The 2019 Tour of Walla Walla would be the first test for Trek Red Truck Racing after an epic week of training down in Thousand Oaks, California the week before.
The drive in to town the day before racing would provide a preview of things to come over the weekend, as the weather shifted back and forth between bright sunshine and torrential rain every few minutes.
The Men’s team would start Stage 1 on Friday morning under cold, grey skies, and big wind with the threat of rain looming. The boys gave it everything on a challenging out and back 11km Time Trial with Alex FM finishing just over a minute back of first despite being under the weather, and the rest not too far behind. In between stages, the poor weather and hard effort had taken its toll on Alex and Brendan who fell quite ill after the TT and were unable to start Stage 2 that afternoon. Fortunately, the sun had come out by then, and the two remaining riders were ready to roll for the 100km km road race.
Despite being short staffed, Oli and myself made our presence felt by attacking from the gun and covering moves all day. The pace was always hard as everything was being chased and nothing got away until the final third of the race. Oli finished off the day with a late brake before the final climb and stayed away with a few others, moving him up in the overall GC.
After a nice sleep-in, Saturday afternoon's criterium looked promising - depending on who you asked - with heavy rain in the forecast. Sure enough, the skies opened just in time for the start. With the roads soaked, the race was strung out from lap 1 and never really eased up; with riders looking to stay safe at the front, and those not confident in the rain were either out the back or just happy to hang on. You could find Oli and myself at the pointy end for the full 90 minutes mixing it up and attacking off the front. Those moments served as the best chance to eat and drink, as you never wanted to take your hands off the bars back in the pack. With the slick corners and the blinding spray coming off the other riders at high speed, it was two hands on the wheel at all times. It was a solid outing for us, collecting the majority of the merchandise/cash premes and managed to stay safe in the sketchy finale.
The illness that seemed to be spreading like wildfire through men’s team, claiming another victim overnight leaving only me to start the final 140km stage of the race. Despite not feeling 100%, I left it all out on the road, making the early breakaway. Unfortunately, the legs weren’t good enough to stay up front. The battle was just as tough back in the peloton through the cross winds over the tailwind climbs as riders got dropped one by one. The crosswinds on the second lap proved to be a pivotal moment in the race. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the legs to make the split and that was the beginning of the end despite attempting a chase back on with a small group.
Needless to say, the weekend didn’t go quite as planned with the team running well below capacity. That said, the boys didn’t give up without a fight and came away with some prizes. With plenty of racing left on the calendar, there will be lots to look forward to once the full squad is back together firing on all cylinders.