Valley of the Sun Stage Deux road race
Today the 40+ group got the honor of being the first on the course at 8:00 am sharp. I thought about yesterday and remembered something I forgot all about. As I was setting up my bike on the trainer at the TT, I saw a guy who looked familiar. He walked by in a brown coat and I thought, "That guy looks like Floyd Landis." I looked again and thought there was no way; that guy looks too chubby to be Landis, and continued setting up my bike. Later on that afternoon I saw the same guy again. This time he was not in a bulky coat but was in a Team Ouch kit riding a Phonak bike. I hope this year is better for Floyd and he lands some place. Yesterday Floyd had a mediocre TT and ended up 22nd with a 31.28.
OK back to the stage two wrap up. I got to the race location just before dawn and got ready for the race. Pretty normal routine - bring your wheels to the follow vehicle and sign in. I had everything ready except that the frame number blew off on the way. I had to go get one from the ref.
We were called up to the start line at 7:50 am and got our instructions. At 8 am sharp we rolled out. The pace seemed pretty easy as we headed down the long straight to the first right hand corner. I was about six wheels back and clung to the race leader since he had about 8 teammates setting the pace. When we hit the corner and headed into the wind I figured we would see some fireworks. Nothing! We roll to the next corner and from here I can see the hill. As we take this wide easy corner the pace did pick up a bit but it was not uncomfortable. Next thing I know we are at the top of the hill and the course is leveling out. I look back and noticed we shelled half the group.
We then headed down hill for about eight miles. Next time I looked back I saw that about 20 or more people had caught back on. We rolled to the final corner of lap one. This corner has some speed bumps in the road and then a cattle guard directly after the corner. We all were going pretty slowly here so it was not a problem at all. On the downhill straightaway towards the finish is where some attacks started. I stuck with the leaders group since these attacks took no effort to reel in. As soon as they turned into the wind they were swallowed again. There were about three or four attacks in a row heading to the hill and about two or three on the hill but nothing sustained.
The second lap was a king of the mountain sprint and I just sat in and stayed about tenth wheel. Right after the KOM sprint there were seven guys who attacked on the downhill section. Again the peloton separated and about 20 guys were alone. The seven who jumped were kept within a few seconds and the leader’s team did a good job keeping them in check.
We then passed the juniors and women but everyone held his line and did not do anything crazy. Again the several dropped riders bridged back to the leaders. I rode past my car and tossed my bidons since they were empty anyway.
Taking the final turn and heading to the hill, we were passed by an ambulance and a fire truck. I thought that this couldn't be good. We rode a good tempo up the hill and got near the top. I felt good so I moved up to see if there was going to be a lead out for the sprint. I was about eighth wheel when I heard a guy on a loud horn yelling “The race in neutral!”
I sat up and all of a sudden there was a surge. At this point I lost about five places. Up the road I saw a fire truck and ambulance blocking the entire road. I heard a helicopter coming in and knew someone was hurt really bad. The race staff points us to the eight foot shoulder. Here something happens that I couldn't believe. To my left was a junior (I believe) on a stretcher and not in good shape. Right when we got beside the ambulance and not even past the injured rider there was an attack and then bumping and nearly a crash right on top of the poor injured rider. I had sat up and could hear the emergency staff cursing and saying they could not believe this. Let's all say a little prayer for the injured rider who left the race in Flight for Life. Thank God no further injuries happened. There was some confusion I guess about where the race was neutral and if it was not neutral after the ambulance.
I just got a call from Dean. He felt great during his race and finished with the pack.
Valley of the Sun Stage three Criterium
My race was a little later than the previous days so I got to sleep in a bit. I still was up by 7am and got all my stuff packed for the trip home.
I went to see the results from the road race and noticed I was assessed 18 seconds. Not really sure what happened I asked about the race being neutral. The races after the 40+ were made neutral because of the incident during the 40+ race. He asked me if I wanted to protest and I said no. I will however remember this in the future and will stay up front even if a neutral is called.
The race is a really wide 4 plus lane figure 8 course. It is a pretty clear course with only some elevated reflectors on the back of the figure 8. The race started at a really slow pace but it was fun. Shortly the Barry Lasko team whom the race leader was from took control of the race and kept it fast. When it came to the finish I stayed outside like I had planned and watched the sprint up ahead. I had specific goals I wanted to achieve and I did that. In the end I finished 10th in GC. I am completely satisfied with this finish so early in the season. The antibiotics kicked in by Sunday and that was when health wise I felt the best and could breathe clearly.
I highly recommend this stage race to everyone. It was a great weekend of racing and hanging out with Dean. The hardest part was coming back from 70 degree weather.