So if you’ve ever wondered if collegiate racing is good prep for an NRC stage race, let me tell you, not quite. Since in the college races I was just able to smash my head against the wall and do well without worrying too much about tactics, I was a little rusty in that department.
Joe Martin is a 4 day stage race in North West Arkansas, Starts with a 2.5 mile uphill TT, then two road races, and finally a crit of death. It is also on the National Race Calender (NRC), which meant all the P-R-O teams were there (their A-teams too)
The Panther team had a full squad, Troy Wells guest rode for us and filled our 8th spot.
There are two things I don’t enjoy in bike racing, hills you cant sprint over, and time trials. So in day 1’s uphill time trial, I just wanted to not get time cut…which I didn’t since nobody did. Ryan and I finished with practically the same time, and narrowly avoided getting beat by the girls.
Stage two is a 110 mile race that does a big giant loop around some mountains and such. It also passes over Mt. Gaylor, the big daddy of the entire race.
The race started out really fast, as in I’ve never used my 53×11 that much in my entire life fast. We had a pretty decent tailwind which made it pretty hard. Through the first feed zone there was a decent climb, this split the field with 40 riders in the front group. I made it into this front group and things were pretty fast for a while. Then we turned into a long crosswind section and everyone slowed WAY down, and little attacks started going. One by one a large group formed off the front.
Then the field caught us once we turned back into the wind. We then caught the breakaway, not a mile later another breakaway went off with 16 riders which stayed away till the finish.
I thought we’d for sure be field sprinting, however I didn’t realize that since the Giant California Strawberry team had the lead, there’d be no serious chase to catch the breakaway. Not that they weren’t trying, but there’s not much their four man team could have done.
Then with about 20 k to go , I flatted my rear. I stayed pretty cool, got a SRAM neutral wheel and paced back on through the caravan. Now, let me tell you, going through the caravan may look easy when you see it in Le Tour, but that is by far the hardest I rode the entire race (might explain my poor TT time)
So I finally caught back on to the field and immediately hit an expansion joint in a bridge and pinch flatted the SRAM wheel.
So I go back again, SRAM passes and makes me wait for our team car. I get a wheel change, but this time I was waaaay outside the caravan. I could barely see the ambulance (last vehicle of the caravan) by the time I got back on the bike. So I did what any P-R-O would do, I held onto the team car, and ‘paced’ my way back to the caravan at 50 mph. Once we reached the ambulance I did have to ride myself through the caravan again.
I ended up back on the field with 5 km to go, and was totally gassed and got popped off the back in the finishing climb.
Another long road race, only this time it was a lolly pop with three circuits. Each circuit had a pretty substantial climb.
This stage was more what I had expected from an NRC race. Now that a Jamis, a full squad, had the lead they controlled the race.
I thought that big races like this just let the breakaway get away early on, so I tried following a bunch of early attacks. By the time we had reached the first climb, the field was still all together, and I had drifted back to recover. Over the top of the climb the breakaway of course got away.
So the race was pretty simple from then on, just riding along at 30+ mph, no biggie.
Running back into the finish I moved up front for the sprint, my legs were totally gone by this point but I figured if I had good positioning I could at least get a decent result.
I was doing a pretty good job of staying up front when my front wheel started to go soft, not super flat, just a little flat. I briefly considered riding it out, but then figured eating it in the over 40 mph downhill sprint because of my soft tire would not be a good life choice, so I drifted to the back of the pack, which was pretty chill.
The final day’s crit had 12 corners and a giant hill. All I had to do to not get a DNF by my name was to make it 45 minutes.
I got a good start, but since I hadn’t raced any big crits this year my ability to jockey around and stay at the front of a technical crit like this really sucked, so I drifted back. Then I got gapped by one of the numerous crashes of the day.
Finally I got dropped and did a few recovery laps with Dan before we were told to get the hell off the course. We then promptly joined the large crowd that had gathered at the corner that everyone was crashing in.
All in all it was a great experience, I didn’t exactly go into the race in best shape being sick the week before but I sure will be faster because of it. And more importantly I’ll hopefully be smarter, and not do more of the dumb stuff I did in the race.