Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2016 Syracuse Road Race

I've done four road races and one Eroica event (vintage bike ride) this year and the best weather has been for the first one back in April. We've had some gorgeous weather this year with some very hot days of late. Just not at my races. The weather for my latest race, the Syracuse Road Race, was a mixture of cool (16 C), drizzle, and 20+ kph NW winds. My entry fee for the Masters 35+/Cat 4 combined was waived because I won the last race I did, the Canadian National Road Race Championships. So, not only would the registration fee have been lower than the competing O-Cup race (the Campbelleville Crit) but by wearing my National Champion jersey, I didn't have to pay at all. How does that work? In any case, I found myself warming up (or trying to) on a cool Sunday morning with bib shorts and a somewhat breezy National Champion jersey. I immediately went back to the car to add more layers. I had brought an extra jersey so I wore that under my Champion's jersey and added arm warmers and leg warmers. I considered I may be overdressed but I hated being cold especially in the rain. Been there and done that, as recently as the Toras Mor this past May, and wasn't interested in doing it again. I also wanted to try and get more air into my tires but was having trouble with the valve extensions leaking air and so left them as they were. But I wasn't entirely happy doing the race on soft tires.

At the pre-race instructions (2nd from left), proudly wearing my Champion's jersey.

As with the previous 3 road races, I was doing this one with my team mate, Marco. And, as per usual, Marco was right up near the front as we rolled through the 2.5 mile neutral zone while I rode a little further back trying to stay out of the wind. Actually, at one point during the neutral zone, Marco even tried to roll off the front but the peleton were having none of that (even during the neutral zone). The race proper officially started once we made the left turn onto Song Lake Road but the pace didn't really change much until we made a right turn onto Song Mountain Road. Then the pace began to get hard. Going up the mountain (it wasn't so much a mountain as a long hill), I found myself putting in quite an effort in order to stay near the front. Looking down at my power meter, at one point, I noted I was well over 300 Watts. "What's going on," I wondered? "I don't remember this climb in the course profile," I thought. No sooner had the thought passed than a motorcycle escort rode by us to head off the pace car which had, apparently, taken us off course. "Oh well," I thought, "an extra kilometer of climbing for free".

Start and first loop around the course:

Once back on course, we continued our easy tail-wind assisted pace south along Song Lake Road past Preble Road. Oops, the pace car took us off course again. We turned around to get back to the turn at Preble Road where we headed West before another right onto Ottisco Valley Road and into a head wind. The attacks started almost immediately, despite there being a strong head wind. A Premium Mortgage Cycling Team rider went off the front. He didn't stay away long but, undeterred, he tried again a short while later. This time, the peleton seemed content to let him hang out off the front. Myself, I stayed hidden from the wind about 10 riders back but keeping a watchful eye on proceedings. Marco continued to mix it up at or near the front. Over the next several kilometers, Velo Racing Solutions, Dan Staffo, launched a few probing attacks without really making an effort to bridge up to the solo ride out front. I think he was waiting for someone to join him which, actually, was the smart thing to do. Eventually, on one of his probes, somebody did join him. It was Marco.

From my position, 10 riders or so back, I watched as Marco bridged up to Staffo."Damn," I thought. We had talked about this, trying to make something happen on the opening lap, on the drive down. Or rather, Marco had talked about it. I was against it as it meant attacking into a headwind, preferring instead to wait until the 2nd time up the climb on lap 2. But it looked like Marco was going for it so I eased my way up the shoulder until close to the front before launching my attack in an effort to bridge up to the pair out front. They weren't yet that far up the road and so bridging was fairly easy. Looking back I was somewhat surprised at no reaction from the peleton. They were probably of the mind that it was senseless to attack into a headwind. Personally, I shared that view yet here I was in a 3-man break attempting to bridge up to a fourth. You could not, however, say that the break was working well together. Staffo persisted in attacking the two of us. The first couple of times, we brought him back but on the 3rd attack I let him go to see what he would do. Damned if he wasn't trying to bridge up to the Premium ride out front. And it looked like he was going to make it. Which meant having to again work a little harder to close the gap. So Marco and I worked together and slowly reeled him in but not before he reached the rider out front. "I'm going to close the gap," I said to Marco as I took my turn on the front. I put in a solid dig to close the gap to the two out front. I looked back just before reaching them to make sure Marco was still with me. He wasn't. "Crap," I thought, "I did it again." I had a habit of dropping break-away companions by not rotating smoothly and it looks like I had just done it again. I hooked up with Staff and the Premium ride but sat on their wheels instead of working with them. They didn't much like it but I was waiting for Marco. Unfortunately, we made the right turn onto Oak Hill Road before Marco had bridged.

Starting the climb, I had a dilemna. "Do I go with them or wait for Marco?" I elected to wait. "Go Richard!" Marco yelled at me. But I had already made my decision. I waited and together we started the climb. But with Marco having just expended a lot of energy trying to close the gap just prior to the climb, he didn't have much left for the climb itself and the gap to the two leaders continued to stretch out. Looking back, I could see the peleton just starting the climb, about 500 meters back. I continued to set a steady but not too hard tempo up the hill, hoping that Marco would recover. About halfway up the climb, we were passed by another Premium Mortgage rider, Spencer Perry. I attached myself to his wheel hoping that Marco would do the same. But as Marco drifted off the back I heard him again repeat, "Go Richard!", and this time I went.

Man did I suffer. Spencer Perry was very young and very light. He couldn't have been more than 130 pounds. And he was strong. He just kept churning the pedals up the climb with absolutely no relief for me. "That's it," I thought on more than one occasion, "I'm done!". Wearing two jerseys, arm warmers, and leg warmers, I was definitely overdressed and was overheating. My O2 consumption was through the roof and I wasn't getting enough. But I held out for just a little while longer each time and managed to stay on his wheel. Once we reached the top, there was a bit of a flat section followed by a descent during which I was able to somewhat recover but a second climb was looming and I wasn't looking forward to that. But before reaching the 2nd climb, we were joined by a 3rd rider. "Where are these guys coming from", I wondered? Looking at him as he took a place in our rotation, I saw that he too was young and light. It was fortunate for me that he joined us because Perry dropped us on the 2nd climb and having someone to work with enabled the two of us to catch back on once the climb was done. Working together, the 3 of us then quickly closed the gap to Staffo and the other Premium rider.

With 5 of us working together and aided by a strong tail wind, our pace along this SE portion of the course was quite high. I personally wanted to push it even more but was basically asked to "cool it" by the other guys in the break. We passed the front Pro Women's group, shortly after making the turn onto Preble Road for the trip back up the NW portion of the loop but were caught not long after that by a chase group from our race. This was both good and bad. It was bad, of course, because our break-away was caught. But good because Marco was in the chasing group. After the catch, the pace slowed to a crawl and the Pro Women's pack passed us back. And though, physically, it felt good to not be racing (because racing hurts), it was hard mentally because we were in a race and "we should be racing, damn it," I thought. I looked down at my heart rate at one point during this stretch to see it was only 85 bpm which I thought was somewhat ridiculous. But eventually, we reached the turn onto Oak Hill Road where I prepared myself mentally to again dig deep.

As we negotiated the sharp turn, I rode over some rough pavement. "That didn't feel good," I thought. Sure enough, just as we started the climb, I felt the familiar feel of rim against pavement. My rear tire had gone flat. With soft tires, I had pinch-flatted on the rough pavement. "Go Marco!," I yelled, "I've flatted". He turned in acknowledgement and continued with the pack as I waited for the wheel vehicle.

"What's wrong," the wheel mechanic asked me?

"Flat tire!," I responded.

"Do you have wheels in," he asked? I shook my head. "Sorry, it's wheels-in, wheels-out," he replied.

"That's different," I thought. It was my experience from every other race I had done that "wheels-in, wheels-out" meant that if you got a flat you might get your own wheel, if indeed you had put wheels in the wheel vehicle, or you might get somebody else's wheel. I had never before been refused aid. "Is there a sweep vehicle," I asked?

"Yeah, the sweep vehicle should pick you up," he replied. Before leaving, he took my race number and then he was gone, leaving me wondering what to do next.

"Might as well try and get comfortable," I thought to myself. There was a guard rail a little further up the hill and I made my way there. After leaning my bike against the guard rail, I settled onto the shoulder and leaned back against the guard rail to begin my wait for the sweep vehicle. "At least it's not raining," I thought. In fact, the sun was trying to poke it's way through the overcast and it actually began to feel nice out. But that didn't last long, The clouds returned and it again got surprisingly cold. I was glad of my extra layers. I huddled from the wind against the protection of the guard rail and continued to wait.

I waited for about an hour, maybe less, until the Cat 3 peleton churned by. The wheel vehicle attached to that race stopped to ask if I needed anything. "I'm waiting for the sweep vehicle," I replied.

"It should be just a little ways back," he responded before driving on. I went back to waiting.

It wasn't long before the Men's Pro race peleton rode by. It was a fairly large pack with two race vehicles. The first vehicle, laden with bikes and wheels on the roof, was clearly the wheel vehicle. Behind it, four ways flashing, was a full-size SUV which I assumed to be the sweep vehicle. "Finally," I thought to myself. I stood as the peleton rode by in anticipation of the sweep vehicle stopping. It didn't!

"What the heck," I wondered out loud? I watched the large black SUV disappear up the climb and around the bend. "Maybe that wasn't the sweep vehicle," I asked myself doubtfully. I turned around to look back along the course. The view across Otisko Lake, one of the Eastern-most of the Finger Lakes, was actually quite nice. From my vantage point I had a clear view of the course. "There must be riders that had been dropped from the Men's Pro race. Maybe the sweep vehicle was behind the last of those," I hoped. I remained standing for awhile, on the lookout for dropped riders before the sky once again clouded over and the wind picked up forcing me to huddle back down behind the guard rail.

There weren't many dropped riders. A couple, maybe more. I don't really remember. I sat awhile longer after the last pair of dropped riders had ridden by before checking the time on my Garmin once again. By my calculation, it had been about an hour and a half since I had flatted. "Where is that wheel vehicle," I wondered? Glancing back down the hill, I noticed the Marshall who was stationed at the turn onto the hill was packing up his gear. "That doesn't bode well," I thought.

Over the next hour, several people stopped their cars to ask if I was alright and whether I needed help. A couple of very friendly women who had earlier walked passed me stopped on their way back to see if I needed help. "I'm taking you home to my place," one of them insisted. "You can't stay out here all day," she said. But I figured the best course of action was to stay put. I didn't have my mobile with me (mistake one) and didn't even recall the name of the town we had parked in. No, the best thing to do was to stay put until Marco came to find me. I politely declined, thanking them profusely and went back to waiting.

It had been 2 1/2 hours and still no sign of Marco. With lots of time on my hands, I ran some scenarios through my head. I estimated it could be more than a 15 minute drive to the start line where Marco was parked. He would assume I'd have gotten a wheel from wheel support. But by now, he must know that something wasn't right. So next, he'd think, like I did, I'd be picked up by the sweep vehicle. "He may have podium-ed," I thought "in which case, that would keep him side-tracked for awhile." "But 2 1/2 hours?" Then I remembered how Marco is with directions. "Oh great," I thought,"he's probably lost". I went back to waiting.

I was just thinking how glad I was to have added the extra layers of clothing when it began to rain. It wasn't heavy but with the cool temperatures and stiff wind off the lake, it suddenly got quite cold. By now, my head tilted up the road at every approaching vehicle. "Nope, Marco doesn't drive a pickup". Audi S6, "yeah, he wishes!" Nineteen eighties Honda Accord... "How the heck is that thing still on the road?" At some point I got tired of looking. That's when Marco finally arrived


  • I heard Marco's side of the story on the drive back. "I was still out on the course," was what he was told. What he wasn't told was that I was out on the side of the road with a flat tire with no means of getting back. He got suspicious that something was seriously amiss when they started packing things up back at the race site.
  • Marco did indeed get lost while trying to find me but was able to retrace his steps and get back on course.
  • Dan Staffo won the Masters 35+ race. Spencer Perry who came second overall in the break that had formed the 2nd time up the climb and earned enough points to be promoted to Cat 3. He deserved it, he is a strong, young rider who I expect has many more podiums in his future.
  • .Yes, I would do the race again. Though there were some holes in the organization, it's a great course and very friendly atmosphere. The race is run mostly by volunteers so you can't really fault them. Next time, I'm carrying a spare tube and cartridge along with my mobile. I'll also be putting wheel in, in future.
  • Marco came 3rd in the Masters 35+ race.

Third place for Marco (far left).

Thursday, June 16, 2016

2016 Nationals Road Race

Sitting, in and of itself, has never really appealed to me. Fishing, watching baseball, yoga... these are activities I avoid. There are, however, two circumstances that elevate "sitting" to the top of my list of pastimes. One: after a really hard bike ride or race. The other: just prior to a race. Under both circumstances, I'm content to sit for hours on end. I'm not completely clear on the cause of this phenomenon but I'm fairly sure it has something to do with suffering. So it was on the start line of the 2016 Canadian Masters D Road Championships in St. Calixte, Quebec. I felt I'd rather be sitting.

I didn't sit, of course. Instead, I tried to busy my mind, surveying my competitors to pick out who were the "gamers". Peter Kofman was over by the barrier at the front of the pack. I knew he'd be game for trying to make something happen. Beside him, also on the front row a couple of riders over, was another very fit looking guy, Jim Laird, who also looked game. There was a guy, a couple of rows behind Kofman, in short sleeved jersey and shorts, no arm warmers, no leg warmers. On this 10 degree morning, I wore leg warmers, a long sleeved fleece-lined jersey plus vest and full fingered gloves and I was practically shivering. "That guy won't last long," I thought. I was wrong!

My strategy for this race was fairly simple. My plan was to "suffer" with the expectation that doing so would cause others to also suffer. The last thing I wanted was for this thing to finish in a bunch sprint with everyone on fairly fresh legs. The more suffering I could impose, the better for me.

The race finally started (after a 20 minute delay) and we cruised to the first corner of the 16 km loop and the first climb of the day affectionately nicknamed "the wall". This first time up the wall, the pack pretty much stayed intact with everyone still on fresh legs. About 3 km later was another wall followed by a crazy fast descent and then another hill which could be taken in the big ring and as such was not really a factor. The next couple of kilometers were reasonably flat and then a left turn onto another screaming descent at the bottom of which was a wooden-planked bridge followed by a couple more left turns that had us heading back towards town. The route back to town was mostly flat but with a bit of a crosswind which turned into more of a headwind the closer we got to town.

First time up the wall with Robert Anderson to my left.

The second time up "the wall", four of us got a gap: "Mr. bare arms and legs", Peter Kofman, some other guy, and myself. We got into a rotation, thanks in large part to Kofman getting the group organized, and opened a comfortable gap fairly quickly. I soon realized that "Mr bare arms" was Robert Anderson, winner of the TT the previous day and former National Champion (apparently 9x National Champion). He was clearly very strong. The 4th guy in our group, not so much, as he would skip a turn every so often so either he was faking it or he was struggling. My money was on "struggling". He was a bigger guy so I figured the climbing was exacting its toll. All of which meant I was in line for a podium spot. "Stop that," I said to myself, "don't count your chickens." I focused on following wheels and taking turns. That second lap was hard work but we did stay away from the main pack... barely.

The 3rd time up "the wall", we were about halfway up the climb when the main peleton swarmed the bottom as one. "Holy crap," I thought, "they're closer than I realized". Seeing the main pack so close injected a sense of urgency into my climbing and I reached the summit a few meters behind Anderson who was first to the top. He turned and tapped his rear end for me to latch on. I looked back to see Kofman a few meters further back. At first, I hesitated, preferring to be in a three-man break than a two-man break. But the distance to Kofman was greater than the distance to Anderson so I made my decision and surged up to Anderson. Anderson then took a good long pull that allowed me to recover from my effort as well as putting some distance between ourselves and the rest of the pack. The remaineder of the lap saw us alternating turns at the front with strong but steady pulls.

Anderson drilled it, the 4th time up "the wall" giving me pause to wonder whether he was trying to drop me. He drilled it again on the 2nd wall a couple of km later. But as hard as the effort was, I was able to match it. My attempts to lose weight over the Winter hadn't gone so well but my training had progressed very well and my 5 minute power, which has always been my best asset, was solid. "If Anderson was going to drop me anywhere", I thought, "it wasn't going to be on a climb". I surged to the front, after cresting the wall #2, to take the lead down the descent. Anderson and I seemed to have worked out a fairly efficient division of labour but one thing I noticed was that I was a better descender and so I made sure to be on the front for each of the two long descents. I also seemed better at cornering and so also took to the front ahead of each of the sharp left turns; there were about four of them. The rest of the time, we just alternated and pushed on. We weren't given any time gaps and so, not knowing how much (or how little) an advantage we had, we pressed on as hard as we could manage without completely imploding. But by the end of the 4th lap, I was beginning to feel the fatigue setting in.

We didn't have this information and so kept pedaling scared.

Apparently, Anderson was also beginning to feel the effects of fatigue because the 5th time up "the wall" he was noticeably slower. This suited me as it allowed me to better manage my effort. I think we both backed off a little for that 5th lap.

The last time up "the wall", I actually dropped Anderson and had to wait for him at the top. Coach would probably have not approved. I can hear him now, "Why you wait?" But not knowing how far back the main pack was, I stuck with the known. We had worked together well up to this point at holding the hounds at bay so I waited.

Anderson doing his turn at the front.

The rest of the last lap was easier mentally because it was the last lap but harder physically. I started to feel twinges in my calves as we got closer to town, especially during my pulls at the front, and wondered what I'd have left when it came time to contest for the win. I wondered how things were going to play out. I didn't think Anderson would try and attack me because clearly he was as tired as I was. But a pattern had developed over the previous laps whereby I would take the lead at the sharp left hander about 2 km from the finish. Anderson would then take over on the long stretch leading up to the Mac's Milk and I would again take over into the headwind. Anderson would again take over on the run-in to the start/finish. True to form, with 2 km to go, we both fell into the same pattern. I took the front into the headwind as we approached the last turn before the start/finish. I backed off a little, as we approached the final turn. I heard Anderson's gears click and similarly switched into a bigger gear. Anderson attacked the turn and I jumped on his wheel. I came around him about halfway to the finish line, handily beating him to the line. I heard my name broadcast over the loudspeaker. "Did that just happen?" I asked myself.

Last time across the start/finish line.

Coasting past a traffic cop, she asked: "Did you win?"

"I think so!" I responded, still unable to comprehend what had just happened.

The next hour or so was surreal. I kept waiting for someone to discover a mistake had been made. But nothing happened. I had won!

Robert Anderson (left), Me (center), Jim Laird (right).
1st place:
Richard Westwood / Kurzawinski Coach
temps 2:45.05
2nd place: Robert Anderson /Team Specialized
temps 2:45.05
3rd place:
James Laird / Peak Valley Racing team /Vancouver.
temps 2:50.57

After the race, I stuck around to watch Marco race in the Master C event. I volunteered as wheel mechanic for one of the support vehicles and so had a good vantage point from which to witness his race unfold. Three-plus hours of sitting in the support vehicle followed by a 6 more hours of sitting for the drive home. What bliss :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

2016 Killington Stage Race

With a number of competing races scheduled for the same weekend, including the Grey County Road Race in Ontario and the GP Val-David in Quebec, numbers were down for the Green Mountain Stage so the race director made the decision to cancel the individual Masters Age group categories. We were offered the choice of having our entry fee refunded or move to the Master Men 4/5. While disappointed at not racing in my own age group, the prospect of racing together with Andy D'Angelo and Marco sounded like fun. A few emails went back and forth between Andy, Marco, and I, we all all agreed on the move to Master Men 4/5. Having done the same race in separate categories two years previously, I was really relishing the idea of the three of us actually racing together as a team. Andy had done well in the Sprint competition that year, before getting relegated for touching the yellow line, so we thought he had a pretty good shot at earning the Green Jersey this year. Racing together would give Marco and I the opportunity to try and work for Andy to secure that jersey.


Friday morning, Marco and I received an email from Andy:
You guys don't happen to have an extra left shimano shifter? Mine seems jammed damn. 
A short while later, another email:
Guys think I'm screwed.. Left shifter's messed up... obviously no time fix. Take off without me.. don't want to hold you up. 
"Crap," I thought to myself, "this sucks!". The weather forecast for the 3 days was bad enough news. Now this! "Oh well," I thought, "I guess it's just me and Marco."

A couple of hours into our drive, we had crossed the border and well on our way to Killington when we got another email from Andy:
You guys on the road already? Figured out what's wrong.. works finally.
"Alright," I yelled out loud, "we got our sprinter back!" Marco and I were both happy about that.

Getting to Killington took awhile. We left before 7:00 but didn't get there until 4:00. The drive along I90 went pretty quick but things really slowed down once we left the main highway. It seemed everyone and their cousin had left for the Memorial Day weekend. We sat helpless as our ETA gradually stretched from 2:40 PM to 4-something. I stopped looking after awhile. We did eventually get there, with Andy arriving just 2 hours later.

The view from our chalet.


The forecast for Saturday was for rain but it looked like it was going to hold off until later in the day which suited the three of us just fine. We could deal with Sunday and Monday`s rain later but it would be nice to at least start the stage race with some sun. Our race didn`t start until 9:20 so we had plenty of time to strategize. There really wasn`t all that much to strategize about at this point. There was one intermediate sprint and there was the finish and both came at the end of the same fast downhill. In all likelihood, Andy would be left on his own to freelance but Marco and I could at least mark any potential breaks. We had fun devising different scenarios.

Unloading the bikes for the start of Stage 1.

On the start line for Stage 1 wondering whether I`m ready.

Stage 1 consisted of 2 laps of a |30k circuit. The first 11k of Stage 1 was easy downhill with everyone content just to sit in the pack. But after turning the corner onto Route 100A, the pace gradually increased for 10k to the top of the KOM. The first time up the climb took some effort but wasn`t too tough.

Getting ready to go (unsuccessfully) for the 1st KOM.

Andy and Marco hanging tough at the top of the KOM.

After the KOM there was a fast descent and then more climbing before a fast 5k downhill to the finish line. The first time past the finish line was the intermediate sprint and it seemed that after the KOM one of the "Tall Socks" guys had it in his mind to try taking the sprint solo. The pack let him hang out there for awhile but once we started the long downhill, he was quickly reeled in. I attacked right away as soon as we had brought the "Tall Socks" guy back with Andy jumping onto my wheel. We got a gap and stayed away until about 1k to go. I hung in there until 500 m to go and then I was gassed. Andy finished it off for the intermediate sprint.

The second time up the KOM climb was tougher. A group of 3 guys got away and, though they didn't look too threatening at first, they gradually began to eek out a sizeable gap. "There go Andy's sprint points up the road," I thought. I was halfway back in the pack at this point and had to go onto the shoulder to move up to the front. "On your right," I called as I moved up towards the front of the pack. I attacked the pack as soon as I reached the front to prevent anyone from easily getting onto my wheel and did an all out effort for about a minute to try and establish my own gap before settling into a more reasonable rhythm. Upon reaching the break, I just sat on wheels. Apparently, my bridging up to the break injected some pace into the pack and the break was quickly brought back. The pack may have eventually brought the break back on their own but I wasn't taking any changes.

After the 2nd KOM, the pace for the next climb was much harder than the first time up. Marco was vigilant at the front of the pack to make sure nobody got away while I stayed a few riders back with Andy just behind me. I kept checking every once in awhile to make sure our star sprinter was still there and when all of a sudden he wasn't I tried to look further back. Andy wasn`t in sight. "What the heck?" I pulled onto the shoulder and eased up to allow the pack to pass. Andy was at the very back. 

"Rich, my calf cramped up," he said.

By this time, the road was starting to flatten out. "You ok now?" I asked

"I hope so," he answered but he didn't look to confident.

"Come behind me on this side," I said. Andy dutifully moved in behind me while I brought him back up towards the front of the pack. As we neared the front, the shoulder gave way to broken-up asphalt so I eased onto the main road but no sooner had I merged when the guy to my left changed his line in front of me forcing me back onto the crap asphalt. "Pstttttttttttttt..." the sound of air leaving my tire was the last thing I wanted to hear. 

"Fuckkkkkkkkkk," I yelled in frustration. I passed through the rest of the crap asphalt before pulling over. Fortunately, the SRAM wheel car was right behind me and, in record time, the guy replaced my rear wheel with a brand new Zipp. But the pack were well on their way to the sprint finish by the time I got going again. "Out of contention again," I thought. Ironically, the same thing happened two years earlier where I flatted in roughly the same location. I crossed the line 1:13 behind the main back.
After crossing the finish line, I found Andy and Marco. "How'd you do?" I asked, doubtfully.

"I got it," he answered.

"YES!" I yelled out loud. My mood went from downbeat to elation in a fraction of a second.

Andy gets down low for the sprint win.

Andy takes both the leaders jersey and the sprint jersey on Stage 1.


It rained through the night but fortunately the rain had stopped by Sunday morning. Sunday`s Queen stage didn't start until 9:10, again leaving us plenty of time in the morning to strategize. Andy had 18 points from taking both sprints on day 1. It was possible that he already had the Green jersey locked up but if 2nd place was taken by the same guy each time then he wasn`t out of the woods yet so to speak. Checking the results, we saw that indeed Mathew Payne of Jordan Racing had taken 2nd place both times. There were 6 points up for grabs on stage 2 with 4 and 3 points, respectively, available for whoever took 2nd and 3rd in the sprint. With Andy at 18 pts and Mathew at 12 pts, if Mathew won the intermediate sprint on and Andy was shut out then he could lose the jersey. We devised a plan for Marco or me to try and break away early to scoop up the intermediate sprint win. If we were chased down, in all likelihood it would be the Jordan team doing the chasing and Andy would have the luxury of sitting on wheels until the sprint. If they didn`t chase us down then we would scoop the points and Andy would have a lock on the jersey.

Andy was in a pretty good mood to start Stage 2.
It`s customary for the jersey wearers to be called to the front at the start of stage 2 so Andy and the winner of the polkadot jersey, Travis Burleson, were called up. Marco and I occupied positions at the front of the pack and the three of us rode at the front through the neutral zone and up to the start of the first climb which came about 5k in.

The leaders jersey and KOM jersey at the front of the start line.
The first climb wasn`t particularly steep but at 3 km long it wasn`t short. One thing we wanted to guard against was the possibility of someone attacking the first climb and causing a gap so Marco went to the front and set a steady tempo which just hard enough to discourage anyone from jumping off the front. While Marco set tempo at the front, I dropped back to mark Andy's nemesis. I found him at the back of the pack with the rest of his team mates. I seemed to blend right in which surprised me. I figured that, like us, the other team would have been strategizing about how to take the Green jersey from Andy's shoulders but it wasn't until about 15k to the sprint point that I over heard them talking about it. I couldn't make out what they were saying but it was clear that they were devising some sort of plan on the fly. With about 5k to go, Payne and his team mates began to make their way towards the front which was my cue to find Andy and Marco.

I found Andy and Marco at the front of the pack with Marco still setting a steady tempo and Andy on his wheel. I thought to take my turn and took over from Marco with Andy and Marco just behind me. "Let him go," I heard Marco say to Andy. Without turning my head and steadily pushed on. After about a minute, I looked back, somewhat surprised I had a gap. I pushed on while steadily increasing my power. I had just passed the 3k to go (to the intermediate sprint point) sign so knew I could maintain about a 5-minute interval power. I kept checking back but nobody chased. I heard from the guys afterwards that, apparently, the plan devised by the other team must have consisted of watching Andy because by the time they thought about the guy up the road it was too late. I took the intermediate sprint and, with it, the 6 points available. Mathew Payne was mathematically eliminated.

Kurzawinski scooped the intermediate sprint points to secure the Green jersey.
Shortly after the intermediate sprint, the road makes a sharp right onto North road for the start of the first KOM. This was the last we saw of Andy which was fine. His job was done. For the next 7k, Marco and I struggled to maintain contact with the front of the race. Over the course of the KOM climb, the pack split into 3 groups with around 10 guys in the front group, another 15 in the 2nd group, of which Marco and I were a part of, and the rest behind us. Marco was able to bridge back to the front group before the top of the climb. Fortunately, for me, the 2nd group similarly bridged back up to the front group on the subsequent descent. I dodged a bullet there. So by the time we got back into the valley leading to the base of the final climb. Marco and I were together with a large front pack of around 25 guys. 

With around 5k to go before the base of the final climb, I heard the familiar "Psssttttttt..." Only it wasn't me this time, it was Marco. Of all the luck... I stopped, for two reasons. I wasn`t sure where the neutral support was and I had a spare tube and CO2 cartridge. It wouldn't have done any good because I had clinchers and Marco had Tubulars but I didn't know that at the time. The 2nd reason was to help Marco to bridge back up to the front of the pack. Neutral support wasn't too far behind so Marco was able to get going without losing too much time. I was prepared to work with him to try and bridge back to the front pack but just as we got going, the 2nd pack of around 15 guys zoomed by
us. We quickly jumped on that train and worked with them to close the gap to the front group. By the time we reached the base of the final climb. we had reached the front group. 

The final climb was ~9k and ~25 min of agony. The day was really heating up by that time and, with no wind, the heat played a factor. I started the climb riding with Marco but while, he had a Compact crank, I had stuck with my 53-11 and so had to climb at my own pace. While I wasn't able to stick with the top 5 guys, I did finish within 10 seconds of the next five, taking 9th place on the stage. Marco struggled, with his replacement wheel having a strange cassette configuration on which the smallest gears were too large for his chain and had to do the climb in too large a gear. He still managed a respectable 14th on the stage. Andy finished, 25 minutes later, well down in the standings as is customary for the Green jersey bringing up the lantern rouge :)

Nearly at the finish line (I'm 3rd wheel. Not sure what I was looking at.)
Marco at the finish of Stage 2.

Andy on the podium again for hanging on to the green jersey.

Celebrating Andy securing the Green jersey.

Sunday's Stage 3 TT was pretty much a formality. Technically, Andy did need to finish the stage to officially keep the Green jersey but neither Marco or I had much chance of a GC podium spot. For each of us, it was more a matter of seeing what we could do. The forecast again was for rain but again the rain held off and instead turned into a gorgeous day. We all finished the TT within the top 15 and the race was done by 9:45. Can't beat that! We did have to wait until 12:45 though because Andy was on the podium AGAIN. But the waiting wasn't too hard to take while sipping some freshly brewed Long Trail beer. 

Andy on the podium for one last time.