Tour de Toona report, August 10, 2006
Hi valued readers, I've just finished a pretty successful Tour de Toona. Here's how the stages went:
Stage 1, Altoona time trial
The tour kicked of in downtown Altoona, Pennsylvania with a 5.6km prologue. The course was a bit technical with a heap of corners, so with my expert cornering abilities I just needed to power down the straighter sections and get around the corners without touching down. A few lads cooked it on the course but myself and the rest of the squad all held it up. It was pretty much the lads with the biggest Kahunas that would nail the course right! Shawn was second just behind Aussie Karl "Chopper" Menzies with Bernie in fourth.
Stage 2, Johnstown circuit race
Three laps of a 38km circuit. The time gaps were all pretty close and Health Net were content to set the pace for the distance of the stage. A small break of four got away on the first lap containing Bernie. The break got out over two minutes at one point but Health Net kept it pretty much in check for Karl. While Bernie was flapping out in front the rest of us just tried to stay up front and out of the shambles going on back behind us. With a field of 180 riders and varying abilities staying up front was a must! It was still a fight to stay up there and on occasions you'd be swarmed by riders and then found yourself fighting your way back through traffic to get back up there. Bernie and Co were caught about 5km from the finish. The boyz then worked on setting up Shawn and Sergey for the final couple of kamakazee corners into the finish. Sergey ended up fifth and Shawn eighth.
I'd just popped out for a quick meal and probably just had the best Mexican I've had for a while, so if you're ever up in Salt Lake City give the Red Iguana a go. You won't be disappointed! Also the speed squad did a race in Charlotte this evening. The Bank of America Invitational and the lads cleaned up. Shawn got the win with six others in the top 20. It was $25,000 just for the win! Cha Ching!!! Shawn actually pulled up sick the morning of stage 3 in Toona and had to pull the pin. But he seems to have recovered well.
Stage 3 Johnstown - Altoona
With 160km to cover and a couple of KOMs it wasn't long before the attacks started and the falls began! Once I finally managed to get near the front I wasn't gonna waste it so I followed an attack up a small climb. Once over the top it had a small gap and a lot of the bigger teams were represented and off we went opening the gap even further as we powered along. Then we came across a problem, a Health Net rider wouldn't work because his director said not to! The theory behind it we weren't to sure about? The only team up there with two riders were us, (Valeriy and I ) with a hefty prize purse for teams maybe they were thinking of that? But anyway because he wouldn't work the Toyota rider wouldn't work. Stale Mate!!! And of course when you have a couple of riders sitting on a few other lads think that they should as well?? By now out of a 10 rider break you have 4 or 5 guys rolling through. Damn frustrating. So due to the situation we decided to try and break it up. I sat at the back of the group until a slight rise came upon us and went for it. I got away solo until a Quebecois rider (French Canadian) came across and off we went for a 70km two-man time trial to try and stay away and to make them chase.
The second KOM of the day was a nasty little six-km climb and after 70km out in front in some really nice temps of around 36-37° it became a little tougher! At the bottom we had about a minute still on the peloton, the Quebecois rider popped as soon as the road went up and I just wanted to get over the top to take the next KOM points to put me in the lead for that jersey. I managed to hold on and just over the top, a group of four riders caught up with Valeriy in it. I was pretty well drained but tried to come through with some turns to help hold off the next group in the last 30km to the finish. With around 15km to go we were caught by a group of 25. Health Net led the chase back to us and drove it to the finish. The last 10km were a bit lumpy which led to several attacks and a thinning of the group. I just hung on through that section and made it to the finish with the leading pack! Ciaran was third on the stage which was a good solid ride by him and I picked up the Mountains jersey.
Stage 4 Hollidaysburg circuit race
Three 33km laps with one climb of about 1.5km every lap. A few narrow roads too that were bound to cause some chaos. At about 20km into the stage the chaos began with a big spill which blocked the road and split the field, I was caught in it but stayed upright, Valeriy got sandwiched under a few riders and it took him a bit to tangle himself out of it. Once we got going again Ben came back to drag us back up to the field. We got on just before the KOM and then a lead out from Sergey got me over the top first taking maximum points.
The next lap saw a small break go but Health Net kept the tempo high and reeled them back in on the final lap. The KOM was only three km from the finish so the final time up the Navigators set a good tempo to split the field a bit and send a smaller sized field into the finish. With a set of bumpy railway lines about 500m out from the finish a crash was inevitable. Luckily only one lad came down but caused a small split in the field from the winners of 11 secs! Toyota took the stage with Sergey second picking up some valuable seconds on a couple of other GC contenders.
After the stage and after being on the podium for the mountains jersey a TV reporter came up to me and asked if she could interview me which was no probs at all. Once the interview began it was clear to me she wasn't gonna ask much about the tour we were doing but more on Le Tour which had just finished and Floyds A sample had been quickly released to the world! She pretty much spent 10 minutes asking and talking about it! When she finally decided to ask me some questions about myself and the race all she could come up with was, "So what do you take to become the King of the Mountain?" Say what lady??? One of the oldest and longest running tours in the States and that's the best you can do??? All the media cared about was reporting on the negative side of the sport. Good work!!
Stage 5 Martinsburg circuit race
Four laps around an undulating circuit but no KOMs today meant a day of for me in that department. Health Net set up once again at the front to ride tempo for the day. Guys were still keen to attack and four guys including Bernie ended up off the front for the whole stage finishing about 20 seconds in front of the field. Not renowned for his sprint Bernie surprised a confident Colavita rider and pipped him on the line for the win. A great win for the team and Bernie for sure. Nice work mate! He also picked up the Green points jersey for his troubles as well and seemed rather happy about! (Understatement)
Stage 6 Altoona road race
150km and 3 KOMs meant a big day for the team, with Sergey hovering just behind the Yellow jersey and only a crit tomorrow this was pretty much our last chance to get some time up on Big Karl! Dave got away early to try and get a good gap and maybe get over the first climb at 90km, unfortunately the guy he was away with decided he didn't want to work anymore with him and sat on while Dave powered on to get the advantage. The rest of us sat in and set up at the front for the run into the first climb. About 8km long with some nasty little steeper sections.
We caught the front two riders about two km into the climb as Toyota were setting a fast pace to try and shake the yellow, as they grew a bit tired Ben rolled up front to keep the tempo high and thin the field right down. As the pitch went up we finally managed to shake the yellow jersey and our group was whittled down to eight riders. I took the points at the top and sealed the win for that competition. Once that was out of the way it was time to get Sergey to the finish to try and take yellow. Two more climbs to go as well but not as severe as the first one but the second had a nasty little one-km gravel section at the top which brought back good old memories of the Tour of New Caledonia.
There was a group chasing behind us all the way to the finish but never caught us. At one point they were sent the wrong way and lost 40 seconds or something. But as they turned around a second group had caught them which made their group bigger and gave more guys to work and help them chase us. So it might have helped them in the end? At the finish we were with six riders, all of us had ridden flat out to the line for maximum time. I led the last kilometre into the finish with Sergey on my wheel who blasted past me in the last 200m to take the win ahead of Chris Baldwin from Toyota. This gave Sergey the yellow jersey by three seconds to Chris which was gonna make the crit a very interesting race. Karl was now in fifth some 40 seconds down but not out. I'm sure he wasn't gonna give up without a fight!
Stage 7 Altoona Criterium
30 laps of a 1.2 circuit and bonus second sprints every 5laps, this was shaping up to be a close one! From the gun Toyota put the smack down and set Chris up to take the first sprint and put him in front by one second. It was pretty rough riding out there as well between the two teams with hooks flying left, right and centre! By the second sprint things hadn't calmed down at all but Toyota seemed to have led out a lap too early and left their man flapping out in front. Good for us and Sergey took the second and third sprints to get back a comfy lead. After the third sprint a rather dormant Menzies blasted out of the field with his team mate Greg Henderson in tow along with a few others. This was now the business end of the race and one last ditch effort to try and take back the yellow! All or nothing in true Aussie spirit!
They immediately got a gap while we got ourselves organised and back to the front to control the break and pull it back. We managed to bring most of them back including Karl in the final laps. Tour over pretty much as two riders hung on just out in front to take away the time bonuses and give Sergey a nice tour win! We really cleaned up here!! Sergey took yellow and the points, I won the King of the mountains, we got two stage wins and we also took out the teams prize which was a nice sum of coin.
After the podium ceremonies were done we pulled into our local Altoona watering hole (Hooters) for a couple of celebratory pitches of beer from some of our local supporters! Thanks Hooter girls!
It was a great effort by the whole team here including the staff; morale was really high all week long. The riders have all been working really well together; we all know each other really well on and off the bike and helps when we are racing. Our recent series of wins really shows that.
Up next is the Tour of Utah which starts tomorrow! Form still seems good so we'll see how things go up here at the higher altitudes! While training in Jersey I was riding with my mouth shut and a couple of straws up my nose to get used to breathing at altitude! J
This is my last race in the States before I head home back to my girls (thank god) I really miss em!