Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Quick Step April

[Tour of Hermann Cat 3, 2011; Tour of St. Louis Cat 3, 2011]

Last December I decided I would pursue spring race plans akin to Patrick Lefarve’s: win everything in April.  The Quick Step April*.  It would start with Hillsboro, proceed to Hermann, perhaps include the Tour of St. Louis, and be crowned with the SRAM Tour of the Gila.  Hillsboro and Hermann would be warm-ups for the feast of suffering in the mountains of New Mexico over five days.  It would be a month of racing that would transform my body into a juggernaut or burn me to a crisp.  Either way, I was going to have a go.
Life changed course.  A new job opportunity that I had long hoped for came open; the door to the Gila closed.  New challenges presented themselves (moving, finding a place to live, integrating at the new job, learning the ins-and-outs of a new industry).  While much of that is still in process, cycling’s part is now done.  I’m pleased with the Quick Step April.  Here are some highlights.


I’ve already written a race report, but this will remain a highlight for the foreseeable future.  Season highlight?  Most def.  Career highlight?  Probably.

This is a fantastic race.  The wife and I stayed in town this year and had a good time between the racing, dining, and hanging out.  We needed it after moving all our junk down to StL the three days prior.  My results weren’t great (between the heat and moving, I was toast!), but I did roll a good TT, which I’m proud of.  Furthermore, I didn’t quit, which is important.
The Guttenberg climb was awesome.  I’m glad I got to ride it in a race this year.  It hurt, but it was cool to do.  Thanks again to Jeff Yeilding (and friends) and Stone Hill Winery (I recommend the fillet at the Vintage Restaurant) for a great weekend of racing.
I watched during the RR as Mr. Nick Ramirez shifted gears and I knew in that moment that he would attack.  I was hurting on the climbs and reticent to go but I pointed to him and Schilling said: “Go” in my ear.  My cadence went unchanged.  Mr. Ramirez went on to catch the solo leader up the road and smash the field by minutes.  It was a display that was very impressive.  Next time you see him at a race, shake his hand.

Tour of St. Louis

Circuit Race:
708 Racing p/b Dressel’s Public Ale House lined up to work for Keith, as several other members have already scored victories this season (it’s good to be a multi-threat outfit!).  Mike and I shepherded Keith until he made a nice solo bridge to what we thought was the move of the day.  As I blocked on the front it was clear that everyone else thought the same thing.  (Schilling was drilling it on the front, so everybody wanted to ride the Garmin train!)  So the move came back and another promising group got off, but Keith wasn’t ready to go, so I bridged up to Schilling and Leibowitz past a small group of chasers in “no man’s land.”  For the next two laps I was dangerously close to blowing up.  Between blocking, bridging, and trying to stay away, I was hurting.  Fortunately for me the guys took really smooth pulls and I was able to recover a bit.  All three of us constantly checked our six for the pack.  Nobody was giving us splits!  I tapped on my wrist making the universal “watch” gesture and the next lap we’d only hear “Go go go!”  Yes.  I understand I am in a bike race.  Generally I try to “go”.  Well, we wouldn’t see the pack again, so the podium would be decided between the three of us.  Having come into the race to work for Keith (he was doing the omnium, and I wasn’t), I thought about dropping back or just sitting in to kill the break.  But I considered the best thing for the team was to seal the deal, so that’s what I set about doing.  Before the final “s” turn Joshua attacked from third position.  I was ruthless and made Schilling chase even though he had been on the front.  When I could tell he was done I jumped and kept the throttle open all the way to the line, winning by a few bike lengths.  

Keith and Mike got to the line in the top ten during a dicey field sprint.  I don’t think anyone went down, but there were a lot of people and it was a twisty road with wind gusts.  I’m glad I was in a small group.  Thanks to Mike and Keith for blocking and playing the field smartly.

I didn’t do it, but instead caught a nap.  Keith had a strong ride in the wind for another solid top ten, keeping him in the fight for the omnium.

I was not planning on completing the criterium as we (my family) were going to visit a local church.  But when the church I found to visit had an evening service, well… sometimes things just work out!  So I threw a clean kit in the bag and the bike in the car and hauled over to Delmar for a big open crit.  We (708 cat 3’s) were excited to have an embarrassment of riches at the start: Chris, Matt, Mike, Keith, and myself.  We were missing a captain in Nick, but this was the largest group assembled at one race thus far.
While the plan was to get Keith across the line first for the omnium, he got caught up in a crash about half way through the race and broke a shifter.  DNF.  I informed the boys and we set about a new plan: get Mike the win.  708 was always around the front, we followed and initiated moves but nothing was sticking in the stiff headwind on the back stretch.  I rolled the dice on a break but probably didn’t have it in the legs after Saturday’s exploits.  With three to go, Chris took a flyer on a lull and powered away from the field.  Another rider bridged and I went to the front to block.  The move kept other teams working and the pace high so Mike and I maintained position near the front.  Entering the final laps Mike was on my wheel ready for a leadout.  I was surfing the front not too eager to blow up early.  (To be honest, I have little leadout experience.  Usually I’ve been sprinting up through the field instead of being at the front where I should be.)  On the backstretch, streaking up the right side was Aaron of Team Veda (can we call him Darth?) going all in for the V on a last lap flyer.  I was maybe 5 wheels back and hoping that the others would chase.  Nada.  One by one the guys went into “saving it for the sprint” mode.  Lame.  I ramped it up into the wind.  Frankly, the first 30 seconds doesn’t hurt.  But the last 30 seconds doesn’t tickle!  Mike was on my wheel and we took the last two corners hot.  I shifted twice more (12? 11?) and gave everything I had.  Aaron had timed it right and I had failed  – I didn’t catch him (he had the field by 20 meters easy!)  In the heat of battle Mike thought that the red tent (wheel pit) was the line, so when he stood to go he was already at the finish line.  We had finished as we started the leadout: 2nd and 3rd.  It was a painful mistake for both of us as Mike had fresh legs at the end.  However, the day is coming when we get the timing dialed!

Without races on the calendar for the next two weeks, the Quick Step April has ended.  Two wins, a second place, and a lot of great memories.  The racing helped me get through the stress of the move as anger and anxiety need an outlet somewhere.  I’d bet that the “pain face” you see in those finishing photos has more to do with internal struggles than the electro-chemical cries of sinew.  Just a thought.
The next chapter of the season is about to begin.  708 Racing is just getting started.

*For the last two years it could be called the Cancellara April.  However, Quick Step has been targeting it for longer!

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