Saturday, May 14, 2016

Gila Wrap Up

Hey! Just wanted to try and do a quick wrap on Gila. It was a quick and chaotic departure post race, followed by travel home and trying to get settled here, so I haven't had a chance to write. So anyway, I'd say the final stage of Gila was a success. The team protected Daniel, Jani, Jonny, and me until the final climbs, at which point we put our strength in numbers to use to spring Daniel for the stage win. The other three of us were in the first group just behind, which landed us the team GC. Daniel also took the mountain jersey and moved up to 5th on GC, while Jani, Jonny, and I were 8th, 10th, and 7th respectively on GC. Although we didn't win the overall, we did get a stage and some smaller prizes, which was good for momentum heading into California. Unfortunately I was not selected for the California team, so I will be cheering from my couch. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

"Breezing" Through the TT

The Tyrone time trial is usually marked by the wind patterns of the day, and it was no exception today. Lucky for us is that the wind is usually a little less in the morning, while the afternoon winds whipping around right now are surely making it pretty difficult on the other categories of racers. For my race today I wanted to give my maximum to maintain or improve my overall position. It's a tricky time trial because of the hills and wind. The secret to any TT is figuring out how to measure your effort, but when you might have sections where you can't pedal because of the tailwind plus downhill or you'll be creeping uphill, it is harder to figure out than a normal flat TT. I think overall I did pretty well at measuring my effort, but the results were not super. I lost some time in the GC and slipped to 10th. With Sunday's big stage ahead, anything is possible, but the podium is looking pretty tough. We'll keep fighting for it.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Inner Loop of Gila

There's not a great expanse of roads here, but there is one loop well known by everyone who has ever been to Silver City: the Inner Loop. You can run it either direction, today's was clockwise. It started out pretty hard racing up the gradual climb to Pinos Altos and continuing to roll along until the twisty descent of the Sapillo to Lake Roberts. Jonny did a good job getting himself into the move, but it was only 3 guys, so they were pretty doomed. We were met with a stiff headwind from Lake Roberts until we turned onto the last KOM of the day with 30km to go. Then the cross tailwind combined with the catch of the break created chaos as guys began to attack. I just followed and tried to keep things in check. We were hoping Marco would survive the climb and be able to do the sprint. I wasn't sure if he had made it because I hadn't seen him, but all the sudden at about 5km to go I looked up to see him in front of me! It's funny how sprinters can sort of be like ninjas. From there I was trying to stay safe and in a good position. We went flying into the last corner about 1.5km to go and half the field hopped the median, while I stayed inside. It went fully into the gutter at that point and guys began to blow up. I kept on the gas to the line hoping to avoid any time loss, but I was victim of 10 seconds lost even though I was 19th on the stage. A tough pill to swallow, but hopefully that won't be the make or break for me. The semi-good part is that Marco sprinted for second. We of course would have liked to win, but at least we were in the mix again. We can only keep trying!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ghost Town of Mogollon

The first stage of Gila took us from Silver City to a ghost town of Mogollon. We had a ripping tailwind and covered the entire stage with an average of nearly 47km/h. I remember looking at my computer after a bit and seeing something like 26km down after 32 minutes. I definitely had a "what?" moment but knew we had been cruising, just didn't realize how fast! Despite the stage being fairly straightforward, it was kind of eventful. I destroyed a rear wheel on what I believe was a rock, but I'm only going off what Marco told me. I was following wheels, never saw anything, only felt it, but I knew immediately that my wheel was done! I got a wheel change and started to chase back on, meanwhile watching guys getting dropped and the peloton moving away. I stayed calm and kept chasing through the caravan, just hoping they wouldn't make a barrage. Thankfully things let up a bit and I rolled back into the field. We continued to ride along, our team leading the charge with Daniel Eaton pulling like a maniac, given some help from Jamis.

As we rolled into the final 20km of the stage, things heated up a bit, as well as some scary events. One was in the last feedzone when a commissaire moto nearly took out the field after almost clipping a logging truck who had properly stopped on the road. Luckily it didn't go bad. Unfortunately the same can't be said for a dog that ran into the field and took several riders out. It was some kind of shepard dog and I'm pretty sure it went into herding mode. I'm not sure how many went down or how badly anyone was hurt, but it was an avoidable accident had the owner only had the dog on a leash. But that is the risk we take riding through uncontrolled/open areas. 

Having those moments behind us, it was time to focus on the looming finish climb ahead. The team did a great job working all day and into the climb to give us the best chance of success. The climb comes in three separate parts. The first/bottom portion that finishes with a fairly steep slope for about 1km, which then opens into a false-flat crosswind section, followed by the final ~4.5km to the finish. I was well positioned on the lower slopes of the climb and being attentive to the race at hand. Just as we crested the first pitch into the crosswind section, Jelly Belly attacked the race. I was right behind them but got forced into the gravel by a rider as I went to follow. I recovered and tried to close the gap, but they had opened it quickly. I was within a few bike lengths of closing it, but the last little bit was too much. Three of us chased across the flat section, but we lost nearly 30 seconds before the final kilometers of the climb.

Once the final section of the climb started it was more or less mano-y-mano. We never caught the two in front and a few came from behind. Daniel was in there and looking strong. His group originally passed us, but I was able to come back to them and recover a little. I attacked with about 2.5km to go, but wasn't able to get a real gap. Daniel immediately countered and was able to get a gap, which he ultimately kept to the finish. The rest of our group basically rode individual time trials at that point. Daniel finished third, I finished 5th, and Jani finished up 8th. I was originally pretty happy with my result and thought the team was overall well placed to take the overall, but upon seeing the results, the time gaps are much greater than we would like. That is going to make our overall goal of winning the GC very difficult. It doesn't mean we won't try though. One day/stage at a time; anything can happen. Check back to see what happens.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Wrapping Up Joe; Discovering Santa Fe

So I need to catch you up on the final two stages of Joe Martin. The third stage was a fun one. It was the more challenging of the two road circuits and we raced it hard. We kept the same game plan trying to play a GC card in the breakaway while holding the field sprint card in our hand. The course was a circuit that we did 4 times with a little out and back piece we did to start and finish. On the second circuit we played some good teamwork and landed Danny and Jonny in the break of about 10, which was a good situation for us. I was pretty sure it was finished as the peloton lost all motivation and Jamis (with the yellow jersey) didn't show interest in chasing. Silber came to the front though and did an impressive chase to bring down a 4 minute gap in a little over one lap. It was gruppo compacto when we hit the climb the last time, so I watched for any last chance to escape or make sure any other GC threats didn't go up the road, but we were pretty dedicated to the field sprint now. We took control and kept things under wraps to the finish. I rode the front with a few of the other guys until about 3km to go and then faded away to watch it all unfold. There were multiple crashes as we raced down the curvey road into the sunset. There was a moment when all I could see was dust everywhere as a guy or two crashed into the ditch on a curve. I was just happy to be observing and not partaking in the chaos at that point. And I was even more elated to find out that Carlos and John had gone one, two on the stage: mission complete!

Onto stage 4, my first criterium since 2009. I was admittedly nervous, but we had a good team and would likely be riding the front, the safest place to be, in order to set John up for the sprint. With the confidence from the previous day's win, we kept our cool and the race under control. All was going well until one to go when a crash in turn one took out John. I had just finished my job, so I'm not sure what happened in the front because of that, but Carlos was left to sprint for us. He did his best, but fell short of the win landing in third. It was definitely a disappointment for the team, as were the overall results of the week, but nothing is ever guaranteed in racing; that's why we do it!

After the race Lisa and I headed west in order to prepare for Gila. We stayed in Santa Fe, NM for the week and had a good time. I'll tell you honestly that trying to recover from a solid race, yet alone ride, at 7000 feet is not easy! I managed alright though and had a few good days out in the New Mexican desert discovering some pretty nice roads. I must say I was pretty impressed with Santa Fe's athletic "infrastructure". First, the drivers seemed overly friendly, which is a nice change of pace. Second, I was highly impressed with the trail network they had throughout the city that connected different neighborhoods and all parts of the city. It would provide tremendous opportunity for family outings, and inspiration for many to exercise. Linked to that trail network was an incredible amount of green space. I was very surprised by the amount of parks and playgrounds available to the population. Outside of the athletic/recreational opportunities, there was a good food and life culture in the city. We visited the famous Saturday farmer's market and had a good experience. We also tried a couple different restaurants and would have to say that Cafe Pasqual's was a big winner. It had some unique dishes on offer, but brought us that familiar NM chili flavor we had been missing for years. Overall, Lisa and I really enjoyed our time there.

Following Santa Fe we made our way toward Silver City for Tour of the Gila, but we had to make a quick detour to our old homeland of Las Cruces. A quick 24 hour stop over allowed us to get a quick fill of some old favorites and see some friends. It was fun to be back. It's amazing how you develop a bond with a place and can almost instantly feel at home when going back after even several years. We had dinner at one of our favorite mexican restaurants Andele's, had a custard dessert at Scoopy's, and picked up some of our absolute favorite coffee at the grocery store. Simple things to make us happy! We're now here in Silver City and preparing for Tour of the Gila to start on Wednesday. More update on that later. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Climbing Out of the Devil's Den; And Then Around It!

We're half way through Joe Martin now and things are going decently well. Starting with the TT on Thursday, we had a pretty good team performance with Jonny and me landing in 5th and 7th respectively. We hoped for a little bit more, but we were still with in striking distance if we were able to steal some time bonuses or just attack the race and get a gap. So that meant we went into yesterday's stage with the goal of being on the offensive. The race was pretty full on all day. The big escape of the day had two of us in it, Chris and Ty, which was a good situation for us because Ty could likely win the stage if the group stayed away. The big problem though was that several guys who were decently placed in the gc had made it into the 20 man group. It created an interesting scenario for us because our ultimate goal is to win the gc, but we of course want to win stages too! We ultimately made a difficult decision to chase our own men, hoping to leave the group to finish just in front of the peloton and give Ty the chance to win the stage, but then have us finish close to them in order to stay in the gc hunt. In the end we kind of lost everything as Ty cramped up and didn't win the stage, meanwhile Jonny and I got caught out by a late crash and lost some time. We're still within striking distance though, and today's stage is harder than yesterday, so hopefully we can work together to try and put the pressure on, going for the overall. And of course if that doesn't work, hopefully Murphy can make it to the line with the group because he is definitely the fastest here. Lots to play for and take into consideration! Stay tuned for the wrap up.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Getting Back to It!

Well, it's back to the grind tomorrow! After a near two month hiatus from racing, I'm here in Arkansas for Joe Martin. Last time I raced this was 2009. I don't really remember it at all, but from what I've seen thus far, it will be a good race. The opening TT is a stiff 5km time trial climbing out of the bottom of Devil's Den state park. It has 8 switchbacks in the first 3km, followed by a short downhill, and then a last 800m kick to the finish. It will be a solid way to blow the cobwebs out for sure. We have a strong team and also the defending champion in John Murphy. We're certainly hoping to repeat with the overall and some stage wins. Send some strong vibes our way!

A couple interesting notes about this race. First is that we're staying at host housing, which I haven't been in since Utah of 2009. It is a really fun change of pace actually! For example, tonight I'm sitting on a reclined couch in the living room, watching TV, and socializing with my host family. It is a completely different dynamic than sitting in a hotel. The second really interesting dynamic of this race is that my brother-in-law, Tim, will be racing with/against me in this race! It's pretty crazy that he's made such progress in the sport that now we're racing together. I just hope he'll take it easy on me! :) I guess the real question is who will Lisa and her parents be cheering for? At least I know Noah will be on daddy's side! Alright, it's off to sleep here.