Friday, August 5, 2016

Bountiful Bench

We had another unique start for today's stage starting on Antelope Island. After two laps around some the island roads we raced across the causeway connecting it to the mainland. The race for the break was pretty intense. Once the battle finished we had Daniel Eaton and Chris Jones in the 10 man break. It was good to have two guys in there, but we really wanted Daniel Jaramillo in to try and reclaim the KOM jersey. Nonetheless we had to be satisfied and focus for the two tough finishing circuits around Bountiful and the "Bountiful Bench" as it is called, a 2km climb averaging 10% with max gradients of 14%. We 

With a break of 10 men out front, the chase was pretty fast all day. We tackled two other climbs through the stage before racing into Bountiful. As we approached the climb the first time, the break's time gap was coming down inside 1:45. Over the top of the climb the first time there were some counter attacks and I jumped into one. I had a free ride as I still had Chris and Daniel up front, so if we got across they could help me with anything they had left. Also it helped the guys behind because they didn't have to chase with me up front. All in all it was good. My group was right on the heals of the remaining break as we hit the climb the second time. Immediately there were only a few of us left. We closed the gap to the leaders and Chris came to make one last effort for me. He took us to the steepest part of the climb, at which point I attacked and went solo. I made it to about 200 meters from the top before some guys came from behind. I was missing just a little and couldn't follow. I tagged onto the next few guys that came by as we crested the climb. The group was pretty small on top, but I think a few guys came back on the plateau over the top before the final decent. 

We really hoped Marco would be able to make the final group, but he came off just before the top. With him out we had to take an alternate route. We opted to try and set up Jaramillo for the small group sprint. Admittedly I wasn't able to much anything for him, but Jonny helped get him into a good place through the last corner, which allowed him to finish in fifth. We're still missing the stage win, but we're still trying to be present in the race. I had the most aggressive jersey from yesterday and Jaramillo reclaimed the KOM jersey today by taking some points the last time up the climb. We soldier on!

Tomorrow is the queen stage with the finish at Snowbird and there will surely be some explosions. I hope to be able to help Jani move up in the gc. He is definitely one of the strongest here and without his mishap on stage 3, he'd be in the running for the podium. Check us out tomorrow!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Breaking Away in Stage 4

After a disappointing stage yesterday, we aimed to hit the reset button today and be present throughout the stage, especially with the extra pressure on us given the stage was sponsored/presented by Unitedhealthcare. I managed to find my way into the day's break, taking a good bit of pressure off the team. Honestly it was a bit of a suicide break because it was very likely the sprinter's teams would control 100% today and not miss another opportunity. You never know what might happen though! As predicted, our leash was never more than 3 minutes and the field brought us back with about 15km to go. As a consolation prize I earned the most aggressive rider's jersey for the stage, so I'll get to wear that in tomorrow's stage. As for the rest of the team, Jaramillo managed to find himself in the right place for the finish and snag 7th. Remember, he's a climber! Overall we still missed the stage and are missing our rhythm a bit, but we will keep fighting and the last three stages should suit us well. We'll continue to be aggressive and race hard.

Explosion on Nebo

Unfortunately I can't come to you with good news about today's stage. It was a fast stage with a tailwind all the way into the climb. The team rode great to keep us protected and put us in a good position at the start of the climb, but once the action started in earnest everyone came unglued. Jani was definitely the strongest for us today, but he had a puncture part way up the climb that unraveled his day. He showed his strength by coming back to our group, but it was way too late. We contributed to the chase but when the dust settled we had lost nearly 4 minutes. Not the day we hoped for, but we'll fight on. Hope I can report back with better news tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tackling Utah's Highway 12

You might think that riding on one road for nearly the entire stage would be boring, but with so much unique terrain, Utah's Highway 12 is anything but boring. Throw on top of the scenery a little bit of topography and some full gas racing, and you've got the makings for excitement. Needless to say, the first 50km of the stage today were anything but easy and boring. The race for the break was all out. Silber had the leader's jersey, but they opted to try and go in the breakaways to avoid riding all day, so chaos ensued. Our goal was to get Jaramillo in again in order to defend and expand his lead in the KOM jersey. He and the team did nearly everything we could to get him in, but things didn't work out. Not all was lost though as only 2 guys were up the road, so a few points were left on top of the second climb. Jaramillo did win the sprint, but the guy who was behind him had won the first KOM so he leapt over him in the standings. 

Once the two leaders were gone and things settled down a bit, Silber started to ride as usual. Once we plunged down into Torrey for the two finishing circuits it became evident that they were not going to be able to close the gap by themselves. No one seemed willing to help so they stopped riding. Quickly a couple other teams came to drive the chase, but the two leaders held incredibly strong to the finish. Their gap was still 2 minutes at the line, so the day was foiled for the sprinters again. As for our team, we didn't lose the gc race which is the big picture, but we did miss out on another sprint chance for Marco or Tanner, and Jaramillo lost the KOM jersey. That's racing though.

Tomorrow's stage is a repeat of a couple years ago. It is flat for a long time, followed by a BIG climb and descent to the finish. Mt Nebo is anything but cake, so it is unclear what will happen. I don't suspect it will be a big gc shake up, but the group will be small. Time will tell what happens!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Back in Action in Utah

Hello all, despite what you may think, I am still alive, and I do still race my bike! Life has been busy on the home front with training and being dad, but I'm out in Utah now racing my bike again. Today was the first stage and it came down to the expected field sprint. Our day started bright and early, departing the hotel at 5:45 to be exact, to take the drive to what is probably the most unique start I've ever done. Incredibly the race organizers were able to get us a start in Zion National Park, so we had a picturesque 20km neutral roll through the amazing rock formations and colors of Zion before getting the race truly underway. Once the flag dropped, the attacks were on and it felt good to be back in the thick of it. Our team's goal was to get Jaramillo in the break to go for the KOM jersey: mission accomplished. He took both KOM sprints and now holds the jersey. Likely he will try again tomorrow to extend his lead.

As for the rest of us, we were able to sit back and "relax" as the peloton ripped across Utah's unique landscape. Literally though, we ripped. First it was Rally pulling like gangbusters for their sprinter, followed by a combo of BMC and Cannondale. There were a lot of guys under pressure and a good number dropped, including the pure sprinters, which left us in a better position to have Marco sprint. When the dust settled though, Tanner actually did the best for us coming in 10th. It was a bit of a chaotic sprint because no team was really in control, so there were a lot of teams trying to get their guy into position without real trains. The finish was also really fast with the last ~1.3km being slightly downhill. I was happy to avoid any trouble.

Wait, what did I say? I finished the stage in one piece but then I had a mix up with a drainage gutter. Several factors went into this but first of all is that the gutters here are really deep to be able to handle the flash flooding they get. Second factor was that despite it being bone dry out, there was a small river pouring down this gutter. Usually neither of those would likely be factors for me rolling through the stream of water, but the unusual factor was the red clay dirt/mud that was infusing the small river. Well I found out the hard way that this mud makes the pavement underneath like ice, so boom goes Matthew. I think the biggest bruise is to my ego because of course it was a spectacle and then I was laying there under a deluge of muddy water as I tried to process what had just happened. I quickly remounted and rode on my way back to the hotel. Further inspection of my accident revealed two decent scrapes on my knee and some soreness in the same knee from whatever impact I took. Thankfully I think the water actually probably softened the blow a little bit. Nonetheless I certainly could have done without the physical and probably bigger psychological blow of the "muddy water" incident. I'll survive though and don't think it will have any effect on my race.

So onto stage 2! We will traverse two quite challenging climbs that we've done before in the race that typically leave the field parred down a good bit for the sprint. This year however, the finish is much further from the climbs, so I would suspect they'll play a little less in the race. Some people will likely struggle though, which could leave a similar group to today's finish. The race shall tell us!

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.