I did not keep my blog up to date last season, and for that I am sorry. The Boz Blog, like many things in 2011, were a bit scattered. My winter training started much later than in years past for a multitude of reasons. After a quick two winter months in Chico, Ca, I headed to Europe for my first block of racing with the US National Team. Due to the fact that I was a year older, I was naturally stronger, but my fitness level was not where it could of been. This was something I struggled with for the rest of the season.
European racing provided some much needed experience and development, but while traveling I found out that my mother had been re-diagnosed with breast cancer, adding extra weight to an already fatigued mind and body. By the end of two months I was ready to come home and spend some valuable time with my mother. With a clear head and refreshed body I began to build up for the second half of the season, targeting races such as Nevada City, the Cascade Cycling Classic, and the Tour of Utah. I worked hard to build up my fitness, but without consistent mileage and hours over the winter, I felt like I was always trying to make up for lost time.
Nevada City was my first targeted race following Mt. Hood, which was used as a training race. The hours leading up to my start were rather eventful- I ripped the right mirror off my car by backing into a fence post. Additionally, my girlfriend's race number was the mark of the devil- 666. She then proceeded to crash on a fast 180 degree downhill lefthand sweeper, returning to me bleeding and crying. Despite the chaos, I had a beautiful day of racing and won my second consecutive Nevada City Classic, which I was happy to share with my dad (it was fathers day), uncle Craig, and my wounded yet smiling Annika. Next on the list was US Nationals, in sunny, southern, hotter than hell Augusta Georgia. Although I did not produce any spectacular results, my few of my longtime friends and Trek-LIVESTRONG teammates Nate Brown and Lawson Craddock landed spots on the podium, finishing first and second, respectively.
On my flight back to Oregon I began to focus on my hometown race, the Cascade Cycling Classic,. This Classic is a race I know well, taking place on all my favorite roads, giving me a distinct advantage. I rode well, taking 4th and 5th in two stages and 6th in the general classification. Finishing in the top ten was rewarding, but I had yet to reach the level of fitness I knew I could achieve. During this week I was surprised to find out that the team would not be racing the Tour of Utah or the Tour of Colorado due our affiliation with Team RadioShack. I was let down by this information- I had hoped to recreate my success of the 2010 Utah race. However, I accepted it as part of bike racing and turned my focus towards heading back to Europe with the national team.
First up was the Olympic Test Race in London, taking place on the planned course of the 2012 Olympic Games and containing a field full of top level ProTour riders. The test event was a riot (those crazy Brits), and the 250,000 supporters out on the streets were rewarded when their countryman, Mark Cavendish, won the race. Riding at the front in support of Tyler Farrar, I got a taste of what its like to race in the ProTour. This was when I realized that the high level of riding on display was within reach for me if I continued to work hard. Following London I went to Lucca, Italy for a mini training camp with the US team under the guidance of our new Swiss director, Marcello Albasini. The training camp was a prep for the Giro de Valley Aosta, an enormously mountainous race in the Italian Alps, as well as being prep for Le Tour de L'Avenir, the Tour de France for riders under 23.
Aosta is a very prestigious race in Italy, but our team approached it as a training race. We were there to ride and take opportunities presented to us, but we would not dig too deep to create opportunities for ourselves- we were to save ourselves for L'Avenir. Fortunately and unfortunately we did very well at Aosta- on stage one I came within 300 meters of winning the stage after a long solo breakaway (below I posted a report and video from that stage). My Trek teammate Joe Dombrowski showed that he is one of the worlds top young climbers by winning a stage and finishing 2nd on GC. With positive vibes following Aosta we were all excited and confident for Avenir, but none of us could guess the extent to which our hard and rewarding ride in Italy would doom us in France the following week.
In last years Avenir I had the pleasure of riding in support of Andrew Talansky, who took 2nd overall with an outstanding ride resulting from the work of a stellar, dedicated professional team. This year the US team was expecting a similar ride, but we left empty handed. Not once did we get a rider in the top 10 and the only podium we saw was at the team presentation as well as myself wearing the Green Number for most environmentally friendly rider (It was more of a joke- they just felt bad for me because I crashed). We left France greatly disappointed, but learned a valuable lesson about racing and preparation for key events- when you are targeting a race, you need to save all your energy for said race, even if it means letting other opportunities pass.
With the emptiness of Avenir fresh in our minds, we went back to Belgium for a one day race to keep our legs fast for Worlds in Copenhagen. Our team again experienced misfortune and produced poor results at the one day race, with four out of five crashing on the wet cobblestones, including all of our sprinters. Worlds was no more of a success- wounded and tired, we employed the tactics we needed to, but just didn't have the zest and energy to walk away with the win.
Writing this blog I realize that my season was a bit of a roller coaster. Like any other season, I had some great days and some bad days, but overall I feel that I never reached my full potential. I wouldn't say that I am disappointed by this, but I would say I am unsatisfied. I went to all the big races, but I was riding in support of others instead of contesting the races at the front like I know I can. This season I learned that in the world of cycling, if you let up for a second you are out of it for a year. I have big goals for 2012 and with the knowledge I have acquired this year I plan on once again racing to win. Unlike last year I have already started my winter base training, and with the help of my coach Hunter Allen (peakscoachinggroup.com) I plan to hit the 2012 racing season fit and ready to win.
Thanks for reading and see you out on the road!
Valle d"Aosta Stage 1 Report and Video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlDQPyzaDLw)
"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat"-Theodore Roosevelt. This is what my roommate Rob Squire read to me before the stage today. So with this in mind Rob and I went out to race our bikes with passion and panache. Soon after the start Rob and I both made a large break of 20+ riders, we gained time over the pack quickly and had five minutes before the first climb 25km into the race.
Motivated from Teddy's quote, Rob told me he wanted to win the stage and I told him I wanted to win the KOM jersey(King of the Mountains). As we neared the top of the first climb I went for the KOM sprint and took 3rd. After some amazing and scenic roads through the French Alps we hit the second climb, 90km from the finish. The break stopped working together, so I decided to mix things up. I went to the front and rode a harder pace and soon found myself off the front. I first told myself I would ride to the top of the climb, get the KOM points and see what kind of gap I had. By the top I had over 1'30" on the break so I decided to ride and see if I could pick up the next KOM 20km from the summit of the 2nd climb. Not killing myself I rode steady and hit the next climb with the same gap. I summited the 3rd climb and now had 2' over the break. At this point out team director came up to me and told me to continue but not burn all my fuel, so continued on and rode within self.
By the time I reached the last climb 30km from the finish my gap was still at 2', and Marcello told me to ride for the win. Riding off the front also hoped Rob who was in the group behind, as he did not have to work with the others who were chasing. I summited the final climb 25km from the finish with 1'30" over the chasing group which was now down to just 10 riders. After a technical decent I put my head down and rode for the win. The last 25km was a mostly flat route with a hard 1km finishing climb that we had scouted out this morning. I gave it all I had and still had a 40" gap over the chase group with 5km togo. At this point I thought I could win, all I had to do was make it up the final climb which was over 15%.
With 2km togo I still had 20" over the chase. As the climb approaching I got goosebumps just thinking of the win, and kept the power driving on. I hit the 15% pitch and had pain in my legs like I have never experienced before, but with the finish line just 600 meters away I gave it all I had. The fans on the road where cheering, but all I could hear were my legs telling me to stop. With 500 meters to go I looked back and still didn't see anyone, however my speed was starting to slow. By the time I hit 300 meter from the finish I was probably going under 5km/h, it was at this point I was passed by the chasers. Too knackered to feel emotion, I looked up to see Rob and the others come by at a much higher speed. The last 200 meters were the longest of my life, and I then realized I did what I could and came up just 300 meters short. I have seen riders come up short a hundred times on TV, being caught in the final, but never has it happened to me. After crossing the line I had no regrets, I gave 100% and thats all I can do.
Rob finished 3rd on the stage, which is a great result. I won the KOM jersey and most aggressive rider for the day, however there is still a lot of climbing to be done before this race is over. Following the stage I gave a few interviews in my broken French trying to win the hearts of the French fans. Tomorrow is a huge day with three cat 1 climbs, so I will recover to my best and give the race what I have tomorrow.