Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Eugene Celebration Stage Race

It's all about the team.

Steve Vickery (aka Fabian Cancellara), John (Jens) Cheetham and myself rolled up to Eugene Oregon for a little stage racing and one final fling for our road season.

With the shrinking roster of riders (was 6) we were not sure what to expect and how to play it. Fortunately we recruited Wilson from Sierra Nevada as a pseudo teammate, we fed him well and he earned every morsel (big thanks).

Stage 1:

At the start we took inventory of who looked really fit and might be key to watch. I noted a guy wearing Hammer shorts who resembled Larry Hibbard. The first stage is a 50ish mile road race with very minor climbs, not enough to drop anyone.

Right from the gun the LH looking guy starts riding pretty aggressively so I marked his wheel along with an unattached rider from Idaho (Kai). I shirked some pulls and really just marked the move to see where it would go. Once Sal in the official’s car gave us 30+ second time split I decided to contribute and give it a run.

George from Portland (Nike) started bridging and the spideys let him across. Our 3-man break agreed 4 would be better and we eased up to let George on. Once there we worked a very smooth paceline and quickly brought the gap up to 1:30 with John, Steve and Wilson back in the bunch covering but not interrupting anything that was coordinated. We later received a lot of compliments for racing with class.

It was about 15 miles in and Hammer Dude went space cadet and drifted off of the break thinking it wouldn’t work. The 3 of us kept rolling and starting the second lap, a 25 mile loop, had our gap built up to 2 minutes. We were rolling smooth but not killing it, and it was starting to get VERY windy, a great deterrent for a chasing field. George was starting to look a little weak so Kai and I contemplated dispatching him on the next climb. About 5 minutes later George said he would be happy with 3rd (smart man). I replied that we would keep him on and asked him to contribute when he could. He agreed.

Through the feedzone and about 4 miles from the finish we looked back and the field was at the bottom of the hill and only about 40 seconds back. Kai and I drilled it into the headwind to the finish with the hopeful idea that the strong wind would once again take the impetus out of the chase. John and Steve confirmed that it did. Kai out sprinted me for the stage win but we were given the same time, 1 minute 2 seconds ahead of the field.

I enjoyed watching the field sprint from the other side of the line and seeing John take 4th in the sprint for a 7th place finish. Two in the top 10 and GC contention…NICE!

Stage 2:

7 mile time trial. This was Steve (Cancellara) Vikery’s day. He handily won the TT and we celebrated later that night with much wine and food. I turned a fair time, but lost 6 seconds to my Stage 1 breakaway partner and moved into an official 2nd place in the GC.

Stage 3:

45 minute business park (minus the buildings) windy criterium. At this point we were racing defensively while also taking some snap out of some of the other riders who looked they could climb. John covered many breaks while Steve and Wilson made sure I was always near the front. When John wasn't firmly attached to a move Wilson and Steve gave the rest of the field something to chase. I closed down a few moves but any acceleration sent alarm bells off with people yelling “GC Attack, GC”. (That was fun).

Steve kept it nicely under control on the last lap and I even managed a nice sprint for 7th.

Stage 4, The Queen Stage:

84 mile hilly road race with an uphill finish into a winery.

The profile of the course is not too unlike Winters. Climbs are moderate with only a few short steeper sections (all big ringable). Descents are fast and twisty with a bit of pea gravel, but not really that bad. Roads are all very nice.

A joke we made on Friday is that Velo Bob would likely take a jackhammer to the roads because they are too nice.

Sunday nights dinner and celebration for Steve’s stage win had us cooking up some ideas of how to play this stage. With me as the only climber and the first 10 miles being slightly down hill we made our goal to get Steve off solo or with 1 other rider. Steve goes downhill and TTs like a freight train (lots-o-power). The idea was Cancellaraish in that we wanted him to have a head start and get far enough up the climb that he could be with me on the second lap. After a few tries Steve finally got loose and two riders made it across. One was a junior, probably about 15, on a bike that was way too small for him. Imagine Kenny riding Jasmine’s bike. (OK, not that extreme, but you have the visual, not pretty). The other rider was a would-be good climber. Steve played it perfect and made his two breakaway partners tow him around. He was sucking the life out of them. The junior biffed in a tight corner descending, a corner that the promoter told us to be careful in.

He was up and moving but seemed stunned, he was done.

Mean while John and Wilson kept me protected and we marked any other climby like guys who tried to make a move.

We started the first of two climbs and picked up Steve about 3/4s of the way up. The other rider was not too far ahead and did not seem to be going all that well (sucker).

I monitored the pace and set a false tempo on the climb when the field would let me. Our plan was to have Steve drop back on while descending and we felt he could probably close as much as a 4 minute gap. This was due in part to the style of the 3s, go really hard on the climb then ride slow and let everyone back on.

One local rider, a bit of a loon, drilled the descent with me tucked in nicely so I could see and read the road. Once we got down to the rolling part of the course the pace slowed and many chasing riders made it back. Just after the feed zone one rider in contention for a top 5 said he needed a nature break. I took control and yelled “nobody attack, just roll slow”. All were happy to oblige so we all stopped for a groupo al naturale. The little gentlemanly like break also let John, Steve and Wilson back onto the group.

We started rolling slowly and getting all chitty chatty and a rider that was dropped previously rolled away. Kai and I were not too worried about it since he was 2 minutes down and we knew he would not last on the climb. A De Salvo rider, again a little too heavy to be a climber, slipped away, then the local (Luke) made an attempt.

Luke was a little bit of a character, and had mentioned that he was going to snap my legs like sticks the next time up the climb. John and Steve started a moderate chase then Luke’s youngster teammate attempted to block and that’s when the spidey squad went all CSC 2008 Tour de France on their ass. The course had about 10 to 15 miles of flat to rolling smooth roads with a mild headwind. John, Steve, and Wilson drove the pace rotating 15 second pulls at 27 to 30 miles and hour for the next 30 minutes. I sat 4th wheel giving each one of them just enough room to slot in while everyone behind me went bug eyed trying to stay on a wheel strung single file. At one point John looked back and saw the single file line and that just gave him more juice to tug and keep Steve and Wilson doing the same. Luke was brought back pretty quick then the boys closed down the other two who were riding solo. Man, there were some long faces back in the line. It was sweet!!!!!!

At this point I was smiling ear to ear as these three were distributing a severe ass whooping to the rest of the field. Later one rider mentioned to John about how intense that bit of riding was.

The boys brought us to the first short climb and took a short break while the rest of the field let me set false tempo. I eased and let a couple of riders set the pace on the short climb. We hit another 3 mile rolling section and John, Steve and Wilson all reappeared at the front and cranked the machine back up to full speed. I guess they weren’t quite done flogging these boys.

It was kind of like a bar fight where the large friends of the little guy hold everyone down while to little guy kicks everyone in the nuts.

At the crit the day before we had promised the field a full on California style bike fight for the last stage, and they got one.

The real climb came and I let one or two riders set the pace, I used the small ring on the first portion and just covered. Kai (6 seconds up on GC) was plenty strong and just shadowed my moves. We hit the transition flat section between the two climbs and the pace picked up. I kicked it into the big chain ring and rode the next climb putting in about 10 good surges, there was a lot of heavy breathing and gears shifting behind me. I drilled it over the top pulling Kai and 4 other riders with me. One rider decided to rip the descent and put in some big efforts to keep the pace fast. Once on the flats and less than 20 miles to go the 4 riders with Kai and I wanted to push the pace hard. Kai and I were sitting pretty and did not need to gain any more time so we let the 4 riders do their thing. We rotated through now and again when we didn’t have to put out too much of an effort, just to be nice.

Two riders cracked along the way leaving 4 of us to work out the finish. Again, Kai and I were solid in first and second for the GC, so it was the other two that were climbing up the overall behind us in the General Classification. We let them do most of the work.

At 4 miles to go I was feeling pretty good so I lifted the pace over a short rolling climb just see what would happen. The 3 hung on but seemed close to cracking and the first time I saw any sign of weakness in Kai. At this point I saw my chances of stage win increase exponentially, but with two other wanting the same victory I knew they would chase if I tried to get away solo. I weighed my options carefully and decided I really wanted a stage win.

It was a 1K climb to the finish up the Winery entrance. We made the right, saw the 1K to go flag and I marked accelerations. At 400 meters the rider 4th wheel made a move, I followed while Kai and the 4th riders cracked. At 200 meters I was stuck like glue and had plenty of juice. The rider made one more short surge then that wonderful sound came out of him. That sound that the body makes when the cracking happens and all energy is gone. With 100 meters left I punched it and then clicked an extra gear just for good measure showing my sprint opponent what a rear William’s 38 looks like as it crosses the finish line in first place.

http://app.obra.org/results/2008/Road/12997

As for Luke, 3:02 back on the final stage.

Thanks to the incredible work of my teammates and Wilson I had me a stage win on the hardest day of the weekend.

Kai and I finished 4 seconds apart in GC Kai first and myself in second.

http://app.obra.org/results/2008/Road/12994

Thanks for reading.

2 Comments:

Blogger velogirl said...

congratulations, Ron!

9:52 PM  
Blogger Johnny GoFast said...

Way to go.

3:53 PM  

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