PT win for TP in a TT!
21 year old Taylor Phinney won his first Pro Tour race yesterday in the opening time trial at the Eneco Tour in Holland. Taylor has been a rising star for several years now, and is set to become one of the dominant cyclists of his generation. I have been following his career from a distance, after first crossing paths with him back in 2006. That was my last full year of bike racing, and Taylor (then a scrawny teenager) was just making an appearance onto the Colorado scene. He thumped me many times and I was able to witness firsthand the raw talent he had. He has been working extremely hard and honing that talent to a fine edge, beating the likes of David Millar, Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Philippe Gilbert yesterday. Good on ya, Taylor!
In somewhat of a walk down memory lane for me, I dug up a race report that I wrote (but never published) about my first race with him. March, 2006.
What a week this has been. Thursday and Friday were two of the worst rides for me all year. I got my first ever massage a week ago and haven’t felt the same since then. It was a full hour concentrated on the legs, which felt great and was super relaxing (went to bed at 9:00 that night!), but I wasn’t quite prepared for how long it would take to get back up to speed again. My legs just had no snap, I knew it would take a few days to recover, but was starting to panic a little after a week of really struggling. I determined that I just needed to push through and hope things returned to normal (or better) soon.
Thursday I did the regular group ride at lunch time, put in a huge effort for our little king of the mountains sprint, and then almost got dropped by the group. That had never even come close to happening before, but I just could not close down the final few feet to get on the back. I dangled out in the wind forever, then they eased up a tiny bit and I got on. I felt horrible, though, and wanted to just break off and end the ride.
I stuck it out telling myself I needed to rally, and that I would come around. I ever-so-slowly started to feel a bit better and by the time we finished our small loops and headed out of the park I was back in action. I took a monster pull at the front of the group. A guy came up alongside me at the start and was just sitting off my side. He picked the wrong day to mess with me, I was in a bit of a foul mood. I held steady feeling like I could go that pace all day. Then, about every 30 seconds, I would just drop a cog and keep the same cadence. It wasn’t long before I was down in the 12 and pulling the group at 30+mph. My buddy was long gone.
We powered along building up for our sprint line. I hung with the leaders, but had no sprint left in me at all and came across 6th. Then my legs felt totally empty again and I limped back thinking what a weird ride that had been.
Friday, Tim and I decided to try a 2 man TT around the Cherry Creek course. It was windy, and my legs really sucked again. I kept looking at my computer and seeing my cadence down in the high 70’s and low 80’s. I knew I was grinding way too much but just couldn’t get into a rythmn. We finished with a 25:36 which was pretty demoralizing.
After those two days I was in a bad funk, wondering if I’d ever rebound. I had a hard race coming up on Sunday, and normally would have taken it easy the day before. I just couldn’t let Saturday pass without trying my legs again and hoping to get my confidence back, so I went and did the Denver Spoke ride. It’s a come one, come all, dog-eat-dog group ride on Saturday mornings out by my house. It’s known for being a real hammerfest . Plenty of higer category racers looking to get a workout really keep things moving. There were several times I was in the group that I remember looking at my computer and seeing 30-31 mph. A break of 4 got away after the initial hill, but I had been moving up through the group and had some momentum coming over the crest and decided to go for it. I bridged a 150 meter gap up to them on my own, but was digging super deep to do it. A smaller group came up to us and things blew up big time on the climb. I hung in there and tried to keep it a little more steady. I was starting to feel like the old me again.
I finished the ride with the group and cooled down on the way home. I knew I would be a little bit spent for the race, but was glad to have done the ride. I needed that in a big way.
I was looking forward to this race. It was back on the same course (Stazio) that I had done my first race of the season on. I like the hill and now that my legs were coming around I was hopeful for a good result. After beautiful weather on Saturday, we were greeted with cooler temps, clouds, and a front passing through that brought a HUGE wind with it. Our race started at 11:00, just in time for the 45mph gusts.
I didn’t bring a trainer to warm up on, but doing a few laps of the office park left me feeling pretty good. I was definitely a little tired from yesterday, but my legs felt ready. I have been tailgunning my races so far this year, just hanging at the back and staying out of trouble before trying to make a move. Today would be different. With the crazy windy conditions and 60-70 riders, I knew it called for going on the offensive. I lined up on the second row and made sure I would have the inside track on the first corner. I executed a perfect start and got the hole shot for the corner. I kept the pace high and led the entire first lap, figuring it might cost me some energy but I’d rather do that then bounce around in the group. I eased off just a little the second time up the hill and took some shelter behind other riders. Just as we came over the top, a huge gust hit us like a freight train. A SEAR guy ahead of me went ass over elbow like a tumbleweed and ended up in a ditch. Wild!!
You had to be very attentive and keep a good grip on the bars during the crosswind descent. Then we’d make a right hand turn that was super sketchy with the wind and hit it head on. I pulled on this part of the course a few times during the race and it was brutal. Other groups I watched during the day looked like they were going in slo-motion and I’m sure ours looked the same.
A few laps in, I noticed a teammate had gotten off the front and was slogging away solo. We were heading up a long straightaway with the wind coming from the left. Normally the group would be in the right gutter scrapping for a draft, but for whatever reason, we were all in the center of the road. This left me with a perfect opportunity to sprint up the sheltered side of the pack and launch up to Keith without taking anyone else along for the ride. Keith had burned too many matches and was too cooked to work with me, so I found myself in exactly the same scenario as my last race here – off the front with a decent gap, but alone. This time, instead of it being with 2-3 laps to go, there was still another 30 minutes left in the race. I quickly decided to keep on with the attack, wanting to make things as hard as I could for the rest of the riders. I also knew if I could just make it to the next corner at the end of the straightaway, I’d hit the bottom of the hill with a nice tailwind which would negate any advantage the group had to pull me back.
It worked. I got some company in the form of 3 other riders by the top of the hill and we were away. I was stoked! It’s so incredibly rare to get in a real breakaway around here, everything usually gets chased down so quickly. That’s why I like racing in the more difficult conditions, if you’re feeling decent, you can use them to break things up and split the group. We were away, but it was hard to get anything resembling a rotation going because we were getting tossed around so much. One of the riders I was with in the break was Taylor Phinney, who was fresh off the win in the junior race before ours. His parents are Davis Phinney (winningest racer in U.S. history), and Connie Carpenter (Gold medal in the 1984 Los Angeles olympic road race). Talk about good genes. Super-nice kid and a great rider. I’m sure we’ll be reading his name in the headlines a few years from now. It was fun seeing Davis at the race and shaking Taylor ’s hand and congratulating him on his ride.
One guy rode off the front of our group, and when I started to speed up after him, another rider said that he was just going for a prime – so I backed off. Only problem was, he never came back to us – going on to eventually win the race. Still don’t know how he did that…
Anyway, after 4-5 laps, a small group came up to us and we were in the final selection of about 10 riders. I checked behind us a few times when I could and never saw anything but long stretches of open road. We were definitely it. My team had 3 riders in the group and started to take some heat from a guy for not working. He was right, we weren’t working at that moment, but we had each done quite a bit during the race. I didn’t feel bad at all for taking a breather. My teammate Dave went to the front and brought down the hammer which stretched us out a bit as we tried to hang on. I took over on the long straight and kept the pace high across the line with 2 laps to go.
I stayed on the front as we rounded the corner at the bottom of the hill thinking I could control/cover things from up there. I thought there would probably be an attack, but have to admit to being caught off guard by the speed of Phinney and another guy as they blasted by me with considerable momentum. Luckily, my teammate Brad was wise to their plan (overheard them talking) and was prepared to jump with them. He made it and they were away in a group of three. I just couldn’t come up with the speed to close the gap down before the top of the hill and the wind that was waiting for us, and ended up chasing with two other riders.
Brad got a close up view of Phinney’s sprint as he took it out for second, but got the better of the other rider in their break to nail down a most excellent third place in a very hard race after being out of the country for 10 days. Strong ride from the Aussie. I came across second in my little group to get 7th place in the race. My unstated goal for the race was to stay out of trouble and get top ten – mission accomplished. I came away with a great weekend of training/racing and with my legs back under me again. Next stop, The Koppenberg…