The week following Nationals was particularly challenging. Due to recent organizational changes and unusually high turnover, the project team I have been working with has dwindled down from 5 resources to 2. While additional responsibility regarding the development and adoption of a tool that changes how an organization operates may be beneficial to your career, it is not a great way to start a three-day stage race.
By the time I boarded the flight to Chicago Thursday evening, I had only managed to clock in 16hrs of sleep and one day of training for the week. Despite the lack of rest, Tuesday’s 6min hill repeats resulted in an 8% peak power improvement. Needless to say, the CAAD10 is treating me well. At least this gave me hope for the weekend ahead. I left for the airport directly from work, arrived late in the evening, then awoke early to work remotely for 6hrs before heading to the first stage.
A sweet couple offered to harbor teammates, Rachel, Amy and I for the weekend. When we arrived, an enormous sign displaying the words, ‘Welcome FCS’ was taped to the garage door. It is the generosity of people located near major races that make professional cycling a more sustainable practice. Without the support of others, it is often times difficult to do what we love as athletes in a sport of minimal compensation. Our Chicago hosts really went above and beyond, from providing us with delicious home cooked meals to great conversation.
Tour of Elk Grove is a very unique weekend on the National Road Race Calendar (NRC). Over the course of three days we became very familiar with a 4-mile stretch of road featured in every stage. The first stage was a 7.7K (4.78 mile) Prologue, followed by an 83.4K (51.8mile) 14 lap “Criterium”, and a 71K (44.1 mile) 7 lap Circuit. In all actuality, both of the later two stages were Circuits of varying lengths. The interchangeable use of Circuit and Criterium from registration to race bible suggested that the stages suffered from an identity crisis. Interestingly enough, my first NRC event didn’t actually have a Road Race.
Prologue – Friday, Aug. 2nd
Initially Tour of Elk Grove was not on my calendar, and without it I may have merrily gone an entire season without Time Trialing. Unfortunately my luck had run up, and so I begrudgingly completed the Prologue for 11th place…from last. The goal was simply not to come in last; mission accomplished. It has been at least 5 months since the last time I have practiced an effort over 6 minutes and over a year since my last Time Trial (TT). Without specific training, I lacked both insight to proper Rate of Perceived Effort (RPE) pacing and the trained muscles to execute. I also lacked several aerodynamic advantages of my competitors, many of which were decked out with TT bikes, disc wheels, booties, and aero helmets. The knife I brought to this gun fight was none other than my trusty FCS issued CAAD10 with iRT 50m wheels for the al ‘natural Eddy Merckx take on TTing. For lack of aero bars, I compromised by mimicking the TT position resting my forearms atop the handlebars. What this so called “race of truth” revealed is that I am a far better strategist and energy conservationist.
While the aforementioned deficiencies of TT specific equipment tally up to a significant disadvantage, I prefer it as a matter of simplicity. Does anyone truly enjoy purchasing and then lugging around a second bike and helmet? Another bike that is not only more expensive than your first, it is also utilized a fraction of the time. Does any of this really make sense? Why not just call a truce and put an end to all the fuss? Demand for time trial bikes is plentiful in the triathlete and I’m-too-fragile-for-mass-start-races demographics. While this day may never come, a sprinter can dream.
“Criterium” – Saturday, Aug, 3rd
There is a fine line between wanting to perform well and maintaining the physical well being to actually do so. On day two, one of our riders experienced the ill fate of crossing that line. In a freak accident, Amy was thrown over her bars and onto the pavement. I am still in awe of her extraordinary bike handling skills, as she emerged from the wreckage without a scratch to both bike and body. The only outward hint to her fall was a helmet imprint that might have given Harry Potter a run for his money. Yet all was not entirely well. The abrupt fall left Amy concussed and therefore unable to contend the rest of the race.
Apart from battle wounds of our own, Erin Silliman of Fearless Femmes was also seriously injured. Due to the nature of this race, many of those impacted by the crash yet still able to compete were unable to catch up to the peloton. While sold as a Criterium, officials abided by Circuit rules and did not allow free laps. Which made it even more difficult for those who were unable to catch the peloton, as they were forced to complete the entire distance of the race alone or in small groups. Anyone who did not complete Saturday’s stage would not be allowed to start Sunday. My other teammate, Rachel, who had stayed with Amy in her time of need found herself in the unfortunate situation of completing the race alone.
Left as the sole representative of FCS in the peloton, I focused my efforts on finding the perfect position for a sprint finish. After practicing positioning during sprint bonus point laps, I knew exactly where I wanted to be. As we rounded the last corner of the final lap I knew I was sitting pretty but still had 750 meters to go. Performing well was a matter of sprinting finesse and patience. When the time came I gave it my all, narrowly edging out Allison Powers for 6th place.
Circuit – Sunday, Aug, 4th
With a woman down, Rachel and I entered the final stage as a duo. Each of the top three GC contenders were separated by mere seconds. We expected an aggressive race, and was it ever. After bridging to a couple early moves and constantly being on prowl, a group of six went up the road when I was too gassed to join. While the breakaway consisted of a favorable mix of teams, it was evident that Optum would have preferred another representative. The breakaway had established a 1min gap before Optum decided they wanted a different outcome and worked tirelessly to achieve it. With only 3k to go, the field caught the break. At which point things started getting a little too dicey for my liking. Rachel and I worked together to bring me forward, yet all the near misses ahead had an impenetrable ripple effect on the peloton. The final 750 meters were like navigating a minefield. I was too far back with nowhere to sprint, ultimately forced to sit up and accept 17th.
Upon the return trip, some nice lads disassembled and packed my bike. Within a short flight, I was back home by 12am and in the office by 8am. Of course none of this would be possible without the support of team FCS|Zngine and Directeur Sportif, Larry Foss of The Fix Studio . Be sure to follow the team on Facebook and Twitter.