Tuesday, August 30, 2016

River Gorge Omnium

This past weekend I raced the River Gorge Omnium in Chattanooga, TN. This is one of the most prestigious regional races in the Southeast that draws racers from all over. I am happy that I had my teammates Jonah Mead-Van Cort, Nicolai Tanovichi, and Joseph Chavarria racing with me. The race consisted of a 4 mile time trial, a 60 minute downtown night criterium, and a 70 mile road race with a few mountains and a tough finishing climb.

The 4 mile time trial is held on a beautiful course on top of Raccoon Mountain. It rolls slightly uphill for the first half. Then there is a 1 kilometer climb with a screaming descent. The course is flat across a dam before you make a sharp right into a winding and slightly downhill final couple of kilometers. With a time trial so short you'd just think you need to go flat out the entire time, but I saved some energy to really punch it on the climb and over the top. I coasted after I was up to speed and punched it again across the dam. I rested into the final turn and punched it again all the way home. I hit all my target wattages, and I came home with a time of 7:58. That time was good enough for 16th place on the day. I could have moped about my time, but I knew I was riding well and focused on having a strong crit later in the day.

The crit was held on a flat, 1 kilometer wide open circuit. The course favored sprinters, but since we wanted to win the overall we needed to be aggressive. From the start of the race we rode hard and made it into every significant split. Joseph was aggressive from the gun, got into an early break, and picked up the first prime of the night. Nicolai Jonah and I all covered moves too, but the motivated peloton was bringing everything back. About two-thirds to three-quarters through the race all of the strongest riders put in big digs for a few laps. I countered these and managed to get away with Brock Mason and Nicolai. Nicolai and I were driving the pace as hard as we could with Brock helping some. The peloton held at 15 seconds for a while, and Jonah took a field prime back in the group. After that field prime the gap ballooned to 25-30 seconds and it was apparent we would be fighting for the win. It appeared Brock with tiring, so with 6 laps to go I jumped and immediately established a gap. Nicolai came up to me half a lap later and we traded half-lap pulls throughout the remainder of the race. Nicolai hadn't taken a win all season, so we decided he would take the win. It was really fun to go 1, 2 with a teammate. After the crit we were sitting in third and fourth overall respectively and had our work cut out for us in the road race.

The road race is one of the hardest road races in the Southeast. It covers 70 miles and has 6000 feet of elevation gain. One of the tougher climbs comes about halfway through the race at Sand Mountain (a 2.7 mile climb that averages 6%). It is easy to waste energy covering moves at the start and not have legs for the finale. I feel like the true race begins after Sand Mountain. Early in the race a break of about 6 riders got away. Ian Garrison of Holowesko- Citadel was in that move, but I still didn't see the move as a threat because of the tough terrain. I have tried similar moves to that one in the past at this race only to blow up late and not be a factor in the finale. Joseph covered other moves well and made it so the gap heading into Sand was only about 2 minutes. Up Sand Joseph set a fast pace that made a selection of Nicolai, myself, Stephen Bassett (Jamis), Charlie Hough (Holowesko- Citadel), and Willem Kaiser (706). It seems the race always comes together again after Sand, and 40 riders ended up coming back to us by the descent. A lot of riders from the Bissell team were with us, so they set pace for a while. There is a long climb called the Stairstep because it goes uphill, flattens, and keeps doing that for 2.2 miles. I launched a couple of attacks here because that is when the winning move has gone in the past but nothing came of it. On the descent attacks did happen though. After a big attack from Stephen Bassett I managed to slip away with Alder Martz, a Guttenplan Coaching rider, and Charlie Hough. This was a good scenario because this would make other teams work and I was with some riders that would create a cushion to gain points over Stephen Bassett. The Guttenplan rider was driving the pace a lot. I helped out some and Alder helped a lot too. Charlie was mostly sitting on. The field was close and the others were getting tired as we approached the final climb of Raccoon Mountain (3.1 miles at 7%). I wasn't going to waste my effort I made earlier to get caught and do a poor climb back in the field, so I kept on the gas all the way to the base of Raccoon. We reached the base with a gap of 40-60 seconds over the main field. I went up at a pace I knew was hard but I was comfortable with because Charlie still did not do much on the front. About halfway up the climb I hear someone screaming "Winston, Winston". It was Nicolai charging up behind us by himself. Since he was alone I eased off the pace. As soon as he arrived I drove the pace, so we could make the gap to Stephen Bassett grow. With about 1.5 km to go Nicolai jumped and Charlie followed, but there was no way he could stay with Nicolai. I saw Stephen coming behind me and knew with Nicolai taking the win I had to hold on for third in order for Nicolai to win the overall. I kept on the gas and caught Charlie with about a kilometer to go, lost him again with about 500 meters to go but held on for third. This was a really fun weekend where we got the tactics perfect having Nicolai win the crit, the road race, and the omnium. Next up for me is the Tour of Alberta starting on Thursday.