Tuesday: 3.5 hours, v-intensity, 4×8 minutes progressing intervals (high threshold-VO2)
Wednesday: 2-3 hours, easy
Thursday: 2 hours, v-endurance (scout the ITT course)
Friday: San Dimas Stage Race (ITT)
Saturday: San Dimas Stage Race (Road Race)
Sunday: San Dimas Stage Race (Crit)
As you can see, my SoCal training trip has become a SoCal racing trip. This weekend I kicked off my 2011 season in earnest with the San Dimas Stage Race, my first team race with Jamis-Sutter Home. It was a whirlwind of activity. Meeting my teammates for the first time, dialing in my race bike, resurrecting my paltry Spanish skills (unused since 12th grade), and quickly finding my footing as a worker-bee on one of the best teams racing in the United States. I’m happy to report that everything went well, and I had a very successful start to what I hope will be a fun and exciting season.
The roster is comprised of about half Latino riders, most of whom hail from Buenos Aires, Argentina. The team is led by three well-established pros in the North American Peloton: American, Tyler Wren, longtime veteran of the Jamis-Sutter Home program, Argentinian, Alejandro Borrajo, proven ‘euro’ sprinting sensation, and Cuban, Luis Amaran, last year’s NRC overall champion; auspicious colleagues to say the least. About half the team, including our Director, Seba, speaks Spanish. While their proficiency in English is, for the most part, better than my mastery of Spanish, at least half of the conversation at pre-race meetings, team dinners, and van rides is conducted entirely in Spanish. There are a few riders who speak no English at all; so all tactical instruction must be translated to ensure everyone is on the same page. I can only hope my pidgin Spanish improves as the season progresses!
The racing itself went very well. I quickly discovered that a successful cycling team is run much like any successful company. If any one individual has the burden of carrying the entire team’s success on their shoulders, the pressure will doubtless lead the team to fall short of their goals. However, if the various responsibilities are delegated appropriately, and each rider (or employee) feels responsible for some component of the team’s success, the team’s chances for victory are much enhanced. This requires a commitment from riders to do their job, no matter how menial or peripheral it may seem.
My responsibilities began with the road race. Two of my teammates and I were assigned to cover early attacks to make sure that if a breakaway was established early in the race, our team would not bear the responsibility of chasing it down. On the opening lap of a twelve-lap contest, a single rider escaped as we approached the major climb on the course. I was near the front and swung to the far left side of the road to attack. It’s worth describing my attack as a useful primer for anyone hoping to escape the peloton early in a race without sacrificing too much energy or alarming the peloton. Rather than sprinting from the front of the group, I launched my move from about 10 riders back, and paced my effort to cover the 10-15 second gap that the lone rider had already established. Once there, I quickly passed him and increased our pace by just a mile or two per hour. With only two riders off the front, the field felt little urgency to respond. When a teammate of the initial breakaway rider bridged up to our break a little later in the lap, we began what would be a long day’s work. With the race leaders team setting a moderate tempo in the peloton, we worked steadily to build a 90 second gap on the field. For nine laps we worked like this, until a five-man chasing group finally caught us. Much fresher than my two compatriots and I, they quickly dispatched us on the climb. A few minutes later, I rejoined the field for the final laps.
The race heated up from there, and with my work for the team done for the day, I drifted to the back and finished in a small group about 5 minutes behind the leaders. My teammate, Anibal Borrajo, would go on to win the stage outkicking a select group of eight at the line. Three Jamis-Sutter Home riders were represented in that small group of eight, and it represented a significant victory for the team in its first race in North America in 2011. The victory was made all the more important as it was Anibal’s first victory since his older brother, Armando’s, tragic passing in December of 2010. Anibal dedicated his victory to his brother’s memory. He was clearly overcome by emotion while discussing his race with the media.
The race continued with a criterium on Sunday. I will file away my first experience and small contribution in a truly effective lead-out train for later discussion. For now, suffice to say that we raced well in one of our first big tests of the season. We finished with three riders in the top-15 on GC, with Tyler earning a hard-fought third place.
I’m looking forward to sharing more of my experiences from inside the professional peloton as the season continues. For now, I am happy to report that I am enjoying the company of my teammates, and eagerly anticipating the next event. Ours is a tight-knit and fun loving group of riders. One word of advice I can pass along by way of conclusion is that it is very hard to succeed in this sport if you aren’t having fun, and if you are succeeding in the sport without having fun, then it simply isn’t worth it.
Have fun and be safe. See you all in a few days!