Sunday, April 30, 2006

La Vuelta de Bisbee

The following is my take on the 2006 Vuelta de Bisbee:

Prologue: 2.8 miles, uphill TT. Not the most fun thing to do with one's self on a Friday evening, but what the hell, why not. I got into town somewhere around 1:30 in the afternoon after rolling out of Tucson and heading over with Scott and Shane. We settled into our pad pretty quickly, then cruised down to Bisbee Coffee Roasters (great coffee there, highly recommended) for a bite to eat, followed up by a pretty wicked eureka, which is their version of the classic Red Eye, double shot of espresso mixed with brewed coffee. Good stuff! Shane and I probably got a bit to fired up on the coffee, as we started our warmup about two hours before the TT started. Did three trips on the course to check things out and get a feel for where I could go fast and where I needed to chill out a bit. Super windy also out there, big headwind in store for the race. Prologue itself didn't go so well, I think I went a little to easy in the beginning and a bit to hard in the middle, which got me pretty far back in something like 66th place, which is obviously not so good. But we had three guys get in the top 20, so it did give us something to shoot for during tomorrow's double stage day.

Stage 1: 80 mile road race. The plan here was to attack early and try and get in a break. There was a sprint roughly 16 miles into the race so the pace was super fast (30+ mph) all the way there. Things chilled out just a bit after the sprint, until we made a right turn onto a long, straight, flat road. Pace heated up again here, as I attacked about 3 or 4 times in a row trying to get a move started. Worked every time, as we had clean breaks, but the pack was having nothing to do with it and someone busted their ass and brought them back every time. After the last attack I was starting to feel pretty worked so I went to the back and sat in for a bit. My teammate Shane was up in the front at this time and made it into the move of the day. Break finally stuck, with four guys in the move. So now we were in a defensive mode, so myself and several teammates patrolled the front of the race the rest of the day trying to protect Shane's lead. I'd never seen a break stay away in the four years that I've done this race until today. Their lead peaked at 3:10 just before the start of the second and final loop. A spirited chase ensued that brought them within sight at 25 seconds with about 20 miles to go, but miraculously, no one bridged, the pack went slow and the gap went back to 1:15 really fast. This race finished with about 8 miles or so of low grade climbing, so that is not a lot of time in the bank, but it worked and Shane came through the line in 4th place about 20 seconds ahead of a group of 50 or so riders. I was pretty worked by then, so I tacked onto the back of the main group and coasted in around 52nd. Did move up ten spots on the GC to 56th overall. The race was pretty fast, we covered 80 miles in just over three hours.

Stage 2: Warren Time Trial, 6.8 miles. Gotta love time trials, but not really. Nothing crazy happened here, didn't pass anyone or get caught by anyone, so a pretty mediocre ride overall. One of these days, I'll have to actually work on my TT. Hmmmmmmm.

Stage 3: Tombstone Road Race, 87.2 miles. This is the best race of the weekend. Super hard, with roughly 6500 ft. of climbing, and almost all of it comes in the form of two big climbs over the last 21 miles. Plan today was roughly the same as yesterday. Get in the breaks and if it is all together coming into the Mule Pass climb (second climb to the end), we were going to ride hard tempo as long as we could and try to whittle it down to a small group over the top. I did manage to get in one early break on the way to the first bonus sprint. We had a small group of three, and had a massive gap on the field, but were pulled back about a mile or two before the bonus sprint. I talked to Scott to see what had been going on in the pack, and the word was that it was just attack after attack the entire way. More attacking and countering ensued following the turnaround after the bonus sprint, but nothing was sticking yet. This course is pretty epic, following a downhill start (descent of Mule Pass), it follows and out-an-back course for the first 30 miles, then does a big loop out into the high desert and through the city of Tombstone. Then back over Mule Pass, past Bisbee on HWY 80 (big downhill here), then right back up that same downhill to the finish overlooking Mule Pass. After we finished the out-an-back portion and headed out for the big loop, things started to get super crazy at the front. I think that there had to have been around 20-30 big attacks in a row with guys going nuts trying to get off the front. Felt like crit speeds, and we still had about 2.5 hours to go! I went with a ton of moves, but there was no way that anyone was going to get away here, the pace was just to fast. We probably covered roughly 40 miles in the first 1.5 hours. Finally, a move of about seven riders stuck, one of them being David Glick, who is one of the better climbers on our team. So that was great for us as it put us in a position where we could chill a little bit and let the other teams worry about the break. They hit a maximum of 4.5 minutes before several teams started the chase. Still worked out really well for us, as we could just sit back and protect our climbers still in the pack and get them to the hills safely. So that was how the rest of the day played out. As we hit the Mule Pass climb, the break still had about three minutes on the group. The pace up Mule Pass was pretty intense, guys started getting shelled pretty early here. I hung in for a while, but eventually had to ride my own pace over the top. Dave hung in over the top with the remains of the break, but was caught and couldn't hang over the next climb. Still a solid effort on his part after a long day off the front of the race. I put it into cruise mode for the final climb, as I didn't think I was going to catch anyone there, and came in something like 44th place, which got me up to 45th on the final GC. Our best finisher for the day was Kyle Colavito, who came in 13th place and ended up 12th overall.

That's Dave Glick on the right.

Blanchard and me on a ride in Tucson.

Now I'm home with some pretty tired legs and a ton of work to do in the next couple days. Good time to take a few days off. Adios.

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