos. I was futher back than I should have been, maybe 20 wheels once it got strung out on the flats. With everyone in the gutter people started popping, I covered one, two, and the third was too much and I came unglued. Trying to start another echelon as I came unhinged was useless as guys were just flying backwards. A group was close in front so I kept driving to see if I could catch them and made contact just before the climb, but that group was the 4th group on the road. With Nicolae, Chris, and Chad up the road, there wasn’t much point in drilling the climb, unfortuantley, the smart call was to find a decent tempo and just get to the top. I eventually rolled in 5:25 down on stage winner Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly). Chad and Chris faired better in the cross winds but neither were in the lead group and both dealt with similar issues of opened gaps and single file survival in the gutter. Chris ended up 12th with Chad 22nd. Nicolae made a big attempt to get across one of the groups in the crosswinds and paid the price of the maximum effort at 7000ft and suffered a bit up the climb. It wasn’t the best day for us, but it’s probably the worst day for our guys. Besides Chris who is still working on form coming off of sickness we’re not a group of climbing specialists. We’ll fair better on the rest of the stages where the riding is still hard with plenty of elevation change but no big Cat 1 or HC climbs to get up and over. For now it’s time to do our best at recovering at altitude and moving on to the next day.
Stage 2 brought another Road Race day in New Mexico, this time over 3 climbs and into the Gila National Forest. The first two climbs came within the first 35km before we went down a twisting descent into the valley where we remained before turning back toward home, the final climb, and the fast 15km descent into the finish. The break rolled early and while we wanted a guy in it the group was too small (3) to spend the entire day wrecking yourself into the headwind in the valley. We covered anything that might go across but nothing did and by the 2nd climb we settled in to a nice tempo that continued over the climb, down the descent and across the valley. Things finally picked up as we approached the right hand turn and last climb of the day. Jelly Belly had been controlling the race and had brought the break back a little early and as we caught them shortly after beginning the climb the race started rolling.
A couple attacks and then Axeon started drilling the front, a group that was once 150+ strong whittled to 30 guys over the top, with maybe 10-15 catching on the downhill. From there it was fast and heated as we ran in to the finish. We stayed safe but without a true sprinter we didn’t play into the finish as much as we’d liked. At the end of the day we stayed rested for the important 26km TT tomorrow and kept our best GC contenders in the mix. Between the TT tomorrow and the hard Gila Monster RR Sunday there is plenty of shaking up to be done in the overall and hopefully a good result on a stage. Looking forward to it.
Stage 3: Tyrone Time Trial
A nasty TT laid ahead for stage three, 26.1km with a long 6.5km climb to start, steep descent, three big rollers and then turn it around and come back home. The wind was hitting pretty hard dead in the face on the way out making the slog up the climb even worse. The descent was so fast on the backside you could super tuck and not lose any time before suffering on the three rollers to the turn around. Coming back the tailwind made quick work until you hit the 2.5km climb. I cracked there, just struggled to keep a good solid cadence and the bike moving forward. Once over the top it was 6.5km of ripping tailwind descent. With a 55 tooth front chainring I was still spinning out, alternating 15-30s supertuck, 1:00 at 400W. I still bled time like crazy in part from the legs feeling the effort and part trying to put power down at 120rpm. At the end of the day it wasn’t what I would have hoped but I have so much to learn, there’s definitely value in having done this before, how to gauge effort and how to manage wind and so forth. Would love to take another crack at it in the future, 41st and 2:00 down isn’t so fun for me. Still, I was happy with the effort, I didn’t totally screw up, made up 8 places in the overall, and my first TT on the new Merckx bike. Still want more, but being patient, learning, and move forward. The criterium tomorrow is hard and Sunday is absolute madness, I want to be ready and play with some of the top guys, we’ll see how it goes. The rest of the guys had similar experiences. It was hard and the times were what they were. Chad and Chris didn't move much in GC, Nicholae moved up, and the rest of the guys rested to be more prepared for the Criterium and the monster RR on Sunday.
Stage 4: Downtown Silver City Criterium
After the morning time trial the 4:15 criterium the next day leads to plenty of time to chill and hang out, possibly too much time spent staring in to space in a hotel room. After the TT it was off to the sandwich shop for some crit food, AKA a Chocolate Chip cookie. Well we walked in and low and behold they had fresh cinnamon rolls, so Nolan and I split a cinnamon roll and a cookie. More importantly we spent 3 hours hanging out in the shop by the window enjoying not being in a hotel room. Eventually the crit rolled around and we got the day started. The course had a good sized hill on the backside and promised to be pretty hard. In the end, it turned out to be relatively easy and uneventful. Jelly Belly took control of the race and kept everything smooth and controlled the entire race. A couple efforts going off the front proved useless and eventually we settled in and focused on saving our legs for tomorrow. The team finished safely near the front with no mishaps and ready for the big day tomorrow, which is really where we could shake things up. As much time as we had between the TT and the Crit, we didn’t have between the Crit and the Queen Stage that began at 8:40am the next day. A quick dinner and it was off to bed dreaming of what the Gila Monster would bring the next day. 100 miles and 10,000ft of climbing how hard could it be…
Stage 5: Gila Monster Road Race
The plan for the day was simple, get 1-2 guys in the break, preferably Chad and myself, have the team take care of Chris, keep him out of trouble and in the right position into and over the climbs, allow him to get into the lead group that would eventually catch the break, then have 2-3 guys in the lead group and options to contest for the win. The race starts with some big rollers and then over a cat 3 climb at 22km in. I tried to be patient to wait for the right break but started covering moves about 10km in just before the sprint point. Somewhere in there I forgot we were at 6000ft and got way too antsy to make sure I was in the move. I was in a group of 20 a little bit off the front of the main peloton when 5 guys moved that I was sure would be the beginning of the break. After covering and attacked for the last 5-6km I was gassed and couldn’t get there and instantly with the effort I went into a bad place and I knew I was in trouble. Stay calm, float through the peloton, and stay safe, breath, breath, oh boy I can’t breath at all up here. That happened with about 3km to the top of the climb, the hardest part before we dropped over the top and in to the valley that would lead us to the first big climb of the day.
Usually in a 150 man peloton you have a ways to drop before you’re in trouble and I was sure I’d be fine, until I started noticing splits up the road and started floating through big gaps. At one point our director counted 6 groups on the road, the break, the “peloton” and 4 groups struggling to get back in the race, I was somewhere in there. Eventually I regained control of my breathing and focused on getting back in the game. Our director came up next to me and I told him how I was close but screwed the pooch on getting in the break, I told him I’d be back with the group shortly, little did I know how hard it would be.
I spent the next 30 minutes or so jumping up groups using cars, riders, and anything I could to move forward. At first I assumed that once the break formed catching the group would be easy but the peloton kept charging. Eventually I came up to a group of 15-20 which was the last group behind the peloton. We hit the valley and rotated hard and still weren’t gaining that quickly on the peloton. The Jelly Belly boys were keeping the pace super stiff. Eventually we did get there and I thought I could catch my breath, but honestly the pace was fast enough it didn't feel like I was recovering. On stage two went we went the other way through the valley and average 202W, this time I averaged 310W on the wheel. The Jelly Belly crew never gave the break much of a leash and never gave me much of a shot at recovery. The team did survive through the splits and we worked on keeping Chris protected through the valley. I rode the climb with him in my draft and did my job to keep him protected in the valley out and back before the big Cat 1 climb out of the Cliff Dwellings.
We hit the bottom of the climb hard and I was sitting on the tail end of the lead group doing 550W, I decided I didn’t have that energy and focused on riding at my threshold, I lost time but kept it insight for 2km or so until finally I gave way and settled in to tempo know that was all I had and watched the race go up the rode. From there I just rode on my teammate Matt’s wheel to the line, still riding hard to maximize the good training up at elevation. Chris got briefly dropped from the lead group but regained quickly over the top of the climb and they caught Chad shortly thereafter. Both stayed with the lead group of 15 or so until the finish where Chad got a little ancy (from what I understand) and launched his sprint too soon finishing up 7th. Chris moved up to 9th in GC and Chad 15th (from 22nd). Not a bad final day, the team was there at the finish, and turning that into a win or podium is always hard. The lead group was made up of 75% ex world tour riders, so the competition was definitely stiff. Personally I’m upset I wasted so much effort early since I think I had good legs and the “numbers” agree (I think). Either way it was a fast and hard day with the winner taking 4:04 where usually it is in the 4:30 range. All in all it was a decent week for the team, we’re still looking for that little breakthrough but we also keep learning and getting better at working together on the road. It’s tough when the team is so new and none of the guys no each other well but results are coming, just have to find them somewhere. From here it’s off to Roanoke for a couple weeks before the madness begins with US Pro in Winston Salem, then Philly one day, and then two Canadian stage race (Saguenay and Beauce).
Keep those pedals spinning,