Things got rolling Friday with the prologue, a 3.2 mile (5km) TT, on a neat little narrow, winding road called McCain Loop. It's a really challenging course to pace, starting out with gentle downhill for the first half, then rolling up over two hills, and finally a short down and up. I found out in training that working hard for the first half was wasted effort, as precious watts were burned pushing wind at high speed, but how easy is too easy/easy enough when it's the first 2km of racing for the year?? I also wanted to small-ring the hills, but changing into the big ring mid-race on the TT bike is a gamble, so I planned to use the small ring just for the second, big hill and leave it there for the finish.
When it came to the race, I blew through the first hill so easily, I couldn't believe I was hoping to small ring it, and left it in the big ring for the second hill too. Unfortunately, I didn't have that searing lungs, heart and legs, visions-of-god level of suffering, so I could tell I didn't have as good a time as I was capable. Would that place me last? Mid-pack was as much as I could hope for.
Online, results were "expected by 7". At 7:30, that changed to "expected by 7ish" haha. Finally, the waiting was over...I placed 43rd out of 55. Not awful, but close...
On Saturday morning came the road race. 80 miles/130km. Felt super-jittery as I went shoulder-to-shoulder with pro's and cat 1's, the 60 of us squeezed along the narrow road. Moving through the pack was really hard - everyone had the same plan of moving into good position in the pack (10th is safe, top 4 was best to be really serious about going with attacks). Nick, coming off two years in racing in Europe, did a great job of being up near the front, so I felt the pressure to get up there to cover my half of the attacks. The Mexican team, Specialized, had a good-sized squad, and seemed to sent a guy hammering off the front every five minutes, but current GC leader, Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) and a number of other guys did a good job of chasing them down to keep the peleton together. Stephen was invaluable as our team feeder...this dry desert air had me polish off my first bottle in 30km, and another shortly thereafter. Lots of suring in the final kilometres. I had a bit of gas left with 200m to go, but was poorly positioned behind way too many dudes and followed them across the line for 21st.
The peleton was down to 30 or so riders by the end of that race, but lots of guys who'd beaten me the day before had fallen off the back, so I moved up to 29th overall, affirming my suspicions I should have done better the day before, but I was pretty stoked to be finishing in the right half of the field.
To round out the weekend was Sunday's circuit race, held on a 10km loop in town. "Only" 90km and all the bickies on the line (an Australianism?) meant an insanely fast race - a crit, really. By half way through the race, guys were going crazy hitting it in the last couple of hundred metres of the lap's climbing - trying to hold onto a strung out line of riders, then match the downhill speed, had me wishing for an 11 at the back, and perhaps an extra set of legs. Still, I was maintaining better position, and Nick and I were working together well, and coming into the last corner Nick was on my wheel, as was the plan. Unfortunately I was squeezed to the side at the final corner, and Nick moved past me as I lost position in the pack. The final km was non-stopping crazy attacking, but I was going backwards by the final 200m, finishing 24th. Nick cracked the top 10, congrats dude! And thanks to Bill, our impromptu feeder!
In GC, Zajicek narrowly kept his lead over the sprinters, who'd picked up time bonuses for podium finishes. Pedal Magazine had been highlighting Nick and I as the Canadians in the results (1, 2), but I guess seeing Nick and I side-by-side in 20th and 21st respectively made them realize by the last day I was actually an Aussie! haha