Race Report: Tour of Alberta, Stage 1 – By Jon Hornbeck, Hincapie Racing Team

It’s strange how all it takes is one race to change your view on things.  Just a few weeks back all I could think of was the Tour of Utah and what it would be like stacking up with those bigger teams for the first time.  Now that I’ve completed Utah I’m here at Alberta racing in the Tour of Alberta and it just seems like another bike race.  Even though this race I would say has a more stacked field then Utah it just seems like another bike race now.

The first stage was today and it was a team time trial.  I’ve never done one of these before so it was more of the unknown for me heading into the stage.  Not exactly the greatest TT rider especially when it’s basically a flat course at 20 km I was somewhat nervous, but at the same time not too much.  The team (Hincapie Racing Team) on the other hand can ride a TTT.  They won the TTT National Championships earlier this year so I was more thinking of not wanting to let them down because I know I was more or less the asterisk on the squad for this day.

We had a late start time today not beginning until 6:50 pm.  We had an early ride planned out, but the rain came in and ruined that so we did a spin on the trainers and then sat around all day, that was the rough part.  Once 4:45 pm rolled around we left the hotel on our bikes and rode to the TT course to check it out and do a loop.  Once we finished we hung out in the RV a bit and got our numbers glued on and then hopped on the trainers for our warm up.  It’s not like the weather back home in Temecula here in Alberta.  Just last week I was doing my normal rides up Palomor and consistently taking my jersey and helmet off on the way up with the temperatures consistently over 100 deg.  Here its more like in the low 50’s with off and on rain and consistent wind.

I had a couple chats with my director Craven about going into this unknown territory for me and he calmed me down a bit giving me the strategy to go by.  With a couple days of climbing here we didn’t want to ruin my chances of a good overall finish by getting dropped by the team.  We had our meeting before the race after we rode the course.  The plan was to basically be smart with the wind and conservative with our pulls on the front and really give it some stick on the way back.  For myself, I was to be a bit more conservative so I wouldn’t blow myself and screw my week up.

Once we rolled off the start, we all got into formation and got into doing the damn thing.  Doing a TTT is nothing like a normal TT.  In a normal TT your out there on your own just trying to pace yourself.  In a TTT its more of a super hard breakaway but with your teammates and there is so much going on.  The wind made it a bit more hectic, so all I was concentrating on was staying as close as I could to my Latvian teammate in front of me and once I got to the front not to get too excited and go too hard and then pull off after about 10 seconds and drift to the back.  Here comes the next part, which was the most difficult.  Once you peel off you can’t exactly shut it down too much as the train of your teammates would roll by full gas and once you got done counting the numbers of guys it was basically a sprint to get on the back and then recover a bit and before you know it your back at the front.  We had a bit of a technical course with a lot of turns through town and my first few turns I was taking it a bit cautious but I would screw myself because I would lose the wheel in front of me and have to sprint to get back on.  I knew I couldn’t keep doing this and expect to stay with them so all caution went out the window after the first few corners and I was coming in hot for the rest of the course to stay on.  There were a couple times where I wasn’t sure how I pulled off a corner that quickly, but I soon forgot as I was just trying to stay back in line.  I’ll just say this, there was so much going on and to think about out there the first time I looked down at my Garmin we were 16:00 minutes into the race.

Once we crossed the line, we actually ended up putting in a solid time.  We ended up being 6th on the stage and the best of the Continental teams.  Just 2 seconds off of 5th place of World Tour Team Giant – Alpecin and 26 seconds off of the winning time which came down to two teams on the same time with Orica – Greenedge and Trek Factory Racing.  Pretty rad that we beat Cannondale-Garmin, I’d say not too bad as these bigger teams are here getting in practice for the TTT World Championships in just a couple weeks.

Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Hincapie Racing Team and is also is the owner of  Fast Tours Cycling

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