This was my first ever multi-day event. I wasn't sure how my body would react to multiple days of racing, well 2 days if you want to be exact. I drove down to Madera early on Saturday morning and quickly noticed that the north wind was ramping up. As I drove further south into the central valley of California the winds only seemed to get stronger. Any flags I saw were blown straight out and were whipping violently in the wind. I knew some major suffering on the bike was to be had today.
My first event, the criterium, my least favorite, was scheduled for just after 11AM. I arrived with plenty of time, found my team mates, and set up my trainer to get warmed up. After a nice warm up I was very nervous, but ready to get the racing under way. Of course, as typically happens, the races were running about 20-30 minutes behind. So we just continued our warm ups by cruising around the north end of the course, trying to stay loose and warm. Finally the race was under way. This was a basic 4 corner crit, and the speeds started out pretty quickly in the 24-27 mph range. On the north and east sections of the course we experienced nice tail winds on wide open streets with good pavement. As we hit the south end of the course you turn into a nice cross head wind, and positioning was key. I decided to stay on the outside for the first few laps. Good protection from the wind, but bad position in that people kept swinging wide and pushing me out into the edge of the course where there was a line of orange cones. Some people hit the cones, and one went flying right into my path. Luckily it was laying sideways and I was able to roll right over it without incident. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hit the bottom (base) of the cone... Any ways, back to the action. I was feeling good and able to hang with the pace without any problems at all. This was a first for me. As I'm usually gasping for air at the back of the pack struggling to maintain contact. I even managed to find myself riding at the front of the pack, which is where you want to be anyways. Well not right on the front, but in the top 10. The finishing stretch of the course was a dead on into a 15-20mph headwind. As you made the last corner, position was key on the right side of the course. After a few laps I found myself feeling strong and took a wide line on the outside of one corner and just kept the gas on. Soon I found myself out in front of the pack. Nobody chased me, so I just kept going. I probably had a 5-10 second gap, and knew I would just get got so I started soft pedaling and was absorbed back into the pack. I sat in for a while and recovered, then did it again on the 2nd to last lap. This was my big mistake. I should have just continued to sit in but work my way up to the front. I rode the lap out front but when I hit the wind my solo attack was over. I managed to hang onto it across the start / finish line going into the final lap. As the pack swarmed me I couldn't quite hang on as they were ramping up the speed on the final lap. I did my best to catch back on, but ended up about 30 seconds behind coming into the finish. My team was all over the race, multiple attacks off the front and covered any breaks that tried to get away. We ended up with a 3rd and 7th and everyone else finished in the pack. Ok, first goal accomplished. Finished the crit, didn't crash and felt pretty good. After the race we rode the trainers for about 15 minutest to cool down and slammed the mandatory recovery drink.
Next up in the afternoon was the individual time trial. 10 miles on dead flat roads, as fast as you can go. But first it was off to get a sandwich and then to the hotel to relax for a bit. We had about 3 hours in between events which was just enough time for some stretching, bike maintenance and relaxing. Since I don't have a TT bike (yet..:-) I was on my standard road bike. I didn't even bother to get clip on aero bars. I'd tried them a couple years before and just found them too uncomfortable. You really need to dial in a position (adjust seat, handlebars, etc.) in order to be comfortable in aero bars or a TT bike for that matter. For this race though, I'd just decided to ride in the drops and do my best to keep a steady pace and not to explode. Did I mention the wind? Most of our start times for the TT were after 3PM, so we got the full on maximum effect. First 5 miles were mostly tail wind with a slight cross push. I was easily rolling along at 27-30 mph. These were farm roads, so while mostly smooth, there were some serious potholes that had to be avoided. It required intense concentration to look for the potholes, and pick a smooth line. As I made the 2nd to last turn into the wind it was a head cross wind from the right. Then the pain really set in. I went from 27-30 mph, down to barely able to maintain 17mph. The final right turn on to the finishing stretch was a dead on block headwind and my speed dropped even lower. At times I noticed it in the sub-16 range. Oh and thanks to some excellent information from team mates who rode the course earlier, the actual distance was 10.44 miles instead of 10.0 miles. So knowing that there was that extra .44 miles really helped pace out the effort in the end. I finished below 30 minutes for the 10.44 miles, and knew I'd lose considerable time here to everyone and their tricked out TT bikes, aero helmets and skin suits. Just as a reference the fastest pro rider clocked in a 20:39 - smokin!
After the TT we rushed back to the hotel for a quick shower then headed down to a nice Italian restaurant for a team dinner. Loaded up on pasta, lasagna and salad, and even had a couple of beers too! Great time but we were all pretty darn tired. Sleep was not an issue that night. It was a pretty funny sight though. 4 guys in one hotel room along with 7, yes 7 bikes!
For the 51 mile road race we had the plan to try and protect Matt's 2nd place overall GC position. We rode at the front to cover and breaks and basically just hovered around Matt for the first two laps. A couple of riders attempted to get away but they never got more than about 40-50 seconds and were swallowed up on the hills of the 2nd lap. There was a 2.5 mile section of road that was some of the roughest pavement I had ever seen. It was so rough water bottles were getting ejected left and right. Even heard stories of Powertap head units and Garmin 705s being popped off on the rough roads. On the final lap Team Bicycles Plus went to the front and drilled it through the rough section. Then we hit the hills and the attacks started. We were able to cover everything and Matt got the win and also secured the overall GC for the weekend. Mike scored a nice 3rd place in the road race as well.
For my first time at the Madera Stage Race I think I did pretty well. But most importantly I had a blast racing with my team mates. One thing is clear, the TT is a very critical stage of the race. This is where you win it or lose it.
Final GC Results
USA Cycling Results
I'm in this video in a few places, you'll have to watch to find out where! I think around 19:50 or something like that. Nothing too exciting, maybe just the last few minutes of the race. It's a good perspective of what it's like to be in a road race though!