This isn’t your average everyday race report--this is the behind-the-scenes, the real stuff. It’s going to taste like the bottom of a beer, like crap. So, if you don’t like cold beers, fast bike racing, dirty mustaches, and “slappin’ it in the big dog,” then go read something else.
Stage 1: TT
It started with the time trial in the morning and a crit at night. We were pretty accustomed to this since we’ve been doing it these last two months in the Midwest Flyover Series. We started by waking up, going to the closest coffee shop, getting some fresh brews and breakfast, and then it was time to start our warm up. None of us were expecting anything great, but the time you lose here means nothing in the days to come. We all finished right around where we thought--mid-pack with the exception of one of the Aussies who finished 22nd. It was a very solid ride. Now it was time to sit around and relax until the crit later on at 7pm.
Stage 2: St. Paul Crit
It was very hectic getting to the race because traffic was terrible. Big Smokey (Jake) finally weaseled us into a parking space. We all got kitted up, rode to the course, and basically went straight to staging. Since staging starts about a half an hour before, you have to get there early to get a good spot. After multiple crashes in the pro women’s race, it was neutralized. Since the woman protested the course setup, they switched it at the last minute to having us race the course backwards like it was last year, which I was fine with since that is what I raced the last two years. The Aussies were sort of pissed because the crit before was all left handers, which is all they’re accustomed to, but now they had to do all right handers. Liam had a call up, and this is the part where I admire the Aussies the most. They don’t give a shit if you’re a pro, amateur, or a national champion. If you piss them off they will spray you in a heartbeat. Nick, the other Aussie, followed his brother up to the front. People were complaining that he hadn’t been called up, and with his thick Aussie accent, he said “I don’t care, I’m already up here, and I’m not turning around,” which is pretty badass if you ask me. The race was hot from the gun and it was a lot safer this year--last year there were a lot of crashes. There were only a few this year, and one of them took out Nick. Unfortunately, it also took him out for the rest of the series with a broken bike and dislocated shoulder. The pace of the race really started to pick up with 10 to go. Myself, Tyler, Nick, and Michael were pretty close together, mid-pack. There was a small split at the end in one of the last corners. Tyler was the team’s top finisher at 41st place. The rest of us finished slightly behind him.
Stage 3: Canyon Falls RR
Now this is the part of the race where things get filthy. Picture a Disney movie before the race. We were all optimistic, happy-go-lucky, feeling good, and crackin’ jokes. Little did we know of the dangers that were to come. It’s like I walked into the race a boy, and came out an army veteran. Like I have seen some shit. The neutral start was hot which always is the case in these NRC fields. The pace was much higher than in most local crits. We had a tail wind and we were flying. I was riding right behind Big Smokey, and then I heard a sound like a snake hissing and looked down and noticed that Jake had a flat. I was thinking “Man, that’s some bad luck, I hope he gets back on.” Little did I know he was actually very lucky because about a mile later, while we were flying down the road, I heard a sound that makes every rider squirm--the sound of breaking carbon. As I watched rider after rider tumble, I tried to hit my brakes and pull off to the side, but we were going too fast and I slammed into the rider in front of me. I flipped over my handle bars, and went flying into a ditch thinking “Man, I am going to be hurtin’ bad after this one.” I heard the echoing voice of Old Man Winter (Danny Pate) saying “This race ain’t right, this race ain’t right,” like one of them birds. I got up in a daze, and I guess the best I can put it is that it looked like the beginning scene of Saving Private Ryan. Instead of bullet casings, there were bottles everywhere. Instead of body parts, there were bike parts, people moaning and screaming in pain. I got up thinking I was actually okay, until I realized I couldn’t move my right leg. It felt like it was completely cramped up. Plus, the right side of my shorts were completely missing, so my ass was hanging out. Aaron came running up to me with Nick asking if I needed anything and I was thinking “Yeah, I could use a lot of things including a cold beer,” but in reality what I really needed was a front wheel. It turns out my chain was bent and I had a few broken spokes. Tyler also went down and he broke his front wheel and had a little bit of road rash. Thank god the officials neutralized the race for about 20 minutes, since about half the field needed spare parts, spare bikes, or wheels. The race finally got back underway and was a lot more calm. No one wanted something like that to happen again. There were quite a few times that I would see a large man coming up on my right side and realize it was the race leader, Tom Zirbel. Seeing him so far back made me realize the calmness of this race. Don’t get me wrong, there were parts where the race would pick up and you thought like you were going to get popped, but that would only last a few minutes and then it would calm back down. Jake ended up getting another flat and that was the last time I saw him. We finally made it to the circuit at the end of the stage, and I was thinking “Man, I made it,” until I heard that sound again. Once again I tried to brake and get out of the way, but I could not. I slammed into the rider in front of me and flipped over my bike AGAIN. The official ran up asking if I was okay, and as I threw my chain on I said “I hope so.” I finally finished the race solo four minutes down. Our Aussie/Swiss guest riders and Tyler did outstanding. Our top finisher was Michael in 22nd and Liam right behind him in 23rd.
Stage 4: Uptown Minneapolis Crit
We were all sore and tired, but we had almost a day to recover since this stage was so late in the day. My right leg was still shot, Jake was pretty beat up, and Tyler was pretty sore, so today’s goal was to just finish. I was really nervous because it started to rain and I didn’t want to crash anymore. I didn’t feel very good at first, but I started to move up half way through the race. Tyler crashed at some point, loosening his handlebars and causing them to slip. Liam was tearing it up, making moves off the front in his famous Rob Whittier jersey, the rarest xXx jersey of them all. Jake and I got stuck behind a crash and I chased back on. I made it, but blew my load. Jake played it safe and saved his legs by pulling the plug after making the time cut. Liam was our best finisher again at 13th. After a race, I don’t need no protein drink—I just have Aaron give me a cold beer. I try to enjoy the moment and give the crowd high fives.
Stage 5: North Mankato RR
It was a really hot day for a long road race with a huge climb mixed in. The race was actually pretty chill except when you hit the wall. I remember going past the KOM sign for the first time and going over a small little bump of a hill thinking “Man was that it? Where’s the hill?” Then we came up to a left hand turn which we all took pretty fast, and you couldn’t see what was around the corner. That’s when we came up to the wall, and it took everyone by surprise the first time. I just heard the sound of gears shifting and rear derailleur’s popping. At some point during the race, Tyler dropped his chain at the bottom of the climb and that was the last time I saw him. Going up the wall the last time was when the race really exploded. I was in a bad position, got gapped, and found myself in the second group. Me and two others chased and just got back on before the final circuit at the end of the stage, but I was dead. Finishing toward the back of the lead group, I ended up in 44th place. Our top finisher was again Liam in 15th place.
Stage 6: Stillwater Crit
Stillwater, the queen stage, known as the toughest crit in the Midwest... but if you ask me it’s the toughest crit I’ve done in the U.S. This was it. We finally made it to the last stage. It was a 24 lap race and we started at the very base of the climb. I think it tops out at 23%. This stage is epic. People line the climb, heckle and cheer you on every time you’re on your way up. There were 111 people left out of 144 starters. I was just hoping to finish today’s stage and not get pulled. I remember the first time up being harder than it was last year and thinking “I can’t do this thing 23 more times.” After about 5 laps, half the field was gone and I found myself at the back struggling to hang on. Tyler at some point dropped his chain at the base of the climb. Man that guy has some bad luck, and I felt really bad. I remember going past with 14 to go completely dead. I made it to 10 to go and then I got dropped and pulled a lap later. I pulled off to the side where I was met by Aaron, Jake and Tyler. I was completely cracked. Aaron must know me pretty well because he handed me a cold beer. I found a little bit of shade, sat down and tried to collect my marbles. Took my shoes and helmet off, walked halfway up the climb and joined the rest of the spectators to watch the finish. I ended up finishing 48th and Liam ended up finishing without being pulled at 26th.
It was a great experience for xXx to have this opportunity to be a part of North Star. We didn’t do half bad, finishing 13th out of 26 teams. Hopefully this is the start of greater things to come.