I finished up Nature Valley with a decent ride on the final day at the infamous Stillwater Criterium. I had the goal of finishing the entire race and perhaps improve my overall standing. I got popped off of the lead group with a little over a lap to go. I rode in, thus completing all 20 laps but only finished 37th on the day. Not as good as I had hoped for but I did improve overall. I finished my first ever Nature Valley Grand Prix in 34th overall, which is nothing to brag about but I was satisfied with it. I missed my main goal for the week. I set out to win the Green jersey for best amateur. I did not win the green jersey but I finished as the 5th best amateur. I am going back next year with the same goal in mind and hopefully I can accomplish it.
After Nature Valley things got hectic. Immediately after Stillwater I got in Mac's van and we drove the 12 hrs back to Bloomington, including traffic jams and detours through Gary, IN. We got home at 4 am. I woke up the next morning to fix my bike and then hopefully relax before driving the 11 hrs to Augusta the next day. Needless to say the repairs did not go well and my one day of relaxation became nothing but stress. I got the bike figured out and Mac and I got back into the van to begin the trek to Nationals. We stayed in Atlanta on Tuesday night and finished the drive to Augusta on Wednesday. We got to the TT course and did some pre-riding, unfortunately, my first ride in two days. The course was not as difficult as I would have hoped (this became the theme for this trip to Nationals) and was truly one for the specialist. I got the bike dialed and went home to rest before my 1 pm start the next day.
The morning of the TT went well. I was fortunate enough that Mac competed in the U23 event earlier, so I had a gauge as far as what it would take to do well. I set off right as Jonathan Jacob crossed the line and immediately knew what it would take, which would have been the ride of my life. I took off and felt terrible. I just couldn't find a rhythm and the legs were fighting me. I am not one for excuses but I would have loved to have had better legs. I am sure the travel didn't help but I rode as hard as I could and came home in 38 min 33 sec. At the end of the day I ended up 13th out of 70 something guys. I told myself going in that anything outside of the top 10 would be a failure and while 13th is not bad it is not what I set out to do. I know I am capable of riding better and it is disappointing that I didn't have the ride I know I am ultimately capable of. However, congrats must go to my friend and old teammate Jonathan Jacob. He is the world's nicest guy and to see him pull on the Stars and Bars as Elite National Champ was great. If I could not win I can not think of a person I would rather see get the gold. Congratulations Jonathan, awesome ride!
I then had 2 days before the road race so I rode around Augusta which is a terribly disappointing city. I thought with it being home of the Masters that there would be an interesting downtown or something, but there was nothing. The heat was absolutely brutal. I watched the U23 road race detonate and figured due to the heat that the attrition rate would be just as high among the 200 starters in the Elite race. I could not have been more wrong. with 28 miles to go there were still 100+ guys in the mix. I was baffled and angry. A selective race suits me, a bunch sprint does not. WIth about 20 miles to go I laid my cards on the table. I got into a minor split and then followed attacks and found myself in what I hoped would be the move. We came through with 1 lap (15 miles to go) and things went south. As I feared our group of 13 was a little too large, people started sitting on and the gap plummeted. Our break came apart and I attacked but was brought back. One guy from our break survived as a group of 5 formed with 4 miles to go and fought it out. I was disappointed but gave it my best shot and actually raced the bike race. Next year will be better I hope. Now onto the rest of the season. I have some good form after by far my most ambitious racing trip and am hoping it will pay dividends.
Here are some pictures from my soon to be wife of my TT (Wedding is August 6th!)