Sunday, May 17, 2015

Finishing California

As promised, the last stage here in California was intense and exciting. The format of the race was interesting with both starting and finishing circuits, connected by some roads in between downtown LA and Pasadena. The circuits in downtown LA were quite hard. The attacks were flying and the tempo was high as Saxo rode to keep things together. It didn't help either that the road conditions were horrid. Once we left LA and raced toward Pasadena the tempo didn't slow. As we raced single file through the streets of LA, I hit a stone and immediately got a rear puncture. I surfed around on my flat as I waited for the endless line of riders to pass me. Finally I got to the end and was able to call for the car. After getting the change I had to chase for my life. Just before we reached the circuits in Pasadena (at the Rose Bowl actually), I regained contact with the back of the field. I hung on, tried to recover a bit, and tried to move up as best as I could. Eventually I did get my legs back and I went to help the team leadout Danny. I wanted to try and help because I had nothing to save it for. I think our leadout was the best today, but unfortunately Danny came up short. Everyone was disappointed, but it wasn't due to a lack of effort. Overall California was a little shy of hopes for everyone. We never won or got on the podium in the sprints, didn't win the team gc, and didn't have anyone in the top five or the podium of the overall. Despite all of that, the attitude of the team was great all week and everyone gave their best and that's all we can do! Thanks for reading all week. I'm heading home tomorrow and will be going to nationals in Chattanooga, TN next week. Ciao for now!

Battling Baldy

No hiding my disappointment in my finish today but I'm trying to be positive about it. I fought hard, but my legs were already very tired at the start of Baldy. Perhaps if I wasn't coming unglued there I might have been able to find some extra fight, but I felt out of energy despite eating and drinking all day in anticipation of the hard finish. The consensus among the team is simply that I'm missing some racing kilometers, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept that I was so far back. I can't deny what happened though, so I'll accept it and hope my fitness will continue to improve from here. On a bright note, Riccardo and Haimar had good days and are both now top 10 in the overall. We really hoped to get one on the podium and/or the team gc, but we fell short. It's been a hard week of racing and we've fallen short of our goals, but it hasn't been for lack of trying. We have one more shot tomorrow to get Danny a stage win or hopefully at least the podium. It will be supremely difficult though as the battle for the overall win is very close. The intermediate and final sprints will be very hotly contested because Sagan is only 2 seconds off the overall win. I find it almost impossible that he won't win the overall, but it will be exciting to the finish. Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Battling the Clock

When racing against the clock, I don't think anyone ever actually wins! Of course someone is the fastest and therefore the winner of the stage, but I don't think you can ever actually beat the clock. Maybe that is why TTs are so hard!? Anyway, after moving the stage from snowy Big Bear Lake down to Six Flags Magic Mountain, we were treated to a dry and sometimes sunny day. With the TT being only 10.6km long, there was little strategy. It was an all out effort and the strongest was going to win. Our team had a pretty good day, but I think we ended it a little disappointed. We had two different thought processes today. There were a few guys going full gas to try for the stage victory, while there were a few of us going full gas to fight for the overall. In the end, the stage guys came up short of their expectations while the gc guys seemed to fair pretty well. Haimar was our best and is now sitting 10th overall and well within striking distance of the podium and even overall if he has a great day tomorrow. Riccardo and I are only a little further back too, so we have three cards to play tomorrow on the decisive Mt. Baldy. Hopefully at the end of it we can come away with something good! I hope to report good news tomorrow.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Drought is Over!

I officially declare California's drought over! It was incredible how much rain we were riding through in the last 30km of the stage today. I think it is likely the second hardest rain I have ridden in, only behind the unbelievable rain of the 2013 Worlds in Firenze. Thankfully the roads were quite big (American style!) and mostly straight, otherwise it could've been ugly with how fast we were going to try and catch the break. The team did a good job of taking care of me, particularly Laurent for a good while. Other than the rain and semi-hectic finale the day was relatively low-key, which was a nice change of pace. All is status quo for me still as there has not been a big GC shake up yet. That will change tomorrow with the individual TT. Due to the predicted snow at Big Bear Lake the organization made a tough but logical decision to change the venue to here in Santa Clarita. Now instead of the original 24km, the TT is only 10.6km. It is pretty much flat, but might be a little technical. I hope I can find the power in my legs and deliver a good performance to stay in the hunt. Send me the strong vibes!

Stage 3 and 4 in California

Due to long transfers and a busy schedule I was unable to write about yesterday's stage 3, but here's the run down: hard! The start was very intense and the gas didn't let off for a long time. Finally after the breakaway went, there was a small lull, but the terrain never really allowed for any time to let the pressure off the pedals. We had to keep going all day. The first real test of the race came on the HC category Mt. Hamilton. On the top of the climb, I think there were maybe 15-20 guys remaining and we had 3 (Riccardo, Haimar, and me) of us and were later joined by Jasper and Laurent. Following the descent of Mt. Hamilton there was another short and steep climb with a super steep descent after that. Some guys in front of me crashed on the descent and I got gapped off trying to avoid them. I maintained my distance to the bottom, but then I had to chase really hard to regain contact. It was a few matches I prefer not have burned, but in the end I stayed with the group to the finish and didn't lose any time. That means I'm still in the running!

Today's stage was relatively calm compared to the first three. There was one climb, but it was of no consequence and the wind was strong, but it was never too dangerous. The peloton was certainly nervous due to the wind and a couple times a team tried to split it in the wind, but the conditions were not right, thankfully. The most nerve-wracking moment for me today was realizing I had a slow-leak front puncture going into the last 10-15km. I had been kind of wondering if I had a flat for a good while, but I could never tell for sure. I wanted to change it, but I was nervous about the wind and the speed the peloton was going. Also I wished I had a radio to call the car and also tell my teammates I needed some help. I was close to them, but it was really hard to get everything organized. Luckily everything worked out and I finished on the lead time, so we are status quo. That's the update. Thanks!

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Little 2 Close for Comfort

Stage 2 was a majority downhill profile, but what it lacked in climbing, it made up for in wind. The nerves and tension were high for he majority of the stage. Again the wind never amounted to anything happening, but we rode at the front just to be sure we were positioned well in case something did happen. Markel was in the breakaway today, so the others helped protect Riccardo and me. In the finale, they helped place Danny for the sprint, where he took 5th. A little better than yesterday, but he's hoping for even better in the next sprint stages. That won't be tomorrow, but possibly the next two days after. I'm happy tomorrow is likely to be a bit more selective because I'm tired of the stress already! I narrowly avoided the late crash today. I have some scuff/bruise on my left shoulder as a result, but I have no idea how I got it. I never went down, but someone/thing hit me from behind or on the side I guess. As a result of getting tangled up in that crash though, I had to chase really hard to regain contact with the raging peloton. Luckily I made it back and did not suffer any time loss. I'm looking forward to the climbs of tomorrow and hoping for good legs. Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

One Done and "Dusted"

It was a mostly uneventful day here in California. There was plenty of stress because of some potentially dangerous winds, but it never amounted to anything. Perhaps the most exciting part of the stage was the 5km gravel section that left us completely coated in dust. It was a little dicey at points, but amazingly there were no crashes. Besides the usual antics at the finish and fighting for life there, I had one scary moment just after the gravel section today. I needed a nature break, so I went about doing it while still moving (one of my many talents). As I drifted back, I noticed the peloton was kind of split up and strung out in the back. I wrapped up business and got in the line. At that moment, some guys started opening gaps. I have no idea if there was some pressure being exerted at the front or if the wind was simply too strong or what was really happening, but I found myself in a very precarious position as the gap from me to the peloton increased. Thankfully it was a short chase and I was back in, but I definitely had some panicked thoughts about how I lost my Tour of California GC just because I couldn't hold my liquids. All was not lost though, so I live to fight another day. As for the team, we had Danny take 9th today. He won't be happy with that, and we're hoping he'll improve on that in one of the upcoming sprint stages.