The first stage of Utah is officially done and dusted. I’m very relieved to finally get the show on the road, and with 200 plus kilometers of racing in the legs I’ve just got off the massage table and have time to squeeze a little recap in before dinner.
Today, by bike racing standards was on the earlier side of starts. For those interested to know, we try and eat our last decent meal around 3hrs before go time. So an 8:30am start meant in theory a 5:30am breakfast, except for today the food hall didn’t open until 6am. So, then imagine dozens of bleary eyed but highly punctual hungry bike riders knocking on the food trays at exactly as the seconds tick over the sixth hour of the day. You definitely had to be quick this morning in getting your calories in, as the kitchen demand was not quite on schedule with the hunger demand. Nonetheless, after a large plate of oatmeal and berries, plus some eggs and coffee I was a satisfied customer. And promptly back laying on the bed at 6:30am letting the digestion team take over for awhile.
Today’s stage was a nice and fat 212km and it seemed pretty straight forward on paper. 51km up a steady berg, over the top and around a huge-ass lake, up a sharp 9km climb and back down the 51km climb that took us away from Logan. And it was straight forward. Kinda. So the first day of a stage race can always be a little tricky, in that no teams want to perhaps show their full hand yet, and depending on the make up of the field there can be a ton of teams where perhaps their only chance of showing themselves is making the breakaways. Combine that with the fact this race is on the television and it made for a grippy start once we rolled outta neutral and the road turned upwards. I’ll spare you the back and forth play by play details, but there was a lot of comings and goings of moves which made life difficult at times. I wasn’t until well over an hour that something finally rolled and the peloton relaxed. It was nine blokes and local legend Cortlan represented for us. Although it was going to be a long day out front, I was stoked for him being a local boy and giving it a rip the first day of his home race.
For the rest of us, the pace from once the break rolled was quite steady. Rally did some chasing, as did UHC for their respective sprinters. We mostly chilled at the back and kept the snacking and hydration to plan. My assigned role for the day, if not making the breakaway, was to look after Rob, our GC hope and also local Utah guy. After a long and very pretty lap of Bear Lake, we faced a stiff climb back up out. I helped position Rob near the front and stayed there as long as I could until things got a little hot for me towards the top and I drifted into a second group trailing not too far off. I wasn’t super worried as with 51km of steady downhill I figured there was good chance to roll back on. And we did after some fast pedaling and death defying stunts. Okay, maybe exaggerating on the stunts but sitting on a top tube at 90kmh is death defying enough for me.
With Steve Fisher having some fantastic race wins and podiums this year he was our best bet for the finish. In fact, I’ve dubbed him with the unofficial nickname of Stevie Wonder after such a stellar season thus far. Anyway, the plan was to move him up right before the finishing circuits before all hell would break loose. I was in decent position to help execute this until I wasn’t, getting swamped on the little riser coming into town. Luckily Kaler was right there and rode like 450 men on the front, dropping Steve right at the pointy end as we entered the final two, three kilometer circuits. I was there but just a little too far back to be of much use which was a little frustrating. Nonetheless, the finish was chaotic as hell and although we came home with all our skin, we didn’t come home with a stage result.
So that was the day. Personally, I felt a little lack luster but this is always a common thing for me on the opening day of a stage race. My legs usually take a good day or two to find their groove and with some heavy stages ahead I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.
Thanks for reading! cw.
PS – As I am in the bicycle competition, all said photos were taken from our twitter account. Give us a follow!