Tuesday, July 8, 2008

An up-and-down Tour of PA and a podium at Iron Hill

Eric Barlevav taking 3rd in a slip-and-slide final Tour of Pennsylvania criterium, Pittsburgh

Well, Tour of PA came and went . . . we did very well on Stages 1a and 1b, with 7th, 8th, and 15th in the prologue (Andy Baker became Best Young Rider, then Stoop, and then me) followed by a good showing in the technical, sketchy criterium with our sprinter Eric Barlevav getting boxed in for 5th and me following with the leadout for 20th.

Stage 2 went even better, as Eric and I made it into the winning move of the day and I helped drive it to get over 2 minutes on the shattered field. I lead out the strongman-sprint, but BBQ's legs were sapped and he managed 7th behind a super-strong Kevin Lacombe and Kelly Team. I rolled in for 12th, moving up into 8th overall.

Then Stage 3 broke us! The plan was to be aggressive and get into the early move, because there was a huge KOM 65 miles into the 105 mile stage. Unfortunately, there was a considerable headwind and we killed ourselves to get the move to stick. Andy made it into the break, but BBQ and I were shot from the previous day's efforts and everyone pretty much got shelled on the climb. From there, we just had some damage control in the grupetto, but basically the general classification goals for the team went out the window.

Stage 4 was shorter, only 60 miles, but with some serious climbing, and we just went out to make the time cut so that we could perform on Stages 5 and 6.

And perform we did: Stage 5 was a nasty saw-tooth profile with dozens of leg-breaking one-minute steep hills and some serious crosswind sections to boot. We all managed to make it into the final circuits, and The Gutt said he was feeling fantastic so we decided to setup the sprint for him. Things started to break apart on the run-in to the circuits, and we made sure a guy was in every move . . . unfortunately, our efforts were in vain and probably sapped us a bit for the final 5k. I was on the front through most of the final 9k of circuits (3 laps of 3k), and put in some serious pulls, but misjudged where we were on the course in the final lap and was not ready for the insane Kelly Train when they came over the top at over 35mph! Stoop tried valiantly to latch on, but a 10 foot gap to David Veilluex's wheel was impossible to close, and The Gutt's sprint never really happened.

The team's moral was bolstered after seriously disappointing Stages 3 and 4, and we were once again confident that we were one of the strongest teams and could ride the front at the end of a killer stage. Things didn't work out right, but we were all looking forward to the final criterium in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Unfortunately the rain started pouring after about 30 minutes of racing. The whole team had been on the front controlling things and neutralizing attacks at 30mph, hoping to setup Eric Barlevav for a final stage-winning sprint. The plans went out the window when my front wheel slid out in the first brick-laden turn and I hit my head pretty hard . . . the race was neutralized do to threats of a tornado, but then restarted (at the behest of the entire peloton!) because it was being covered live on Versus nationwide. We raced hard, but my legs locked up from the gun and I couldn't get the confidence to stay at the front through the corners. My race was over, along with most of the peloton, as the race was being run as a one-day race with no overall consequences for the Tour. Stoop, Andy, and The Gutt worked hard for Barlevav, but in the end only The Gutt was left at the front to work with Slipstream-VMG in the final laps. Barlevav was on Daniel Holloway's wheel in third position into the final turn, but a gap opened and that was all she wrote. Barlevav got on the podium with 3rd place, which was a nice consolation after a very tough week.

We got back in the van and jetted on Monday morning, leaving at 8AM and arriving in Winston-Salem at 2AM after making multiple stops to drop guys (and girls, our souigneurs!) off along the way. The Gutt and I got in some good training before heading 10 hours BACK UP TO PHILLY (!!!) for the Iron Hill twilight criterium . . .

We knew before the race that we were the largest team, but also that Toshiba was a force to be reckoned with. From the gun the race was super fast with constant attacks. I got a $100 prime, but shortly after Heckman got away from us solo. We didn't have all of our guys up front at that point, and the two laps that were required for us to organize and chase him down were just enough for him to get out of sight and start building his gap--and build it he did! Every lap the gap went up a second or two, with me, Tom Soladay, Mike Stoop, and David Guttenplan chasing our hearts out. Toshiba just sat on us and messed up the rotation a few times, but none of the other teams (read Batley-Harley Davidson and Inferno) helped out much at all.

We were definitely behind the 8-ball, especially after Travieso attacked our chase at the front and started to ride away. Guttenplan pulled through strongly through the final uphill turn, and I let the gap open up just enough for him to get away solo. I didn't think this was wise, as I have never seen The Gutt bridge any type of a gap before, but I was pretty blown anyway and thought it might be nice to get another couple riders to do some work for a little while. However, The Gutt rolled away doing 30+mph and bridged up to Travieso! Those two were up the road racing for second place when Heckman lapped the field and came to the front. In the final minutes of the race, Stoop got off the front with some hangers-on and ended up taking 7th, while The Gutt edged out Travieso in an excellent sprint for 2nd place!

I was proud to have enough left in the legs to do the leadout for Adam in the field (Barlevav took a nasty spill in the infamous third corner earlier in the race) and I rode from 3-to-do to 1-to-go before Heckman and Yosvany (both on Toshiba) came over the top, Adam right on board in third wheel. He got a little boxed in at the end, but managed 12th place, while I completely blew on the last lap and rolled in dead last of the 40 guys who finished the race.

It was great to have the team up on the podium in a tough race, and confirmed our abilities in the USA Crits series with Adam moving up into 3rd overall and Time Pro Cycling 2nd in the team overall classification, nipping at the heels of Toshiba! Our main goals for the rest of the season include the USA Crits series, U23 Nationals in Los Angeles, CA, USPRO Criterium Nationals in Downers Grove, IL, and the Univest Grand Prix in eastern Pennsylvania.

Early on in the race, first corner . . .

Stoop tries a move without much help.

Sitting in the front 15 early on.

Later on it got dark, and the chase began.

Boy did it begin!

I think I was going after a prime or something . . . it is all a blur.

In the heat of the chase now.

A Time among Toshibas . . .

It felt like I never really got OFF the front the entire race. Here below is a nice leadout sequence with 2 laps to go . . .

Then with one to go Heckman came over the top with Yosvany and Myerson on third wheel . . .

I was definitely hurting a little here.

The Gutt definitely earned his 2nd place and put Time in a good spot!

What a sprint!

The Gutt up there in 2nd with the big boys (and me admiring the scenery :-)

All in all, a good showing by Time Pro Cycling. This coming weekend we are traveling to Louisville, Kentucky for the Metro Police Force NRC race on Saturday and another big-money criterium on Sunday. It is not on the USA Crits series, but only 7 hours away, so we are going to RIP!

Thanks for reading.


Carson said...

Nice Job in PA Nick! It was nice to see you on Versus TV Coverage!

Tiffani said...

Nice pics nick!!