Tuesday, 14.Jun.2011. Tuesday is usually a rather uneventful day and today was no exception. Just a moderate day of driving through Iowa & into Minnesota through some heavy rain. We had some good laughs taking photos of our faces in a cutout of a Wild West “Wanted Dead or Alive” style poster at a pizza place in Iowa. Finally we arrive at Sue & Jay’s house, our homestay for the week. Our good luck continued as Sue, a phenomenal cook & baker, had dinner ready for us!
Wednesday, 15.Jun.2011. Nature Valley GP begins with quite a busy day: first is the morning 6.1 mile Time Trial then there is the evening Criterium in downtown St. Paul. This distance is a bit shorter than my slow twitch legs prefer; nonetheless I got in a good warm-up and went as hard as I could. Can’t say I was pleased with my result. Now to rest up for tonight’s Crit, which would be a rather hairy course. We arrived to a very festive atmosphere in downtown St. Paul. Right next to the crit course was a large event center hosting a Taylor Swift concert tonight! After checking out the tricky corners in our course, I had a bad feeling in my gut—not really looking forward to this one. Sure enough, on the first lap 2nd gnarly corner there was a crash and unfortunately Drew went down in it. Fortunately he bounced right back up and was riding strong on the next lap. A few laps later another crash in a different gnarly corner. Ugh. The pace was very fast on the straightaways, which made the acceleration out of the corners very very hard. There were some splits and I found myself in the groupetto working to survive for another day. We lasted just long enough to count today and be able to start tomorrow. Chad, who won the green Best Amateur Jersey in the morning TT, rode strong to keep it and Drew also kept his great GC position.
Thursday, 16.Jun.2011. After all the action yesterday, we were fortunate to have a late afternoon start for today’s 66 mile road race in Cannon Falls, MN. For the most of the day it was fairly relaxed, until near the end. After the cool & wet weather yesterday, today Mother Nature treated us to heat & humidity. I was doing ok on fluids but went to grab a bottle in the single feed zone just for insurance. Some rascal grabbed my bottle right before I was to grab it! I was furious and went right to the thief, “Hey Man, you owe me that bottle!” He was honest, “Sorry man!” and handed over the bottle. Right afterwards I rode up to Chad who needed the bottle, so my repossession effort paid off. Today’s roads were smooth & wide, until right before we started the finish circuits. Here we were treated with a ~1mile section of narrow rough dirt “pig path.” I love a Roubaix style course, but this didn’t belong in this race if you ask me. The pace went high, then chaos with guys sliding all over the place. Sure enough a big split… Fortunately Chad, Drew & Ian all made the front split. In our group, I witnessed Scott prove himself an exceptionally skilled rider. Entering a very fast 90 degree turn, the rider directly in front of Scott flatted and changed his line no less than 6 times. Scott stayed calm and got around the rider as he finally went way wide in the corner & tumbled into the grass! Whoever said road cycling is easy & boring has never seen racing like this. Seriously, these skills belong in the X-Games!
Friday, 17.Jun.2011. Another well planned day: rest all day for an evening race. This time is was a twilight criterium in Uptown Minneapolis. The weather was about as perfect as possible and there were a ton of people out to watch the action. The course had some bumps & cracks in the corners, but wound up being a really smooth race. Not being a Crit man, I was conserving for the long day tomorrow. I found myself at the back, not where I want to be, but it was a fairly safe place to be. I could burn a lot more energy and move up to a position where guys were occasionally crossing wheels & crashing… or I could relax a bit… It was an easy choice tonight. Plus more people could see & cheer for me. Again Chad rode strong and kept control of the Top Amateur jersey.
Saturday, 18.Jun.2011. The only real Road Race was what I was looking forward to—95miles of rolling farmland outside of Menomonie, WI, were our treat for the day. The problem is my allergies decided to wreak havoc on my day. After about 30 minutes, they were pretty bad and only got worse. Constant stream of water from my eyes & nose, plus my arms and legs were very red & itchy. I blew up about 30miles in on a steep climb, chased in the caravan for a while, but ultimately got dropped into the groupetto. Pretty upset because I had 3 extra bottles to bring up to my boys. Feeling pretty miserable and just riding tempo with these guys hoping not to get time cut. I drank all those bottles, and really wanted more… the final feed zone seemed to take forever to reach. Finally I see the Rio van and the feed zone. I see Annie with bottles for me. I mumble “Wait up Amigos, this is for me” to my groupetto companions, who oddly enough slowed down while I exchange bottles! The fluids were enough to get me to the finish in enough time. Chad rode great and again kept the Top Amateur jersey with only one stage remaining. We then stayed at Sue & Jay’s family “Farmhouse” out in the countryside of Wisconsin. It was an incredible place to say the least! We enjoyed a relaxing quick dip into the pool and hot tub before another wonderful meal that Sue & friends prepared. After pushing our bodies to their limits (and then some), the R&R at the Farmhouse was very much appreciated!
Sunday, 19.Jun.2011. Today was the Stillwater Criterium, featuring the brutal Chilkoot Hill—at 21% grade and 200 meters long, it was a real monster. After my implosion yesterday, I just wanted to hang on long enough to finish. Again, the crowds were out to watch our high speed racing. I got myself in a good warm-up, knowing this stage would start like a rocket. Seems like we waited on the start line for at least 20 minutes… just long enough for the legs to shut down! Finally we start and its chaos! On the very first lap, I have to slow to avoid several guys crashing & skidding all over the last crazy fast right hand turn. I was gapped, but soon caught up with a small group. We would never catch back onto the main peloton, so our goal was to last long enough not to be time cut—a simple 5 laps of 20. Our group worked pretty well together and lasted 7 laps before being pulled. Not my favorite place to be, but now time to relax and cheer for my teammates. Chad, Drew & Ian all rode well today, with Chad fighting hard to keep the Top Amateur Jersey all the way to the finish. According to the race director, this was the first time one rider had held onto this jersey from start to finish! Now time to rest up and get ready for the second half of our season!