Since I am spending the “winter” in Tucson this year, I decided to do the Valley of the Sun stage race. Or should I say I really just wanted to do the RR. After going up to Buckeye and losing enough time in the first stage TT, I figured that most people wouldn’t care about me for the RR the next day. I was in the 55+ group.
Thanks to teammate Ken Strickland, a fellow CV teammate who lives in Tucson, I was riding his Parlee bike (since I broke mine in the Shootout training ride in January). I wanted to stay near the front to avoid problems. Shortly after the race started there were a flurry of attacks into the crosswind section on the 2nd leg of a 3 leg course. I initiated a few and after about 3 of them I was off the front. Almost immediately a Sabino Cycles racer bridged up to me. I remembered him from the previous RR, the Oracle RR when he mostly just wheelsucked and stuck around till the end. This time I made him work with me, although he was only managing 4km slower per hour than when I was at the front. Going up the climb on the 3rd leg he started weakening and dropped off. I then set my sights on the Cat 5s who had started before us. I figured that if I could catch them I would get a breather while I took my time passing.
On the downhill headwind section I realized I was working pretty hard and soon two racers from my group bridged up, Dirk Cowley whom I have known for many years such as racing in the Worlds in Austria and another guy from Portland OR. The Portland guy took some great pulls on the flats. Dirk was a little slower but he was stronger on the climb. The Portland guy seemed to be afraid of getting dropped, but we assured him we wouldn’t go too fast so that he would be around to help for the final lap. At the top of the climb, there was a KOM time bonus. I graciously let Dirk win it, thinking that he was a lot closer to the leader of the race and I wanted him to be motivated.
We continued to work well together on the final lap and the rest of our race was out of sight as far as we were concerned. I forced Dirk to do all the work up the climb. Then with 1km to go, the road gets noticeably less steep and I was concerned that the Portland guy who was sitting on like me might have more power. So I attacked both of them, got a decent gap and hammered as hard as I could. The Portland guy was chasing like mad but 30 more seconds later of pain and they had given up and I cruised home raising my fist in the air for the victory. What makes races like this all the nicer is using the strategic elements to advantage.