In this race there were two (2) road race stages, a Time Trial and a Criterium. Considering I do not practice Time Trialing (nor do I have any aero equipment), my chances at a top GC spot would be slim.
Heading out on Stage 1
The opening Stage was a 76 mile race over rolling terrain with a flat finish. The pace for the first 20 miles was beyond mellow, we were creaping along to say the least. However, the remaining 50+ miles were some good racing. The strongest team in the Pro/1/2 field was definitely Team Exergy, with probably Hagens-Berman second. I rode consistently in the top 20 to keep an eye on what was happening or if there were any attacks I didn't want to get stuck behind in a chasing group. The last 20 miles really started to shake things up in the peloton where most of the climbing was taking place. I was feeling very comfortable and felt like the energy level was high. with roughly 8 miles to go there was a 2 mile climb that shreaded the peloton. I continued to sit in around 8th position as we crested the summit. After a fast descent we were on the final flat section with 5k to go. I was sitting in the perfect and then at the 1k sign my hamstrings completely locked up with cramps and I couldn't pedal. I drifted to the back of the group of about 30 riders and was able to shake out the cramp and finish 20th. Had a not cramped I was looking at a top finishing spot. Fortunately my legs were able to respond fairly quickly and the cramp went away otherwise i could have easily lost 30 seconds in the final 1k.
Stage 2 was the individual TT. The course a total of 11.1 miles with 5.5 miles of out and back on mostly flat roads with a slight incline. There was a slight headwind after the turnaround as well. The riders were spaced out 30 seconds apart...my goal was not to let more than 1 rider pass me. Ahhh well that didn't happen. By the time I reached the halfway point, I was already passed by one rider. And then with 3 miles left I was passed by another rider. Fortunately I can be somewhat relieved to know that both riders finished in the Top 10 for the stage. Maybe one of these days I will put more emphasis on Time Trialing and have a good result.
Racing the Criterium on the Cannondale with the slick roads
Stage 3 was the Criterium. The course was the same as usual...a 1k, 5 corner, smooth road course. However, since the Pro field was last to go we were having to deal with Mother Nature bringing in some nasty rain and winds. They had already canceled the Cat 3 race and were unsure if we would be racing or not. The race director prolonged the start by a few minutes to see if the rain would stop and also to sweep up some puddles and slick spots. While warming up on the course my rear tire consistently would slide out on every corner. This was not going to make for a comfortable race. I lowered my tire pressure to 95psi and that helped a little, but I wasn't even close to race speed yet. The rain stopped and the race was about to begin. On the very first turn 1 rider slid out and crashed. Everyone looked at each other and said "this is going to be ugly". We raced for a total of 55 minutes and after the roads eventually dried up it made for some exciting racing. I didn't do anything too aggressive, just stayed near the front as much as possible to avoid any crashes. Besides the first turn crash, there was only 1 other crash that involved 3 or 4 riders.
More Crit action
The final stage was a 102 mile loop withe several 2-3 mile climbs and the 8 mile climb up Dooley Mtn. for the finish. I was thinking that I might try to get into a breakaway and make up the 3 minutes that was down in the overall GC but it didn't happen. Mother Nature again brought upon some shitty weather, with the temps hovering in the 50's and rain coming down steady. The pace was much faster in the e beginning as compared to Stage 1, but still only moderate. A couple riders attacked early but were brought back in. Then another 5 riders attacked and I went with them...but we were pulled back in shortly as well. I believe 4 riders had a attacked and gotten away but I didn't see it. As the race hit the small climbs (roughly miles 35-55) the peloton began to split apart. I was having no problem staying towards the front and was feeling good. The race really began to intensify around mile 70 where the cross winds were fierce and the pace was insane. Riders were getting dropped left and right. With the cross winds coming from the left the peloton was strung out in single file on the right hand shoulder. At times, the road disappeared and turned to dirt. I got caught in the dirt and almost lost the lead group. I had to chase hard for about 20 seconds to catch back on. A few other riders were not so lucky as they never saw the lead group again. We maintained a 30+ mph pace for pretty much the remainder of the flat section roads until the final climb of the day. Once we hit the climb the pace settled down into a temp pace. For the first 3 miles I was with the lead group, but after a hard a attack by a Hagens-Berman rider I slowly began to fade back. I found myself riding with three other riders at a hard tempo effort the rest of the climb. As we crossed the finish line I was totally exhausted...a hard 4.5 hours in the saddle but great training. I finished 17th on the day and 17th in the overall GC. Stage 4 results can be found here along with the other Stages.
The new BMC Pro Machine SLC 01bike rode simply amazing. The combination of stiffness and lightness makes for a much more enjoyable racing experience.