The rest of Saguenay was more of the same. Since there was no Time Trail in the race or other decisive stage every stage came back to a field sprint.
The second stage, on paper, was easier than the first. However with a stiff cross wind just after the climb things were very tough. I was aggressive early, but it was pretty clear that things weren’t going to go easy, especially since Optum wasn’t going to try and defend the yellow jersey. My own race was made slightly more difficult when my front derailleur cable came loose. I dropped back to the car to tighten it up and got back fairly quickly. Unfortunately that was just going into the cross wind section when the field decided to split. And by decided to I really mean there was a large crash that split the field. I was gaped off by another rider ahead of me (didn’t quite get back front enough before we made the turn) and had to chase for a few K’s. When I got back to the group I saw that we had largely missed a 20 rider split, so we chased and brought back the group fairly quickly the next time up the climb. We then missed another smaller counter attack. We through in our hat to the chasing game again to bring the group back for Brecht to sprint. Going into the sprint we sort of had it lined up. I sprinted into the last corner that was at 800 meters to go and got into probably 10th wheel. Unfortunately Brecht had dropped his chain at that point, I sprinted in sitting down.
Saturday was a downtown criterium that was more of a circuit race. A 4 corner ordeal that was 2 km long, it wasn’t the most technical thing on earth, but even on this tame of a course those who could crit were quickly separated from those who couldn’t. There was a bubble up front of everyone racing (Mostly the American teams), a single file string of riders trying to race, then the rest of the guys just riding it in. I got into a big 15 or so rider move with Ryan and Brecht. We were riding pretty hard and got a decent gap, but the group was too big and unwieldy with too many passengers. We tried attacking the break to split things up a little to no avail and we were caught with about half the crit to go. We missed a 2 man move that went up with Eric Marcotte. We chased (again) and helped Optum bring it back. Stephen and I again tried to lead it out for Brecht but we got a little shuffled in the finish. I also took the front with 2 to go, which in retrospect was WAY too early (plus we were gassed from chasing).
The final stage was only 90 miles (so short) but had the most climbing of any of the previous courses, pretty much either climbing or descending for the entirety of the 6 mile course. I bridged across to a 3 man group with two Columbia riders and a Silber rider. We rolled through the first sprint point and lost one Columbia rider. Our 3 man group rode ok together, I may be wrong but I definitely felt like I was investing more energy into the move than the other two (probably a litte too enthusiastic on my part). Regardless we opened up to 2:30 over the field, until the field actually started racing and split, bringing down our gap fairly quickly. We got through the second sprint and I took it, then the following KOM, but we were caught by the top of the lap (KOM was only half way up).
Once we were caught I felt great initially and immediately followed some attacks (poor choice in retrospect), then quickly started fading after that. At that point with my bonus seconds I was sitting 7th overall in the race!!!! I had glimpses of stage race glory. That was until I came totally unglued with 2 laps to go. My cause was hurt by hitting a moderate pothole with a few laps to go that ejected my Garmin to somewhere in Canada (or picked up by another shady Euro team), and jacked up my handlebars into a old school 1980’s setup.
Overall a good experience. I felt like I raced more in this race than any NRC, UCI or whatever high level race I’d done before, on some particularly hard courses. Def a confidence boost. Maybe if I had raced a little smarter I would have actually achieved a result, but at the same time if I wasn’t aggressive I may not have gotten in that final break and gotten those bonus seconds. Better to be aggressive and fail miserably than be anonymous, I learn better that way.
The team also raced really friggin well. Not only were we super aggressive the entire time, but when we missed the moves we owned up and chased. We changed the outcome of the races nearly every day instead of being just passengers, it was awesome.