The 2011 Amgen Tour of California was a great week of racing for Team RadioShack and myself. It began with the team putting its stamp on the race on stage 4 to Sierra Road. The team drove the pace all day to make the field tired, and Chris finished it off with the stage win and taking the yellow jersey. From that point on, it was our responsibility to control the race, which we were happy to do. Coming in as favorites, we knew the responsibility would come to us eventually, so we were happy to accept. After a couple days of Jason, Ben and Markel taking care of everything, it was time for Haimar, Dmitriy and me to take care of a little business.
The stage finish on Mt. Baldy had been built up as Tour de France caliber since it was announced, and it turned out to be quite the show. RadioShack controlled the race from the gun and under the relentless drive of Ben, Jason and Markel, the field dwindled. It wasn't until about 30km to go that Haimar, Dmitriy and I had to start our jobs. Haimar sacrificed himself one last time to get some bottles for the leaders, then Dmitriy took over into the base of Mt. Baldy, at which point I was left as the last man to help Chris and Levi to the finish. I did my best to ride a hard pace for them and weaken/shed the other riders. At about 2.5km to the finish, I brought back the last remaining break member and was finished. When I pulled off, Levi took over and rode everyone except Chris off the wheel, and they took 1st and 2nd on the stage. It was a great day for the team.
After one more day, the best week of racing I have been a part of was complete. Two stage wins, the overall, and amazing team effort was the stamp we left on the race. For myself personally, I made a big jump in my racing career by helping Chris and Levi in the mountains and learned many more lessons about racing.
The week would not have been the same though, if I had not had the amazing support of all my friends and family. I am sure I am forgetting someone, but a huge thanks to my parents, Lisa's parents, Lisa, Eric, Shane, Lola, Dave, Tim, and all the other Team RadioShack fans who came out to support us. It was a magical week of racing. I will not soon forget it.
The last few days Lisa and I have been hanging out in Virginia with Ben King and his family. The accommodations are great and the riding/relaxation have been wonderful. Tomorrow we leave for Greenville, SC for the US Professional Championships. The time trial is on Saturday and the road race on Monday. Going into the race, Ben is clearly a marked man (defending champion), but we will have to see how things play out during the race in order to decide how to race. Should be a good weekend no matter what though! Family is coming to the race again, so it will be good to spend a little more time with them before it is back to Europe again! I'll do my best to update along the way.