Ben warms up for the road race Texas style
Time for my first bigger race of the year, and only the second race total. After months of training, countless 6 hr days in the saddle, and nearly 5,000 miles of riding since the first of January it is finally time to start racing. It has been quite the journey from back home riding in the snow and on the trainer during December to sunny Tucson during January to riding at altitude in the mountains here in Silver City NM. Although my training has been going very well and I have been feeling good on the bike, you never really know where you are at until you line up on start line.
On the schedule for the weekend is the Fayetteville Stage race which I am going to do partially in hopes of qualifying for the Nature Valley Pro ride competition. The Fayetteville stage race is a well-run two day event in Eastern Texas consisting of a 70 mile road race on Saturday morning followed by a short 6.6 mile Individual Time Trial in the evening, and concluded with a 96 mile road race on Sunday.
The race is well known in Texas as one of the state’s biggest races which coupled with the fact that it is a Nature Valley Qualifier race this year resulted in a strong field. The Pro/1 field included a Kenda pro rider, Garmin development rider, as well as former Tour de France contender, white jersey winner, and current Mexican national TT champion...(Apparently Raul Alcala is making a return to cycling?), a rider from Columbia, and a couple of strong teams from the Texas area.
The first road race was a little tricky tactically because it was followed by the ever important time trial later in the day. My plan was to play it conservative to save energy for the time trial. This plan didn’t work out quite as planned when a small break that went nearly at the gun end up staying out to the finish which I was not expecting to have happen considering the size of some of the teams in the race. This was frustrating but I felt good in the race and was in a serious two man effort to bridge to the break with the Kenda rider but the pack decided it wouldn’t be a great idea to let us stay out and we were caught after about 15 miles. The break ended up gaining about three minutes on the field on the day.
I was looking forward to the time trial coming into the race as I have always done well in time trials and about a month ago I got my first real time trial bike. With some of my goals for the season being bigger stage races later in the year, along with the elite national time trial championships, I have been spending a lot of time on the new bike in training and was excited to try it out in a race situation. The course was just under seven miles with several corners, hills, and a very strong wind on race day. I got in a solid warm up and felt good during the race catching my 30 sec man and nearly my minute man but felt I could have gone a bit harder for such a short course. When the results came out, I had finished in 3rd place just off the leaders (4 sec to second place). For the time of the year, and the fact that I am just getting out of base training and getting dialed in on a new bike, I was very happy with the result. And I had beaten a solid field including the Kenda rider, Garmin development rider, and the Tour de France contender (sure some would argue that he is not at his prime at the age of 47...) by nearly two minutes in a 14 min TT. Unfortunately the early break in the road race was still hurting my GC hopes and I sat at 7th place even after the good time trial.
Going into Sunday’s road race I knew I needed to do go on the offensive if I wanted to move up in the GC and have a shot at getting the Nature Valley Pro ride. I ended up getting in a four man break in the first 20 miles of the race after bridging a two minute gap solo to an existing three man. There were a couple of strong riders in the break and for the next 60 miles we worked very well together and had a nearly 5 minute gap at one point and with about 30 miles to go it looked like the break would actually stick. A couple of my breakaway companions began to crack at this point and we ended up with only me and the Columbian contributing to the pace and a strong chase from behind that had dwindled the field down to only 20 riders. We were caught with only 15-20 miles to the finish but I still felt good enough to make the final 15 man selection and finish the stage in 7th place. This result maintained my GC position of 8th overall which was not bad for one of my first races of the year. Getting caught so close to the finish was disappointing but the hard effort in the breakaway provided a perfect training situation for harder stage races such as the Tour of the Gila which will be here soon. After putting in another two hours of training solo after the race a perfect weekend of training was in the books.
With my first race and a solid result under my belt I am feeling good and it is back to Silver City to continue preparing for future races by training at altitude in the mountainous terrain. Only after a day of recovery at the beach on the Gulf of Mexico however...
Notice that Ben scared away any surrounding sun bathers.