Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Amgen Tour of California

Wow, that was the hardest race of my life by a long margin. It was also the biggest show that I have ever been a part of, and the constant attention was pretty cool. It was a definite bonus being a local, since I definitely got a lot more interview than I would have otherwise. And in sport media attention is the whole point of the game, so any exposure is great.

The first stage was basically easy, but the second one to Santa Rosa really put me in the hurt box and it took me a long time to get back out of it. The climbs were hard, yes, but the whole stress of that race with the rain, and the constant fight for the front really took its toll early on. Then in the finale, I crashed going down Trinity when I was just about to regain contact with the front group and that definitely messed me up for the next few days.

I missed the front group going over Bonny Doon on stage 3, and instead of just sitting up and riding in the grupetto, I persevered and finished in a chase group 4 minutes down. At the time I thought that was fine, but in retrospect it was probably a bad idea. I had to dig pretty hard to stay in that group and the net result was that I was pretty destroyed for the next day which started with the only category 1 climb of the tour up Sierra Road in San Jose.

I knew it was going to be a good day for me to be in the break, so I followed the first attack which turned out to be the right move. Unfortunately I didn't have the legs to stay there going up Sierra. Former world cyclocross champion Lars Boom was driving it on the front even though we already had a good 2 minute gap at the bottom of the climb, and as a result I just got dropped.

Davide Frattini and Scott Steward from Team Type 1 were behind me though and we tried chasing back to the break after the climb. We closed the gap down to about 50 seconds but could not get any closer, and after 70km of being off the front we decided to sit up even though we still had 5 minutes to the peloton. Staying in the bunch after that was super, super hard and I was really glad to make it through the day.

After that I was completely blow, my whole body ached to the touch and I was exhausted beyond belief. It came as no surprise then, that the next day to Bakersfield I wound up in the 60 rider grupetto that formed on the long climb half way through the stage. That was a nice easy ride and I really needed it given how tired I felt. Because of that I managed to recover slightly and have better legs going into the Big Bear stage.

Big Bear was just about survival for me and getting bottles for Rory, Mark, and the rest of the guys until I couldn't anymore. I had good enough legs to make it through the first half of the stage but I was completely on the ropes when they finally called grupetto 140 km into the 217km day. That gupetto was actually super hard still and towards the end I had to sag climb a few of the steeper pitches just to hang in there. But I made it, and we finished 30 minutes down for a total of 7 hours on the bike.

That night I was so destroyed that I got a fever, couldn't eat much, and couldn't really sleep. I went to bed at 9:30, woke up again at midnight, and didn't get back to sleep until 4:30, just in time for the 6:30 wake up. But somehow I felt better and the legs were not quite as sore as the previous morning. I still soft-peddled the TT so that I would be competitive on the last day. It felt nice, it was the easiest TT I have ever ridden.

It turned out to be just the right idea as I made the front group of 40 riders when Garmin drilled it on the first climb of the day. Specifically I got dropped with Jens Voight, but Cancellara and Andy Schleck waited for him and then rode like motorbikes to bring him back up to the front group. Sitting on the wheel on the flats at 60km/hr was actually harder then going up the climb for me. I was pretty gassed the second time up, but stayed in the front group with the help of the caravan going over the top.

The third time was pretty easy, and Marc said he had good legs, so I got on the front and started working to bring back the break to give him a chance at the stage win. After a few km, Matt Wilson from Garmin came up and started helping and together we kept the group lined out all the way to the bottom of the last climb.

After that I was done and just rode in at my own pace to finish the race and the tour. I ended up finishing 10 and a half minutes down, the last rider inside the time cut in 37th place on the stage. Marc had some bad luck and needed two wheel changes in the final 10km which cost him any chance at the win, but at least we made a good show of it and I got plenty of TV time out of working.

It was an experience unlike any other and now I know what to expect for the next one. I can definitely compete on this level, I just need a bit more time and experience to do it properly. It was a great tour and any other stage race in the US is going to seem like a piece of cake in comparison.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gila Monster in pictures

Soon after the start a big break went in on a gentle cross tailwind climb. Morgan and I were in it

BISSELL had 3 riders in the move and the highest placed rider as well so took a lot of responsibility to drive it. However at the start of the second climb of the day, Morgan set a wicked tempo and dropped two of their riders.

Then we settled down a bit and Burke Swindlehurst and I spent most of the climb trading off pulls while most of the rest of the guys suffered behind.

Then on the final climb Burke attacked a lot but was pretty marked. I made one counter move, but then Darren Lill countered me and got a good gap. I was left behind with Burke and Morgan, everyone else was dropped.

At this point, Burke may have been really hurting because he said that he would "not chase his friend" Darren. So we eased up a bit, not wanting to drag possibly the best climber across to Darren. This allowed for a general regrouping, but instead of working together to bring back Darren we spent the last 15 miles of the race fruitlessly attacking each other. I got away by myself with about 15km to go, but the gradual climbing turned into gradual descending and I got caught again.

Even without any real cooperation we still almost caught Darren on the line, as you can see the sprint for 2nd in the background.

But almost isn't enough, and it was still a sprint for 2nd between Burke, Pat McCartney, Caleb Farley, Rob Britton, and I. Rob had been sitting on for the entire time after the second climb so he ended up having the freshest legs and took second on the line, but I managed to use some decent tactics to play the sprint to my strengths and took 3rd despite being one of the worse sprinters on paper.

I was a bit disappointed since I think I had the legs to win, but it was still my first NRC podium so I really can't complain too much.

I also have to give a huge thanks to Lyne Lamoureux of for her wonderful race coverage and beautiful photographs of the race. Its the next best thing to having television coverage.

Friday, April 30, 2010

bloggin time

Sorry I haven't blogged for a while. I have been training hard after some issues after Redlands and the form is on the way up. I am currently half way through the Tour of the Gila racing against some pretty tough competition. Its been a bit of a tough tour, we've been trying hard, but have come up a bit short in the stages so far. But we are getting back on the same page and are excited to do something big in the next few days.

In preparation for this race we did the Vuelta de Bisbee. I raced a good opening uphill prologue coming in 3rd behind Rory and Phil Zajicek(fly V). We then let a big break with Roman go up the road and get 10 minutes on the second day. Roman ended up second on the GC. That afternoon we did a 7 mile time trial. I had a pretty bad ride for whatever reason. I was trying hard as you can see, but the legs just didn't work well.
The next day we all tried to get into the break and win the stage, in the end I got there with my teammate Marc. I successfully destroyed the break on the final climb that topped out with 10km to go taking only Marc and David Tanner (fly V) with me. In the process I won the KOM jersey.
Unfortunately Tanner did not want to work with us on the slow, pedaling downhill and 5 other riders caught back on. Then the worst possible thing happened, coming through the round-about with 3km my quads completely cramped. I tried to yell at Marc, but he didn't hear me and sold out for me. However, I really couldn't pedal my bike and got dropped. We ended up 6th and 7th. Pretty bad dropping of the ball really. The altitude definitely played a part, but now I have been eating way more and making sure I get plenty of electrolytes so I have been having pretty decent legs here at Gila.

Now its just about closing the deal.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Copperopolis RR

This past Saturday I woke up before dawn and drove to the abandoned barn that is Milton, CA to do the Copperopolis road race. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this race. I love the 5 lap, 105 mile course with one significant climb, but the race tends to hate me. I've done it 3 times in the P/1/2 category and I've made the winning breakaway each time only to have my bike break in one way or another. This time I came prepared, I put a hose clamp around my seat post to help keep it from slipping, I made sure my tubes were covered in talcum powder to help avoid pinch flats, and I even carried a spare tube and CO2 with me.

The race started off pretty slow and it wasn't until after the first climb that the attacks started. It became pretty clear early on that a break wouldn't go if I tried to get in it. Riding for a big team like UnitedHealthcare presented by Maxxis puts a bit of a target on your back. So when the break did get off with strong locals like Phil Mooney (Yahoo) and Steve Reaney (CalGiant) I just relaxed and waited for the next lap to put the hurt on the rest of the peleton up the climb. I attacked halfway up the climb and only 4 people could hold on to my wheel. There was some predictable hesitating at the top but eventually we started rotating pretty well together. However, Yahoo decided to put their whole team on the front of the main pack and bring us back, which didn't really make sense to me since they had their two strongest guys up the road with Mooney in the break and Tyler Dibble in my group. So we got caught.

Next lap, I went again, this time our break got a bit more of a gap. We ended up catching everyone who was off the front but also getting caught by a large chase group by the start of the 4th lap. Then everyone started at each other so I went again on the climb

At the top only local climbing phenoms Jesse Moore (CalGiant) and Nate English (Echelon) were with me, but they decided to look around instead of putting their heads down and riding and it allowed 3 Yahoos and Reaney to come back up to us. From then it was game on with everyone throwing down attacks. At this point I panicked a bit and tried to cover too many moves and missed the clearly dangerous combo of Jesse and Phil. Later Reaney attacked and bridged solo, when he went I expected the other two Yahoos left in the group to chase him but instead they did nothing. So the last time up the climb I again put the hurt on the group and got away with Nate. We quickly closed the gap back down to Phil and Reaney but Jesse had gone on the climb and still had two minutes. In the end we dropped Reaney but my gamble to attack at 500m to go failed as Nate chased be down and gave Phil a perfect lead out for second. Next time I'll have to remember that Nate will chase everything down and put more faith in my sprinting ability, especially after a hard 5 hour race.

But hey, at least my Kuota KOM and Edge wheels held up to the rough, punishing roads and I actually finished the race for the first time ever. Next year its going to be a win.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Redlands so far

Well Redlands has been interesting so far. The race started with a 5km generally uphill prologue and the whole team did a really good job. Rory was our best guy in 4th only 6 seconds off the yellow.
I came in 11th, Brad was 12th, Chris was 15th, Karl was 17th and Marc was 24th. It was an impressive display of team depth which should bode well for today's final stage around the Sunset loop. Personally, I've usually struggled in time trials and to get up there like I did really shows that I may have finally cracked it.

The first road stage was a bit of a mixed bag. We wanted to make Fly V work since Ben Day was in the leader's jersey again, but we probably used too much collective energy early and then missed the small break that went at the top of the last climb with 10km to go.
Luckily the team did decent damage control and the group only got 7 seconds. It meant that Rory got bumped down to 6th, but Ben Day kept the jersey so Rory is still only 6 seconds off the lead. Pinner got second in the field sprint to get a 5th on the stage to salvage something from an otherwise disappointing day.

In the crit our game plan was to lead it out for Jake and Pinner to get the stage win. We messed up a bit in San Dimas and tried to come to the front too late in the game, this time we got on the front with 10 laps to go and avoided the carnage behind.
This was Marc's first real crit, so it was a bit of a trial by fire since this is the hardest crit in a stage race that we'll do all year. It meant that it took him a bit longer to get to the train and just as he was about to get up to us, someone dived into a corner underneath him and caused a 30 rider pileup. He's covered in road rash, but hanging in there and ready to start today.
All photos but this one courtesy of Jonathan Devich from, this one from Becky Heely

In the end Pinner and Jake got a perfect lead out, but were nipped on the line by a flying Hilton Clarke. Still in was an impressive display of team tactics on our part since we executed perfectly.

Heading into Sunset now we still have 4 riders within striking distance of the overall. Its going to make for some exciting racing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

San Dimas stage race

This past weekend we raced the San Dimas Stage Race, in none other than San Dimas, California. It is a cool little race that a lot of teams use as preparation for the opening NRC race in Redlands four days later. It started off with a 6km uphill time trial up a fairly steady grade in Glendora. I had a decent ride but in my anaerobic haze I accidentally crossed the centerline in a switchback right in front of an official and got slapped with a 30 second time penalty. I was by no means the only guy to cross the line and cyclingnews has photos of other riders over it, but I did it by an official so I got penalized. Rules are rules. Chris Baldwin, Rory Sutherland, and Karl Menzies all had good rides into the top 20 so we still had a lot of cards to play in the overall for the rest of the race.
Baldwin ripping it up the climb

Ben Day from Fly V Australia won and was in the leader's jersey so our plan going into the road race was to make his team suffer and hopefully isolate him so that one of our GC guys could get some time. We managed to do just that, with Karl, Brad White, and myself all getting into some dangerous breakaways which really put the pressure on them.

Going up the climb on some lap

Sadly, just before the real action started, Chris got caught up in a stupid crash with 2 laps to go and lost some time. On the last lap, Jonny Clarke and I perfectly led out our sprinters (Andrew Pinfold, Jake Keough and Karl) and Rory for the bottom of the last climb which topped out only 2.5 km from the finish. Rory put in a savage attack and only 4 riders managed to go with him. He then put in a perfectly timed sprint to win the stage and move up to 5th overall.

Best feeling in all of bike racing.

The last day was a super fast crit around downtown San Dimas. Our goal was to look for some opportunities for Rory to get time, or barring that go for the stage win by leading out our sprinters. This raced ended up being super fast with an average speed of 29mph despite 6 corners in a 1 mile course. Naturally this meant that no breaks got anywhere and it came down to a chaotic sprint. I got up near the front with 5 to go trying to help get our sprinters in position, but unfortunately I lost them in the melee a lap later and couldn't get back up to them. In the end they got a bit separated and swarmed so it didn't work out. However, Brad kept hold of his Sprinter's Jersey which he took on the previous day so the week turned out to be a pretty successful one with a leader's jersey, a stage win, and 5th overall.

Next up Redlands!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Last weekend was the Madera stage race which consisted of a hilly TT on Friday, a flat TT and a crit on Saturday, and a road race on Sunday. I mostly wanted to do this race to practice my time trialing and overall I'd say it was a mixed bag, basically I need to find a minute in the TTs in order to be competitive and I don't think its down to having a bad position as you can see below

I guess the solution is the same as it is for most things.... practice, practice, practice.

Other than the TTs, the crit was pretty exciting with Cal Giant ripping the field apart in the crosswinds, which was impressive to see. In the road race I messed up and let a break get away from me and no one in the rest of the field wanted to do anything about it. But it was really good to get the racing miles into my legs and I am feeling ready to go for the big races in San Dimas and Redlands the next two weeks.