On the plane now!
So, throughout the day the time gap grew and shrunk. I was nervous that we
were about to be caught on the third big lap, but I think the time gaps
were wrong at that point because the gap had supposedly come down to 30 seconds or so, but then it rocketed back up to close to 2 minutes I think. In any case, I knew the fireworks were going to happen on the last time up Paris Mountain. As we approached, I did my best to find good position. The main guys I was marking were Tom Danielson and Tejay. Just before the right turn onto Paris Mountain, Danielson yelled to his teammate, Tom Peterson, to punch it one last time. Peterson went full gas for a few hundred meters, at which point Danielson jumped off his wheel.
The race was definitely on at that point. I trailed Danielson by a few bike lengths, but I clawed my way back slowly. Just as I made contact, Tejay attacked on the left side of the road. He established a solid gap immediately. Tommy D gave a hard chase with me on his wheel. I was unaware at that point who was left in our group, but I think Ben Jaque-Maynes was there, putting together a super solid ride. As well, I am sure that eventual champion, Timmy Duggan, was not far off the back. Everyone knew these were the pivotal moments in the race. As Danielson began to fade a little, I went over him and chased hard after Tejay. In retrospect I shouldn't have done the sole chase for what was probably close to 3km of the climb. Instead, I should have looked to the others to help. Nonetheless, I closed the gap to maybe 50m at the top.
After a small regrouping on the descent, it was down to five. Given my past experiences at US Pro, I thought it was going to be the five of us to fight it out for the win at that point. As is true in any game or competition though, it is not over until you cross the finish line, or the final buzzer rings. The dynamic in the group was not so good from the get go, and it became clear very quickly that some of the riders were not going to work. I avoided all the games for the first bit, but I ultimately became their victim when I pulled off and asked those who were refusing to work, to work. It was at that exact moment that Timmy got his initial gap, and that was all it took. I knew immediately that unless we chased him back pronto, the race was over. The others did not seem to recognize the urgency as the games continued. Timmy rode onto victory, the frustration grew in our group, and at the end, we were caught by a chase group. I tried to salvage something in the sprint, but I was dead. I crossed the line completely defeated, disappointed, and frustrated, but I feel like I did everything I could to defend my jersey. And if I could have picked someone from the field to have taken the jersey from my shoulders, I would have picked Timmy. He is a good friend, a great guy, a hard worker, and he deserved to win it. Congratulations to him again.
Since US pro, Lisa and I have just been trying to recharge our batteries. We spent a few days on the east coast visiting family and friends, checked out Brevard, NC, and rode the Harpeth River Ride in Nashville, TN for Nissan. The ride began a little more eventful than Ben King and I had hoped as we were struck by a car in the first few miles of the ride. Miraculously neither of us was hurt too badly. Ben definitely took the worst of it going up on the hood of the car and sliding off onto the road. I was scared that he had broken his collarbone by the way he was holding himself on the ground, but in the end, it was "nothing". Surely he played it a little cool and "tough guy", but no matter what it was amazing neither of us was seriously injured. We actually got back on our repaired and slightly beaten bikes and rode the full century. Ben rode with vengeance, pulling everyone, including yours truly, around all day. I was suffering just on his wheel!
After the ride, it was on a plane bound for Minnesota. We were going home again, this time to visit Lisa's parents. It was a nice treat for us to be able to go there because it wasn't in our original plans. During our time in Minnesota, we maximized our relaxing and family time. After a fun celebration of her brother's birthday on Sunday that included a round of golf, BBQ, and playing cards, we headed northward to the lake cabin on Monday. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were relaxing to the best of our ability. The weather was quite favorable for us. We did some water skiing, took some boat rides, did a little paddle-boating, read some books, and went to the TURTLE RACES!!! Yup, you read it right, turtle races. Look it up, Longville, MN is the turtle racing capital of the world, and we arrived just in time for the first race of the season! It was a good time accompanied by a childhood (and adulthood) favorite of Lisa's, licorice-chip ice cream. It was my first I had ever had this ice cream, and I quite enjoyed it.
Lisa dropped me off at the airport on Friday afternoon, so I could be in Brighton, MI for the Tour de Cure ride on Saturday. Ben and I were there again for Nissan, and this time we avoided trouble. The route was very pretty around the lakes and rolling, green hills of Michigan. Ben and I pulled the whole day. We had a slowly diminishing group throughout the day. By the last 50km, I think we were down to less than a dozen. The two of us had been joking with Brian (a Nissan sponsor) since dinner the night before that we were going to gutter it in a crosswind and blow the "field" apart. Well, in reality, it kind of happened! There were a few crosswind sections, and the pace we were riding simply popped a few guys off the back each time. As we were coming back into town to finish the ride, we made a turn about 5km to go, and I glanced back over my shoulder to see that Brian was the only one left! It was incredibly funny how our "plan" worked to perfection. We all laughed about it a bit and finished the ride joking around.
After an overnight stint at my folks, it is off to Europe again. Lisa and I are sad to be leaving friends and family, but we are anxious to get home. It has been almost 2 months of living out of our suitcases. We're ready to unpack for a bit and settle into our routine. The next race on my schedule is Tour of Austria starting July 1st. I am excited to get back to Girona and refocus for the second half of the season. Appreciate your reading.