Sunday, August 9, 2009

Up and Running- Tour of Kansas City

I'm still trying to get this website up and running. It'll very similar to the old one, just a new name and fewer links as I'm eliminating all the ones that aren't up to date.

Doing the Right Thing at the Tour of Kansas City.
These races have always been some of my favorites ever. As long as I can remember, the ToKC has always been contested by the "hard men" of the peloton. What appears to be a straight forward criterium always ends up being a death march of a race. Hot, windy and downright brutal are the norm. This year, nothing new. Cue the heat!

We had a few scattered days of hot and oppressive heat, nothing like Austin, TX which has basically had 100+ F degree days solid since mid June, and I must admit I like riding around in 70-80 degrees. That is, until this last week when the rains cleared out, the wind shifted from the south and BAM! It's like riding a bike into a hair dryer!

I'm going to end up over- simplifying the race as many others will too, but this weekend appeared to be a Mercy Cycling vs. Tradewind Energy/ Trek Stores duel. However, I need to say that shouldn't imply that others sat idly by and watched as the race played out. NO WAY! Riders like Josh Carter, Phil Mann were present and accounted for. These two would greatly influence the outcomes of each day along with a few others. Definitely there were opportunities for everyone, if they were able to see the chance and make good on the moment.

Our plan: Joe Schmalz marks Brian Jensen and only Brian Jensen. Everyone else, race to win and we'll read and react and see what happens.....

I could write for lines and lines about the race, but rather than rehash, I'll fill in the gaps from the accounts of Steve Tilford.

Day1: Joe and I found ourselves in a 13 man break. I told Joe not to pull and to only watch Brian. The reason: Brian hasn't missed a break, ever really. Even if his team has a solid presence in the move, Brian will always find a way to get across. Sometimes, he'll take guys with him and shed them as "collateral damage" as the break develops. But either way, he never misses it.

After lapping the field, Joe, Brian, and Austin Allison get away for more break away fun. Meanwhile, other moves have developed in front of the field but behind the lead break. Mercy has guys in the moves, which is good for Joe as he utilizes Alex for some help in the finale. However, I'm still in the field with 2 other lappers (6 total) and have no help at all in the sprint. D'oh! Joe gets nipped by Brian by about the length of a deep dish rim. I place 6th. I would have liked to have placed up a couple more spots, but it was my best result in the ToKC. I'll take it.

Day 2, More of the same: Rewind and repeat the strategy of Saturday. This time with more fireworks, more 25 mph wind and 112F heat index. Basically, Tradewind/ Trek Stores set it as their goal to have Brian 5 peat (I think) the ToKC title and we were wanting 2 things: 1. Win the race and 2. Try and move Joe ahead of Brian, a feat much easier in theory and practice. We ONLY had to have Joe finish two places in front of Brian. Easy right? Riiiiiight.....

Break of 14 gets away from the field of 60+ and we had 3. Not bad, but not enough to throttle ourselves. We have myself, Alex Welch, and Joe. We lap the field with about 14 laps to go then things get interesting. Tradewind has 4 in the move and Steve in the field, making 5 of their six consolidated. Not the best thing for Mercy and Joe for either one of the goals.

So we audible the play and start to shake things up a bit to disrupt the ability for Tradewind to organize a leadout. In essence, we needed to blow the field and break up and rely on our ability to properly position ourselves. This required a good deal of trust in the team and in Joe because splintering a group is usually where Brian will hit the throttle and ride away. However, today was a different story.

A small group with Alex rolls, followed by Brian and Joe. They are joined by Josh Carter (who absolutely was NOT going to miss the move two days in a row) and Phil Mann, both talented riders and maybe one or two others. I couldn't tell because in my attempt to bridge, I blew myself in spectacular fashion and was trying desperately to find some sort of wheel as everyone rolled by... Enter Chris "Little Boy" Wallace. Chris completely bailed me out today by waiting for me to recover enough to ride faster than "backwards." Then pulled 2.5 grueling laps in the heat and wind, clawing himself and me back to the main field where the sprint for 9th was happening. Wow. I flew up the outside line and onto Shadd Smith's wheel which is where I finished. Ouch.

Meanwhile, Alex rolls off the break to win! Victory for Mercy. Joe misses beating Brian by the width of a tire. But without another rider between them Brian had the overall locked up.

I hope that everyone watching the race, from the inside looking out or the outside looking in enjoyed the racing. It's always interesting when you race your friends and former teammates. Myself and Joe raced on the Tradewind/ Trek Stores team last year so we know the strengths and weaknesses of each rider. Sometimes that's good, other times it's not because they know yours as well. The guys are strong and when they're co-ordinated, very difficult to beat. Props to their victory in the overall, it was a well deserved team victory.

The best, and worst part is that when racing against friends there tends to be moments when it gets, "dicey." While we're all competitors, that only lasts for the 70+3 of the race, then it's back to real life where you enjoy an ice cold beer in the parking lot and trade war stories. That's what the racing and culture is about in some respects. Comradary.

Coming up I'm going to look at some of the ToKC power files from the riders who made the races. Stay tuned!