There’s nothing like racing in the rain for 5 hours to really make you appreciate racing in the sun. Especially living in Southern California we’re really quite spoiled with the weather. That pretty much sums up my thoughts during yesterday’s stage. Damn, I like racing when the sun’s out. Waking up to blue skies and sunshine today was a breath of fresh air to say the least. I also got close to 9 hours of sleep finally, the last few days haven’t been much sleep but that shouldn’t be an issue after a few of these stages.
The stage was set with 100 miles and a Cat 3 climb coming about 75 miles into the stage. It wasn’t too long of a climb, but at 3k with an average grade of 9% it wasn’t gonna be easy. The last 30k was the same as a similar stage in 2012, so we looked up the results and saw it was a small bunch at the finish with around 40 guys coming to the line. We knew United Healthcare would look to control the stage and set up Keil for another victory. The finish ended with 3 laps on a 3k circuit with a small bump in it.
The race started pretty quickly once we hit kilometer 0 with a bit of wind acting up. We seemed to be doing some criss crossing through the plains and with the slight wind it made for some nervous racing. There were many moves going off the front and it took about 35 minutes for the break to establish. Luckily as a move of 5 went up the road we were represented with Mac, which is always a plus. A fairly quick start as I looked down and at 40 minutes we had already gone 20 miles. At this point about half the field pulled over for a nature break and I was thinking this may be close to yesterday as we pretty much coasted for an hour. After about 20 minutes of soft pedaling United Healthcare began the chase. We had a pretty quick middle part of the race and the break never got more then 4 minutes. We knew the climb would be tough and with about 10 miles to the start of the climb the pace really started to pick up as teams were consistently moving to the front. Before the climb with about 5 miles out we put our team on the front right next to UHC to keep ourselves up front and out of trouble. Once we hit the start of the climb the Italians; Bardiani, went to the front and put down a pretty tough pace. Luckily it wasn’t too long of a climb; about a 10 minute effort, but with the steepness, the heat, and the tailwind, all those factors play into making it a bit more difficult. I find it a bit more tougher on these shorter climbs with myself not able to put down the real big power numbers for such a short time so about half way into the climb I was starting to feel it and had trouble staying towards the front. I started to drift back a bit and there was a swerve in front of me with someone coming into me and pushing me off the road into the dirt having to unclip real quick to save myself not from having a tip over. I got going pretty quickly but was gapped off a bit and just kept it calm going into 1 km to the summit and caught back up to the group. I was curious how I was feeling against everyone else and instead of tagging onto the back of the group I just kept my momentum up and went around the group and put in a little kick to see what kind of response I would get. Bookwalter from BMC followed and when I looked back just before cresting the top I noticed everyone was just a bit strung out so I moved over and sat up so I wouldn’t be expending too much energy. It was more of a morale booster and good little test of the legs. As I jumped back into the group, we raced down the descent pretty quickly as it was quite steep and technical. Once we hit the bottom we were only about 20 km from the finish and SmartStop saw that they had their sprinter in the group of maybe about 40 riders, so they went to the front and kept the pace going. We hit the finishing circuits which were 3k long consisting with 3 laps. Once we went through the first lap, on the second lap the attacks began. Nothing really stuck as it was just mainly attack then counter attack. On the second lap before 1 to go Phil Gaimon put a move in that I went with and we had a small brief off the front moment but like all the other moves it came back. Now, going into 1 to go it was pretty apparent it was going to be a small bunch sprint, but fortunately we had Dion Smith and Robin Carpenter in the group and they are pretty good at those situations. Long story short, Robin came through for us with getting a close 2nd place in the finish and I rolled in 27th out of the 43 riders in the group all on same time.
After the stage, Robin had to stick around for podium and the rest of us rolled back to the bus to get some recovery drinks and a brief chat. From there we rode back to the hotel which was a couple miles away and showered, had some lunch, then massage, then some quick emails, followed by dinner, then team meeting, and now I’m writing this recap before I call it a night.
I am now sitting 33rd on GC on same time with the top 47 riders being on same time.
Strava Data from Stage 2
Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Hincapie Racing Team and is also is the owner of Fast Tours Cycling.