Time Trial: In most cases, the strength of your legs trumps any little aero advantage or a bit nicer equipment but not in most time trials. The course was shaped like a lollipop with an out then loop and back in on the same road, and was pretty flat other than a fair amount of rollers thrown in. Average speeds were extremely fast for the entire day and our races were no exception. Neither Kyle nor I would use a TT bike so we were at a major disadvantage. We both headed out and gave it our all but ended up a few minutes off the winners pace. Oh well. Next year I will be much better prepared equipment wise… anyone have a 56-58cm TT bike to loan?
The Road Race: I came into this race with some high expectations. The course was a 12 mile loop around Blue Mounds State Park with a lot of climbing and fast technical descending. Every lap we would tackle the Blue Mound climb which was about 3 kilometers with pitches maxing out at 20%. The last lap extended the climb for another 1 kilometer to the very top of the park. It was my dream course. Not only was this the hardest course I had raced on so far but this would also be my hardest competition. I was up against the nation’s best juniors, who are also some of the nation’s best riders! I was sooo nervous during the morning of the race. I usually have butterflies before every big race but this morning was extreme. I could hardly eat before the race which would not help me later on. My race started at 8 so we arrived at 7:15 thinking it was enough time to complete my final preparations and warm-up. Its 7:30 and I start to spin around for my warm-up when all of a sudden I hear the announcer cracking jokes with the Garmin Junior Development Team about lining up. What! 30 minutes before the race and kids are lining up already? I rushed over to the starting line with a half an hour still to go and was 50 kids back already. I decided to stay in line and figured that I could warm up during the race since the first 9 miles are either downhill or flat. I ate a Clif Shot and eventually we were off! The race was supposed to be neutralized for the first 1k down the mound but that didn’t stop kids from trying to move up through the pack, myself included. You know how everyone blames juniors for being sketchy? Imagine 150 of us in the same race. Yes, it was very sketchy. The pace car rolled off and we instantly went from 10 to 50mph in a few seconds. The 2k downhill felt like a scene in any action movie fighter jet or car chase scene. One by one, kids would just fly off the side of the road. Instead of the usually explosion in the movies, all we could hear is the dreaded sound of crashed carbon. It was absolute chaos but I survived. I was about 40 riders back now and tried my best to move up but it was almost impossible. We took up the entire road. Kids were trying to ride up on the grass shoulder at some points. I wasn’t willing to make some stupid move and instead waited for the climb to try and move up. Our group hit the climb and right away I knew my legs were not 100%. I got caught behind a crash midway up but managed to make it back onto the peloton at the bottom of the descent. I sat in the field for the rest of the lap trying to brace myself for another assault of the mound. We hit the climb a second time and instead of making my way through the now broken up field, everyone else was going around me. My legs felt fine – no cramping, not sore – but for some reason I just couldn’t go any harder. Kids who I had raced against and beat in the early season were now pedaling away from me with ease. It was frustrating to watch the front of the pack ride away and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I thought my tires were flat or my brakes were rubbing. They weren’t, my legs just weren’t working. It was Un Jour Sans or “a day without”. I spent the next lap in a 15 man chase group but was dropped from it after the third time up Blue Mounds. I hadn’t eaten anything since my pre-race shot so now my legs and body began to work against me. I was picked up by one final chase group before the final time up the climb and hung on for 101st place. I was both devastated and destroyed. Sometimes you just don’t have the legs and frustratingly, today was one of those days. Live and learn. Next year I will have another shot at this race and will be much better prepared and know what to expect.
Fortunately we were given a rest day after the Road Race. USA Cycling put on a college night specific for cycling which we all went to. Nikos and I also got a taste of being pro and went on a ride with the Predator Carbon Repair Elite Cycling Team. Pretty cool!
Crit: The Criterium was the classic downtown Madison Crit. The course is a four block square running counter-clockwise around the capital building. The course was not very technical but contained numerous potholes and crack which combined with high speeds made for a very dangerous race. Like most crits, staring position is key. Kids were lined up at the opening gate an hour before start with their trainers set up. Again, I made it there with a half an hour before the start and was lined up very close to the back of the field. This time I got in a really good warm-up before though. I was expecting the race to be fast from the gun. The gates were opened and a flood of kids started sprinting for the starting line! Full on 30mph sprint just to get to the starting line and the race hadn't even begun. I found myself closer to the back than I would have liked so I had a ton of work to do to get to the front. I just wanted to test myself against this field all the while staying safe and upright. The whistle is blown and we take off! The first few laps were pretty hectic as expected. Only a few laps in and one kid ran his handlebars into my side. I didn't budge and somehow we both managed to stay up. With our speed never dipping below 30, it was difficult to move up on the inside. The inside lines in the corners seemed to contain a few more potholes than the outside too so I made my way to the outside of the pack. Most of the kids were braking a bit before hitting the outside lines of the turns and the road always widened up a few feet before entering the turns too. I would jump around to the outside right before the turns and take a hard aggressive line. Almost every turn, I would make up between 1-3 spots. This strategy continued to work until about 15 laps in. Coming around the final turn before the finish one rider hit the barricades and all of a sudden I smacked right into another rider and hit the deck. Luckily my bike was fine and so was my body. I rushed over to the start to get my free lap. Actually I was pretty happy that I went down. I got a few minutes to catch my breath, drink some much needed water and recharge my engine with a ton of adrenaline! I jumped back into the back of the field and just went all out. I took every chance possible to get up to the front and within 5 to 10 laps, I found myself right up in the front row action. Now was my chance to attack and possibly bridge up to a lone rider off the front. The pace lulled and I hesitated for one second too long. Another kid jumped, the field reacted and I was swarmed. Missed opportunity. I spent the rest of the race maintaining my position in the mid-front of the field until 10 to go. Going through the final turn again, one kid got a few spokes ripped out of his wheel from riding into another’s derailleur and I lost about 15 spots while moving out of the way for him having to drift back through the pack. I found the wheel of local rider David Lombardo and followed him to try and move back up the pack. We started to gain some ground but suddenly a crash with 5 laps to go caused me to come to a dead stop. I never went down but there was no way I could bridge back up to the blistering fast field. I gave it my all in an attempt to not get pulled but with 3 to go, I was done. Dave ended up with a top 30 so I knew if I never went down, I could have gotten a respectable result. Even though I got screwed in the end, I couldn't be disappointed with my race. I gave it everything I had and rode a strong race against the best field I had faced all year. I got some personal redemption for the weekend and learned so much for next year.
Thank you so much to my family, especially my Dad for the endless support that I have gotten this weekend and the entire season. I couldn’t do anything without their support. Thank you to Coach Randy for giving me the legs and lungs to compete against these kids and for coming up to Madison for the weekend. Thanks a ton for everyone else who has helped me, given advice or kicked my butt this season!