What a crazy ride that was

Sitting here, sniffling from being sick- tired, and trying to figure out why the coffee doesn’t give me a buzz like it used to (so dramatic).  I am debating going for a second cup of Bulletproof (the butter coffee), but I have a strict one cup per day rule.  Maybe it’s because I want to deny the fact that I need it, but today I need it.   It’s Wednesday and I still feel like I have a cross hangover- whatever that is.  Maybe it’s the Charm City CX sandpits that did it to me.  Regardless, the motivation level is a bit lower than normal.

I’m trying to remember where I left off, I think it was somewhere in June.  That’s it- June, Air Force Classic.  It’s pretty cool because a lot of the MABRA guys, and by MABRA guys I mean Jose Escobar and Dave Fuentes, coined it the Haymarket weekend.  The local guys lapping the field with the pros.   I still feel like that race was yesterday.  But it was definitely a memorable experience.  That race solidified Van Dessel Factory Team’s entrance into the Pro Criterium National Championships.
After June it was time for a break from racing, and time to get in some good training.  So I hit the bike and did a huge 5 week block.  And by huge I mean just lot’s of intensity and a bunch of 3-4 hour rides (Not huge compared to some).  To me it always feels like a lot, but that’s because I’m going right to work after the rides.
During training I tried to grow a mustache. Stachies at Nashies
Once the block was done, it was time to plan out the rest of road season.  I knew that I had made some sort of a splash, but I needed more results to get noticed for next year.  Green Mountain was originally a goal, but that was dashed due to my dad leaving for a trip and my grandpa getting surgery, so it looked like my hard work would come down to one week.
I’m pretty confident this will be a week I hope to never have to do again.  The remainder of my major 2014 races somehow fell in one week.  It went something like this.  Sept 6th- Professional Criterium Nationals in North Carolina. Sept 7th-Nittany Cross UCI C2 Day 2 in Pennsylvania. Sept 10th-Cross Vegas UCI C1 in Nevada, Sept 13th- Bucks County UCI road race in Pennsylvania. So 3 UCI races in 1 week, 2 of them being completely different disciplines.
Before that week- I did an NCC crit, a USA crit and one cyclocross race over the span of a month.  The crits went pretty par for the course, super sketchy and at night.  I had the fitness but not the luck, missing the breaks both races.  The cx race went well and I became the leader of the PACX series. Cool course through a corn maze, definitely a note to check that out next year.
Before nationals, the taper started- but the work picked up.  My dad had an awesome trip planned to British Columbia, and my grandpa was in the hospital.  So for the first time, I was left to run the store alone.  Talk about stressful. When more than one person is around- you can feel relaxed if something goes wrong because you have one another’s back.  But with my dad gone, everything seemed to go wrong.  Not going into too many details but major distribution problems popped up and our computers seemed to malfunction every day leading up to nationals.  I was sort of in a panic- trying to coordinate my races, train, recover, and run a business.
Sept 5th, I loaded up the van with my mom (insert mom joke).  And we met Bill Elliston, Gui, and Barry Miller.  My mom has a bunch of family in NC so she wanted to come along for the trip.  She ended up driving while I dealt with our retailer and computer issues via phone. Once in North Carolina- we checked into the hotel and tried to find some food.  High Point North Carolina is apparently a ghost town, when the furniture show isn’t in town- so we ventured a few miles outside to a college burger joint.
The next day we went for a little ride on super busy roads and started getting ready for the race.  My girlfriend drove down with a friend, and my buddy came up from Wofford.  Along with them I had what seemed like half of my mom’s side of the family there.  So I was pretty nervous to say the least. I always feel like when 20 people come to your race, it’s like 20 times the pressure. Because when you suck- they actually get to witness it for 70 laps.
Gui showing me some cool tricks
Professional Criterium National Championships
The course was fun- with a minor uphill sprint finish, to a no brakes, twisty turn descent on the back of the course.  Our plan was to get into the break, and hope it stuck.  I told the guys, I was feeling fit and ready to race.  We figured that the only way a break would stick was if Dan Halloway wasn’t in it.  Due to the fact that he’s been on a tear, and that type of sprint suited him.
Ethan Glading phot
From the gun- I felt amazing.  It was one of those days where, I could push the pedals as hard as possible and I was recovering for more.  Little breaks were trying to form, but I was constantly alert and ready to be in them.  Jared got up the road for a bit, and then around 15 laps in, I saw a group counter.  My teammate Bill Elliston was in it, and it looked to be the right group.  I followed a UHC and Athlete Octane wheel and that was it, 13 of us were getting up the road.
Ethan Glading photo
Working in a break like this was a weird experience.  UHC was not working at all, which usually is a sign that you don’t want to work.  But I was in the break, and I wanted to prove a point.  I wanted to work, I wanted to be on the front, I wanted to race- I felt fit, I knew that I couldn’t out sprint a few of
the guys, but I knew I could make the pace hard enough that maybe there would be a chance.  Athlete Octane was killing it in the break so I figured I would lend a hand. (I made sure to be on the front when we went through the crowd) In hindsight, I probably should have stopped working when we were over a minute up the road.  Lapping the field probably hurt my position more than it helped.   When we lapped the field, the teams had all of their fire power back together.  And it was going to be a field sprint for 1-13 and then 14th on up. My teammates did a great job keeping me safe, but UHC is almost impossible to stop the last 3 laps. With a  lap to go, I came up on UHC’s sweeper, hoping to make it top 5 into the last 5 turns, but I was elbowed out of position.  I hung on, and came across 9th! Losing six seconds in the final lap during the sprint.  Bill came in 13th- with another great result for us.
Ethan Glading capturing our happy moment
Nittany Cross UCI C2
Still buzzing from my ride, trying to catch up with family, pack up my stuff, and receive payout; I finally hopped in the car with Jared and we made our way towards PA.  Recovering after a race and an 8 hour car drive to PA is far from ideal, but we were committed to the plan.  We made it halfway to Richmond and decided to finish the rest in the morning.
Welcome to Handsome-2015 SEAVS/Haymarket pb Van Dessel
We made it to the race a few hours before our start.  It was a nice day and we were excited to be with our other SEAVSHaymarket teammates.  Upon arrival, I realized I had left my seat and seat post for my aloominator in North Carolina.  Luckily, SRAM neutral saved me once again, and gave me a nice bright red San Marco.  The start went well and I found myself in the top 10.  I was happy and the legs felt good.  Around 3 laps in, I hopped back on the bike and the seat slipped.  I went in for a pit and lost a bunch of spots.   Only to realize that tire was losing more air.   So I pitted again for my seat to slip again.  I continued racing but my back was tightening up with each stroke.  I wasn’t going to battle for 20th and injure myself, so I decided to save my legs for the days to come.  I hate to DNF, but in hindsight it was the right choice.
Cross Vegas UC1 C1
After Nittany Cross I was able to head back into work and get a day in before leaving for Vegas.  I did a recovery spin and made sure things were functioning.  Dad was coming back that Weds, so the store had to make it one more day.  I flew to Vegas early Tuesday morning, and could barely sleep on the plane.  My eye started twitching I was so tired.  Once in Vegas, I took a shuttle to Mandalay Bay and met Jared.  We got our passes for Dirt Demo and headed to the venue.  I got to see my new Full Tilt Boogie which was awesome.  After talking to the exhibit visitors, we hopped on our bikes and went for a ride.  Noodles and I biked up the mountain (the one all the downhill guys were getting shuttled up) to take a few pictures.  The descent down was way less enjoyable, but we headed to a nice bike path for our openers.
 After our ride a guy from Las Vegas Cyclery invited us out to sign some autographs with the Belgians.  I mean you know- just chilling with Sven Nys. No big deal!  After that we got a ride home with the Dodge family.  Cam Dodge is the nicest kid ever and such a great talent on his bike off road.  He is killing it this year, and I hope he ends up making a living riding his bike.
Van Dessel Exhibit
The next day we woke up and went to inter bike.  Jared worked his magic and I just enjoyed the show.  I didn’t want to stand too much because the race was that night.  After a nap, we made our way to the venue and did a few laps.  The course changed a bit, and felt “heavier” than last year, due to rain the week prior.  Regardless I was excited to race in front of such a fun crowd.  Minus the whole beer throwing and hooker card incident.
Rocking the flyover with Barry Wicks- Velo News photo
Welcome to handsome- Jerry Noodles getting rained on.
Cross Vegas is always so fast and hard (Something about TWSS).  Due to the fact that it was invite only, every person there had UCI points.  At the start a guy overtook Jared’s wheel and he was down right in front of me.  I quickly swerved around and started the chase.  I got back into the group and tried to start making up spots.  By the second lap I was dangling off the front group.  Going through the sand pit I was over my limit, I bobbled, and my seat moved off center.  I stopped, hit it back into place and got picked up by the chase group.  This group was Barry Wicks, Lindine, Mitch Hoke, Carl Decker, and Derek Zandstra.  Not my usual cast of characters last year, so I was pleased.  Going into the last corner I was coming in with the guys for the sprint when I lost my front wheel.  Safe to say I lost that one, finishing 27th.  Easily the hardest 27th place I’ve ever gotten.
Bucks County UCI road race
The next morning I had a flight out at 6:40 am.  Eye still twitching, I woke up and made my way back to the East Coast.  Thankfully dad was back and keeping the fort down so I was able to rest for the remainder of the day.  The next day I did my openers and proceeded to almost be killed by a tractor trailer.  I was going through a green light when he pulled out in front of me.  I slammed on the brakes and did a nice foot out sick what sideways slide to a stop.  I’ll leave the rest out but it ended with me confronting a truck driver at 9 in the morning.
I went into work and got as much done as I could before leaving to meet the Canadian team I was guest riding for- Ride with Rendall.  I met the team at the race headquarters and we went for a spin.  When my teammates walked out I was super stoked to see Jordan Cheyne was on the team.  We guest rode together twice at NRC races, and we worked well together in the peloton.  I was excited to see him and catch up.  That night we hit a late night burrito joint and headed back to the hotel for rest.
The following day, the team delivered my kit- and had all my drinks and food prepared.  I totally felt pro, and was super grateful for the convenience.  Without them I probably would have exceeded my stress barrier for the week and broken down.  But all I had to do was focus on my race.  The team plan was to make the front group and be in the race. At the start, it started to drizzle but was only calling for 40% chance of showers.
Course map for Bucks county UCI road race 2014
Before the race, I introduced myself to Mike Creed, the director of Smart Stop.  I talked to him for a bit and then headed to the line. I made sure to have a good starting position, because I wanted to be ready for the breakaway.  That was my goal.  Make the break away, and actually race for 100 miles.  Because boy- would I have been one miserable guy, stuck in the peloton for 100 miles with the race up the road.
The race rolled neutral for a few miles, and then we raced to the circuit.  Coming around the turn I saw a sign that said 1000m to KOM.  I was sitting about 20 riders back, but in good position.  I figured there would be a huge surge for the jersey points, so I buckled down.  About 500m to the finish, you could see the KOM banner and a really steep pitch.  No one was attacking yet so I made my move.  Sometimes it’s bad to be the first one to jump, but I was confident in my ability.  Maybe a little too confident because I literally won by half an inch. It really hurt.  But I got 10 points.  That’s where the race essentially started.  By lap 2 the hills were starting to take it’s toll, and on lap 3 only around 50 of the 150+ were left.  I was being aggressive and trying to get in some good moves.  I got up the road a few times but they weren’t sticking.  As we headed into the 4th lap, the 50 of us were still together and it was a KOM lap.
Dean Warren Photo- KOM sprint
A few miles before the KOM, a few guys including Tim Rugg jumped for the sprint points.  5 of them got up the road.  I started to get a little worried, and wondered if I just blew my shot at the points.  I wasn’t going to go down without a fight so I went to the front and started to drive the pace.  This is when I heard, “Jake what are you doing on the front?”  Jordan was right behind me and took over the pace.  He drilled it.  It was beautiful, he was in a full out time trial mode with the two of us stringing out the remainder of the peloton.  We came to the 1000m to KOM sign, and the break was in sight.  With 500m to go we went blowing by.  Jordan started his lead out, and I held onto his wheel.  The pitch came and he pulled over, it was up to me.  I held off the charging riders only to lose to one at the line.  Getting a first and second, essentially the jersey was mine barring a major mishap.
Dean Warren photo
At this point- I was exhausted (MORE DRAMA).  I treated that second KOM point like it was the finish to my race, and still had 50 miles of racing left.  Regardless I was in it for the remainder.  Around 70 miles in, it started to pour rain.  A break of 5 squeaked up the road, but the rest of us never really let up the chase.  There were a few sections where we weren’t driving nearly as hard, but I still was on my toes. The break went through the third KOM competition, and that solidified my jersey.  With less than 20 miles to go, I just had to stay safe.
Once onto the finishing run into the town, the race really started to heat up.  Of the 50, riders were slowly being dropped, but I felt confident.  Heading down one of the final switchbacks in the downpour, the rider in front of me took it way too fast.  He hit the guard rail and somersaulted into the air.  Opening a rather large gap, I decided it was in my best interest to stay safe.  I sat up and rode safely into town, finishing 32nd overall.  I really took in the last five miles, enjoying every aspect of my own misery.
Can’t even feel the rain. Sarah Escher photo
Poor podium girl in the rain.
Finding Jordan, we exchanged high fives, and sat under an overhang.  Shortly after, a UCI official came up and led me to the awards tent.  I signed some autographs, gave some interviews, and took a few pictures (which felt weird).  I was shaking and freezing cold, but in all honesty it was one of my happiest moments racing.  It was a pretty surreal moment.  It may have only been a best climbers jersey, but in my mind it was my own little victory.
Ethan Glading capturing this awesome happy moment
Bucks County Crit 

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t planning on racing a criterium after Pro nationals. But once I won the KOM jersey, my teammates said I had to go.  So well let’s leave it at that.  I did a cyclocross start, got the hole-shot, and for the first time in my career, went through the motions of racing my bike.  I was exhausted, and could only think about racing Cross the next weekend.  I didn’t want to get hurt so I stayed smart.

Darrel Parks photo of Pez Cycling News
Charm City UCI C2

Dominion Cycling photo
So I got sick.  The second I got home from the crit I was sick.  It was amazing I made it that far without getting sick. And to be honest I didn’t care.  I made it through the road season and super thankful for that.  I took 2 days off the bike and felt alright the next 3.  However, I wasn’t going to miss Charm City and love the atmosphere.
Day 1 was going great, I didn’t have the greatest start but I felt good.  I eventually made my way into the top 10, and was continuously moving up.  That is until I crashed.  Then I chased and got back in my group.  Then I crashed in the same spot again. Chased back again.  Then I crashed again.  I eventually soft pedaled the last two laps, mentally defeated and tired of racing.
The next day I went in with a much more positive attitude.  I was tired, but I wanted a good experience.  I wasn’t going to get out of it, if I wasn’t in the top 10. I know I have the fitness for it, but I was tired and not mentally sharp.  So I just wanted to ride a clean race.  I had a great start, and was fortunate to make the group with teammate Wes and Richard Sachs racer, Dan Chabanov.  Those guys are super smooth, it’s interesting seeing the lines they ride and how I probably would have done them differently (not for the better). Dang roadies.
Christopher Lee photo

All in all- I’ve appreciated this year and really feel like I’ve learned a lot.  Right now I’m playing the waiting game, and really look forward to what’s to come in 2015.

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