Let me start off by saying this is the best stage race I have ever done. Incredibly well organized, each stage is hard, and raced that way (the Canadian’s do not enjoy sitting in or starting slow), the roads are safe, the scenery great, and 4 races in 3 days is just fan-freaking-tastic.
The newer format this yr of having a circuit race in leu of a crit was excellent (for me, who hates crits). We stayed in a kick ass, cheap little hotel, which should have charged double the price for as nice and accommodating as they were. This race has earned a permanent spot on my race calendar.
The prologue for the A’s was fast from the start, and sketchy. Tons of nervous energy as we rolled in to town, with some mildly nerve racking near-misses in the field. No breaks went until the base of the first steep climb, when all hell broke loose. I stayed with the lead group from there up the majority of the climb, advancing up along the way as I did not do a good job of positioning myself going into the base of the climb. As we hit the 2nd really steep part things strung out even more, and I could not stay with the top 20 or so guys. Ended up in low 30′s at the end of the day. I am happy with this given the field I was racing against.
The TT was decent for me, about what I expected. Again, middle of the field. I’m not the worlds best TT-er, so wasn’t expecting to do much damage. the 12 sec improvement over my time from last year was my reward for that race, and I was happy.
The circuit race that evening was hot hot hot, and muggy. Legs were tired from the long warm up before the TT, and the 2 races before this one. As usual, we started fast. 1st lap was the hardest, as the field hit the stair-stepping climb very hard the whole way. I was able to stay with the lead group, and the rest of the pack caught back on during the screaming decent, which is annoying as hell. The next 2 laps weren’t as brutal, but certainly not easy.
Going into the 3rd lap you could tell by the lack of hard surges that guys were wearing out. Some guys struggled to hold their lines, would drop back hard when they hit the climbs, and swerved all over the place as they tried desperately to hang on. As a result, 2 decent sized crashes happened on the climbs of the 3rd lap, taking out about 9 guys total.
We got a break of about 35 people going into the finishing stretch, but couldn’t organize to keep it, and the rest of the field caught back on. Ended up with a pack finish. Glad to have the rubber side down but totally wasted and dehydrated from the day. I too tried to freeze my legs in the tub that night, and suffered terrible muscle cramps all night long preventing me from getting any decent sleep. It was miserable.
Lining up for the road race I have never felt worse going into a race. Nausea, mildly dizzy, and just completely drained from the prior 3 races, I had no idea how I was going to stay in it today. My heart rate was 95 bpm just standing at the start line! If I knew any decent doctors, I’m sure they would have told me to pull out that day. But since I don’t, I raced.
We started fast fast fast, yet again. We drilled it up the first hill which starts immediately after pulling away from the start, then kept the pace up for the next 10 miles as we went over roller after roller. The group was totally strung out single file for 20+ mins. Insane. It finally let up to a reasonable pace, and then the rain started to fall, which stayed with us for the next 60-90 mins (I was delirious, so have no idea how long it was). We got neutralized, and then forced to stop on a section, about 15 miles from the base of the big climb, because they were concerned about pavement conditions. We sat there on the rd for 10 mins as the officials made us wait for the others in the group who got dropped to catch back on. Then we rolled out neutral for 4-5 miles as a group – all the while they let the clock run on us (even while standing there at their command), which I thought was a bit ridiculous. The pavement was fine. In the US we would have plowed right over it and not thought twice about it.
Regardless, we hit the climb as a group and crushed it at the first steep pitch. As it stair stepped up, a group of 16 guys got off the front who I could not touch. They put a huge gap on the rest of us. I ended up getting in a small chase group of about 5 others, and we worked hard after cresting the climb (total of 2 mile climb maybe, not sure) to catch two other small groups in front of us. By the time we turned on to the finishing stretch there were maybe 20 of us, gapped by about 60-80 secs from the lead group who we could no longer see. I took one hard pull as we moved into town and the finishing stretch of flat pavement, and then looked back to see what looked like 35 dudes total. All that work and chasing just to get caught, ARRGGGHHHHH!!! Regardless, we passed the 1 KM to go and you could just feel the pressure behind you. I was in perfect position, about 4th wheel back in our group.
Things stayed crazy fast but comfortable going into the finishing 600+ meter climb when 2 guys attacked. I tried to go with them with 500 to go, and was completely red-lined at 300 to go, with no kick left. About 5 guys came around me as all I could do was try and maintain my current pace. I had to totally burry myself to not get dropped off of that 2nd group behind the lead 16. Ended up again in the low 30′s overall, which I was fine with. I could not have done any better and was surprised I did that with the way I felt starting the race.
In the end I was 29th on the GC, which again, given the depth of the field, and strength of riders, I was plenty happy with. I can’t say enough about this race – maybe I already have, sorry if this is too long. Each race is raced like it’s the only one, with the entire group just crushing it, and the depth of the field is the best of any race I’ve taken part in – very talented riders. A great town, very welcoming, well organized, and the perfect way to spend a holiday weekend.
I did learn several things at this race: