Thursday: Stage 1- Devils Den Time Trial
By Kent Woermann
Everybody’s pre-race game is a little different. Most of the team blast techno and fist pump their way through their morning, while I prefer a more relaxed approach, starting with a nice quiet breakfast, maybe a little Mumford and Sons, then taking a little more time than necessary to pin my number, get dressed, and start my race warm-up. The start of today’s stage didn’t involve any techno, but nothing else seemed to be going well, or at least I didn’t think so.
We got to the venue with plenty of time, but parking was a little different than years past and we had to walk about 3-4 minutes up a hill to the registration table. I know it’s pitiful to complain about a little walking, but I knew what was in store for me this weekend and saving every step I could was important.
Scott and I got the the registration table and they needed to see our race license before they would hand over our packets. Scott was already logged into the USAC app and got his right away but I left my phone at the car and since I went ‘green’ this year that was my only option. I tried logging into the app from Scott’s phone but the internet connection was shaky at best. After a few login attempts I gave up, walked back to the car, and walked back. My nice time cushion for number pinning and warming up was rapidly fading.
Getting back to the car I had 3 things that needed to happen; pin number, get dressed, and change out brake pads. I won’t get into the details, but getting these three tasks accomplished didn’t go smoothly – although they didn’t go that bad either. My race brain was making events seem slower than they actually were.
So I got dressed and rode down to the starting gate to check on my start time. I still had 40 minutes left which was more than enough. I used the climb on the other side of the race venue and went up and down it a few times. I felt pretty good.
On to the race…
My goal was to pace the first 1:15 at around threshold. My power meter fizzled out earlier that week so I had to do this by feel. I had specific power goals for the entire course but that mostly got thrown out the window. I can gauge what my threshold feels like when I’m fresh, but when the pain starts to creep in a few minutes into a time trial everything just feels hard. My goal after 1:15 was to push to the burn, embrace the burn, then push harder.
As I was nearing the end I saw the top of the hill where the race used to finish and I unleashed my final kick. As I got closer I realized the vehicle and the guy at the ‘finish line’ was just a photographer and I had to keep going. I had just given everything I had to finish and my legs were shot. I went from being super happy because my time was the best it’s ever been to really frustrated.
I did what I could to keep my speed up and when I saw the real 200 meter to-go sign I tried sprinting again, only this time it was really slow and twice as painful as the first. I crossed with a finishing time of 9:40ish.
I was really disappointed with this time because I’ve been training hard, eating better, and lighter and stronger than I’d been in a few years. To only shave a few seconds off my PR for this course after doing all the right things was discouraging to say the least. I even said to Michael and Scott afterwards, “I could lose another 20 pounds and I would still suck on this course”. It hadn’t dawned on me at this point that the course was longer than in years past.
So it turns out that the course was actually about 600 meters longer than previous years and I finished 12th overall. Had it been the course from years past I would have finished with a time of ~ 8:59 which would have been 45 seconds faster than I’ve ever done. Needless to say I was very happy to learn this.
It was a good start to the weekend, but we had our work cut out for us. Michael was :50 down, and Garrick was 1:08 down due to dropping his chain.
Friday: Stage 2- 110 mile Road Race
By Michael Allison
We went into Friday’s stage with the intention of protecting Kent’s position in the GC and possibly moving him up. There wasn’t a specific game plan going into the stage. Kent wasn’t high enough in the GC where we felt like we needed to send someone in the early break, and it is such a long race that it is difficult to anticipate how the tactics will play out. For 110 miles, a lot of it comes down to attrition. My personal game plan was to survive over Mt. Gaylor, assess how I felt, and maybe if I still had legs going into town I would get in a move.
The first 47 miles or so were like any race. Fast, jumpy, and aggressive until the early break finally forms. At about mile 30, Jacob White (Arapahoe Resources) jumped off the front, and in the next 5 or 10 miles a few others jumped to him to make it a 5 man move up the road. It began raining at about mile 50. We were going at a moderate pace, and Garrick came up to me shivering, commenting on how cold it was getting. I was getting cold as well, and it didn’t help that I could barely see what was ahead. The only thought running through my head was to get through the race and get into some warm clothes.
Thankfully, the rain began to die down as we headed into the 10-mile climb up Gaylor. My legs felt decent and I was drinking and eating as much as I could, saving as much energy as possible sitting towards the back of the pack. Before the ascent, I had Scott bring me up into the top 20 of the field and I hung in around there for most of the climb.
After the feed zone at the top, it is basically downhill for the rest of the race. Attacks started to go, and I was following almost everything that went. The attacks continued for 5 miles, but at mile 95 the group reset and Ricky Randall (Arapahoe Resources) was the lone rider out in front. I jumped to him, hoping I was dragging one or two others with me, but turned around and realized it was just the two of us.
For the next 2 miles it was just us, but we were then joined by his teammate Evan Bybee and Evan East (Hincapie Development). 13 miles to go. We had about 15 seconds on the group. About 2 miles later we were joined by another Hincapie rider, Ian Garrison, as well as Bill Mulligan (LAPT-Wilde Subaru). Our gap was still roughly 15 seconds, but with six of us my confidence in the break sticking was increasing.
I don’t know when it was that the group let our gap increase, but with about 6 miles to go I turned around and realized our gap had increased significantly. With 3km to go, I stopped pulling. With two other teams in the break having the advantage, I left it to them to set the pace.
With 1.5 km to go, there is a steep pitch just after a right hand turn. We weren’t taking risks into the corners, so we were slightly spread out. Evan East was a couple seconds ahead of us having gone into the right hander first, so I punched it as hard as I could over the top of the hill. I looked back to see East on my wheel and a decent gap to the rest of our breakaway companions. I signaled for him to pull through, but he shouted to keep going, that he was only looking for GC time. I didn’t trust him completely and was prepared to sprint coming to the line, but with 100m to go realized I would take the win. I wasn’t focused on what the announcer was saying, but as I threw my hands up I could very clearly hear him shout “from Kansas!”, almost in a surprised tone.