The Tour of Walla Walla marked the team's first stage race of the year south of the border, and a successful one at that. The journey began early Thursday morning as the riders met at the team vehicles before beginning the seven hour drive to the Walla Walla Valley. With fantastic host housing, the team was ensured a good night's sleep over the next three day days of racing.
Friday- Stage 1: Wilson Hollow Time Trial
An 11km out and back course to start the weekend would double as a good leg opener and an opportunity to get an earlier head start on the opponents in the GC. The 21st edition of the Tour of Walla Walla was bound to be a close battle as the top 10 were separated by less than 30 seconds. Kyle had a strong ride, placing 7th, only 19 seconds back of the overall lead. Brendan and Chris finished within one minute of the fastest time, setting the team up nicely for the coming days.
Stage 2: Waitsburg Road Race
Only a handful of hours following the opening time trial, the 103km race would take the riders around three laps of a 34.3km loop. This included a 3km climb up to the finish which would provide an excellent opportunity to shake up to GC. The race was full gas from the start as riders tried to break away. Eventually a pair got up the road, but only with a short leash. With Erik giving it his all at the front with the other chasers, they were brought back before the final climb where the race was settled in a reduced bunch sprint. Kyle finished 4th closely followed by Chris in 5th. The result moved Kyle up into 6th in the GC, and TRT sitting 2nd for the team GC.
Saturday- Stage 3: Downtown Criterium
A 1.5km circuit with fast corners, a light breeze and some chewed up pavement would make a great stage for an exciting race. An absurd amount of flats and few close calls made for good spectating. A small group of riders escaped towards the end of the race. Brendan took the initiative and drove the front of the pack in the closing laps and reduced the gap to the leaders. The break was caught in the last two laps and Kyle was able to sprint to 2nd place, moving him up into 4th overall.
Sunday- Stage 4: Kellogg Hollow Road Race
For the men it was 145km and three laps of a hilly course. With the top 10 still only separated by less than a minute, the overall was still up for grabs. After non-stop attacks from the gun, a group of four got a small gap just before the first climb. TRT was not represented. In an effort to close the gap, we went to the front on the climb and smashed it, resulting in the peloton splitting and leaving the yellow jersey behind. A group of about 15 got away including Chris and Kyle. That group would bridge to the front four. They eventually built up a gap of over fine minutes and that would stick. That group stayed together to the finish and came down to sprint. Kyle was able to retain his 4th in the GC.
Overall a good way to wrap up the weekend and a positive experience we can carry over into the coming weeks of racing.