A lot of close friends have been asking me about a race write up (and by a lot I mean like 3)- so to appease the masses I figured I would start up a blog and see if I keep it up.
So apparently Redlands Classic is a pretty big deal for Cali boys- and some big pro teams as it comes first on the NRC racing calendar. After a pretty long phone call with my coach at the beginning of the season he told me it would be important to get to these racers, as it’s the type of competition directors are looking for. Not only that- it’s also the same advice I had received from the few inquiring pro team directors who have reached out to me.
So when I saw an opportunity to race on a composite team for Redlands I jumped at the opportunity. And by jumped, I mean like the out of plane sky dive type because I had no idea what type of competition I was getting into. I mean- regionally I felt like I was very competitive all throughout last year and it was time to take the next step in 2014- so I hoped the gamble was worth it.
So I coordinated with the director David Guttenplan who was forming a comp team with a few past pros, young kids, and a super fast guy who just finished 2nd overall at San Dimas stage race. The details were set and I just needed to make sure I was getting the training in.
Training wise this year has been a completely new approach to me. My coach has started to work more with my power and has given me specific numbers to be hitting at all times. So the days of going out and just riding are pretty much over. Being that I had a full season of cross, and not a super long off season- we had to be careful with my build up. While most of the pro riders have been putting in super huge base miles in November-January, I was still busy putting on the skin suit and racing cross for an hour. So we knew Redlands was going to be difficult, especially with my limited build up. But we had to hope that my block beforehand would be enough to get me through.
Without getting into too much detail, my coach was just having me ride 3-4 hour days with lots of specific work to get up my TSS and get me close to the 1000 bench mark. This lasted through the last half of February and all of March. All in all I probably had a super solid 6 weeks of some of my hardest training.
So headed out to Redlands I had little idea of what a good goal would even be to have. My coach explained that overall I just need to take in the experience and learn as much as possible. Well- it’s amazing how much I learned in these 5 days.
Circuit Race-58 miles
The circuit race was held in Highland, part of Redlands which is right below the base of the mountains. It was a beautiful view and looked to be a fun course. Upon pre riding the course the day before, I knew that it would be quite challenging. It had a super steep hill and we had to do 20 laps.
At the start there was supposed to be a neutral roll out to the base of the hill and then we were to begin. But somehow riders managed to end up ahead of the lead cars and chaos ensued. After that they stopped us 1 mile into the course to regroup. Riders were peeing in yards and grumbling about the roll out. Once everything was situated we were off. Guys were flying up the road trying to start a small break. With the first KOM point at the end of the first lap positioning was key. I knew that sitting top 30 would be important if I even wanted a shot at these points. ( I have no idea why I thought in my head going after KOM points- the first lap, of the first NRC stage race I’ve ever started, was a good idea). But I did, and I put in a huge effort. Looking back it was a power PR for a minute let alone the fact that it ended up being 2 minutes. I came across the line first with the announcer yelling out my name. So as pictured below, I’m now at the front of an NRC race thinking what did I just do.
So I did exactly what anyone did. I said YOLO and hammered away soloing a massive…..okay- that’s not what happened at all. I said- OMG I’M AN IDIOT GET BACK IN THE GROUP!!! So I quickly sat up and let the group surround me.
So from here I’m just taking in how freaking fast this race is. I’m struggling to comprehend that 206 guys can sling around a 2.8 mile course this fast. But they did. And I was at the complete mercy of all of it. On lap 6 there was another KOM point, and I knew that I was holding the jersey at the moment so why not go again. I worked my way up for a few laps and then did another effort. Again being the first to the top right ahead of Luis, the Mexican national champion. But what I didn’t realize was that four guys were already up the road and I only gained 2 points.
The rest of the race was just a giant lap countdown in my brain. I did 2 huge efforts that I normally would never do, and I was starting to feel the effects. I was holding on, but the thought of going after any more KOM points had completely diminished. With 2 laps to go we caught the break and the paced ramped up. My legs were starting to hurt pretty badly on the hill, but I was just using my body weight and spinning ability to my advantage. But by the time we crested the hill, the peloton hammered, I was tail gunning and I lost a wheel on the descent. I limped in off the back but finished the race.
Big Bear Time Trial-12k
The Big Bear Time Trial was held up in Big Bear which was about a 75 min drive from our host house in Redlands. It was super scenic but went up a crazy mtn. pass, which was apparently a part of the 2012 tour de california.
Upon arrival our mechanic told us to go get our bikes checked. Surprisingly my road bike with TT mounts didn’t pass inspection so I had to move the TT bars back in. I knew that time could be lost on the time trial, but at this point I was just set on the KOM jersey. Talking to my coach on the phone the night before he explained that I couldn’t take the TT easy. But rather take it hard, just don’t kill myself. I knew that I was already at a disadvantage without a TT rig, and I have done zero practice in the TT position. So there was a lot against my favor going into that race.
After finally getting my bike set at the USA cycling regulations, I made it to the spot with 3 mins to spare. I rolled off the rolling ramp and settled into my 20 minute power zone (the race was 12k, and less than 20 mins but at altitude you expect power to drop). I knew that to make time cut I just needed to maintain around 25 mph, but I wanted to be above that just in case. After the first few minutes, I had trouble keeping my power up, the altitude wasn’t making me feel awful, but I wasn’t able to maintain my usual pace. From this point I just focused on the road, trying to stay in the position, and not going completely over my head. I finished in around 17:20-I knew I made time cut, and felt relatively fresh after a good cool down. I knew that would be important heading into the next day. While overall I didn’t do well in the TT, I think losing a minute there helped me tremendously for the days to come.
Beaumont Road race-120 miles
This race scared me the most. I had no idea how my body would handle 120 miles. The longest I had raced up until that point was 100 miles, 2 years prior at the Wilderness 101. But this was completely different. My longest road ride going into that race was 4 hours- around 70 miles. I decided that first and foremost, I would eat and drink even if I didn’t feel like eating or drinking.
The night before the team got together and decided they would be working for Coulton and I- trying to help us get more KOM points. On lap 1, 2, and 4 there were KOM points. (25 mile laps). The race started super aggressively, and I found myself at the front. I didn’t know exactly where the KOM point was so I was following wheels rather aggressively. Especially keeping an eye on the rider in the KOM jersey. After a few aggressive moves, my teammates came to the front and began to set tempo to the KOM checkpoint. It was awesome having teammates working for you, but it only added to my disappointment when I started to lose their wheel. I had been so aggressive at the beginning, I set myself up terribly for the climb. But I made it over the top, regrouped with my teammates, and learned a hard lesson.
At this point, I was 18 miles in with 102 more miles to go, I couldn’t believe the amount of effort I put in with zero result to prove for it. I thought to myself, if I keep this up there is no way I am going to finish. So I headed to the back of the peloton, right ahead of the caravan, I regrouped with my teammates. I overheard my one teammate saying to another, “dude- Jake shattered on the climb” I explained to them I was back and was sorry for being too aggressive early on. They completely understood and we decided just to play the rest of the race by ear.
Lap 2 was another hard lap but at some point during this a break got up the road. Once the break was formed, we came around lap 3 and Optum took the front. Things finally started to slow down. I ate as much food and drink as possible, and even tried my hand at getting bottles back at the team car. Eventually the break was more than 5 minutes up the road, and the pace still wasn’t super aggressive. (We still averaged over 26 mph the whole 120 miles). With 2 laps to go, Hincapie and Smartstop made their way to the front, and the race really started.
Guys were slowly dropping off the back throughout the whole race, and with each lap more and more guys started to suffer. On the final lap, we came up to the start of the hill and caught the break. At this point the race shattered. Guys were going every which way and you didn’t know if you were in the front, middle, second middle, or last group. I hopped on the wheel of the KOM jersey holder with Freddie Rodriguez on my wheel and we made it over the top. I was hurting so bad but I could see a group of 20 up ahead. We made it to the group and formed a decent size of 30 or so. In this was myself and 2 of my teammates, so we were happy a few of us made it up over.
Apparently there was a group ahead, so the 30 of us were chasing hard. The back section of the course was downhill and flat, so with my compact crank- I was pretty much useless. So I sat in and hoped we eliminated as much time loss as possible. We rolled across the line only 27 seconds down from the lead. 120 miles, and my hardest bike race in the books!
The criterium was held in beautiful downtown Redlands, with a really nice venue and spectator showing. The crit was to be 90 minutes with 8 turns. From the gun the pace was pretty quick. But I found that the turns provided lots of recovery, but you just had to be careful not to give up spots. I was trying to be super aggressive, but it seemed the more I tried the more I stayed in position. To make time cut you only had to make it to 60 minutes, which is what a lot of riders opted to do. I made it through the whole 90 mins and kept out of trouble. Not making or losing any time. I knew that I needed as much strength as possible for the upcoming day.
This race was by far the most unique race I’ve ever done. You started in downtown redlands, did 2 short laps on the crit course, then headed into the loop. It was a 6.2 mile loop up spectacular California roads with an awesome view at the top. The roads were very narrow and very California-esque. The pace was fast from the beginning, and cranked down even more leading up to the loop. After the first lap the 130 rider field exploded. There were groups everywhere and somehow I found myself in the front group. This group was probably 60 riders strong and the pace was being completely controlled by mountain khakis protecting the yellow jersey. A 3 man break got up the road, but the pace never seemed to ease.
The loop was 6.2 miles with 12 laps and lots of climbing. Each lap I was grabbing bottles in the most hectic feed zone I’ve ever seen. There was absolutely zero slowing, so getting a bottle meant getting out of the draft and hoping you could get back on. I found this completely worth it because it was scorching hot and high 80”s so I was worried about bonking. Each lap, I could tell the pace was wearing on me, but I knew every lap I made it I was climbing higher and higher up in GC.
With 2 laps to go, I was at the back of the group (where I had been pretty much all day), when a rider started to lose a wheel. There were 3 riders behind him- which forced the 2 behind me to go around. I tried but my compact crank was geared out and I was really hurting. I didn’t make it, but kept up the chase. Coming down one of the descents I over shot a turn, headed straight for a curb, with people gasping; I locked up my wheels and narrowly missed smashing my zipps and catapulting onto the road. I took it slow into someones yard and kept up the half hearted chase.
On the hill, I was gassed. Kids were running beside me, and people were screaming they were right up the road. But no amount of cheering or yelling was going to get me up that hill and back on the wheel. I knew my day was over. As I was cresting the hill, I saw a popped rider and I approached him, placing my hand on his back. As I did so he swung around and hit me, as if I was attacking him. Right away he apologized when he had realized I was just letting him know I was there and we could ride in together. But I just kept moving on passing a few others who fell off the back.
I rolled into the USA cycling official pull station and they cut off my number. I was done. Everyone else behind me had already been pulled. I was given a pro rated time and they told me to call it a day. I didn’t even want to bike back to the host house. Thankfully, as I was rolling away I heard a guy yell- “Want a beer?” I immediately exclaimed YES! Pulled into the house party, cracked open a coors light (Not my favorite but after not having a beer in how many weeks), I truly realized why they call it the perfect shot of refreshment. Some optum guys rolled in and they started drinking too. The one guy had a fu manchu and looked like he could put some down, so I stayed away from challenging him in a friendly game of beer pong.
All in all- a great time, and great learning experience.