Saturday, September 5, 2015

Racing Around Jasper

It's my first time doing this race and being to this area of Canada. We raced into Jasper National Park yesterday and today we got to race in the park. It is an amazingly beautiful place with acres upon acres of untouched wilderness. The small part of the park that you can see from the roads is rival to any place I've been in terms of beauty, no doubt. I'm not here on a sightseeing trip though! We had 160km of challenging racing with 3 circuits of some rolling terrain in the park, followed by a 12km ascent up to the ski area of Marmot Basin. The start was a little hectic, but we maintained good control and only 3 guys went away. It was easy for Marco and Kristof to control the time gap and it just took the usual turn up of the gas in the closing kilometers of racing to bring the gap down quickly. We hit the climb and continued to set a good tempo on the front. Jesse did a good portion of the beginning of the climb, setting a really hard tempo. A few guys tried some attacks, but our tempo kept the at bay. I took over for Jesse until a few more dangerous guys attacked and Bauke decided he needed to follow. It was a bit of panic on his part that he covered them because it wasn't so dangerous yet. Instead he should've let us keep pulling for a bit and keep things a little more under control because shortly afterwards, he was isolated with still 5km to go. In the end it didn't matter thankfully as he finished second on the stage and kept the jersey. So that means tomorrow we will have to protect the jersey again, although we should get some help from some sprinter's teams. And then barring anything crazy with the gravel roads tomorrow (flats for example), it will be a little dicey on the final stage. It is a tricky circuit in Edmonton and Bauke only has 6 seconds to Yates in second place, which is dangerous because the time bonus on the finish line is 10, 6, and 4 seconds, so if Yates finished first or second and Bauke isn't 3rd, we will lose the jersey. We have confidence in him though!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Alberta Catch Up

Three stages down here in Alberta and we're on a good track for a successful week. Things began great when we won the team time trial and put Bauke into yellow. It was pretty exciting as we sat in the "hot" seat, shivering ironically, almost certain Green Edge would beat us, but when they crossed the line there was a momentary pause and we saw we had won by less than a second! Fun times.

Starting stage two with yellow meant we had to go to work. We let a small break go and controlled the rest of the day. There was some action on the second of the final three climbs, but we stayed calm and kept control without a lot of stress. Eventually Green Edge came to pull the final sprint and our job was done. Mathews won the sprint and took the jersey from Bauke. All good though.

So that left us with today. After a bit of rain and cold weather yesterday, we were really hoping for some sun. It took until the last 20km to see any sun though. Instead, we rode in near freezing temperatures and on/off rain for the first 150km. It wasn't the coldest I've ever been, but I was quite bundled up and pretty well prepared. Once the sun broke the clouds, spirits and motivation rose a bit for everyone. We raced toward the two finishing climbs. Bauke told us he wanted us to pull, so we obeyed. Jesse did a big pull at the base and put a lot of people including me into the red. I had to pull through after him though. I tried to keep the pace, but I think I slowed a bit. Eventually I was overtaken and began to go backwards. I fought to try and stay in touch with the group, but I lost touch. I chased the descent but there was no coming back. I didn't see the finish obviously, but Bauke was a very close second and retook the yellow jersey. Back to work tomorrow!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Independence Back to Hoosier and Breck, Plus a Trip to Fort Collins

Ok so let's get you caught up. Stage 4 started with the opposite side of Independence Pass from the day before and it went bananas. I tried to be present and go for a couple breakaways, but I also knew that I needed to meter my effort to make it over the top of the climb. As it was, I came unglued with about 1.5km to the top but kept a reasonable gap and was able to close it on the descent. After shoving some food and drink down the hatch, I helped to keep Julien protected as he was our best overall rider. At some point the wind got pretty crazy and the field began to split. We helped keep Julien in the front and out of trouble as best we could. Eventually the wind gave way to Hoosier Pass, so things didn't get any easier! I battled to stay with the diminishing peloton hoping I could help Julien in the final through Breckenridge before the final climb up Moonstone Road. I made it over the top and then we roared down into Breckenridge. I lost contact with Julien as we sped through town, but he managed to get himself up into the front group over the top of the climb and move into 9th overall. I simply got myself over the top and to the finish.

The next day was the TT that included the same climb over Moonstone Road as we had done in the finish the day before. I would do the TT without my TT bike because we wanted to let Julien use it to try and stay high in the overall. Admittedly I was a little nervous about the time cut because it was so windy and I would be racing against the guy who won the prologue of the Tour de France and has obviously been the strongest rider here. When it was all settled though, my time was only 2 minutes slower than the winner, middle of the results, and well within the time cut. Mission accomplished! Also, Julien had a good TT and remained high placed overall, although he dropped to 10th by 1 second.

So finally that brings us to today, when we drove down to the "low lands" of Colorado with the start in Loveland, a mere 5000 feet above sea level. I think everyone was kind of hoping for an easier day today, but it certainly wasn't to be. The first factor was the wind that was whipping around and the second was the fact that many guys wanted to be in the breakaway. It took a LONG time for the break to establish itself, something like 70km I think. I gave it a good nudge and had a few promising moves, but the cards weren't in my favor today. Leonardo, one of our stagiaires, managed to follow the right move and get into the break though. He ended up 3rd on the day as the break stayed away to the finish. That didn't mean our day in the peloton was easy though. The chase was on all day and there was more than one moment where the squeeze was on REAL tight. I'm not sure when things got all split up, but I think some guys were dropped as far out as 50km from the line. Laurent and I were in the front group with Julien and helped keep him safe to the finish.

Only one more day with one pretty good climb stand between Denver and me now. All things considered, I'll walk away from here feeling pretty happy that I was able to even race, but that I was able to finish the race feeling pretty good. Obviously it hasn't been the week or result that I hoped for, but I have to be realistic about what I was working with. Hopefully I'll get a big boost from this and be ready for good things in Alberta. That's about it for the update!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Independence Pass Take One

Today's stage from Copper Mountain to Aspen had us tackle the infamous Independence Pass for the first of two times. Prior to that though, we had plenty of climbing starting from the gun with Fremont Pass. I tried to get into the breakaway and paid for it. After only one or two efforts, I was already feeling my legs and lungs quite a bit. Before the top of the pass, I had lost contact with the peloton. I had a whole gambit of emotions going through me at that point: pain, frustration, embarrassment, anger were a few. I kept fighting to stay close and after an acceleration near the top I was able to regain contact. More than a little frazzled physically and mentally, I tried to gather myself and focus to try and help the team as best I could. Eventually we arrived at the beginnings of Independence Pass and I committed myself to try and help protect Julien and Julian. It was quite windy and a real dog fight to be at the front. Around 6km from the top the efforts caught up with me and my legs went flat. I suffered to the top and then took the long descent down to Aspen as easy as possible, surveying what I will climb up tomorrow from the gun. Certainly I'm nervous about the start, but all I can do is try! Notable highlight for the team today was Laurent snagging the most aggressive riders jersey for his efforts in the breakaway. That's all!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Not an "A" at A-Basin

Pretty plain and simple, I wasn't good enough to be with the best on the way up to A-Basin and I'm obviously disappointed. On the bright side, we had Julian and Julien pretty high up there. Moving forward, we'll work for them to finish high in the overall and I'll try to catch a breakaway and go for a stage win.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Keeping My Heart in My Chest

As predicted, the first stage was anything but easy. The start was pretty chaotic. I stayed attentive and was able to even jump into a couple moves that looked kind of dangerous. Eventually things settled down and BMC took control of the field. They rode all day, asked for a little help during the second lap, but then decided to just go full gas. The field exploded over the series of three climbs that finished with 35km to go. I was doing ok until the last kilometer or so of the final climb. Some guys started attacking and the pace really went up. I lost contact near the top but was happy to see the group was only about 20 guys. Over the top the group I was with chased hard and we came back. We had Julian Arrendondo in the front group, but he was unable to cover all the attacks and some guys got away. When my group came back, we also had Leonardo and Julien and we started to chase immediately. We managed to bring the group back, but then the attacking started again. It was all out to the finish. In the end, we had four of us there and Julian sprinted to 7th. For me, it was all I could do to survive. The climbs were really difficult and then the attacking to the finish had me swallowing my heart and lungs multiple times. I was really happy to be in the group and hope I can continue to improve through the week. We'll see!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stitches Out, Numbers On

It's been a long 10 days since my crash in Utah. I certainly could have done without the crash. People keep asking me, "How are you doing?" My standard response these days is, "I'm doing much better, but I've also been better!" I guess it is all a matter of perspective. That crash was probably the scariest and hardest crash I've ever had and I'm just very thankful that it didn't end up worse for anyone involved, myself included obviously. Since the crash it has been a struggle to get back to feeling human again and the reality of starting, let alone finishing, the USA Pro Challenge is a daunting goal. As the body does though, it heals and seems to begin to deliver a glimmer of hope when a hurting soul needs it. After a week of little to no riding that was a painful struggle at best, I finally had a hint that my body was going to say ok again yesterday. The pain and inflammation in my knee has lessened, I can stand out of the saddle feeling semi "inspired" again, and for the first time since the accident I am walking without a limp. I'll admit that I was getting kind of jaded on having people stare at me as I hobbled around with bandages on both arms and hands. And as of this evening, those bandages are off and my stitches are out. I do still have some protection on my knee for the deep gash there, but the rest is mostly out in the air. So here's the deal, I've got some new scars, I'm still healing, but I have hope. I have hope that I can still race well here and I have hope that I can pull some miracle out. Bottom line is that I'm still motivated (never lost it), I still want to do well, and I am going to try as hard as I can to make this a good race. My stitches are out and I'm pinning my numbers on to start fresh tomorrow.