This is the first time I’ve raced the Tour de Bloom which is held in and around Wenatchee Washington. It was a challenging, but fun event especially going down with a Wheelers contingent, Nick Monette and Duncan Bryson racing Cat 1/2, Jackson Bocksnick racing Cat 3 and I racing 40+ Masters. Unfortunately Ian Brown, who was registered for the race, wasn’t able to make it due to injuries he sustained after he crashed when a car cut him off a week before the race.
We arrived in Leavenworth late Thursday afternoon in hot muggy conditions. Nick and I went for a spin around Leavenworth to check out the quaint Bavarian town. It felt good to stretch the legs after a long drive and ride in shorts and short sleeve jersey and not be cold.
Day 1 - Road Race:
The RR course was a scenic 86 km loop starting in Plain, north of Leavenworth. After leaving Plain it followed some fast rolling terrain on the Chiwawa Loop Road until coming out onto Hwy 207 and eventually U.S. Hwy 2 which follows the Tumwater Canyon and the turbulent Wenatchee River into Leavenworth. We hit some rural roads around Leavenworth and then back onto U.S. Hwy 2 to head south to a small town called Peshastin where we headed back towards the finish line on a gradual climb up the Chumstick Hwy with a finish at the top of Beaver Hill just south of Plain.
I was the lone Wheelers master in the 40+ master race, so it was nice to recognized a couple of Victoria master riders in the group, Paul Taylor (IRC) and Curtis Schlossberger (Pro City). My plan was to stick with the main front group and follow any attacks until the hill top finish where I would give it all for the uphill sprint to the line. About seventy 40+ Masters lined up for the 11:10 am start, but the start was delayed 30+ min due to some traffic issue we were told. We were all pretty cold sitting in the wind by the time we got going (so much for the warm up). After the neutral rollout the pace started to pick up with the rolling terrain, but as we came into a unexpected sharp left hander, about 6 km in, there was a touch of wheels in the middle of the pack (just to the front and left of me) and all I saw and heard were bikes frames cracking, tires blowing and riders hitting the deck. Luckily I was able to avoid the crash, but it rattled me for a while. The group continued to roll on until 21 km into the race where we were to enter onto U.S. Hwy 2 and descend down the Tumwater Canyon. We were told to stop and wait until the State troopers allowed us onto the highway. It was another delay of approx. 10-15 mins until the women’s group joined us at which time both groups rolled down the Tumwater Canyon (23 km) in a neutralized group until we entered Leavenworth where the race was on again. There were a few unsuccessful attacks and breaks until we hit the Chumstick Hwy where 5-6 riders got away (20 km from the finish). They were always in sight and the Langlois Brown Racing and Garage Racing team reeled them in 2 km from the finish (at the bottom of Beaver Hill). The pace up Beaver Hill picked up substantially until we hit the 200 m mark where it was a full out sprint to the finish. I managed to come through in the front pack in 12th place, 2 seconds back from the winner.
Day 2 of the race was a double day, hill climb and twilight crit.
The Mission Ridge Hill Climb was in the morning, so it was an earlier start to the day (an hour’s drive from Leavenworth) to get there by 9 am to warm up for the 10 am start time. The climb is approx. 6.5 km at an average grade of 8.5 %, so it was going to test my legs and lungs. It was a cool 8 C when the masters group rolled out, but I didn’t feel the cold for long as my heart rate started to spike and I heated up. The younger masters riders (40 year olds) pulled away quickly, so instead of trying to follow them and blow up, I settled into a rhythm and tried to limit my time lose. Paul Taylor pulled up beside me and went past about 1 km into the climb, so I stuck to his wheel as we climbed. About halfway up on the steeper sections (10%+) I started to lose Paul’s wheel…I tried to stay with him, but my heart rate starting climbing too high. I backed off slightly to try to stay around my lactate threshold hoping to save something for the top portion and maybe reel Paul back in if the grades lessen a bit. By the halfway point I'd gone way past my lactate threshold and was just surviving to the top. I was disappointed with my ride…I lost 8 positions on the day and was now sitting 20th in GC.
This would be my first crit, so I was a bit nervous heading into this race. At the start of the race, the race director told us the first lap would be a prime lap for $100...damn it was going to start fast! My heart was racing after this lap mostly from the hard pace, but also from the adrenaline surge from riding in a tight pack on a circuit that had four 90 degree corners, a steep incline, cobbled section and windy conditions.
My goal was to stay within the group and stay upright. I tried different lines on the corners and found the outside line was the fastest and was able to pick up spots in the peloton. Unfortunately a lot of others had the same idea so it was hard to keep this line.
Before I knew it, we were down to 5 laps to go and the pace started picking up more, by the last lap we averaged around 45 kph. I came through the finish in the main pack keeping my same placement in the GC. What an exhilarating experience especially with the crowds and atmosphere at this event!
Day 3 – Road Race:
The last stage consisted of two 55 km laps through exposed, rolling farmland with cross winds, not as bad as previous years I heard, but still was a big factor on how the race played out.
Approximately 60 masters lined up for this final stage (10 had dropped out due crashes or too much time lose from mechanicals from previous days). There was a neutral rollout for the 1st km and then the pace started picking up until corner 2 when all hell broke loose. There was an attack off the front and two groups got away. I was in the group with the pink jersey and his team accelerated to bring the breakaways back. At this point I was behind someone that wasn't able to hold the wheel in front so I was gapped from the group. I went around him and tried to bridge over but wasn't able to. I thought my race was over at this point, but luckily I found a few allies to work with to form an echelon to work with the cross winds to get back onto the group. About halfway through the first lap we rounded a corner and into another crosswind where again I lost contact with the group because the rider in front of me couldn't hold the wheel and I was gapped again. At this point there was just two of us working together to try to bridge the gap. After what seemed like 5 mins of trying to get back in contact with the group, the other guy I was working with yelled at me that we needed to get back to the group now or our race was done! That gave us enough motivation to dig deeper to get back to the group...I've never suffered so much before! I was determined not to make that mistake again!
The pink jersey team managed to bring back the 5-6 man breakaway group, but there was still 2 guys up the road from Langlois Brown Racing and Grixsen Brewing teams. It was up to the pink jersey team to try to bring the breakaway back on the second lap to hold onto the leader jersey. There weren't many attacks on the final lap probably because everyone was so tired battling the cross winds. I was able to stay in the main group and sprint for the finish line. There was a high attrition rate on the day with only 27 finishing the race. I was happy to finish 12th in GC (picking up 8 spots on the day). They didn’t split out the age groups this year, but I believe I was second in the 50-59 age group with Paul Taylor taking first.
As soon as I finished the race, I jumped into Nick's car it was a mad dash to catch the last ferry back to the Island. All the Victoria riders made the ferry where we took in the buffet and talked about our race experiences. What a great weekend away racing with some great guys!
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