Stage 1 - Catherine Creek
It was definitely the most rewarding, exciting, and awesome experience I’ve had racing bikes. It would be difficult to communicate everything that transpired through a race report, but I’ve attempted below. A heartfelt THANK YOU to Chris, Rob, and TJ for doing what they did. They rode possessed. It was amazing to watch. A sincere THANK YOU to Mike Larsen also. His master plan in our training and our race tactics came to life this weekend. The method to his madness became clear to all of us as the race unfolded. In my years of team sports, I’ve never seen a plan (nor a motivational speech from a coach) work as well as it did for TAI Bend this weekend.
Forty two Cat 3’s started stage #1. After soft pedaling for the first 15 miles, I noticed TJ’s saddle wobbling. Within the next 10 minutes, his seat fell off with hardware scattering across the road (accompanied by classic TJ banter). After TJ pulled over it turned out that he lost hardware necessary to remount his seat (I’ll pause this side story there). Meanwhile, our team goal for the stage was for all of us to get over Catherine Creek with the main group (none of us had ever accomplished this simple goal at Baker City). The Catherine Creek climb was the first indication that we did not fully grasp the year-over-year gains we all had made as bike racers. Rob, Chris and I climbed with the main field over Catherine Creek. We were psyched. Goal #1 accomplished. Then over the next 30 miles, we seemed to be amongst the stronger riders in the group and we worked well together. I was told that the finish line was 3k from the top of the last climb. As we got to the top of the last climb, we were all feeling great. I asked the guy who was setting the pace if he wanted to take a flyer. He said yes, so I jumped and opened up a sizeable gap with Rob and Chris blocking. After the gap opened up to a few hundred meters, I turned around and realized I was alone, then I noticed the head-wind, then I noticed the 5K marker. Oops. I had a big gap so I put in an effort. At around 500-700 meters to the finish, I got caught and we all sprinted to the finish together. Chris had a strong sprint and got us a top 10 finish. Still no sight of TJ. As we rode back to the house, we knew that TJ had either hung out long enough to get his bike fixed, or he DQ’d and would be outta the race. When we got home, TJ was not there. We drove back to the finish line and learned that TJ finished the final 55 miles of the race . . . . without a saddle. He stood on his pedals for 55 miles and only finished 15 minutes behind the field. Crazy and funny stuff. It served as good humor in the peloton for the remainder of the weekend.
Stage 2 – Time Trial
We stayed up until midnight Friday night elevating aero-geekness to a new level. We were using packaging tape, spray adhesives and referencing obscure wind tunnel tests from Canada. Very funny evening. The weather Saturday morning was sunny, warm and beautiful. We all got good warm-ups and laid down great TT’s. We didn’t know the results for close to 2 hours after we finished. After showering and getting downtown, we walked up to the result postings in the middle of downtown Baker City and discovered that TAI would be in the leader’s jersey. More high-fives. Big hugs. Great feeling. Then the realization of, “this has never happened before. what do we do now?” We were holding GC by a slim 2 seconds.
Stage 3 – Criterium
We were slightly unsure of how to handle our newfound leadership position in the peloton during the criterium, but we figured it out quickly and faked it pretty good. We held all GC contenders together, retained the leaders jersey, and Chris got a 5th place finish. TJ, Rob, and Chris held everyone in check and chased down all the breaks that held GC contenders. I sat on their wheels and tried to look like I belonged in the leader’s jersey. Watching us figure it out together during the crit, was another glimpse of how much we had all progressed as bike racers over the past year. We got several compliments after the race for how we raced together and protected the jersey. I think that was a confidence booster for us. In the back of our heads, we started to think that we might actually have a chance at pulling this off. That night, we talked through all of our options in detail on how to manage the Dooley Mountain Stage. Larsen confirmed and fine-tuned our game plan, then gave us one hell of a motivational speech. Mike’s comments about trusting our training, trusting our plan, and trusting our team, rang in our heads throughout the Dooley Mountain stage. It was a big motivation and definitely helped us.
Stage 4 – Dooley Mountain
Our plan for Dooley was for the 4 of us to stay together and for Chris, Rob and TJ to set tempo at the front, let non-threatening breaks go, reel in any breaks that threatened our GC lead, keep me out of the wind, then use the 30k flats before Dooley to gutter the peloton and hurt them. Then deliver me to Dooley fresh and ready to climb. What ensued over the next 4.5 hours was totally awesome. As someone in the peloton said after the race, “TAI put on a clinic.” Here are a few highlights. By maintaining tempo, we reeled in all the breaks without blowing-up anyone on our team. Rob went up the road with a threatening break and sat on their wheels. Eventually, Chris and TJ reeled them back in. It was very cool to observe. Mike told us to “have faith in the plan, and have faith in your tempo.” It worked. It was nerve racking to see break splits get high, but our tempo eventually reeled every break in (accept one solo). The peloton questioned us in the first 40 miles, they got very quiet between mile 50 and 60, then by mile 70, they knew they were getting worked-over.
The first sign I noticed that Chris, Rob and TJ were riding angry, was when Rob went to the front for the final 3 mile climb before the descent to the flats. He big-ringed the entire climb, broke souls, and dropped several riders in those 15 minutes . The peloton was completely silent. This is the same Rob who brought his cell phone with him on the Dooley Stage last year in case he needed a sag wagon: -). Crazy progress.
When we descended to the flats, we were very fortunate to find staunch cross-winds. Chris, Rob, and TJ guttered the group, kept me out of the wind, and abused the peloton for an hour. At one point I looked back and the entire peloton was single file behind the TAI “triangle.”, The peloton was single file riding right on the yellow line with stragglers dropping off the back. TAI was driving the train fast. At that point, we still had one solo break several minutes ahead and TJ’s time management reeling him in was impressive. It was cool to see the official’s car go right to TJ with time updates on the break split. The official didn’t talk to me in the leader’s jersey, or anyone else for that matter. By then, TJ was calling the shots and the official clearly recognized it.
The TAI pace continued right to the base of Dooley. The best way I can describe it was that Chris, Rob, and TJ rode angry (and smart). They saved nothing for Dooley. It was cool to see how well we all communicated and worked together to solve problems and questions as they came up. I remember at one point when TAI was absolutely drilling the pace on the flats, TJ came back and handed me food that he had been carrying for me. I can only imagine what the Cat 3 peloton was thinking when they saw that (“who the heck are these guys?”).
When we started at the base of Dooley, I heard three things: Rob dropped back to me and said “I’m done,” TJ yelled up to me “do your job,” then I heard a tubular tire explode. I learned today that it was the tire of one of the strongest climbers in the group and a rider who could have jeopardized our GC. It was the same guy who finished 7th GC at Mt. Hood last month. Nice stroke of luck, eh? Just another example of how perfect the weekend went for us.
Dooley played out as you’d expect. By half way up, there were 7 of us left including me. I had all the GC time gaps listed on my handle bars so I knew who was a threat. There were only two guys in our final group within a minute of TAI. The rider setting the pace and attacking was 18 seconds off GC. He attacked 6 times over the 7 mile climb, I stayed in my saddle the entire time, spun a high cadence and had my wheel covered at every moment. We all hit the 200 meter mark together. TAI ended up winning GC by 11 seconds over 4 stages of racing.
I have no doubt that we would not have won GC without a total team effort (i.e. without Chris, Rob, and TJ’s sacrifice). There is no way it would have happened. One of the most rewarding parts of the entire weekend was receiving so many comments from riders and officials who came up to us after the race to tell us how impressed they were with our team tactics.
The weather was perfect as were the course conditions after a bunch of rain late in the week and Saturday night. This was my 3rd Stampede race and the first ever mountain bike race for Rob. As I got to the line, “Little Richard” told me to go to the back and not be pushing my way into the front. I basically ignored him knowing what kind of pain I was ready to inflict on the field. Rob was not too far back, but not in the ideal spot for a massive launch off the front that was to come. Gun sounds and I launched it pulling a little ways away from the field. I maintained this advantage all the way to the single track were I started getting stuck behind slower riders who started before us. I just didn’t want “Little Richard” to beat me so I just kept the hammer down. One rider from our field wound up catching me and we rolled together until I dropped him on the first climb. He was able to recover and get back to me and we rode together all the way towards the top of Petersen Ridge. Unfortunately we got stuck behind several riders and made a passing attempt. He got by the rider and then I got to run square into the guy as he rolled right in front of me. I worked hard to bring the guy back over the rest of the course, but between riders being in the way and mostly downhill left was not able to get the overall finishing 20 seconds behind. Still I was able to take the podium for our category. As I waited near the finishing line, I looked over and guess who I saw, but Rob himself. I didn’t think anyone else had finished in front of him besides the two of us and I was right. 2nd place, on a rental bike in your first mountain bike race is impressive. Maybe you should consider getting a good mountain bike and ride it.
What a great day for TAI to kick off our Memorial Day Weekend of racing. Like last year our plan was to put a rider or two in the break and then control the field the rest of the day until they give up. Ryan was very aggressive early and often trying to get away through the first 1.5 laps. Finally, and not shortly after he said “Nothing is getting away” did he roll off the front with Austin Line. The group was pretty aggressive in trying to bring them back getting as close as about 20 seconds at one time and then let up. Towards the back side of Lap 2 two riders made the jump and Doug was near the front. I yelled at him to “GO”, wanting him to cover and not let them bridge up. Doug took this as something else all together as I yelled “NOOOOOOOOOO” thinking he would drag the field right up to Ryan. Well the group didn’t do much and they watched Doug ride away. Doug wound up bridging to Ryan and Austin into Lap 3. Ryan finally came back late on Lap 4, but he did a fine job of being aggressive. The group tried to organize a number of times to no avail and finally gave up on Lap 5. One final attempt at a break late in the race found Rob and I with two other riders away from the field for about ½ a lap. I was more than content no working making them pull me around. What was left of the field came back together and the jockeying for the final sprint began. Ryan took to the front with about 5k to go pulling us into the nasty crossing headwind with Rob sitting 2nd wheel. At 1k, Chris rolled by me setting up the TAI Train for the final sprint. All 3 of them put a great effort out bringing me to 200 meters. I knew the sprint was going to be hard because of the head wind so I followed the Capa-Soraz guy coming around him with about 50m left getting him by a wheel at the line. Great racing by all on a tough day!,?P>
For 2012, TAI Cycling will now feature two distinct teams. The Portland Team and Bend Team will now feature their own sponsors, distinct uniforms and different riders to improve each team’s reach into their local communities and give better recognition to their sponsors.
2012 Bend Team Roster:
Tim Jones and TJ Paskewich set a blazing time on the Time Trial course in Bend on Thursday to win the Men 70+ Combined Age Tandem Race.
[Insert Tandem Joke Here]
But seriously, these guys were haulin’ and tandem racing requires lots of skill, teamwork and training to be competitive. We race that way on our road bikes all the time, so it was great to see how TJ and Tim were able to team up and go destroy!
Congratulations on the win, guys!
TAI/Sagebrush Cycling has had a very successful Spring. With Mt. Hood Cycling Classic all wrapped up we are now in the midst of stage race season with Crit season to soon follow. Podium highlights include:
Carl Hoefer – Swan Island Crit – 3rd place Pro 1/2
TJ Paskewich – Sisters Stampede – 1st place Cat [...]
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