Check out Dilworth tonight at 4pm (EST) LIVE VIDEO FEED
We drove up to Spartenburg yesterday during our second of two rest days. The historic post-race festivities in Walterboro (some bike riders lit the hotel roof on fire last year due to an unexpected beer+fireworks combination), didn't occur this year for one reason or another so we are all able to get to bed early and take off for our 4hr transfer to Charlotte, NC very early in the morning. I can feel the efforts of the past four races adding up now and upon our arrival at the hotel, both Remi and I just rested. We did get DQ for desert though!
This morning we rode into town and happened upon one of the fanciest Starbucks I have ever seen. Unfortunately the coffee was quite regular. After a rest day yesterday, it took some very high cadence riding to wake up the legs. In Beaufort, I realized that Carlos has been spinning during our rest days at an extremely high cadence. His pedal stroke is very smooth despite turning over a light gear at +120rpm. When I tried this myself it was hard not to bounce right off my saddle! But in the three days since, I've already felt an improvement. It is as if I have been riding the track bike almost. So my leg speed as been improving not only in the races but also in training.
Wow! What a party! The street was lined with thousands of people with all of the streets adjacent to the course closed. These streets were filled with cotton candy booths, three live bands and many hamburger stands. Fortunately I found the only coffee shop in downtown with just enough time to chug a small mocha before the women's pro race finished and the guys elbowed one another on the way to staging.
The course, a 4 corner clockwise circuit, was very similar to Athens. The pace was very high with a little head wind on the back straight which made moving up quite difficult...you had to just ride the surge on the backstraight and dive deep on the inside going into corner 3. The road kicked up at this point, coasting into a tight corner 4 before a 2% drag up to the start-finish line. A small area after the S-F line was cobbled.
Carlos started in the orange leader's jersey for the 3rd day in five and Barley also receved a call up for 7th overall. Remi and I started with good position and after 1 lap, all four of us rode in the top 20. Remi immediately went to the front after Barley snatched the opening lap prime. Unfortunately Barley had come down with a sickness earlier in the day so that initial effort really hurt him and he eventually had to call it a day. Kind of like a self-proclaimed Bob-Roll-strategy: a few years ago I was watching the Tour coverage and Bob admitted that in his early days in Europe he would show up for local races only to win the first prime and then go buy groceries.
Back to the race. This venue was by far the second loudest of the week. It was dark very soon and by the end flashing cameras and glaring street lights stung our eyes. I was able to cover a few moves but missed a few prime sprint opportunities. In the finale I was riding with Carlos behind the UHC train with 2 to go but the swarm on the back straightaway caught me out and I was push back to 20th wheel with 1 to go. Again there was a massive crash on the 2nd last lap so when we came through for the sprint finale, the barriers out of corner 4 were 10 feet farther back than they had been the lap previous.
Carlos managed to still finish 6th on the day, holding onto the leader's jersey by 4 points. Tomorrow's race is in Dilworth, a small historic region outside of Charlotte, NC so we'll have to work hard to manage Carlos' advantage despite fielding a smaller team.
Every day here at Speedweek I have continued to learn. Yes, if we had radios I could learn more during the race but in talking with Carlos, Eric and Remi each day I am starting to get a grasp of what I can do and what I need to do. With each race I become more confident but it is the combination of many small things that have made this confidence boost possible.
More than anything it's just learning how to race each criterium as best as possible given the ever changing set of circumstances we deal with on the road. Whether this be mitigating the threat of a beer-covered corner, a mechanical problem, losing a teammate halfway through the race or re-finding your teammates in the bunch after a crash to gesture to one another on who should go for the next prime or who is feeling good. Using my energy in the race is also crucial so I've slowly learned when to relax, when to attack, when to ride the front and when to take absolute risk. Of course understanding when to do something and actually getting it done are two totally different things. I have two more days to apply what I've learned. It's go time!