The Tour of America's Dairyland is a very big race. In fact, It's the biggest road race series in the USA by raw number of entries. A whoppin' 3000 people pre-registered for this race series and I'm sure many more actually raced. TOAD (as it's called for short) is a incredibly well put together and serious race that is immensely enjoyable and competitive for all racers, from Cat 5s to Pros, Masters to Juniors. All the categories have large fields from the very first day. The numbers keep on increasing until the final two days where most hit their cap. That is, the amount they limit the entries to. It's also very long, 11 days of racing for the Pros and 10 for the amateurs. Each and every one of these days have professional commentary, lots of prize money, plenty of vendors selling food and souvenirs, and a surprising amount of spectators. In short, it's flippin' awesome!
Last year, I got dropped on the first race and by the last race pulled a top 15. It's a incredibly effective place to learn how to race because there is so many people for so many races. You make a mistake, then when you think of what you can do different you know you only have to wait until tomorrow to apply it!
This year was also a big learning experience. I think I came out of this race with a much stronger grasp of what I can do and when is the best time to do it. I had a lot of good results, some frustrating days that taught me a lot, and a really good overall result. Between Cat 4's and Juniors I did 13 races! In stead of recapping each and every one, I will just go over the ones I feel are important to mention.
The first race I want to cover is the Giro d' Grafton Cat 4 Criterium. This was the second race of the series, and after East Troy (the first day) I was sitting 6th overall. I came to the start with a plan. Attack on the slight uphill during the last lap. Half way through the race, I decided to test out my plan on a preem (the announcers offers money or a prize to the first one across the "line" on the next lap. They announce during the race so you never know when the preems are going to be.) and see if it would work. Work it did, I came through the start finish line and won a $25 preem, out front all by myself. Of course, I didn't stop there. I don't sit up when I have a good 10 second gap. I solo-ed it for about two laps when another rider bridged up to me. We worked together for a few laps, when I thought I saw my dad telling me to back off. I sat up, then heard the announcers telling us there was a $50 preem. I looked at the other rider and said, "Let's go for it!". We picked up the pace again, but our gap was to small and the field brought us back in before we hit the preem. I sat in the pack for about two laps then a attack was made. I jumped onto the rider's wheel and heard some one in the pack say, "Let them go, they won't make it." BIG mistake. We worked together for about 5 laps, I won a $100 preem and with one to go we were still away with a 10 second gap. Unfortunately, Richard, (who later beat me in the overall for 1st place) a strong rider, went to the front and pulled us back right before the final corner. I had about thirty seconds to recover from my long huge break away effort before the sprint begin, I was exhausted but still managed to pull off 12th place, $125 richer.
Jump forward three days. I'm 7th overall after taking a day off and doing mediocre in the road race, but this is my race, Schlitz park. The course is a square, start, corner, uphill, corner, flat, corner, downhill with four corners in it, then the finish. The uphill is steep and the downhill is technical, It's perfect for me. The field gets whittled down almost instantly. It goes from 50 riders to 12 in the first two laps. After that its more or less stable, two more guys get dropped over the course of the race. I feel good up the hill every time, I'm not really in any difficulty going up it, and I can see other people definitely are. So about halfway through I attack coming into the hill and see if I can get away. I feel good up the hill but I'm not 100%. The road race the day before was very difficult and took more out of me than I thought it did. I can't quite fully open up the throttle and I can't manage to get away and stay away in the head wind sections. I keep the pace high up the hill a few more times to see if I can drop some more riders but to no avail. I realize this race is going to come down to who comes out of that downhill into the finish positioned top three. So I sit back and conserve. Coming into the final downhill, I position myself and try to get second wheel. Myles beats me to it and I'm forced to choose between third wheel or first. I have tried gapping people off my wheel on the downhill and I never quite managed it, so I take third wheel. I figure Myles is a good wheel to be on for the sprint anyways. We come around the final corner and we all sprint as hard as we can, Myles comes around the guy in front and I come around Myles. I see the second place guy sitting up and bike throw at the line to try and get him, Myles beats me by a few feet. I didn't quite manage though and ended up third place. After the race I realize to my dismay that I broke my rear Zipp wheel and that I sprinted with a rubbing rear wheel!
Two days later, I'm in 4th overall. It's time to do Sheboygan. This race was my best result last year, I'm excited to do it again this year. I have already done my first junior race a hour before and I'm all opened up, ready to race. The first half of the race is pretty uneventful. I tried to go for a few preems and failed. With 15 laps to go The announcers throw out a $50 preem and Inokennty, Kesha for short, attacks. Kesha is only 5 points behind me, so I can't let him go. I attack as well and start bridging up to him. He wins the preem and sits up to wait for me. I catch him and we start working together. Every lap I come through and dad shouts splits a me. 10 seconds, 12, 18, 22, 26, then 23! I am determined not to get caught, so I ramp up the pace. 24, 26, 25, 22, 27, 40! We have two laps to go, and 42 seconds. I'm starting to get nervous. I will either get second or win this. Kesha is worn down, but so am I and he is a much stronger sprinter then me. I cling to his wheel and make him do the work. we come around the final corner and he starts to sprint. I stay on his wheel until the final 50 meters, I try and come around him and crack. I have nothing left, I used it all making sure we stayed away. Kesha wins the sprint and I happily take second.
It's the final day, the Madison Capitol Criterium. I'm in third overall, and six points out of first and second, who are tied. Up until today I have felt better after every race, but in this mornings junior race I was very tired. I'm not overly concerned about it though, the junior races are faster than the cat 4s. I am just going to have to play it Conservative. I race smart, marking the two riders ahead of me in the overall and Kesha, who is still close behind me. Two riders attack when I'm off guard and get away. I don't chase them though, I missed the initial jump and I don't need to waste my energy chasing down riders who are not in the overall. Because they're not in the overall, none of the overall contenders chase them down and the get away to get first and second. I have a really good sprint and end up 7th. This puts me in 2nd overall since one of the two ahead of me finished at the back of the pack. the other one finished on spot behind me though, so I'm still 5 points out of first.
2nd overall Is a great result and I am really happy with my racing. As I said before I learned a lot and raced hard. Now I am looking forward to Tour De Rimouski, A international 15-16 4 day stage race in Quebec. http://www.tourdelareleve.ca/tour-releve-en.php
Check out some GREAT photos at XTR Photos...GARY does an awesome job!