well it's old news by now, but heres the official toona report. me and carson drove up to altoona pa and took part in the 3-stage cat2 race. We drove up a day in advance so we could ride the 9 hour drive out of our legs. so we explored nearby duncansville and holidaysburgs. stage was is a super fast, rolling course mainly through a bunch of fields, but you come through a residential area for the start finish, so theres six 90 degree turns in the last km. i crashed with three turns to go last year in the rain when someone slide out, so i decided to try and conserve and get up there if the oppertunity presented itself. i got through the stage well, but a lot of those guys take that race extremely seriously, and despite several attempts, getting good position leading into the last km wasn't going to happen without really getting aggressive. so i stuck to the flat and cruised in, in 51st i think.
stage two is a beast that goes over blue knob ski resort, with a total of four 5km climbs, all in the last 35 miles. blue knob ended my hopes last year, and it took everything i had this year as well, i really struggled the first 2km, and had to claw my way up, and bridge several dropped groups, and had a really good final km, and went over the top in the third group, 10 seconds behind the second group of 12, and 20 seconds behind the leading group of 18 or so. I had a teammate, Rob Mcconnville with me, and our group worked well together thankfully, and we bridged to the second group within a few miles, and then quickly rejoined the leaders. this made the lead group about 45 riders strong, so we dispensed of a good 40 riders on blue knob. the next two climbs are a true 5km, and aren't as steep and blue knob. the second climb starts really gradual, and then the last km really kicks up and again, i suffered a lot on the steeper section, but made it over in the group, and we lost another 4-10 guys. the third climb is almost identical, gradual intro and ended with a brutal final km, i felt great on this climb and rode comfortably in the top 10 across the top. this is when all the training in Banner Elk starts to pay off i guess haha. a 6 man break got away somewhere first before the third climb and was maintaining a 40 second gap across it, and into the valley, and by the final climb, they had 2 minutes. the lead group was down to about 30 tired guys, the pace on the final climb didn't pick up until the final 3km when we went through 20km to go, a couple guys attacked and really stretched out the group, and instantly put some riders into the red. i surprisingly handled the acceleration well, despite having a hard time with that all year. the final km, like the previous climbs, the road kicked up a bit, and i feel like everyone was on the rivet, and a few guys were driving it, and it was really stretching out and i made the desicion to conserve since it was going to be a very select group for the sprint, i'd take my chances there. across the top there is a nice extended plateau through a small village and come guys hammer across, and i took two really hard pulls too to try and keep anyone from rejoining before the decent. after that, there is a 12km decent to the line, and the group was down to 21 riders. the sprint is really wide, 4 lanes, and very slightly downhill aka not my thing, but i was pretty confident, there were some attacks in the final km but nothing was going to get away, the sprint was pretty drawn out and chaotic, and i didn't judge it well, and only managed 8th from the group, slotting me in 15th overall. which despite the reality of the potential 7th i was sprinting for, i am really pleased with since last year i got dropped on blue knob and finished 64th. i find myself a lot, debating aggressive vs conservation, i have chosen conservation a lot this year it seems, because i've been subjected to some big races like tour of virginia and u23 nats where i have been racing over my head. and i feel that generally i can out climb the sprinters, and out sprint the climbers, but can't match the purists of any disipline. looking back at the blue knob race, i wish i'd of driven it up the final climb and worked the group down to 7-8 riders and sacrificed my sprint. but it is easy to say things like that looking back. there is always next year.
we rolled into downtown altoona for the stage three criterium, 20 minutes before our start, for no other reason than we are really lazy haha. but we got ready and got to the line, and took off with no warmup. luckily after two killer days in the saddle, you're pretty open and warmed up anyway. so i made and plan to stay where i was, in the back, and ride for 6 laps to get warmed up before i started moving forward. this worked out well, and ten laps in, i was sitting in the top 25. but much like the technical circuit race friday, the locals were taking huge risks in the corners, something i was a little hesitant to do. but it's the last day, i'm young and heal fast right? so the last five laps were crazy and i was determined to get up there and contest it, i worked my way into about 25th wheel and there was a small crash in the final corner before 3 laps to go, i got through it really cleanly on the inside, and had to close a 2 second gap, but the chaos moved me into about 10th wheel. i haven't previously mentioned that i had nursed a broken seat rail through the circuit race and road race, that i broke on our ride in holidaysburg before the start. well literally over the line with 2 laps to go, the other one broke! so the nose of my seat went down, and was only being held on by the railings behind the clamp, so i could sit my weight really far back on the seat in the turns and then had to stand through the straights. anyone that rides knows, two laps of mostly standing kills you haha, but i suffered through it and only lost ten spots and finished 21st i believe.
so it wasn't a tremendous weekend results wise, but overall i am really pleased with how it went. I got through safely after crashing twice last year. and improved greatly on my position each day and overall. and just as important, this race was really fun and altoona is an cool litlte town.
I just got moved in up at school, and will enjoy one more free weekend before the collegiate mtb season starts. and the search for a new team begins as well. some small negotiations have come up, but nothing serious by any means. hopeully something will work out. til next time,