Tucson Bicycle Classic

Written mostly on Sunday evening.

I’ve always felt like I’ve done this race before, even though I know I never have. I think it was from all my winters training in Tucson and, while riding parts of the courses, having other cyclists I was riding with say, “This is part of the Tucson Bicycle Classic.” So therefore I felt like I’ve done it…..okay switching topics real quick because I realize this is a very boring start to this post. Currently I’m listening in on a conversation that’s taking place here at Gate A4 in the Tucson airport. A 300+ pound woman driving a Rascal scooter is complaining about how the hotel she was at had terrible food. “Inedible.” “Stale.” “Awful.” These are the words she’s using to describe it. “I hardly ate a thing!” she just said. I just told Adelaide that I doubted that was true and that I thought that what she probably meant was that she ate all the things. Adelaide said that’s not funny, given the current state she’s in herself with a bottomless pit for a stomach. This was her first stage race and therefore her first experience with a stage race appetite. She also road 18 hours this week, so that probably has something to do with being extra hungry as well. By the way, she won all three stages of her race (and the GC too of course) and is now a cat 3, so the sandbagging will be less harsh in the future. For the time being. Maybe.

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She still forgets to put the bib straps over her shoulders sometimes.

Anyways, we’ve been staying at local Tucson racer Joey Luliani’s mom’s house. His mom, Deseray, has helped in every possible way since I got here, including taking me grocery shopping, making liters of coffee every morning, driving ex-teammate Colin Gibson and I to the races, being in the feed zone for us, and doing airport pickups and drop offs. Our stay was very pleasant and both Adelaide and I are looking forward to coming back next year for racing and training.

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Typical breakfast for a big day of training or racing. GF pancakes, yogurt, peanut butter, honey, banana, berries, green tea, and coffee. Adelaide rode 6 hours to the top of Mt. Lemmon (the real top up to the ski lift, which is 27.5 miles of climbing). I went to mile marker 7.

Stage 1 (the prologue should always be the most decisive stage right?): a 3.2-mile rolling time trial. I was 5th. This was a bit of a surprise given the fact that, historically, I’m not the best time trialist in the world. Or the best time trialist in a pro/am event. Or even the best time trialist in a cat 3 field. It’s been an average winter for me in terms of TT preparation: I rode the bike five times since August, including this race. So the fact that the hunk o junk bike was even working and shifting properly was a relief. Getting a good result was a bonus. I chalk it up to being really heavy and capitalizing on the false flat downhill tailwind section of the course (I now hold the Strava KOM for another descent thank you very much). Jamis went one-two with Gregory Brenes and Ben Jaques-Maynes tied on time, Mac Cassin of Horizon was third, two seconds down, and Jim Peterman 4th at seven seconds. I was 8 seconds down. If I’d just gone one second harder I’d be the faster of the Petermans. Oh well.

In case you were wondering who Gregory Brenes is, like I was, this is one of the results that Google Images comes up with. This makes him pretty alright in my book.

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Stage 2 was an 82-mile road race with straight, wide-open roads and four corners per lap. It was super sketchy. This was due to rider error of course, probably from the early season jitters. There were a lot of crashes and a lot of close calls. I got lucky on lap One when a guy touched wheels with someone in front of him on the descent and went down hard at 40mph. I was full on the brakes for five long seconds praying to God that if He parted the seas I’d forever be a believer and devote myself to preaching his word for the rest of my days. The guy’s bike went right and his body went left just in time and I squeezed through while others crashed around me. I sprinted back to the peloton, immediately thinking, “Just kidding, I had my fingers crossed, you fool. I get you with that every time, God! I’ll never be a believer!”

I followed wheels on the “uphill” section but never really attacked except for once or twice. I didn’t think anything was going to get away until maybe the last lap due to the block headwind on the climbing part of the course. Mainly I just tried to not crash and not go over the yellow line too often. Both were inevitable. The entire field echeloned over into the left lane at times in the crosswind. An irate official would drive up between us and the left curb when there was room and aggressively usher us back over to the right. “If you fucking assholes won’t move back across the yellow line after ten minutes of me honking, let’s see if two tons of steel will do it!!” That’s not an exact quote but the expletives are.

The final few kilometers were false flat uphill with a crosswind. I picked my way to the front of the field as guys began popping off. I was hoping to get some bonus seconds in the sprint, but ended up lying in my back with 400 meters to go. I’d been sitting in the top 15 riders of our somewhat diminished field when two idiots took each other out. God took his revenge. I catapulted over the bars, did a one-armed hand plant, and landed on my back with my bike still attached to my feet. I escaped unharmed. Correction: God tried to take his revenge. Muwahahahah, not even God can touch me! It’s literally impossible that I’ll ever get hurt while riding my bike.

Matteo Dal-Cin had taken a flier with a kilometer or so to go, countering Kevin Mullervy of Champion Systems, and capitalized on a moment’s hesitation in the field. He took the solo win so we weren’t even vying for first at that point, and there’s little chance I would have out-sprinted Daniel Jaramillo of Jamis (2nd) and Daniel Holloway of Octane (3rd).

Stage 3: a four-corner circuit race that was even sketchier than the road race, still mainly due to all of us idiot riders. Myself not included of course. I never do anything wrong.

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At one point I was moving up the right gutter when someone chopped in front of me without looking over. I had to grab the brakes hard and curse even harder. Not four seconds after that someone else started to come over on me, although this time he had enough room to do it safely since there was now a gap between me and the guy who’d just chopped me. But I wasn’t having any of it and I slapped him hard on the ass and yelled at him too since I needed to take my anger out on someone. He yelped and cried out, “Why’d you hit me?” I thought about apologizing half a minute later when I realized he probably didn’t deserve it and that he hadn’t really done anything wrong, but whatever. He was behind me now, meaning he no longer existed. That right there was the mentality of the weekend. “If I can’t see you, you don’t exist.” More so this race than others, guys failed to look behind them or out the corner of their eye when they moved to the left or right, which is why I think there are so many crashes.

So back to the race, I sat in pretty much the whole time and didn’t do anything at all. I followed like three moves and attacked once, half-heartedly. That was it. Nothing was sticking permanently. That much was obvious to me. Jamis had it locked down and the course, like yesterday, made attacks short-lived thanks to a block headwind on the rolling climb. I avoided the crashes—there were some bad ones today and the ambulance was used—and I finished in the field, moving down to 6th GC since Travis McCabe got some bonus seconds during the intermediate sprint the day before and today as well. Josh Yeaton and Fabio Calabria of Horizon went 1-2, while Jaramillo of Jamis was 3rd. This was a terrific result for Horizon and proof that they’re well along their way to the top of the list amongst the best US teams. It’s great to see so many Front Range riders tearing it up at the national level. 4 of the top 10 GC positions were taken up by guys on the Front Range, with Horizon, Rio Grande, and myself showing that good things are coming from this region at the pro/am level.

Since pack positioning is a weak point of mine, doing a bigger race like this is important before something like San Dimas or Redlands with fields of 160 and 200. Battling for wheels isn’t something you really need to do at a local race with 50 or 60 guys. With a stronger field of 90 this weekend, and centerline rules, I noticed that I was pretty rusty when it came to aggressive positioning. It was a good warm up and great for getting the cobwebs repaired. Wait, is that how the saying goes?

Top 10 GC

1) Brenes Gregory           Jamis Hagens Berman            5:04:02
2) Jacques-Maynes Ben   Jamis Hagens Berman            s.t.
3) Cassin Mac                  Horizon/Einstein Bagels          :02
4) McCabe Travis             Team SmartStop                     :06
5) Peterman James          Team Rio Grande                    :07
6) Peterson Kennett        Firefighters Upsala CK            :08
7) Jaramillo Diez Daniel   Jamis Hagens Berman            :08
8) Eaton Daniel                Canyon Bicycles                      :08
9) Buick William               Team Rio Grande                    :10
10) Magallanes Juan         POS Cycling                            :11

It would be nice to have a more decisive stage to break things up a bit, as you can see by the minimal time gaps. Maybe an uphill finish on the backside of Gate’s Pass with loops around the TT course? That would be a much better, and safer, circuit race in my opinion. Both of the road stages were pretty easy so the only way to move up was bonus sprint primes. Good for sprinters, bad for Kennetts. I guess I should have just done better in the TT. All in all, it was a good race and a great trip. New friends were made, old tan lines restored, and a worn-down central nervous system repaired. Resting the whole week I was in Tucson before the race made my legs just a tad sluggish and it wasn’t as much fun as riding hard, but it really helped me feel fresher and in the long run I know it will pay off. I’ll be back next year. Tucson in the winter is pretty awesome.

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I still need a team for Redlands, and I’m holding out hope that something will present itself in the last minute. If not, once April 7th rolls around and Redlands is in the past, like a rider behind me it’ll be as if it never existed and I won’t care about it one way or the other.

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