BAM! A real cactus! Had never seen one before, they are tall.
We arrived in Tucson last night after a long but comfortable drive from Moab. Our homestay is amazing, with a pool and everything so I'm looking forward to many
ice baths/cannonballs as it looks like the 95 degree forecast will make for a warm weekend.
This morning we showed up in town early for one of the best known group rides in North America....THE SHOOTOUT! Although not as fast as it can be (January-February a lot of WorldTour riders show up....with teammates!), the pace was pretty damn quick (officially considered a “medium” speed by the locals). Fortunately I felt great after six days of elevation training and was able to spin a high gear as the 110+ rider field ramped it up leading into the 200m uphill sprint point. Scoring the sprint victory was fun!
On the way back into town I met the Old Pueblo Grand Prix race director Kurt Rosenquist who owns and operates the primo fitness and bike fitting studio Fitworks. He showed us the race course and his shop, finishing with a round of homemade bran muffins! It was a beautiful morning and by the time we got back to the car (10am) it was already 80+ degrees.
A dip in the pool to cool off and an afternoon of rest prepped us for the evening event the following day.
The Race: 4 TEAM EXERGY riders (Quinn Keogh, Chris Hong, Eric Barlevav and myself), 1 TEAM SKY rider (Jeremy Hunt, fresh off the Paris-Roubaix), 6 Fly V Australia, 12 RIDE CLEAN (including National Track Champion Jamey Carney), 6 PISTA PALACE riders (including 2008 National Criterium Champion Rashoon Bahati) and a handful of other amateurs from around the southwest, totalling 97 vicious competitors vying for the evening’s $2000 prize.
The surprising number of fans lining the narrow streets of the old town course created a claustrophobic feel as the field quickly unravelled, like a coiled snake in attack. Within half a lap its winding torso stretched around the stone corners ahead, hiding the actions of the head of the race if misplaced in the torso of the pack. The route included cobbled crosswalks and manhole-sized pot holes, ready to fatally bite any who misjudged their potency. A strong wind rushed through the surrounding stone buildings, protecting those of the breakaway in the tailwind sections and rewarding those coasting near the front of the peloton in the headwind sections. The rattle of the announcer's bell warned of a $200 prime prize only moments in. In contesting, a small four man breakaway formed and rode away from the peloton including TEAM EXERGY rider Eric Barlevav. Soon the break hovered beyond the group, dangling before the slithering mass behind. Quinn moved to the front of the peloton to cover bridge attempts and seize peloton prime sprints. With Barley using his legs in the break, I moved back to tenth wheel to take my place behind Ricky Escaula, Rahsoon Bahati and Ben Kersten presuming the duty as our squad’s sprinter for the day.
With twenty minutes remaining in the 1.5 hr event, the breakaway finally gave in. Shortly thereafter a second 2man break formed without TEAM EXERGY representation. The peloton allowed the gap to open as it felt that the breakaway would not last however due to the small amount of riders from each team, a concentrated chase did not occur. As a result one Specialized rider launched a successful bridge attempt to the group 15 seconds up the road and in the closing laps the break stayed strong despite 3 FLY V AUSTRALIA and Jeremy Hunt (TEAM SKY) working at the front. Chris Hong, after snagged by an early crash returned to the front to work hard to reel in the break.
Ultimately however, it became evident with 2 laps remaining that our race would be that for 3rd place and a $1000 dollar prize. It was at that point that Quinn (despite working tirelessly all day), Barley (who’d been in the day’s major break) and I found one another, forming a trio near the front of the pack. But the bunching and chaos of the finale complicated our plans and after biting into the brakes on both of the final two corners to avoid other riders, my third sprint of the lap along the bumpy start-finish straight only proved good enough for 5th in the bunch and 7th overall. Barley, with more luck despite his tired legs, squeezed through and finished 2nd in the bunch behind World Champion track rider Ben Kersten (FlyV Australia). Quinn, after totally detonating himself to claim two of the five prime sprints (and missing the crowd prime by only an inch), launching his own bridge attempt in the closing 7 laps and then summoning the courage to ride cross-eyed during the finale to secure a front position for Barley and I, crossed the line safely in 25th.
All in all we did a good race as our efforts at the front secured many announcements by the race commentators as well as a healthy dose of prizes for our efforts.
Our homestays for the week, the Peterson family, were amazing. Not only did they come to the race and cheer us on, they opened their home to us two days before the event, fed us wonderful meals and welcomed us back for winter training this upcoming January. Thank you very much and we all look forward to visiting Tucson again soon!
Evening ride upon our arrival from Moab
Great spot for moon rise in the evening and sunrise in the morning
King Kong and Billy Bob
Photostream from our homestay! Thank you Petersons!