Yesterday I left off with the team presentation that officially kicked off the race festivities. Here are my memories from the first six stages of the USA Pro Challenge. It was an honor to be on the start line of this race.
Race hotel- hilarious art in rooms, hard to find way around, delicious spreads for toast at the buffet. Same meals every night (4 days!)
The race- Started off feeling like a normal bike race. Then the neutral roll out stopped. Racing at 9000 feet was… different… The short punchy climbs took their toll on me and I was dropped in a small group up the run in to the final KOM of the day. Meanwhile, Ben and Matt were up the road being all lithe and limber and stuff winning KOM points and making our team look awesome.
Stage 2: Aspen to Crested Butte
Race Hotel- Same as day 1
The Race- Ah yeah. This one. WOW. I’ve forgotten much of the less than important details, but stage 2 was the day that the skies opened up as we rode the final ¼ of the race on dirt mountain roads. I was dropped in a 15 rider or so group when it was still brilliantly sunny, probably halfway up the final dirt climb. We hit the top, it got dark, and we proceeded to descend down the mountain on dirt roads in a thundering and lightning rain storm. I heard that somewhere up the road they neutralized the main field and everyone got cold. Our dropped group continued to ride for the length of the race.
We finished and our new hotel was about 500 meters from the finish line. I got into the shower in full kit. Including shoes.
|After I got done in the shower.|
Stage 3: Gunnison to Monarch Mountain
Race Hotel- conveniently close to the finish of the day before. Very heavy woodsman vibe. Meals were across the street somewhere else. Nothing stands out to me if they were delicious or not. I’ll just assume they were.
The Race- This was the stage I was most nervous about leading into the race. I’m confident with how I climb at the NRC level, but this stage had an HC category climb up to 11+k feet right in the middle of the stage, then a Category 1 climb up to the finish. In the most convenient of things for probably everyone, there were crosswinds for the entire lead-in to the HC climb. That made people tired, which turned this stage into a 100+ rider grupetto. I accidentally was the first to cross the line at the end of the race out of the grupetto so if you look at only the results from this stage you’ll very wrongly assume that I had a great day.
Stage 4: Colorado Sprints Circuit Race
Race Hotel- very nice hotel, except it was incredibly confusing. Good luck finding dinner here because there were about 15 different wings of the hotel. I believe that the dinners were good, and I’m fairly certain that THIS was the best dessert table of the entire race. There were cakes, pies, tortes, fruits, cookies and bars, and many other treats. Since we’re all bike racers, everyone judged each other as they went back for their 5th serving of dessert. But everyone went for seconds, or more. Hopefully… Maybe THAT explains why I didn't win this darn race!
The Race- this was my favorite stage of the USA Pro Challenge. Ben made the break again, which would lock up his KOM lead. I figured this as one of the few opportunities for a reduced bunch sprint, so I tried to race smart and position myself well in the shrinking field. Things went well, and I crested the steep final climb suffering badly but still in good position. Then I looked up, and saw that it was my teammate Robbie Squire setting the pace on the front of the field. No doubt trying to help catch the last breakaway survivor (Jens Voigt) so the field sprint would occur, but I had to jokingly give him a hard time after the race about putting me close to dropped!
I followed US National Champion Eric Marcotte and NRC Champion Travis McCabe as they jumped with around a kilometer to go. They strung it out, and I was 3rd wheel with 300 meters to go. I learned a valuable lesson on this stage, and that is that you can’t hesitate when sprinting against WorldTour riders. I got swarmed, and turned an amazing opportunity into a bunch of “OMG I saw you on TV” text messages and a valuable lesson for me.
This stage made me hungry for more.
Stage 5: Woodland Park to Breckenridge
Race hotel- Same as Stage 4
The Race- Mostly flat, with a big climb close to the finish, followed by a descent into another finish climb. This stage was the most miserable I’ve ever been in a race as we were pelted by cold rain, winds, and dark/dreary conditions. I froze, then we started climbing, and life was good again. I crested the climb in the second group, my best climb of the race, and did the technical descent well. I'm going to assume that this was my best climb of the race because of Winters spent training in the cold rain in Seattle. Tough man training! The highlight from this stage was that I was in the Jens Voigt group, and people love that guy. As we approached the final, crowd-packed climb, a person with a speaker system announced to the crowd “and here comes the Jens Voigt group!!!!” This turned a certainly already amazing environment into a deafening one.
Stage 6: Vail Time Trial
Race Hotel- I don’t remember this one, but I do remember that sometime near the end of the race we stayed in a hotel that was advertised at $750 dollars a night. I believe it was this one. I’ll just assume that the food was amazing as well.
I just looked through my phone photos, and that reminded me of something. THIS hotel was the one that I couldn’t figure out how to turn the shower on in! Then Ben, my roommate for the week, turned the shower on in about an 1/8th of a second. That’s experience for ya folks!
The Race- I had been looking forward to testing myself against the best in a race against the clock so I took this stage pretty seriously. There were a lot of new things for me, the main two being doing a TT at altitude and doing a TT after 5 days of racing. I rode a TT I was fine enough with, and lost something like 4 minutes to TJ Van Garderen. We finished at the top of a crowd-crazed hill, then had to wait for a shuttle to bring us back to the parking lot.
Stage 7: Boulder to Denver
|One of the buffet's coffee talking trash about home|
Well, a lot went wrong here. Instead let’s focus on what went right! The crowds in Boulder were amazing. Just completely unreal. Making our way to sign in took way longer than any other stage, and the crowds during the neutral rollouts were bonkers. Most of this stage I have no memory of due to the crash, but I do very much remember the first part of the first neutral lap we did in town. Thank you Boulder for coming out in force to support us.
The crowd support every day was great.
I saw a lot of Colorado that I’ve never seen before, so that was pretty rad.
Much goes into a race like this for each team. The amount of logistical stress that each team has to undertake must be huge, so thanks goes out to all the staff members of Team Jamis HB for taking care of all the details.
Finally, our team’s main goal for the week was to win the KOM jersey. This was known by everyone in the days leading up to the start, and was our number one mission. To be a part of Ben Jacques-Maynes winning the jersey was an incredible experience. Whether it was something as simple as “protect Ben” or something much, much more difficult like “tow Ben across to the break”, myself and my teammates would’ve done anything to help us accomplish our goal.
Writing this post has been healing in its own sense for me. I remembered things I assumed were gone forever, was able to reflect on the athlete of Ian, and as I continue to tick away on the trainer, writing this has helped remind me of the level I want to be at again.
Thank you all for reading and, again, a very sincere thank you for your continued support as I fight through recovery.