The 2018 Tour de Bloom in Wenatchee Washington: my biggest race yet, and my second go at stage racing in the United States. How was it? Damn hard. Would I do it again? In a second.
Stage one of the Tour de Bloom was no picnic. The “Alderberg Sports Plain Road Race” began in the little town of Plain Cellars. The rolling circuit ran along Lake Wenatchee before circling back through the downtown. The bell lap took a turn up Beaver Hill for an exciting hilltop finish. The men’s race was chalked-full of attacks, but an eager peloton made it challenging to stay away for long. "Buck-Wild" Buckosky tried his luck on the first lap but got reeled back in due to little cooperation. Attacks started flying again on lap two. Crashes shortly after the turnaround caused some confusion in the pack. A dangerous break snuck off the front while riders turned to find their teammates. I was able to help Chris and Al bring back the group of attackers. Unfortunately, my legs fell victim to my own effort, and soon after, my day was done.
Stage three was the "Wenatchee Downtown Criterium;" a twilight crit in the heart of Wenatchee known for its beer garden and fan-lined streets. After showing improvement at the Race The Ridge criterium, I was confident that I could recreate my bit of personal success this weekend. Spirits were high going into our race, as our woman's squad had just dominated the road— cleaning up primes and earning second in the final sprint. It felt like no time at all before we were lined up at the start. Rock music blared, and people cheered from both sides of the road. It was completely black out, and for a short time, I was worried about whether or not the street lights would come on. They did, and just in time for "Ace" to make a special announcement: the prime for the first lap was $500 (USD!). TRT finished second, narrowly losing the money by less than a bike length. The race settled into a rhythm. None of the early attacks were overly damaging due to it being a sixty-minute crit. With eight laps to go, Erik Diertens started controlling the front of the race. This allowed remaining TRT riders to organize a leadout. Then, with five to go, panic. A massive crash mid pack saw a huge portion of the field go down hard. The race was neutralized, then stopped, so barricades could be removed for ambulance crews. At least two riders were taken to hospital while others were treated by paramedics on the spot. Riders were given the option to continue the race or be given the same finishing time as the bunch. Most opted to continue, including each of the remaining TRT men. The race resumed with five laps to go, and a strong leadout was organized by TRT. Al Murison rode to a strong second place with help from the boys.
The final stage was fast and hectic. Holly Simonson was out on course with my bike (since her's had been damaged in stage one). The men rode to the start and I wished them well since I'd get my bike back in time. With less than ten minutes to go, Brian Green came soaring down the gravel road aboard my ride. He hoisted it in the air, and my dad and I went to work swapping parts over. In no time, I was climbing on the saddle and being pushed towards the start. Brian informed me that the women had just conducted a successful leadout, with Holly sprinting to the stage win. I told shared the news to the guys once I surprised them at the start.
The race began, and I was happy with my position towards the front. The long and flat box course meant people were having trouble getting away. It was a comfortable race until we turned a corner into the crosswinds. In less than a minute, I went from relaxed to fighting to hold a wheel. The pack surged and strung out down the road. Riding two-up, racers hugged their bars as the peloton shifted into a downhill drag. At 60+ km/h and with no more gear to go, I spun my legs as fast as they could go. The road was almost flat, but the slight downhill was just enough to shatter the peloton into distinct groups. Rollers perched in the distance. Groups soon looked like ants as riders fought to catch those ahead of them. My hopes of finding the main group soon faded. I came across Chris McLeod, who'd flatted while in a breakaway. We echeloned and collected riders along the way. Our day was done when we met the commissaire (along with probably half the field) at the start/finish. Kyle had managed fourth on the day, while Al held on for fifth in the GC.
TRT put on quite the performance at the 2018 Tour de Bloom. Dominance and professionalism were on full display, and certain riders were able to put their name on the map. Teamwork makes the dream work, and that's exactly what we do best.