Friday, March 31, 2006

Vuelta Sonora-Arizona UCI 2.2

Bit of a late entry about this race, but the blog didn't exist when I did it, so here goes:

Vuelta Sonora-Arizona UCI 2.2 Stage Race

Amid a myriad of rumors about stage cancellation, no prize money, and no lodging, Eclipse Racing sent a team of eight glory, adventure, and fitness-seeking riders to the Vuelta Sonora-Arizona, a UCI registered international stage race held just south of Tucson in the Mexican state of Sonora. While this race is generally considered to be the biggest race held in Mexico during the year, it is usually plagued with organizational difficulties and this years running was not an exception to that scenario. Going from reports of riders who had competed in the Vuelta in previous years, it is worth it if one can tough out the confusion of the race committee because once the racing starts, it is very fast and very difficult….in short, it makes for some good, tough racing! Plus a prize purse of $60,000 US helps matters out a great deal! The Eclipse Racing Team at the Vuelta Sonora-Arizona consisted of: Scott Blanchard, Jason Karew, Kyle Colavito, Shane Peltonen, Emiliano Jordan, Pablo Sanchez Soria, Buck Miller, and Jonathan Garcia. The following is a stage-by-stage synopsis of the race.

Stage 1: Nogales Road Race.

It took a while to get this stage underway, as the promoters were having some last minute difficulties in securing a course, but once we were actually rolling things seemed to get a whole lot better. This stage started out with a neutral procession of all the riders and team cars riding or driving to the international border. We were to cross the border, meet the Arizona sheriff on the other side, who would then escort us to the start in Nogales, Arizona. This was a PR move from the Arizona government, who had donated some money to the race and wanted a picture taken of the riders on USA soil. Once we were officially started, it was neutral once again until we crossed back over the border into Mexico, when it was race on, and full speed ahead for the rest of the day. This was one of the fastest races that I’d ever been in, with an average speed of 56 km/hr, which is roughly about 35 mph! The stage was short, only 52 km, and featured a 3 km climb to the finish. With the speeds so high, the field was completely strung out as we hit the climb, at which point it became a matter of survival and trying to hang on to the ferocious pace set by the Tecos Mexican Team. Eclipse best placed rider once things settled down was Jonathan Garcia at 13 seconds back, with Kyle and Scott a further 18 and 21 seconds back.

Stage 2: Nogales-Imuris-Cananea, 152 km Road Race.

This race was intense, flat for the first 60 km or 70 km, then we turned and began heading east into the mountains of Mexico, with several 10 km to 12 km climbs before finishing in the mountain mining town of Cananea. I was not with the leaders once the climbing started as I had dropped back to the team car to bring water bottles up to the team just before we made the left turn and began the first climb. Not knowing the course here really hurt because once that climb started, there was no way to make contact again while trying to pack eight full water bottles in my jersey for our team leaders in the front. So this report is based on conversations with Scott and Kyle, who were both in the lead pack all day. The lead pack was flying over the climbs at speed of roughly 20 to 25 mph, pretty fast considering the terrain that we were on. Scott was able to dig really deep into himself on this day and came in with a great result of 8th place. Jonathan was right behind in 10th, while Kyle dropped off a bit on the final climb and came in about 3:30 back in 30th place. Overall, though, a good day for the team, as this moved Scott and Jonathan into the top 20 on GC, and put our team into 5th in the team competition.

Stage 3: Arizpe-Ures, 132 km Road Race.

This was a beautiful racecourse. We started in the mountain town of Arizpe, which is one of the oldest towns in Mexico. It was founded in the 1600’s by a Catholic missionary, Juan Bautista De Anza, whose body still resides in the mission that he founded here. This stage featured a very difficult first 40 km’s of rolling hills and twisty, technical descending. We came off of this section all together and rode the next 60 – 70 km across a flat valley. Before the race we had been inquiring with the race director about the course terrain over the final 40 km’s with the answer being, “Oh, it is pretty flat with maybe one small hill before a flat run-in to the finish.” Well, after today, I think that we all realized that flat in Mexico just doesn’t mean that we are doing mountain passes as those hills we hit toward the end were anything but small. Once again, the group was flying over the climbs and breathtaking speeds. Everyone made it over and Jonathan had enough left in the tank to get in a breakaway on the flat run-in to the finish and was able to hang on with an excellent 10th place finish.

Stage 4: Hermasillo Circuit Race, 90 km.

This was an easy day for the team. The race was held on a flat, 2 km circuit in the capitol city of Sonora, Hermasillo. We decided to sit in and do nothing during the race today, as the last three days of racing had been pretty difficult. Thankfully, this was easy to do, we were able to rest as much as possible during the stage, look after our GC contenders Jonathan, Scott, and Kyle, and we got through the stage with no problems. It is always nice to have a bit of a mellow day in the middle of a big stage race like this, good not to have to get up physically and mentally for every inch of road that is covered.

Stage 5: Guaymas-San Carlos Road/Circuit Race, 148 km.

With tomorrow being another circuit race, this would be the last day to make up time on the GC. We would be doing about 55 km north on the Highway 15 from Guaymas, turn around and ride back towards Guaymas, but then head west to the resort town of San Carlos. There would then be two circuits completed in San Carlos before finishing with a 1 km climb to a beautiful overlook of the Pacific Ocean from Tetakawi Mountain. The race was easy until roughly 2 km before the turnaround when two teams went to the front of the pack and absolutely started drilling it to the turnaround and then for about 20 km afterwards. The pace split the field into about 4 different packs and unfortunately for Eclipse, we were completely caught off guard with the entire team in the last pack on the road. In my opinion, this was the best that the team rode together all week together as a unit as we immediately realized the severity of the situation and worked very well together to catch back up to the front group to save our race. There were many riders who did not catch back on this day and all of them lost about 10-13 minutes. Once things settled back down and we entered San Carlos, the attacks began to pick up as the end of the stage loomed ahead. Eclipse put Shsne into a great move of 4 with about 12 km left, but unfortunately they were caught at the base of the climb. Scott put everything he had left into the climb and finished well again with another top ten for the team. Jonathan was right behind in 13th place, which pretty much sealed the deal on their respective GC positions of 13th (Jonathan) and 16th (Scott).

Stage 6: Cd. Obregon Circuit Race, 96 km.

This was the final stage of the Vuelta Sonora-Arizona, the GC was set, the only thing left was to complete the circuits and end the race. We knew that Tecos, who was 1, 2, 3 on GC would be setting tempo all day, and that the teams that had missed out on GC or stage wins would be gunning for the win today, so that the race would be pretty controlled and predictable. Our plan was to protect Scott and Jonathan, and go for the stage win if it came about. Things went well and with 6 laps to go and a breakaway still a few seconds ahead of the field, we sent Emiliano and myself up to the front to help pull it back and give out guys a chance to sprint for the win. We were successful in pulling back the breakaway, but unfortunately did not come away with the win.

Overall it was a very successful race for the Eclipse Racing Team. Even though we were competing against several top professional teams, we were still one of the strongest teams in the race. We came away from the Vuelta Sonora-Arizona as the 5th ranked team overall, and the 1st ranked team from the United States. Two top 20 positions on GC and several top ten stage finishes were the highlights of the week for us.

Thank you goes out to all of our sponsors for the support and help of getting us to these events and allowing us to accomplish our goals.

Basic Truth's of Bicycle Racing

Some funny things that I've learned along the way:
  1. Always know your start time...funny how some guys can register the day before they race and still not take the time to look at the race schedule for the next day.
  2. Don't attack when the field is single file at 35mph...Obviously, unless you are one of those guys on the "special" training diet, this one is a no brainer!
  3. You can't race on bbq...ask Scott about this one.
  4. If you always ride slow in training, you aren't going to be riding fast while racing.
  5. If you are racing in Mexico and they tell you the next days stage is flat, better put on the triple chainring...flat to a Mexican means no mountains.
More to come...

Welcome Back

That's what I thought when I had a sudden realization tonight as I was entering Albertson's on my way home from work, thinking that this was the first time in about a week that walking a short distance didn't feel like I was dragging two dead tree stumps behind me. Does this mean that the legs are finally starting to come around for me? One can only hope. Funny thing about bike racing, last week during stage two of San Dimas, I was feeling like superman, and only a week later it was hard to even turn the pedals. Hmmmmmm...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Success! :)

It always feels good when I am able to complete a programming assignment and have it working perfectly. Spent the last couple of days working on homework for this Java course that I'm taking at the University of Arizona. Pretty exciting life I lead, eh? Oh well, I've been pretty hammered the last couple of days from the race over the weekend. You know that you are getting older when it no longer only takes one day to recover from a hard race, now it is more like two or sometimes even three! Ha, I guess that is why they make espresso.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Rough Day Today

Bit of a rough day today at the Colossal Caves Road Race. Considering my lead-in to this story, I obviously did not take the win as I had hoped. I was able to get into a couple moves mid-race, that I thought looked pretty solid, but the field was being super aggresive all day and were chasing down anyone that got away. I was dying a bit of a slow death all day long, as the legs just wouldn't really open up for me, and I came off the group just before the start of the second to last lap. Chased with a teammate and two others for several miles with no success, so we decided to pack it in for the day and cruise the final lap-and-a-half to the finish. The only saving grace to the day for me was when the Red Bull girls showed up like Guardian Angels and floated the three of us a ice cold can of liquid energy. I think that was the only thing that got me to the line today. To modify a favorite Cubs saying..."better luck next week!"

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Colossal Caves Tomorrow

Saturday evening, 9:15...eating Sushi and a salad...thinking about heading to bed to be well rested for the Colossal Caves Road Race tomorrow morning. This is my favorite single day race in Arizona, especially after having won it a few years back as a Cat 3. Hoping to repeat that tomorrow. We shall see how that goes. My team is going to have about 10-11 riders out of a field of roughly 50, so we should have a very good shot at winning. Felt good in training this week, especially on Wed. This race is always hard, a war of attrition. Should be a good one. Weather looks good also, 80 degrees of sunshine with light wind. If all goes well, the finish will look like this.