The final stage of the Madera Stage Race is 87 miles, flat to rolling, has a bombed out section of pavement that is not fit for a herd of meandering cattle, and an up and down roller coaster finish that truly takes your breath away. The 87 mile course is constructed of 5 laps…….but that doesn’t really matter since the racing ended on the first lap.
Fifty three starters, twenty one finishers and the moral of the day presented by the Optum Pro cycling team is a cheerful, say it with a smile now “how to obliterate a field in a crosswind.” Kelly Benefits, (optum pro cycling), brought a full squad, and it’s their third week of an early season training block in preparation for the Tour of California. Their legs may be tired, but the teamwork was polished enough to makes us look like a bunch of amateurs. Wait a second, hmm?
After lap one, a good portion of the field was gone. I did my best to stay out of the cross wind, but Kieth and I were very much battering it out in the gutter. We survived. The bar was raised on the second lap as Kelly set up a wicked echelon that strung out and guttered the field. It was like a step by step process, string us out, then attack us when we are weak and in poor position. I made the important split on the 2nd lap and within minutes the rest of field had disappeared behind us. It was now down to 2 Kenda pro riders, the entire Kelly Pro team, Max Jenkins, and about five amateurs including myself. Up the road in a break-away was Ben Jacques-Maynes from Bissel, Eamon Lucas of Cal Giant, and Scott Zwizanski from Kelly.
Near the end of the 3rd lap, about 50 mile in, Kelly, paid homage to the departed and left us for dead. I was caught in no mans land, unable to respond to their constant string of attacks. Evan Huffman was the only non pro to survive with the exception of Eamon who was in the break. I quickly rallied our group of 5 into chasing a group of two about 15 seconds up the road. It was pretty clear immediately that our group was so disheveled that we would not be able to work together. Driven by anxiety, frustration, and ego I charged across the gap alone hoping Vince would at least come with me. In the end I chased for 10 min with nothing to reap from my efforts.
I rejoined my lackluster chase group only to watch two them go straight out the back and blow up. The rest of the guys were pretty toasted and unable to rotate through. The thought of continuing like this seemed futilely pointless and I lost my impetuous, turned around and went home. A few minutes after turning around I witnessed Kieth still hammering on and after all was said and done he ended up 17th on the day, 15 min back which actually bumped him up to 15th overall. It looks like had I finished with the group I was in, I would have been 11th or 12th overall. Would of could of should of……..not got dropped on the 3rd lap.
Kelly put seven guys in the top twelve, and took spots 1,2 and 3 in the RR. Overall I am most impressed with Evan Huffman and Nate English who managed to secure 3rd and 2nd in the overall even though they were outgunned, they persevered, congrats.
Time to put this one behind me, and share what I have learned with some pretty talented horses.