After I finished up with Cascade, I had just 3 days before my big target for the year; the u23 nationals road race. I was a little nervous that I wouldn't get enough recovery time, but considering most of the main contenders I would be facing also did Cascade, I couldn't use that as a legitimate excuse. Lucky for me, nationals was in the same town as Cascade, so I didn't have to do any more traveling. Ashley and switched housing to stay with our coach, Christian Williams, and the GS Tenzing crew. As a Tenzing alumni, it was cool to get to hang out with the younger guys and share some insight with them as well as goof around and play ping pong.
For the most part my recovery consisted of lots of time in the coffee shop and a few easy spins. On one day, Ashley, Gonzo, Kyle and I rode up the tt course to a huge waterfall that was part of the local state park. It was a pretty cool view and well worth the 3 miles of gravel road to get to.
Before the race, I thought long and hard about what would give me the best chance for success. I figured I had some success in the past by being in the early move to limit the surges. I decided that would be my plan of attack. Luckily, my instincts paid off. As it does almost every year, regardless of the course, the early move stayed away. And I was in it. We got rolling about half through the first lap of 6. Originally, there were about 22 of us, with only a handful of amateurs. I was fortunate to have the company of 2 Kelly Benefit riders, 3 Garmin, and 3 Trek-Livestrong. I knew I was in the right move. On lap 5, Ben King of Trek- Livestrong gave a little fake attack before the first climb and it forced Alex Howes and Peter Stetina of Garmin to hit the gas and close the gap. In doing so, half the break got shelled! I was close to being one of them, but clawed back on through the feed zone. Now there were 9 of us. Still the 3 Garmin riders, 3 Trek- Livestrong, Scott Stewart of Waste Management, and Will Dugan for Team Type 1. Going into the second and steeper of the 2 climbs of the lap, another Garmin attack put me into difficulty. At the top of the climb, I put my head down and fought hard to catch back on. After a couple miles, I managed to latch on to the back on the group, but so did Kirk Carlson of Garmin, who had bridged up solo out of the chase group. Now there were 4 Garmin guys in the top 10! By the time I caught back on, the decisive move was gone, and with just a lap remaining, they weren't coming back. 4 guys snuck off the front and consisted of Alex Howes (eventual winner) and Peter Salon, both from Garmin, then Ben King and Scott Stewart. I was back in the first chase group with Peter Stetina and Kirk Carlson (Garmin), Guy East and Bjorn Sealander (Trek-Livestrong), and another guy. At this point in the race I was about cashed. The pace was pretty blistering and the course was so difficult, that only about 40 people got scored and about 25 crossed the line. I finished up 10th. Last out of the remaining guys in the original break away. Several minutes behind Alex Howes. By far the biggest dig I had at a national race in my career. At the end of the day, I was just no match. I like to think that the European program of the other guys was the difference maker, but they were just on a whole other level. Alex deserved the win and I was pretty content with my 10th. Next year.
The time trial was not exactly my strongest event, but I ended up surprising myself a little bit. My goal was to top 20, but I knew I had to put in a good effort for that. There were about 60 starters in the u23 time trial. My 30 second man was Kolt Bates, a good yet catchable rabbit. Behind me was Alex Howes and Julian Kyer, both very strong time trialists. I thought I would get passed eventually by both of them but I had to stay on the gas. About half way up the steady ascent before the turn around, I caught Kolt. I was in a good rythem and felt pretty good. Almost too good, I felt like I could go harder. But with close to 25k left I thought I should save some gas. Just before the turn around, Alex passed me as expected. With the next 10k being primarily downhill, I stayed on the gas. It wasn't long before Julian Kyer blew by my. At this point I am just angry. I start to pedal faster and catch up with Alex and pass him back. I was feeling a bit more confident now, but with the final 8k being technical and anything but flat I was half way expecting my catostrophic meltdown. I could still see Julian ahead of me, and I had passed 2 other guys along the way. I never caught Julian back and when I finished, I was sitting in 9th. I felt pretty tired but was thinking back and wondering where I could have made up time on the course. I had gave it my all, and by the time everyone was in, I finished 23rd. Exceeded my expectations, but I was bummed. I wanted top 20. Peter Stetina repeated and Julian Kyer finished in 5th. Hard to complain, but still a lot of work left to be done.
With the crit being the final event of the week, I was whooped! I had done more races in the past 2 weeks than the entire month prior! I had very high expectations for the crit. I wanted to be on the podium and improve on my 7th place from last year in California. I had a very hard time getting ready the morning of the race. I was sluggish getting dressed and had a hard time pounding my pre race coffee like I usually do. The nerves were getting to me. I knew I had a very good shot at winning and really wanted to deliver. I got a pre race call up to the line with Jake Keough and Justin Williams. I was motivated to more damage than I have ever done. Unfortunately my legs were not. I could stay toward the front of the field and float back without much difficulty. But I couldn't fight... or sprint. I was tired! 3 guys got away early, Alex Howes, Bjorn Sealander and Bobby Sweeting. The big teams dropped the ball in bringing them back. Kelly and Mt. Khakis couldn't get organized to bring the trio back. They were at a manageable distance to jump across, but it wasn't happening, not today. I wanted to bring them back by myself, but i had no one back there that could have benefitted from my work. So I sat, like I always do. I finished 16th and the break stayed away. I was disappointed to say the least. I wanted the jersey so bad I could taste it, but at the end of the day, I simply could not deliver. Next year.