Last weekend some of the Cat 4 men (Aaron, Bryan, Glenn, James, Kevin, Scott, and myself) descended upon Graford, TX to participate in the Mineral Wells Stage Race. This new event on the racing calendar was particularly intriguing because it offered rolling enclosures for the road race and a Team GC category. A stage race adds some additional variables to the racing equation and we knew that it would be necessary for us to be on the same page. We agreed before we left that our primary goal would be to win the Team GC competition for this race.
Let me just go ahead and get this piece out of the way...the weather sucked. I think Glenn described it best when he said, "Get dressed, jump in a cooler, turn a fan on, and have someone spray you with water from a garden hose." All weekend long the weather would be cold, windy, and raining. Everything I own is wet and I think every bearing in my bike needs to be replaced.
The first stage was a 50 mile road race (2 x 25 mile loop) with one big climb. 5, 3, and 1 point sprint bonuses were up for grabs at the Start/Finish of lap 1 and 5, 3, and 1 point King of the Mountain bonuses were available at the top of the climb on lap 2. A bad strategy and even worse execution of that strategy (my fault) would doom us in this race and our best placed finisher was Scott in 12th place. The only high point of this race is that I managed to place first in the intermediate sprint. We went back to the hotel, cleaned up, and tried to get mentally and physically prepared before going back out in the elements for the time trial.
Stage 2 was a 6.3 mile time trial that started with slight rise, descended for a bit, and then ended with 1.5 mile climb. I expected to see some bikes with aero bars installed but I was surprised to see how many people showed up with time trial bikes, skin suits, and aero helmets. Clearly these riders were taking this stage more seriously than I was. Glenn, by far, had the best ride of the team and he placed a very impressive 10th against some much better prepared (read: equipped) riders. If I ever do another time trial, I will be sure to install aero bars and—based on some studies I have read—probably wear an aero helmet.
Going into stage 3's road race (same rules and course as stage 1), we were out of the running for any individual GC honors, and in second place on the team GC by 16 points. We knew our primary goal (the team GC) was still in reach if we would just ride a smart race and place 3 people “high” and ahead of anyone from the 1st place team. In the final kilometer of the first lap, Glenn was sitting in second wheel and Bryan and I moved up the pack. Glenn burst around the lead rider and Bryan, myself, and then Kevin jumped on his wheel and we claimed all 9 sprint points. We then sat back in for the rest of the race. In the last kilometer on the second lap we were lined up with Bryan, Glenn, Kevin and me on the right side. The peloton shifted to the left and I yelled at Glenn to go. Glenn accelerated around Bryan with Kevin and me on his wheel. Someone tried to get on our train by riding through Bryan but he managed to stay upright. (I was right behind him when this happened and I have no idea how he saved it.) Glenn shot out of the pack leading Kevin and me out. Kevin was super strong and powered his way to first place. I was looking to make it a Tom's 1-2 when another rider came around my left side and pipped me at the line. Glenn managed to hold on for fifth and Bryan recovered from his incident to finish sixth. Our performance netted us another 75 points for the team competition and we secured first place in the Team GC.
It really was a fun weekend in which we all experienced some high points and some low points. The race was run very well as all of the volunteers, organizers, officials, and deputies (the Sheriff department managed the rolling enclosures) were friendly, knowledgeable, and supportive. If the weather had cooperated it would have been the perfect weekend. Ultimately this race reminded me that I am really lucky to be riding with this team. It didn’t matter if we were losing, winning, or just hanging out…we were selflessly supporting each other and we were having fun doing it.