RACE REPORT #14 Tour of Utah – Stage 3 CAT 4
Today’s race was one of the coolest I’ve ever done. Large pack, Highway Patrol motorcycles and cars with lights flashing escorting and following our group, brand new Subaru Outbacks full of spare wheels behind. 55 mile race with a huge climb at the end. Felt like the real deal… Let’s go!
After sitting 9th in the overall after the first stage, I dropped to 23rd because of my horrible race yesterday afternoon. They pro-rated our finish times since we got pulled and I ended up losing something like 3 1/2 minutes. My shot at a top ten finish was essentially over. Oh well, I just wanted to be able to ride well on a stage like this one.
We had to go up a canyon for the first 10-15 miles, into a wind. That kept things pretty compact as we made our way over the crest of the canyon. From there we had a very long descent (8-9 miles) before things flattened out at the turnaround. I was a little worried about the descent, so I made a move and hit the front just as we started down. I stayed there for a couple of miles, not working too hard, just making sure I was staying out of trouble. Things were great until we went bombing through the center of a little town and started hitting manhole covers that were an inch or two below the surface of the road. Not fun at 40 mph in a group of 50 riders. Bottles were launching out of their cages and skimming across the road between the wheels. Luckily we all made it through.
2 guys attacked before the turnaround, and 4 teammates of the overall leader went to the front to peg them back. I was 5th wheel and sitting pretty as the 4 riders ahead rotated amongst themselves to catch the leaders after a couple of miles. I had a front row seat and enjoyed watching them work as I was under no obligation to do so since they were defending the lead. Nice.
More climbing back up to the crest of the canyon before the turnaround, followed by a very fast and short descent, then we turned off the main road and started the final monster climb. Another 5 miler with an 8% average grade, and some steeper switchbacks thrown in for good measure (this was up the south side of the Nebo Loop – the north side was the original route, but it was still snowed in). I was sitting pretty with the lead group, which quickly shrunk to around 15 riders. I tried to ride a smart climb like I did the day before and eased into my own pace after a while. I was definitely working hard, but had plenty left in my legs whenever it came time to accellerate. I was hoping I could make up some pretty good ground in the overall standings, and then move up a few more places in tomorrow’s time trial. One guy caught me on a less-steep section before the top and seemed to be riding pretty strong. I didn’t feel good enough to work with him, but could hold on to the pace, so I yelled to him that I was going to hang on and wouldn’t contest the sprint since he was doing all the work. That was nice until the climb got a little steeper and he totally started to die. Really bad. I obviously felt fresher since I had been sitting on, but this was killing me. I had to really hold myself in check. Riders were starting to close in from behind, and I definitely wasn’t going to let them catch me. I thought I was going to have to push him the last 50 meters, but we eventually made it and he rolled over just ahead of me. Nice work, mate.
I ended up 11th and jumped back up to13th in the overall standings. It was a great day.