Thursday night, Padfield, Brian and I met at steak and shake where Brian (the guy who doesn’t eat fast food) had just finished off a double bacon cheeseburger and a vanilla milkshake. We loaded up, I feel like we had enough bikes to be a small pro team, 3 of us X 2 bikes each, a roadie and a tt. We drove up to Madison to get a couple hours out of the way before the long drive in the morning.
Friday morning we enjoyed the continental breakfast offered at the econo lodge and went on our way up north. We arrived in Wrenshall, Wisconsin, the site of the time trial, at about 2:30… we didn’t go off until almost 7. We went inside the unmarked building I remembered from last year and saw a couple people from the race stunned to see racers there so early. There were a few others ready to sign in too since they went off at 5:30. They told us to come back later so we went and drove the course to check out what would be dishing the pain for the next 30 some odd minutes. Eventually we got checked in and we chose our camping spot for the next 5 hours. We picked a luxurious parking spot which offered an adjacent grassy area with both sun and shade. I got out the stand and started setting up my tt bike with the power cable and a few other odds and ends I needed to do to get the bike ready as it pretty much hadn’t been ridden since the same race last year. Chris and Brian, much more prepared with their equipment all set to go, laid out and took naps in the sun. As our start times neared we changed and began warming up. Brian was first up, he was on Kevin Corsello’s (G-a-G owner) tt rig, a custom carbon and ti Serotta with 808s and a zip cockpit... lets just say it wasn’t a piece of crap. I was a few minutes later with Tony being my 30 second man I knew it would be a hard challenge to catch anybody. Last of the team was Mr. timetrial himself chris padfield. As expected he lit up the field with the only time sub 37 minutes. Brian was a bit of a wildcard being a mtb’er and came in an incredible 2nd only ~10 seconds behind padfield. I didn’t touch their times but put in a solid effort for just under 39 minutes for 17th place. After the race we drove to our host house, where we stayed with some college girls for free… not a bad deal.
Saturday morning the results were posted from from the tt and it was confirmed we were going to be the target of the others teams attacks as we were holding the 2 top spots. Saturdays race wasn’t a really exciting one. It was 3 laps of 17 miles on a course that didn’t have anything to help separate the field. We patrolled the race really well and let a couple of guys lower on GC sneak away to snag some bonus seconds toward the end. We questioned other teams tactics when we saw numerous downhill attacks which quickly got swallowed up by the field. A racer not far behind padfield put in a good effort and unfortunately took the field sprint and the 10 bonus seconds that came with it, moving him to a dangerously close 7 seconds from Chris. The worst part of the race which we didn’t find out until the results were posted was the 30 second time penalty given to Brian for crossing the center line, we tried to talk to the lady official who posted it but she wasn’t having it, its ok Padfield walked in on her changing. With a big boy stage the next day we went to our favorite burrito union for the 2nd time in two days to refuel. That night we did our usual of compression tights (padfield), elevated legs (brian and I) mixed with lots of relaxing and drinking water.
Sunday was the 2nd most crucial stage of the race (after the time trial of course). It was 5 laps of a 12 mile loop with a 1km leg burner 10% climb that lead to the s/f and rollers throughout most of the rest of the loop.
After the first lap, a break of 3 (lower gc guys) went away on the hill and gained up to 3:30 on the field. The entire race Brian was putting in monster pulls to keep the peloton moving along. The gap slowly decreased with attacks from the group and then the serious work took place when two Brone (2nd on gc) domestiques and both get a grip domestiques (brian and i) worked together to real the group back. Another high gc guy took off as the 3 were down to less than a minute but the 4 at the front quickly shut the group down with 1 lap to go. I turned around for the first time just after the start finish with 1 to go and realized the group that started with over 40 racers was down to about 25. A few other attempts were made on the final lap, 1 of which stuck and worked in our favor as he ate some of the available bonus seconds. The main field crossed in little groups with chris and I in the pack 4 seconds behind the solo guy. Brian, content after all his work, took it easy on the last hill and came in with the next group at 13 seconds. All in all a good stage as some people were finishing 10+ minutes back and Chris retained the jersey to fight another day. For dinner we were looking to carb up. We tried to support the local economy but I guess the local economy took a break as the restaurant was closed. Instead we drove a bit out of town and hit up an olive garden where each waitress was required to wear a topsie turvy with a 4inch hair lift.
The final morning began at 6:30, we left some biciclete wine and a card for our gracious host, Juliana and left with a full car to the criterium in Cloquet, Minnesota. The stage was new from last year. The course had 1 fast and technical turn right after the s/f line and 1 short kicker roughly 150 meters long with a hard right turn at the top that lead into the finish line. The race was so close that there were two guys in contention of the gc that by taking bonus seconds for a top 5 in the crit would win the overall. We let a break go with about 18 laps to go that didn’t consist of one of these guys. With 3 laps to go brian lead up the hill and then chris took off at the top making a run for the stage. The brones team domstiques immediately chased as their guy was close in gc and could win it all with a top 5 finish. Chris was caught with 2 and a half laps to go and immediately the brones leader attacked. While Chris was getting caught Brian and I both yelled to him to hop on the attack but it came from behind and he missed it. I jumped on brones’ wheel as he broke and followed him around for a lap. Immediately brian then went to the front of the pack and gave it everything to close the gap. He did with 1 and a half to go and brones was sufficiently tired. The solo break stayed away and the rest of the group (that didn’t get dropped) came into the line hard and together but neither of the two important gc guys took a spot in the top 5 meaning padfield held on to his gc victory by an incredible 1 second!!
The race could not have been any closer and the last stage was a tough effort that showcased a lot of teamwork. We received a lot of complements for our racing for the 4 days. I was really proud to wear the Get a Grip jersey.