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. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

No Rain Jackets Today

It was a complete 180 in weather today, with full sunshine and warm temperatures for stage 2. I would say the majority of the peloton was happy to see the nicer weather. The start was fast and furious with attacks going everywhere for the first 30km. Finally, a small group got away and established a gap. They rode quite strong all day as the pace in the peloton to catch them was never slow and not easy. The main attraction for the day was the climb of the backside of north Ogden canyon. It's a nasty little climb, 3km long and averaging 9% gradient. Up until the climb the stage was relatively calm, but once we hit it the bullets started flying. I was on/near my limit at the top and several times in the closing circuits. Our team looked good with Frank, Leonardo (a stagiaire), and me in the final group. We kept things relatively calm and focused on trying to stay on the same time and save energy as much as possible for the stages ahead; things don't get any easier!

Tomorrow's stage looks somewhat easy on paper, but it will be 100% to the contrary. The start should be flat, but after 50km we will go over the front side of north Ogden canyon (9.4km @ 6%), then over another solid climb called Trapper's Loop (6.9km @ 5%), and finally two times over a nasty climb in the finish city of Bountiful. The finish circuit climb looks like it will be a real leg burner, basically the same as the backside of north Ogden canyon from today, at 2.7km averaging 9%. I suspect the finishing group is going to be severely diminished, especially with the last time cresting only 11km from the finish. Hope my legs treat me well and my lungs begin to process a little more oxygen!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Back at it in Utah

Yes I'm still alive and breathing (barely). I'm in Utah for Tour of Utah now. Today's first stage was wet, cold, and long (132 miles). I think it is the first time I've seen it rain here in Utah. It was never a real hard rain but sprinkling all day at a minimum. I tried to prepare for it, but I still was cold a good portion of the day. For the majority of the day I wore my rain vest and rain jacket, but then I switched to having my rain vest and long sleeve gabba (neoprene type jersey). That switch helped keep me a little warmer. For the final long descent I added even my rain jacket on top, but I was still cold. Point is, I was cold! Crossing the finish line was a happy moment and I headed straight to the hotel for a hot shower. That felt good!

Regarding the race, it was a bit of a poker game today. A break went pretty easy, but then no one took responsibility to pull. No one ever wants to be first. The gap got to 15 minutes before some teams finally agreed to pull together. I was pretty skeptical that we'd catch the leaders, especially when they still had 4 or 5 minutes at the top of the last climb, but we ripped the long descent and caught them somewhere on/near the local circuits. I was just trying to finish safely at that point. The rest of the team was pretty much doing the same. Tomorrow will most likely be a sprint again and hopefully a little bit different weather.