I had a nice off-season, filled with lots of training in the beautiful weather of a SoCal “winter.” But, for the 2016 season I was in search for a new motivating force, and was willing to venture off of the MTB route to checkout some road racing, hoping to eventually turn full roadie in my 17-18 years. That led me to a 3-day stage race in the Phoenix area known as Valley of the Sun Stage Races. This was the first real test of the season, and my biggest road event yet. I registered in the 15-16 category, G2 Bike had my road bike in tip-top shape, and after experiencing an off-season that had felt like forever, I was eager to get racing again!
The first race on the menu was going to be a 14-mile time trial in the middle of the Arizona desert. There was not a single gust of wind on the day of the race, and the weather was a bit warm, but I liked it. Once I finished my warm up and all of my preparations I headed out to the start and before I knew it I was sprinting off of the ramp. I had a certain wattage number that I was aiming for, and with all of the adrenaline flowing through my body I was pushing out the watts without a feeling of fatigue in the legs. I had never gone at this speed on my own, and I was getting excited. I found out that I love this kind of racing where you are the only factor controlling your fate, you don’t have to worry about weaving through other riders, or getting caught up in a crash. As I listened to the rhythm of the air flowing off of my helmet, I tried getting in an aero and comfortable position. Once I reached the turn around point I could see a few riders just ahead. So I did my best Tony Martin impression, but made sure to keep my cadence high and before I knew it I was flying past riders, and sprinting to the line. After I crossed the line I knew I did a good performance and was hoping to crack the top 5. After my cool down, the results were posted. I finished 7th out of 35 riders, a bit over a minute off of the win. I was content with the result, but was hoping for a better result the next day.
Bright and early the next morning was the road race. The course was 16 miles long and we would do 3 laps, it was supposed to be flat with a steep climb to the finish line. The group started with a neutral start, and it didn’t get much more faster than that after we were let free. For the first lap the group cruised at a pace that a turtle could keep up with. When the official on the motorcycle told us to go faster we picked up the pace to where a turtle could struggle to keep up. Then all of the cat 5 racers passed our Junior Men group. At this point I decided to easily break away from the group and solo to the win, nope! As soon as I attacked, the entire field chased me like kids chasing down the neighborhood Ice Cream truck on a hot Summer day. As soon as I got caught, the entire field sat up, and we were back to the pace where the motorcycle rider could barely stay up on his bike without tipping over. There were many more attacks to come, but no one could escape the company of the peloton. I didn’t feel to comfortable staying in a group going so slow, so I decided to sit on the front and chill. I put in a couple of more attacks, but there was no success. On the second lap there was a time bonus on top of the so-called “steep” climb with a grade of 3% at the finish line. I got boxed in and crossed the ling in 6th or so. Now it was the final lap, and with 6 miles to go a racer finally managed to break away after he countered a big attack. I was sitting in 4th wheel with 3km to go, and we could see the rider who broke away. With 1km to go I put in a little dig on the steepest part of the “climb” but there was another attack that went after me. Now I found myself sitting in the back of the lead group, where I had nothing left in the legs to sprint and finished in 16th, 8 seconds off of the win.
I was a bit disappointed with my performance at the road race, but was still 7th in Grand Contender overall standings. But, a new day means another opportunity. The final day’s opportunity was a Crit next to the Arizona state capital building. I knew I probably didn’t have the best sprint to win the race, so I was planning on trying my best to animate the race. The race was only 30 minutes so it was fast right off of the start. The leader in our category attacked right off of the start, and everyone followed in a long line. The course was super fun and fast, and I felt really strong. A couple of laps in, I heard the Prime lap bell and was able to breakaway with one other rider. We held a 10-20 second gap for 2 laps, I got the prize, but then we were caught. Now I sat towards the back of the group but still felt really strong. Before I knew it I heard the 3 laps to go bell, or at least what I thought it was the 3 laps to go bell. Unfortunately, our group was pulled 5 minutes early, and I was towards the back of the group when we crossed the line. I was able to hold on to 7th in the GC, and because I got a Prime, I was rewarded with all of the GU Chomps in the world!
Thank you for your support,
Valley of the Sun Stage Race 2016
February 12-14, 2016
Junior Men 15-16