I caught a cold on Wednesday, felt a little better on Thursday, but, let's face it, I was sick. The body overcame the mind. First Lanterne Rouge in a stage race (though I have several DNFs and missed a time cut or two). Learned that racing three days in a row while sick doesn't work. At least I finished (no time cuts at this race).
Stage 1 –Landis Cyclery Trek Time Trial
Started one minute behind AzTallRider. There was a novice racer 30 seconds ahead. My breathing felt normal with no significant congestion. I started out normally but it took me a little longer than I thought to catch the novice and I could see AzTallRider ahead, but that's about as good as it got. I don't have a power meter on my TT bike but I couldn't hold my target heart rate after about 3-1/2 miles. Got passed by rider after rider and I tried, but I couldn't develop any power or get my heart rate back up to my normal TT zone. Ended up with my slowest time ever on this course. At least my bike position felt good and I wasn't last.
Later that evening, my teammate and I had a nice dinner hosted by AzTallRider and TallWife. We talked about cycling and photography and had a very fun meal and evening.
Stage 2 – Safeco Insurance, Parrish Agency Road Race
Had an early wake up call for this race. I'm glad my teammate was racing in the second wave as he helped me get ready and reduced my pre-race stress levels. My breathing still felt reasonable and I kept thinking that I was OK, even though I still felt the cold or some kind of bronchitis.
The race started sedately and there were a few half-hearted (IMHO) early attacks. After the TT, I was determined to stay near but not at the front. I stayed on the wheel of a good racer from SoCal since there were a number of racers in the pack who had dubious pack riding skills. At one point, "my guy" chased an attack and I stayed with him. He caught the attacker and then rotated to the front. There were only three of us and I took my turn but when I pulled off, nobody came through. I definitely wasn't going to burn any matches at this point so I just sat up and waited.
We hit the bottom of the climb and the pace picked up dramatically. Despite that, I felt OK. I stayed buried mid-pack as the road tilted up and at one point I thought, "I'm going to make it over the top with the front group." So much for the power of positive thinking. The person I was following started dropping off and I went around him but I couldn't catch the group. Others started falling behind and I was desperately looking for a good wheel. Unfortunately, I couldn't hold a good wheel (AzTallRider) as he came around me.
I settled into a group with two of AzTallRider's teammates. There was a 65+ racer who was just hanging on and not helping. Unfortunately, I couldn't help as I normally would. I would take and miss turns in the rotation. It looked like we were catching another chasing group. I was following and the two teammates were trading pulls. Unfortunately, they almost crashed during an exchange and I hesitated, got gapped, and ended up with the 65+ guy as the two teammates rode away.
About a mile before the climb, we caught some Cat 5 racers who were off the back of their race. As they hit the climb, their pace was too high for me. I tried but I couldn't stay with them or the 65+ guy. I had a long and lonely lap ahead of me. Interestingly, it wasn't my slowest lap on this course but it was slow. I was DFL on this stage and three riders dropped out of the race so I was now Lanterne Rouge with no hope of moving up in the next day's criterium.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in the feed zone. I successfully handed up some bottles to my teammate and I got to watch the Specialized Lululemon women dominate the road race. Also, the Pro/1 men were amazingly fast.
Stage 3 – Grand Canyon University Criterium
I woke up feeling a bit worse for the wear. My symptoms weren't good, with some interesting mucous coming out of my sinuses and lungs. Regardless, I had a race to do and a Lanterne Rouge to uphold. I decided that I would try to attack at some point so that I wasn't completely anonymous in this race.
The race started surprisingly fast with a number of people attacking hard and regularly. At the end of lap two, they officials rang the bell for a prime lap. I have no idea what prize they awarded but on the back straight I had some momentum and a clear shot at someone who attacked off the front, came out of turn four in second place and as we headed down the long front straight a couple of guys started coming by on the right. I jumped on them but the second guy decided to sit up and the other two contested the prime. Oh well.
Stayed buried in the pack for the rest of the short (25 minute) race and rolled across the line last of the riders in the pack. A few guys rolled across after me. I thought about raising my arms to celebrate my Lanterne Rouge as I crossed the line but I maintained my conservative decorum.
We had a large-ish lunch at a well known chain, sports bar/restaurant as we were hoping to catch some of the Daytona 500 before we hit the road in earnest. Unfortunately, the race had just entered what ended up as a 6-1/2 hour rain delay. I got a chance to nap on the drive back but I felt worse and worse as time passed. I am at home from work today to get some rest and recover. I guess as a middle-of-the-road, amateur bicycle racer, competing in a stage race while you're sick is not the best way to get some personal or overall results.