With Tour de Bloom being the first stage race of the year everyone was excited to head down to Washington to test the waters in the American Pro 1/2 field. Paired with the beautiful countryside of Wenatchee and warm weather, we couldn’t wait to race.
The first stage was a fairly rolling point to point course that started in Plain and finished in Leavenworth. Driving some of the course ahead of time gave everyone a good idea as to what we were in for. Since I had junior gears, I knew that the descents on course were going to be a bit challenging if the pace was very high. Upon arriving to the course the morning of I could feel the excitement grow as big groups of cyclists rolled into the parking lot. After getting our packages, pinning numbers, and signing in it was race time. Right off the neutral start teams began attacking and I was eager to race. However, with the field being anxious to race, a crash happened not halfway through the race. Immediately I was concerned that one of my teammates had gotten stuck up in the crash, or worse, crashed as well. With a quick shoulder check I felt a wave of relief as all of the guys were accounted for. Shortly after the crash however I saw Ty’s hand go up in the middle of the pack, that could only mean that he had a flat. After Ty got a flat there was a bridge off the highway that had water on the corner. As we were taking the corner riders got nervous and put on the brakes mid-corner. Brendan ended up crashing due to this sketchy bridge. Being down to two riders in the peloton and a single rider up the road, Al and I sat in till the finish. Having misjudged the how close the last 1 kilometer was I got stuck too far back as riders started to attack the finishing climb.
Day two was an interesting day with a mass start hill climb in the morning and a twilight criterium later on. I had never done a mass start hill climb before, but I knew that I would have to dig deep. With a fairly good warm up in we rolled down to sign in and staging. Once everyone was signed in I was feeling a bit nervous because I knew it would be hard right from the start. Sure enough once it started everyone was going max for the first kilometer, and after that individual riders settled into their own pace. My legs weren’t feeling the greatest but I could see Al and Brendan up the road, and Ty right in front of me. I knew that both Brendan and Al would finish well. The pace was not what I wanted but I just rode accordingly and tried to not get too down because we had the criterium in the evening.
The criterium was a rectangle with a mild rise on one side, a small descent opposite, and flat in-between. There was a headwind for the finish which was good for me as I wouldn’t have to spin quite as fast for the sprint. We got there an hour before our race, and just like the hill climb I put in a good warm up and had even had a coffee before we left. I was very excited because I knew this would be a fantastic criterium. Once everyone was patiently waiting on the start line, anticipation grew as the commissaires counted down the seconds. The criterium started with a bang. Attacks were already going and riders were trying to get away from the field and single themselves out from the hunger pack behind. The adrenaline was coursing through me as it was everyone else. All the others on the team were near the front and following the attacks that went. This went on throughout the whole race, and it was rare that someone wasn’t trying to go clear of the field. With the primes that were being handed out I think people were going harder for those than they would for the finish. There were some substantial primes going that in amongst the focused racing surprised me. Coming into the last couple laps of the race I had to make sure that I was top ten, and at least top five going into the last corner. On the last lap, I made a move on the outside of corner one and two that put me in the perfect position. I was right on Al’s wheel as a break was caught on the second last corner. Coming into the last corner, fourth wheel, a slight hesitation, and then everyone poured as many watts as they could muster through the pedals. I passed a rider with 50 meters to go to take third as Al got second. It was quite the thrilling race, and we were so close to that top step. We raced that criterium very well, and although we didn’t win it was still a stellar performance.
The final day of racing in the stage race. It was a rolling course that was very exposed, meaning that wind was the deciding factor. We got there an hour early like all previous days before, and pinned our numbers. Once everyone was ready to go we rolled over to the line, awaiting the start of road race. 110 kilometers racing with a very strong start. A breakaway managed to get away within the first half of the race, which would stick and go on to be the winning breakaway. The peloton rode in the gutter for most of the day, with no one really being able to rest. On multiple occasions, I tried to get an echelon started but it would dissipate. Sadly, just before we reached the half way point Brendan flatted. Other than the wind and a few attacks it came down to a sprint for the main field. A US rider attacked with 800 meters to go, no one wanting to chase him down. I went to the front surging the pace and holding it as high as I could. I ended up getting second in the sprint which was a great way to end the day. Al got a top ten result after being in the breakaway all day.
Overall it was a great weekend of racing and a great experience. Thank you to all the sponsors, commissaires, and everyone who made the racing possible! Also, thanks to Evan who drove us all the way there and back. Looking forward to the next weekend of racing!