Last year was my first year racing the Tour of America’s Dairyland (TOAD) series. For a recount of those crazy exploits, you can have a read right [URL=http://www.xxxracing.org/index.php?/site/reports/the-too-tough-to-tame-toad//] here[/URL].
This year my primary goal of the series was to finish a Cat 3 upgrade campaign that seems to have taken way too long. My secondary goals were to come away with one of the coveted cow print jerseys and place reasonably well in the overall GC. Based on how I had been racing earlier this year, I felt that all of the above were well within my grasp. But just when you think you’ve got things figured out, somehow a monkey wrench gets thrown in your direction (like a reshuffling of the course order to make it harder).
Similar to last year, I want to get a few acknowledgements out of the way before we get started. First, serious thanks need to go to the promoter – Midwest Cycling Series and their premier sponsor, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Thanks for running a top notch event; you always find a way to raise a pretty high bar even higher! Second, all the folks at registration and results also deserve a word of thanks as their hard work made the daily check in and getting paid a breeze. Third, thanks to all the USAC officials who did an excellent job keeping it all together and keeping track of where we all finished. Forth, SRAM neutral support is quite possibly the most valuable asset of the series. You hope you never have to use them, but you’re sure glad they are there when you do! Fifth, to all my teammates that raced with me on various days (Bill, Nick V, Dave, Bob, Nick A, Owen, Jaques, Charley, Tracy) thanks for the company and strong riding. Lastly, to all the riders who did the entire series. You guys didn’t make it easy on the old man, but when I say that I raced some of the best in the region, I mean it. Thanks for a fun 10 days!
[b]Stage One – Theinsville Extreme Ski & Bike Cycling Classic [/b]
• Course was a six corner affair that had a chicane between 3 & 4.
• Race started off fast with us routinely hitting 30+mph on the front stretch for the first few laps.
• Going into turn one about 12 mins in I remember thinking “we are way too wide for this corner.” Sure enough we were and I almost got caught behind the crash. Unfortunately, Bill did get caught behind it and had to chase.
• A few riders went off the front for a while (Carter Crowe – Ritte Cycling & Theo Loo – IS Corp) but were eventually brought back.
• In the finale, it got really hectic. A crash in the chicane with 2 to go took my lead-out rider Hudson out. Going into the last corner Carter blew his rear tire which caused a little chaoticness as we were lining up for the sprint.
• Got pipped at the line, but still managed to get 6th. GC hopes were looking good at this point and I got my first check of the series!
[b]Stage Two – Giro D’ Grafton Criterium [/b]
• Six turn course with two slight uphills, wide open lanes and a long 350M finishing straight.
• Race went ballistic from the gun. Shawn Delk (Project 5) and I quickly found ourselves in a group of 7/8 with a [URL=http://yfrog.com/kgi39kj] gap on the field [/URL] but were brought back within 2 laps.
• After getting caught, Owen and Nick A. went to the front and started to hit the field with a classic xXx rope-a-dope one two punch. I found it extremely hard to move up during this time, especially when they primed the field for 3 laps in a row!
• Hooked up with Andrew Zens (Rhythm) and Jaymie Sanchez (Half Acre) and started to train our way up to the front.
• Pace appeared to go ultra hot for the last 6 laps which pushed me into LT+ and sent my hamstrings screaming for the sidelines. It was during this time that I was too far back when Owen made the 3 man break with Carter.
• Almost got driven into the rails during the sprint as riders blew up 50M from the finish and sat up. Took 18th but our guy [URL=http://www.facebook.com/RitteRacing#!/photo.php?fbid=10150285109716131&set=pu.76093966130&type=1&theater/]Owen [/URL] almost pipped Carter at the line because he started celebrating too early.
[b]Stage Three – Carl Zach Cycling Classic [/b]
• Course was a six turn gear grinder that had a slight uphill drag between one and two, a rollercoaster drop off into turn 5 and then a downhill run into a sweeping turn six and a slight uphill drag to the finish.
• The pace was “mellow” for the first lap (which at ToAD means it was only 23mph) but quickly got back to “normal” as the heavy hitters tried to crack the back of the field.
• Konrad Witt (ABD) took a flyer and stayed off for a while. They then primed us 3 places deep ($75,$50,$25) and I decided to take a crack at 3rd as Konrad was well up the road. Went too late – no cash this time.
• I pretty much stayed tucked away safely in the main group, but a few crashes kept us on edge most of the time.
• The man to watch (Carter) flatted (again) going into the last turn. Me? I ran into a wall of riders (again) and came across the line 18th (again). It was at this point that I started to reevaluate where I was riding within the peloton, especially with me falling down to like 19th in the GC.
[b]Stage Four – Greenbush Road race[/b]
• Last year this race was Stage Seven and my legs felt it from the beginning. This year, I vowed to not get a bad spot in the back as I did not want to be out of position when we hit the climbs (considering that I don’t typically climb as fast as the billy goats). So myself, Nick V, Bob and Dave all got lined up pretty close to the front.
• Going into the 1st lap of climbing, I somehow found myself pulling the field up the climb. Not what I wanted to do but it ensured that I didn’t get dropped! So for almost 2 miles I stayed at/on the front until I almost had to blackmail other riders into pulling. You’d be surprised how many riders just want to sit around and ride in circles!
• Got pushed back during lap 2 and was not in the optimal position to SAG climb. By the time I looked behind me on the climb, there was nothing but an ant trail of riders. The peloton stayed within eye shot until I hit the climb the 3rd time and was forced to give up the goat. It was on this lap that we saw Carter on the side of the road in another spot of bother (broken chain).
• Rode with Shawn for the rest of the race and he gave me a nice leadout to take 41st (only 6 minutes behind the leaders). Unfortunately, there was a crash in the last corner that took Nick from 10th to 20th in a matter of seconds.
[b]Stage Five – Schlitz Park Criterium [/b]
• I was warned about this course beforehand and when I looked at it on Google Streetview, it only looked worse. Two blocks of 7% and 5% grade followed by some nice descents with one that really required you to be on your game. Unfortunately, this course would not be fair to myself, Nick V or Bill.
• My legs were not liking this race from the gun – particularly after four days of inclines that kept getting longer and steeper. No surprise that I was early finished after 6 laps for 41st place. But I did get to get some rest and catch [URL=http://www.xxxracing.org/index.php?/site/reports/planning-pays-off/] Cool Hand Luke[/URL] do it up in style.
[b]Stage Six – Ripon Time Trial [/b]
• This was a 13.7 mile time trial that had to be done [URL=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQAPyFtvVGU/] Eddy Merckx Style[/URL]. Given that there weren’t many riders other than those doing the omnium signed up for this race, it was one in which I felt I could move back up in the GC. Too bad it 1) wasn’t flat (it had 4 climbs in it) and 2) some crazy strong non GC riders decided to show up just for fun.
• Bill was back after a few days of rest, which was welcome as we had to drive about 40 minutes from Fond Du Lac.
• Long story really short – Carter was 1 minute behind me and caught me about 3 miles into my run. I marked him as “legally” as I could and at 6 miles in I caught my 30 second rider Konrad but we’d end up battling back and forth until after the final climb where I got a slight gap on the final 4 turn technical run into the finish (during which I almost took out a race flagger when I overcooked a turn).
• Finished 18th (yet again) with a time of 37:38. Carter caught 5 (yes, you read it right) to take 2nd with a time of 34:54 but even he couldn’t best Travis Jass (Fort Dodge Trisport) who rode a blistering 34:31. At this point me hitting top 3 in the GC was just about numerically imposible, but with 4 flat(ish) stages coming up, I figured I could claw my way back from my 29th standing.
[b]Stage Seven – Sheboygan Harbor Centre Bike Race[/b]
• Fast and flat four corner affair with a nice a long 400M finish.
• This was a rainy day with lots of guys hitting the deck in the turns. By my count there were at least 3 crashes prior to the “big one.”
• We were mostly being pretty cautious in the turns, which meant that I had to close tons of gaps in the straights. Riders like Carter and Doug Callies (Davies Rock Star) were just drilling it in the straights which was doing a good job of cracking the field like chestnuts exploding on an open fire!
• Was moving to the front with 8/9 to go when Carter went down right in front of me. I had nowhere to go and hit the deck, slid across the road and then watched a wall of riders come flying towards my head.
• Got back on a free lap, but there was some confusion on when to get back in so I wound up chasing and then getting pulled with a few laps to go for a 25th place finish. I was pretty livid after the race, but this is what sent me [URL=http://www.facebook.com/RitteRacing?sk=wall&filter=2#!/photo.php?fbid=10150289458246131&set=pu.76093966130&type=1&theater/] over the top [/URL]. From this point I was like a raging bull with only one thing on its mind; total annihilation.
[b]Stage Eight – Fond Du Lac Grand Prix[/b]
• Four corner crit with a tailwind on the back stretch and a massive headwind on the 350M finishing stretch.
• Got lined up on the front and pretty much didn’t leave the top 15 all race. Used most of my pent up anger to ensure that the pace didn’t get too slow and that anyone not deserving to be on the Pony Express got dropped off on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
• About 25 minutes in they called for a $25 prime and me and an O2 rider got a gap on the field going into turn 3. It was here that I got to practice slipstreaming a rider into the headwind for the finish – which did net me the $25.
• Coming to the closing laps I just tried to stay in the top 5 and wait for the move. Going into the final lap Carter got a gap and Doug and another rider got a gap on me and the rest of the field. All four of us were blowing the doors off the field on the back stretch and I knew I was good when we hit the last turn ‘cause the riders behind me were screaming that it was over.
• Unfortunately I lost my 2nd place spot by less than ½ a wheel length when I got pipped at the line by Karlton Larson (Team WI/KS Energy Services), but I still got to do [URL=http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaredrogers/5883269250//] this![/URL]
[b]Stage Nine – ISCorp Downer Classic[/b]
• Triangle shaped course with a potentially tight second turn.
• Aaronita and Pilar came up to watch along with some family from the Milwaukee area. Needless to say, I was motivated to race well.
• The man of devastation, Carter Crowe, took an early drive back home to California so it was now a free for all in terms of who was going to be marked. Atleast I had my man Charley (#999) up for some fun.
• Race went all ToAD from the beginning. So I just tucked in the first 5 wheels to try and stay out of trouble as we took that >90 degree turn like a pack of wild banshees.
• There were some primes that were awarded and a few riders laid down some attacks but nothing really stuck.
• Going into turn 3, Aaron Zulke (West Michigan Coast Riders) took off. By the time all of us responded the gaps were pretty much set and nothing would change when we hit the line. I rolled in for 5th, but my buddy Konrad managed to get 2nd!
[b]Stage Ten – Madison Capitol Crit[/b]
• Four turn 0.6 mile course with a stretch of 4-5% grade that dumps you off into a 100M sprint.
• This was my last chance to get a cow print jersey and I felt that I had a pretty good shot at it. Tracy was up for some of the fun, so I figured it would be a good day as this guy is a beast on the front of any peloton.
• Race saw Karlton making numerous attacks off the front as he was only a few points away from taking the red leaders jersey from Tony Kaatz (LAPT CC) who had held it for a stretch of almost 5 races.
• Pace stayed hot most of the race but nothing could get away.
• Going into 1 to go I kind of got distracted by arguing with another rider when I should have been focused on moving up more.
• Finished 10th in the race, which solidified my [URL=http://www.tourofamericasdairyland.com/pdf/results/2011/overall-cat45.pdf] 10th place in the overall GC [/URL]. Tracy bested me and got 6th. But my guy Konrad did us all +1 and brought home 3rd GC to Illinois! Watch for him in the 3's soon.
All in all it was an extremely fun series and I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone. This was some of the best racing in the Midwest and doing a stage/omnium race is just plain fun. Not to mention, you can take home a pretty nice haul like this [URL=http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaredrogers/5883265434//] one[/URL]! Now it’s time for a little rest and then one/two Superweek races to put the finishing touches on my upgrade points. Here’s looking forward to the next level and some good end of season racing!