Either way, the break was well-needed. After nationals, I had logged nearly 40 race days already this year, beginning with the stage race in Gabon in January. That race feels so long ago now. Any way, I guess a quick update on the racing since my last post is in order. After we won the team GC at the Tour of Berlin, we travelled to the tiny but beautiful country of Luxembourg for the UCI 2.2 Fleche du Sud. This turned out to be pretty competitive race, as it was full of former ProTour riders trying to comeback from whatever circumstances had forced them out. This included Marcus Fothen, a former White Jersey wearer at the Tour de France and several 2010 Katusha team members.
The five day event raced over beautifully paved rolling climbs in and around the Ardennes. Since the climbs were not significant enough to create a decisive selection in most cases, Larry Warbasse, Jacob Rathe, and I continued trying to perfect our 1,2,3 attack in the final kilometers. It never worked, but I had good legs and figured we might as well give it a shot. I'm sure all the other teams were wondering who the idiot was who was still fighting to hold on to a five second gap with 5 kilometers of mostly flat road left to the finish. Who knows, maybe some day I'll pull it off and then I'll get a raise and be able to give up on stealing instant oatmeal packets from hotel breakfasts to eat for lunch.
Despite being disappointed by again not being able to snag a result, I was able to ride aggressively and consistently finish in the top 30 for a respectable 23rd overall. Larry pulled off a 7th place, after a scare in the final stage when he crashed on a slippery descent and we were forced into a few minutes of panicked chase. As it turned out, the only harm done was missing skin and bent bars, and before we knew it we were on our way back to the states.
After a week or so spent at home trying to hold onto form and hold off a cold, I was off to U23 nationals in Augusta, Georgia. Georgia is a beautiful state full of wonderful people, but as a native Vermonter I can't help but question the wisdom of holding a national championship in the hottest, most humid part of the country, during the hottest time of the year. I'm as big a fan of tough races as anyone, but I'd prefer that living in a hot state (and having a rediculous heat tolerance) not be required to in order to survive the race. I don't think I ever saw the thermometer dip below 100 (in the shade) and I doubt that the humidity percentage could have been much lower. Despite the adverse conditions, Chipotle had a great couple of days, starting with Rob Bush's inspired ride to win the criterium solo by attacking again after his all-race breakaway was caught.
In the road race, my job was to cover the early moves. Eventually, a move including myself and Ian Boswell (Trek) was caught by several other breaks to create a large front group of about 25, with Trek and Chipotle even at five riders apiece. With the major teams well represented, it quickly became apparent that the day's major selection had been made. Unfortunately for myself, it became just as apparent that I would not be a part the final selection. Despite drinking as much as possible and putting ice socks down my jersey, I was fighting a losing battle with the heat and could no longer keep down food or electrolytes. After five of seven laps, Trek managed to pull back Rob Bush's solo attack and several of my teammates went on the offensive. I exploded, rolled around the rest of the lap, and soaked my head in a cooler full of ice water before going to watch the finish. After nearly 170km, my teammates Rob Squire and Jacob Rathe put their hands up in the air more than two minutes before the next finisher arrived. My disappointment at not being able to fight it out to the finish quickly disappeared in the excitement of our second national championship in as many days.
And now here I am trying to decide between another serving of strawberry shortcake or getting my fishing supplies ready for this evening's hatch. Hopefully the fish this week will be just as hungry as I am, since soon I will have to start training hard again for my next goal, the Cascade Classic in Bend, Oregon. See you at the creemee stand.