Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Monarch Mountain Trials

It was another challenging day today in Colorado. The stage started with an onslaught of attacks that never stopped until the first slopes of Monarch pass began. The peloton exploded immediately under the pressure at the front. I was not feeling very comfortable but tried to find a rhythm. At about 6km from the top, Tom Danielson attacked and it made the already decimated field explode even more. I was unable to follow the front group and did everything I could to limit my losses, hoping to regain contact on the descent. Thankfully I had some amazing teammates today. Jens did a great piece of tempo making to the top and then with the help of Laurent on the descent and in the valley, we were able to make it back to the lead group. My confidence was rattled after being dropped the first time up the climb, but the team continued to work for and believe in me, so I did the same for myself. As we began the final ascent to the finish, Jens again sacrificed himself for me, riding in the wind for probably close to 20km. It was crucial for me to saving energy and giving myself a chance to fight in the end. Once the moves began with around 6km to the finish, I fought to stay with it. I didn't want to lose contact with the front group this time. The group slowly dwindled. Under the pressure of the attacks I think everyone was pretty dead, especially at such high elevations. At about 3km to go, there was a serious lull in the action and I decided I would try. I thought that if I got a small gap I would have a legitimate shot at making it to the finish because no one seemed to have any steady power left. I did get a gap, but there were still some guys left in the group to work for their leaders, so they were able to bring me back. I tried to latch onto the group but lost contact in the final kilometer. I took a risk that I maybe shouldn't have today, but it felt like the right move at that time. I'll keep fighting though and can still place high in the race. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Days 1 and 2 in Colorado

It's been a good first couple stages here in Colorado. Stage 1 started with a bang in the high altitudes of Aspen. It was a challenging circuit for sure. The team rode very well to make sure no dangerous breaks were gone and then to have us in a good position going into the final climbs. I had a mechanical in the corner at the bottom of the first of the two final climbs. It wasn't a major mechanical and I was able to keep going, but I lost some valuable position. I didn't panic and just set about to tag onto the back of the group as it splintered. I was on as we crested and sped down to the last KOM of the day. I watched as Jens launched one of his signature late race attacks, which brought out a flurry of attacks from some of the gc favorites. I was still fighting to come back toward the front, but managed to catch onto the back of the drastically reduced peloton as we crossed the KOM and headed toward the finish. Jens was eventually caught and a few other attacks began to happen. Around 4km from the finish one guy attacked and there was a short chase before a brief lull. I had a little momentum and should have attacked right there, but hesitation got the better of me and I stayed where I was. I made sure I didn't make the same mistake though as we came to 2km to go. The last short and steep climb was there and I followed as a couple guys made moves. I found myself off the front and chasing. I felt as though I was going to throw up, but I did my best to fight through it. When the finish line came, I had failed to make contact with the two who attacked in front of me and then was out-sprinted by two others who came with me, but I landed fifth on the day and gained a valuable 9 seconds on those in the peloton behind. I was happy and felt positive looking at the week ahead. I hoped it was a good sign that I was hopefully reaping the benefits of a difficult Tour and a good week's recovery after Utah.

Today's second stage was something pretty spectacular. It finished in Crested Butte, the same finish that we did in 2012, but the approach was different this year. We came over the Kebler Pass, which is not only long and at high altitude, but it is also mostly dirt road, up AND DOWN. And for extra spice today, we had rain (with thunder and lightning which is very scary), which made the road (or dirt) sloppy, dirty, slick, and a bit dangerous. Unbeknownst to I believe all the riders, at least those in our first group, the race was evidently neutralized at the top of the pass in order to allow us to safely descend the dirt section. Well that message was never relayed to us until we had raced down the dirt, come back onto the pavement, and saw (barely through mud pasted glasses) the road blockaded. The race came to a complete stop, everyone was confused, yelling, shivering, getting rain jackets, trying to figure out what was going on. After about 5 minutes the race was on again with the one lone leader allowed to go before the peloton started. I honestly had no clue what was happening. Riders protested a little and said let's neutralize the race, but it was never clear. BMC began chasing immediately and I simply followed. Once we hit the final climb I was still uncertain what was happening, but when Tejay attacked I figured I better try and follow. Again I pulled a couple guys with me who out-sprinted me, but I still finished up 6th and moved up to 4th on GC. Tomorrow is going to be another test of the legs with the race ascending both sides of Monarch mountain, finishing on top the second time. I'm feeling strong and hoping I can stick my nose in it again.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Utah Completed

Tour of Utah is complete and I think I’m happy it is. The team atmosphere was good all week, but I think my legs are still a little tired from the Tour. The final two days of racing were very tough. I did my best to hang on, but I was suffering to follow the hard accelerations of the front guys. It seemed like I just couldn’t get my body to make that last push. I didn’t feel the “ease” to go deep. Obviously going to your limit is never easy, but sometimes the body will respond better when pushed. I’m really hoping (expecting) that with a good week of rest and recovery, I will bounce back strong for Colorado.

Regarding the final two stages, the “queen” stage to Snowbird was very difficult. Jens and Riccardo did a great job to get into the breakaway. It was particularly impressive that Riccardo made it because he was involved in a crash near the beginning, so he had to chase back to the peloton and then attack to get into the group again. And then to seal it off he came in 3rd on the stage. For today’s stage I had decided I wanted to try something similar because I had nothing to lose. There were two scenarios possible. Either I’d get into the early move with a teammate or two and just wait to the last climb, or we’d have a guy or two get into the early move and I’d try to jump across on the first KOM of the day. The preference was the first early move and I tried my hand several times but was unsuccessful. At one point there was a good split in the peloton and I was in the front and trying to follow a couple guys across to the break, but I was unable to even follow on the flat. I just didn’t seem to have the power.

Once the dust settled, the stage was already a third over, but we still had the two difficult KOMs to navigate. I passed the first one with “relative” ease and had my teammates to help keep me safe and protected to the base of the final climb. From there I was on my own to try and make it happen. From the onset the pace was very hard and I slowly lost contact. Eventually Riccardo caught me and then we caught Clement who had now also fallen off the pace of the front group. It was a dual effort from there to try and save my gc position and also save Clement’s young rider jersey. Riccardo worked hard for several kilometers of the incredibly difficult climb and once he pulled off I tried to set a solid pace for Clement to the top. At that point I had resigned myself on my gc position in order to try and help him keep the jersey. In the end he lost the jersey by a mere 14 seconds. He was pretty devastated and I felt pretty bad because there was probably 14 seconds somewhere that we could’ve pulled out of ourselves. I did my best to tell him not to worry though because he had a heck of a race and I don’t think it was his goal to have the jersey before the race. It is of course hard to have it taken away once you have had it though. He’s a good rider with a lot of potential though, so he should be happy. At the end of the day I fell to 11th on gc, but that doesn’t make any difference in anything. Overall it was a hard week of racing that I’m hoping will really benefit me looking ahead to Colorado. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sprinter?!

Not really sure what happened today, but I landed in 15th! Actually I was trying to set Hayden up for a late attack, but I guess he wasn't into it. When the dust settled, I had fought my way to the front and made a little prize money for the team. Now maybe we're not in the red after the few fines we've incurred. All good :)

What could've been a straight forward, somewhat calm day, was ravaged by wind and the chaos that accompanies it. Straight from the start it was windy and the field strung out and exploded. I found myself in the wrong spot on more that one occasion and had to really fight. I was on the wrong end of a few splits, but thankfully I came back. Several different breakaways formed and dissolved. Jens was a part of several different moves. He was in the initial move that got a good gap, but the field chased hard for some reason, and he dropped out of it with 3 other guys. He decided he wasn't finished though and bridged across to the remaining 3 on the only KOM of the day. The gap immediately enlarged and I really thought they were going to stay away. At the top of the KOM a mad chase was put on, mainly by Optum. It was quite impressive actually because they brought it back and then won the stage. Chapeau to them. The guys did a good job helping to keep me out of trouble in the madness. Tomorrow we will again be climbing, so I will have to turn back into a climber. Really hoping my legs come around. We'll see!

Powder Mountain

There's not so much to really say about today's stage! It was hard from start to finish and I felt strong, but others were stronger. I'm not disappointed with my performance, but obviously I would've liked better. Besides the first 3, I am only 1:10 out from 4th place, so it definitely isn't over for me. I believe I will continue to get better throughout this race too, so I really hope that over the weekend I can jump up some places.

The team rode great today. We had Jens in the first important breakaway of the day, but Cannondale missed that, so they pulled all out to bring it back. Once it regrouped, two of our stagiaires, Alex and Ryan, did a great job to get themselves into the move. The rest of the team did a stellar job from there to protect Riccardo, Clement, and myself until the final climbs. I definitely had it much easier today with a solid team around me.

And other than racing today, I had the privilege of having some fun before the stage...

video

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

2 Down in Utah

We're two stages into Utah and I'm ready for the first rest day already! Oh wait, we don't get any here. I'm plenty tired from these first two days of racing though. The course profiles have been anything but easy. Yesterday's stage was relatively calm, but it had a lot of climbing, which was a fairly rude introduction for me after the Tour and coming to altitude just before the race. I managed to keep everything together though. Altitude is definitely a funny thing. There were numerous occasions during the stage where I'd do one simple thing such as take a drink from my bottle and I'd have a sudden rush of lactic acid or feel like I needed to gasp for air. It certainly takes a toll on the body to have less oxygen available!

In today's stage, all control was out the window and life was not easy. It was a little crazy for the breakaway and we managed to have Jens jump into the move. He ultimately couldn't hold on and came back, but it was good to have him represented in front and help keep us from needing to pull. The field was mostly controlled by Garmin with a little help from Belkin and Cannondale in the later part of the stage. There was rarely a moment to breathe today. We had a lot of descending, but even that was full gas to try and keep the breakaway on a short leash. And if there was a lot of descending, that means there was a lot of climbing too! And to add to that, there was a fair amount of wind that kept coming from different directions and making life just a little bit harder in the peloton. Thankfully I had a great team around me today to keep me out of trouble. Hayden Roulston was particularly awesome. He rode in the wind almost all day for me. I'm not entirely sure how he did it because I was suffering a lot just being on his wheel! There were numerous occasions, especially on the run into and on the final climb of the day where I thought I was in big trouble. My bike felt stuck to the road. Thankfully I think everyone was feeling that way a little bit. And even more thankfully no one really tried to crush it on the last climb because I think I would've been in trouble. That said, the group was awfully small at the top, so maybe no one could go much harder! I'll believe that and take some confidence from it! :)

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's nearly flat profile and just praying to the weather gods that it won't be windy. I could really use an easier day to try and recover/adapt a little bit. I'm hoping that I will get better day by day with the altitude. Time will tell!

Oh and I'll give a shout out to Michael Schar for an incredible ride to a solo win from the breakaway today. Impressive.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

One Week Removed



It has been one week since my “lap” around France finished and I think I’m finally starting to fully recover from the trauma! Many people have asked me whether the race lived up to my expectations. The short answer is that going in, I wasn't really sure what to expect. It was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever competed in and I don’t think I could have done anything to prepare myself 100%. The worst part of the race for me was probably dealing with 6 crashes on top of the most physically demanding race I had ever done. Crashing has several negative effects. In addition to the obvious physical pain it makes you more nervous and hesitant so you have to work harder to keep your confidence on the bike, road rash and aches and pains can disrupt recovery and sleep, and it just takes an emotional toll to keep hitting the pavement. All that said, I was really lucky in some ways to go down so many times without incurring any race-ending injuries and be able to push through to Paris, which was a big goal for me from the start.

The Tour wasn't all suffering though. It is also something I will never forget and will have in my back pocket so to speak for the rest of my career. Battling my way through was not easy, but I am definitely going to be stronger for it. There were lots of moments of fun and laughter in the bus or around the dinner table. There were numerous stories from the Tour veteran Jens Voigt (this being Tour #17 in his career) that always captivated the entire group. There were a couple stages in the breakaway. There was that spectator in stage two who ran across the road completely naked! There was suffering my way to the finish through the mist and fog on stage 8, and all the sudden hearing “Go Flip” from the crowd and seeing a Luther Norse flag. (Evidently the Norse nation travels well!) Probably the best memory I have though is the first moments of entering Paris and rolling onto the Champs-Elysees. I remember descending onto the road by the river, seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, and realizing I was really close to completing my first Tour de France and reuniting with Lisa. As the race entered the Champs it seemed just like I’d always seen on TV with the final bend in the circuit before the finish and the backdrop of the Arc de Triomph. The real kicker for me was the fighter jets that flew over the first time we crossed the finish line. It sent a chill down my spine. It’s these memories that will always mark the bright side of my first Tour de France.

I can't recap the Tour without mentioning that I was shocked by the outpouring of support. I never knew so many people followed what I do. I had my hometown newspapers doing articles, I did interviews with the various cycling websites, but above all I think it was the number of emails, Twitter mentions, blog comments, etc. that I received that really amazed me. I heard from friends, family, old teammates, classmates, and tons of folks who I had never even met. It was an incredible experience and I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who was rooting me on.

Happy to celebrate with my best friend :)

Fun to have some family at the finish!

I got photo-sniped while trying to recover on the metro the next day in Paris!
So I guess that brings us to tomorrow... Tour of Utah starts. Hard to believe I'm already back to racing again. Although to be honest, I think I'm ready. Prior to coming here I definitely was not in the frame of mind to race, but once I arrived and went training with the guys today, I felt more back in the game. We have three stagiaires racing with us this week, so it'll be fun to have a few new faces around the team. I guess that's all from here! Good night.