For the past few days, it’s been impressed and excied to work for some of my youngest teammates: Rob Stannard, Lucas Hamilton, Nick Schults, and Damian Howsen. These guys were all world class (and even world champion) U23's and are clearly making huge strides as they step up into the pro ranks. Over the past two days, we’ve been defending the lead and doing our best to control an aggressive peloton on some equally crazy roads and terrain.
For Stage 2, it makes for tough work but we were happy to ride at the front. The road conditions were dismal and the terrain relentless. When you add in the unknown of cars sneaking their way onto the course and some corners being less than clear as to which direction to go, it was a real bonus to be up front and have a clear line.
Stage 2 was an awesome team work day where everyone contributed in a very obvious way, which isn't always the case and nice when it happens. My role was to take over from Sam and Cam for the final two climbs through the up/down finishing circuits. With the help of Nick, I got the boys about halfway up the final climb when the attacks started coming. Whether its early, mid or late in the race, it’s a good feeling to take over at the front of the bunch and whip up the pace for teammates who are riding strong and eager to deliver. Lucas claimed a close second on the stage and moved into the overall lead.
Friday was another up down, twisty circuit that we tackled seven times. Fortunately, most of these roads had been resurfaced in the past 20 years and I think the close circuit made things a little safer in terms of the race marking and controlling road furniture.
The ballistic first lap finally gave way to a solid breakaway that we were content with getting up the road. We kept them in check but were ok if they stayed away for the stage win because it would neutralize the available time bonuses. Sam and Cam put on a tempo clinic through the halfway point before a few other teams began ramping up the pace. At times they would shred it full gas, only to lose most of their teammates and then sit up. This sliced the gap to the break, and it looked like it would be back together for the final lap.
I fought hard to stay in contact with the reduced group over the top and provide support for our leaders. The group began to swell on the downhill back to the finish and the fast run-in was chaotic and uncontrolled. We were happy to get our top three guys safely in on same time and now look to tomorrow which should be a sprint day but seeing how most of these teams ride and how little they are willing to commit for any one leader, its anyone’s guess how it will shake out.
On good news--my guts seem to be improving little by little. It’s challenging to get stomach recovery in when we are tossing down the quantities of food needed to fuel for these races, but I’m encouraged that I'm at least going in the right direction and hoping to keep improving.