Going into the final stage here at Utah there was a bit of relief as long as some tired legs. Not just the tired legs though, more of just feeling run down. The last day was another tough one with two climbs and the last one going up Empire, which I’ve heard is just simply daunting. After my drop off the GC yesterday, I was looking to try and get into the break today to get a bit of a head start going into the final climb. The team was also close on the points competition with Dion Smith and Robin Carpenter trailing Keil from UHC by just a few points. The first intermediate sprint was 20 miles into the stage and we figured the racing would be full gas until that point. The break should possibly form after the sprint, or so we thought. As the race started we descended out of Park City and as I started making my way to the front possibly a couple miles into the stage. I noticed there was already a large group off the front, not exactly as we had planned. As I sat towards the front watching the group start putting some distance on us I waited for hopefully another rider to attack to bridge across. Pretty soon after that a Bardiani rider went and I jumped with him. We got off the front of the field and started closing in on the break. As we made a turn onto another road we started climbing up a hill and more attacks from the field came to bridge up to us. This pretty much ruined our chances as other guys bridged and then looked around and all this hesitation just allowed for the break to start creeping away. Pretty soon after this the leader pulled over to take a nature break and any chances I had to get into the break were gone. The next hour of the race were pretty standard and we were starting to approach our first climb at around 38 miles into the stage. A pretty tough one, but not not too long at 2.5 miles with an average grade of around 9%. I felt half way descent on this climb which was nice after yesterday and maybe only 30 guys went over the top together. Over the next 5-10 miles though most of the rest of the field would chase back on. As we raced towards the end of the stage we had a 12 km climb to get over and then descend into town. Once we hit Empire, it basically went straight up with the field exploding. I did my best to hang on as long as I could, but at the end of the day I just didn’t have it in my legs. I ended up riding the second part of the climb with my teammate and then descended down into town to finish the week of racing and conclude stage 7.
It was pretty disappointing to not have the legs on the weekend when the race really started. To know I have been climbing with those guys all year, but only to watch them drop me here was a tough pill to swallow. I know at the end of the day though, this was my first time competing in a race at this level and it just takes experience and more racing to be able to contend at the end. I’m already looking forward to racing the Tour of Alberta in a couple weeks, no Colorado for me as I need a bit of time to recover. Alberta should be better for me as they have a couple climbing stages mid race and not towards the end. The cruel truth with cycling is that it just simply takes time, I may have been hoping to come away with a top result here at Utah, but simply never competing in a tour this long I should’ve been a bit more realistic. I’ve been through this scenario before though with my year racing NRC and getting dropped to come back the next year and start competing, so I hope to have a similar growth with these bigger races.
Sunday wasn’t quite all bad though, the team had a great night to wrap up the week. We had George and Rich (Hincapie) come out for the final few days and are great friends with Papa John, better ingredients better pizza. He put on a great night for us in his penthouse up in Park City. It was a good night with the team and everyone who has supported us for the week. The next morning was a bit rough though.
Now its time to get a couple weeks of rest in before I leave for Canada for the Tour of Alberta. Its good timing to get some time in at home though as my next event is gaining traction with the Temecula Spandex Stampede Fondo which is gearing up to be a good time. A couple weeks of working on that with some easy riding will have me ready for my next chance to do something at the bigger races with Alberta.
Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Hincapie Racing Team and is also is the owner of Fast Tours Cycling.