Superior Morgul 2014

Bear with me” because this is going to be a long post.

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Okay, now that I’ve spent the better part of the day doing THAT, let’s continue.

I guest rode for Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros last weekend and first thing’s first, THANK YOU! I had an absolute blast racing for you guys.

Teammates:
Chris Winn
Jake Duering
Brad Bingham
Jackson “Old Man” Long
Fabio Calabria
Mac “Charles” Cassin
Emerson Oronte
Kit Recca

Staff:
Nick Traggis (Manager)
Clayton Feldman (Broken rider from Gila crash)
Josh Yeaton (Broken rider from Gila crash)
Brad Bingham (Likes crits but not hilly road races)
Charlie Suthard (Sougnier)
Brent Apgar of Sync Chiropractic

I’m getting off to a late start on this post not due to idleness, but because last week while racing I realized two things: A) I’m beyond broke and 2) I’m weak. Weak like a broken dandelion in a garden, dangling its currently wilting, but once brightly colored, flowery head in shame.

To compensate for #1, I picked up a landscaping job yesterday. It was in Longmont, which is a LONG way from Boulder. The ride up there and back, as well as the almost 9 hours of landscaping with my shirt off getting a nice deep red sun tan, proved to be too much. It was supposed to be a recovery day after all. I’ve hence forth decided that if I’m going to continue being a serious bike racer, manual labor has to wait. For those who manage to do both, wow.

To compensate for #B, I rode for a little over 5 hours in them thar mountains the day after Superior Mogul. This also helps explain why I’m so currently wrecked after yesterday’s weed-picking, mulch-hauling, hedge-trimming, and rock carrying day of real man work. And real lady work, too. (One of my fellow laborers yesterday was a lady. We should stop describing human beings’ worth based on gender.)

Which brings me to:

Friday’s stage One time trial…I rode like a bitch man. I thought I was putting in a good effort at first as I rocketed downMarshall Rd. at 45 miles an hour, smashing my 56×11 to oblivion. Then I took a right turn like a rusty old kaboose onto Cherryvale Rd. and lost like two minutes in that one corner alone. No matter! There was only one more corner (two total for the race) and I currently had a nice little hill in front of me to tear to bits. I crested it and got as aero as I could for the next couple miles of false flat downhill.

The 18-ish-minute race ended with a climb up South Boulder road, which gets fairly steep at the top, and I went deep into anaerobic hell for the last couple hundred meters, which took five or 10 minutes. As I came to a stop at the top and lurched over my bars in gasping, ragged breaths, I figured I’d finished in the top 3…at worst. Probably 2nd. I doubted I was 1st since I’d lost sight of Jim Peterman of Rio, who’d been my 40 second man. This was all based on feel, since I had no power data or time based off anyone else to gauge myself.

I ended up 12th, completely and utterly spiritually, mentally, and reason-for-living crushed. I’d set my hopes so high that 12th, which wasn’t terrible, seemed like a death sentence. I’d rather have been kicked in the nuts 920 times by a peg-legged pirate than get 12th. Not only was I pissed about probably losing any chance at winning the overall, but what did this mean for Nationals? What does it mean???

As I rode home with Adelaide, I began to realize that miracles don’t often come true. Three weeks of training after being sick for 5 weeks isn’t enough to reach peak form. That made me feel a bit better. But not a lot better. I began doubting my chances at Chatanooga, which was just 10 days away at that point.

Stage Two Criterium

Pre race meeting in the parking lot:

Nick: “I want you guys to make the race hard, but most importantly we’re working to get Fabio prime points and set him up for a stage win and the leader’s jersey.”

This is what I and many of the other guys heard:

Nick: “I want you guys to make the race hard aksdfl ajsdlkfhasl dhfk jashdfjkhsdkjf hjdhdjhfj dhfjdhj dhasld kaop KILL CRUSH SMASH CURB STOMP ALL THOSE WHO OPPOSE wmeamw alskdufoieanlka l aksdl.”

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. We all knew the plan was to set Fabio up for the GC. He was 8th in the TT and had a good chance at placing well in the next two stages, so supporting him was definitely our top priority. But HOW we went about doing that didn’t go quite to plan. Instead of being calculating and methodical on which breaks went away and how we controlled the field, we basically just just went ape shit.

I got things going with an all-out first lap attack from the gun since the first omnium sprint points were on Lap Two, and Fabio suggested I just go hard right out of the gate. I gave it everything for a full lap, then peeled off to let Jake take over on the second lap. He took Fabio through for full points.

From there it’s hard for me to remember what exactly happened because I was pretty much in the red for the next 60 minutes. It’s a hard course with a hill and some technical corners, which makes things difficult wherever you are in the field. I’d gone way too hard on that first lap for where my fitness was/is, and was paying dearly for it. Last year I did the same thing (went balls deep on Lap One), but I recovered in like 2 seconds and went balls deep again for Lap Two. I pretty much did that until I got away in a three-man breakaway that won. This year was different. Not only was my normalized power 30 watts lower, but I suffered more this year than last as well.

Jake was riding very strongly, as was Brad, Mac, and Kit. I felt outgunned but did what I could.

We attacked throughout the race with multiple guys up the road in almost every move. At one point it was just Kit and Chris off on their own. Emerson and I sat on a bridge attempt but when our group made contact, the field was right behind. I went hard for half a lap to re-launch Kit, who spent another few laps off by himself.

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Photo: Dean Warren

Nearing the bell lap, Emerson rocketed out of the field with two to go while Chris looked after Fabio near the front. With one to go it looked like Emerson might stick it, and he would. Meanwhile, I made one last effort to get to the front and take Chris and Fabio to the line. Unfortunately someone pushed Fabio towards the fence in the last corner, which caused a nasty crash behind him and separated him and Chris from my wheel. Luckily I looked behind with 300 meters to go and saw that they weren’t on me, so I sat up instead of giving Colt Peterson of Rio the perfect lead out. Emerson won solo and Fabio finished 4th. With the omnium sprint points and his stage placing, Fabio would don the leader’s jersey for the final road race stage on Sunday. Exciting times!

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Photo: Kathryn Winn

I went back to Nick’s for an excellent massage, dry needling, neck- and spine-cracking experience with team sponsor Brent Apgar of Sync Chiropractic.

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Photo: Nick Traggis

The needles are in my lower back and the controls on the ‘lectricity are in my hands. The highest I could stand was level 3. I went to level 4 once just to see if I could and I think I pooed myself just a little. (I feel like everyone has seen this exact set of photos like nine times by now if you’ve read any of the Horizon blogs. It’s a consequence of being late on a race report. But thank you to everyone out there photographing this weekend. Many more awesome pictures can be found here at Dejan’s site Sportif Images).

Stage 3 Road Race:

Today marked the first time I had coffee in like three weeks. Regular coffee that is. I’d unknowingly been drinking decaf, had suffered poor quality sleep, blamed it on the coffee, so decided to stop drinking it until the race. Hashtag placebo effect.

Anyways, after two REAL cups of coffee Sunday morning, I was jacked and ready to go. My job for the day: set tempo and keep things in line for Fabio to take the stage and the overall. I was content with this. Very content, since I always relish a chance to ride hard on the front.

Lap one (or two?): Kit got away in the breakaway. He sat on since we had the jersey, making the race situation perfect for us. If they stuck it, Kit won the stage and the breakaway sucked up many of the stage placing points, increasing the chances of Fabio retaining the overall lead. If we brought it back by setting tempo all day, then hopefully Fabio could win the uphill sprint on the Wall. Jackson, Jake, and I went about keeping the break’s gap in check for the next couple laps. I felt good, and kept telling Emerson to chill out when he wanted to come take pulls. The finish suited him well and I wanted him as fresh on that last lap as possible. Chris and Fabio didn’t have much to do for those first four laps except enjoy the view of my ass.

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Photo: Andrijan Smaic

By lap five we realized we should have just let the breakaway roll away since Kit would have likely won the stage and also taken the overall; he was the virtual leader on the road. We didn’t quite figure this out until it was too late. By now, the break was disintegrating and their gap was too low to hold off the chase. We got off the front and let Rio do the work, but at this point we’d blown it.

By the final and sixth lap when the break was caught, attacks started flying fast. I followed moves and pulled things together as best as I could. The field broke apart as Taylor Sheldon (Five-Hour) attacked with Chris sitting on his wheel. Emerson and I helped stitch it back up before the second to last turn around.

More attacks went on the rollers that followed. I was holding on for dear life at the back of the field, which was now down to 30, then very quickly, 20 riders. I went to the front as soon as I recovered then got shelled to the back when the more serious attacks started happening again. Fabio rocketed off the front with Sheldon as we approached 6K to go, so our team sat up once more and tried to control the front. I sat third wheel as Rio and Primal chased Fabio and Sheldon down with just a few kilometers to go. By now their chances didn’t look so great. Sheldon got dropped on the approach to the climb and came back in the field with 1K to go. Fabio would soon to be swallowed up too, but was making a valiant effort to stay clear until the very end.

My legs were dying at that point. Even more than I had expected. I stayed at the front with a few little surges, hoping to at least be of some use to Chris and Emerson, but once the first race-ending attack went with 400 meters, I was gapped off.  The steep part of the Wall is like 250-300 meters, and at that point I finally realized I had a flat tire, not just flat legs. I thought about getting off to walk or run the bike up the hill to the line, but decided that might be harder than just grunting it out on the flat tire. I came in 11th, flung myself over the bars in acidic agony and oxygen debt, wondering if we’d won and what I could have done if my tire hadn’t gone flat. I was pleased with how I raced and how my legs felt. After giving everything on the front all day and still getting 11th with the tire, my confidence finally took a much needed boost.

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Photo: Andrijan Smaic

The bad news: Fabio finished 10th and we lost the leader’s jersey. The good news: Chris won the stage. For the third year in a row! Emerson also placed well with 4th and took 2nd overall, with Chris in 3rd overall. It was a bold move for Fabio to attack on that last half lap, and I, of course, approved of his effort. After all, it was pretty much the same thing I did last year in an attempt to win.

While we lost out on the primary goal: to win the GC, I feel like we came away with enough success (two stage wins and 2nd and 3rd GC) to give ourselves a modestly large pat on the back. Besides, it’s not polite to be greedy! Yeah right. Maybe as a child. In the adult world you take everything you can get while no one’s looking. Speaking of children, we lost the GC battle to a 16-year old. So there’s that. Congratulations to Gage Hecht, who we’ll most likely see in a grand tour or two within the next decade.

Thanks for another great race, Without Limits!

Post Script:

After gauging my fitness this weekend I’ve decided to forgo racing the national championships in Chattanooga next week. I simply don’t have the fitness to contend for a top 10, and blowing 800 of my own bucks (that I don’t have) on a one day race doesn’t seem like the best plan. I’d be going without a team as well, so all in all it most likely would have been a huge waste of money and energy that could be put to better use here in Boulder, training hard for the next big one and searching for that elusive coffee shop job.

 

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