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Monday’s shortened stage was guaranteed to be fast, with no KOMs, and 100-something dudes that have barely touched the pedals for three days. Our plan was to slip into the breakaway if possible, and take care of Luca and Shawn for the inevitable sprint finish.
We covered a few breaks, but missed the good one. I’m not sure what happened, because I whacked a pothole 3k into the stage, and spent the first half of the race going back to the car with resulting mechanical drama. It happens.
Flying through the cars brings me to the subject of my favorite things about big UCI races:
1. Long caravans. In an NRC race, if you crash or flat, your team car has to stop for you, and you’ll be in the wind for awhile before you catch back on. At a race like this, the caravan goes on for at least 5 minutes, so you can take your time when you stop. However, it would have been nice if our contraband race radios worked. Frankie was screaming into those things all day, and we never heard a thing.
2. Pee breaks. When the early break finally goes, the entire field stops, and you can trust that there won’t be any amateur jokers who think that’s the best chance to attack.
3. Spectators. A picture went up on my Facebook earlier this year when I won a local race in Florida. My teammates pointed out that posting up was pretty pointless when the only spectator in the picture was a garbage can. Ouch. Big contrast heading into Sacramento today, where the crowds were huge and loud, despite the cold drizzle. Keep it up, folks, but I want to see more “Kenda-5 Hr” signs tomorrow.
The pace was fast but not too tough Monday, with the short distance and elevation loss, although I think a lot of the domestic guys felt a bit of a rude awakening when the pace picked up in the finishing circuits with about 10k to go. It’s been a long time since we had to go that hard just to stay on the wheel. I was definitely humbled, but Shawn Milne managed to bounce around the leadouts and slip in for an impressive 10th place. Not a bad start for us for the week.
Correction: Yesterday’s entry said that we were the only team there with a rider that’s won Athens Twilight (Luca Damiani). Andrew Pinfold of UHC reminded me during the stage that his teammate, Karl Menzies, has also won it in the past (although UHC couldn’t handle our pasta-loving Italian sprinter at the race this year).
Phil Gaimon is a 25-year-old VeloNews columnist and third-year pro racer for Kenda-5 Hr Energy Presented by Gear Grinder. He has an English degree from the University of Florida, and owns online stores at podiumcycling.com and sharethedamnroad.com.