Day 2 at Speedweek: Pretty solid day in the office for Team Exergy. Carlos finished 3rd and Barley 4th in the bunch finish, landing our first team podium of the week. United Healthcare controlled the race from start to finish and then led it out over the final 6 laps to propel their two finishers to the top two steps of the podium.
How it played out:
After falling asleep at 4am last night (a lot of caffeine and a lot of adrenaline left over from the racing in Athens from 9-11pm), the team ventured out into the bright morning for a spin at around town at 10am. Shortly afterwards, the Volvo team car hit the road for the 1hr transfer to Roswell. Unfortunately it took almost 2 hours with traffic but still had enough time to find lunch at least three hours before the race start. Remi dropped Carlos, Barley and Ben off at the hotel for a nap before taking the bikes over to the venue. The team's new friend Sean Rudzinski from Felt Bicycle's
New York office helped get the bikes all shiny and working like new after a bumpy race in Athens.
The temperatures were very pleasant with a moderate wind blowing against the flow of the race along the start-finish straight. Two tight left handers later, a longish 2-3% drag took the peleton up to the top of the 70 second lap, followed by two very fast and tight corners (off camber too!) to return the riders to the waving uphill drag to the line. Here is a photo from 2010.
Carlos and Barley received call ups after finishing in the top ten the night before, while Remi and Ben started front-mid pack. The pace was easy the first lap as Kenda and UHC tested out the corners, then it all full gas the second time through. Small moves developed off the front, most commonly all the front straight when the field was strung out in a long snake-like shape. But after 20 minutes it seemed apparent that a small break would not survive the day as UHC looked very strong in defense; only a move with many blue jerseys would be allowed to break free. Carlos was riding really well again and animated the front of the race, claiming many prime [pre-em] sprints in the early going before attacking solo 30minutes in. Ben and Barley also tried to cover moves and follow during the prime laps but had troubles with the legs.
However with forty minutes remaining, a large move developed following a prime sprint including both Barley and Carlos. The move also included riders from each team including four UHC; thus with a gap of over 10 seconds, the race looked like it was over!
Remi at this point returned to the front of the race, joining Ben in the top ten to cover bridge moves. A very large crash occurred in the 50' left corner two (which has a nasty set of flower beds on the left and a large gutter with Armco and Willy bags on the right). Ben slipped through but Remi was caught and his derailer tagged. A few laps later, as those crashed riders (approximately fifty!) were awaiting the field at the pits to rejoin, another massive incident claimed the remaining bulk of the peleton at the summit of the circuit. Fortunately Ben was riding safely along the left side of the group as the Armco along the right collected a swath in a cacophony of screeching brakes and shattering carbon. As Ben jumped in a small bridge attempt the following lap, the race was stopped by the officials as riders remained on the ground near the summit, immobilized for neck and back trauma.
The field continued to the start-finish line to await the green flag from the officials, effectively neutralizing the breakaway. Stopping after 50 minutes of racing was tough for all the competitors as their core temperatures were very high and packed in amongst the 100+ jittery riders, any repreive from the wind was blocked. Almost out of water, it was a question of whether to drink now or save it for the remainder of the race. After 10 minutes, the race was re-started and thus Gruppo Compacto, it looked absolutely certain that the race would finish in a bunch sprint.
Most primes, more attacks. More tired legs. More crashes. Then it was the final 15 minutes and UHC looked like they were getting organized at the front. With 5 laps remaining, UHC led the field with all eight riders, followed by Carlos, Barley. Ben reached the guys briefly but lost contact after a reshuffling. In the finale, UHC took the top two spots with Barley leading it out for Carlos. A massive crash at 12th wheel around the final corner sent many riders in the Armco with Ben the first rider to avoid the incident, finishing solo ahead of the remaining riders.
Carlos' hard efforts all day also earned him the Most Aggressive Rider of the Day award. We'll be looking to support him as much as we can this week as we go for the top step. Monday is a rest day for Team Exergy, with a 5hr transfer to the beautiful town of Beaufort, GA.
Also a big shout out to Team Exergy at the Tour of the Gila
who absolutely nuked the final GILA MONSTER stage to move up to 5th and 9th overall. Way to suffer Matt Cooke and Andres Diaz! Photo courtesy of CyclingNews
Also more breaking news: Sam Crushed A Mountain in March
for all the world to watch. Get your inside view here! All the World Tour team will be checking this out in preparation for the Tour of California so don't miss it!