SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (VN) — Tempers flared at the Bissell table at breakfast before stage 3, as Pat McCarty and Carter Jones argued about a fresh omelet. You see, Carter tricked Pat into abandoning the long line, just so he could move up a spot. Pat, stuck with cereal and fruit, demanded a bite to make up for Carter’s ruse (specifically, he demanded that Carter pretend it was an airplane and feed it to him, like a baby), but he was denied. Carter Jones looks like a nice boy, but he has ice water his veins.
A few hours later, Pat and Carter were in the early break, and they must have patched things up over the next hundred miles or so, because they rode well together. The breakaway came back to the field in pieces on Mount Nebo, the only major climb of the day, with Carter one of the last survivors, barely caught by the remnants of the peloton, which was desperately chasing Lachlan Morton (Garmin-Sharp).
Mount Nebo was tough. We all watched Lachlan attack, and thought he was a crazy man for going so early. I was comfortably in the front group most of the way up, but as Lachlan’s gap grew, more attacks followed, Radioshack started to panic, and I was disappointed to find myself in the cars — not what I expected from myself this week.
I had a conversation with Mount Nebo.
Me: “Oh good. Thanks for flattening out a bit. I’ll catch back now, no problem.”
Mount Nebo: “Sure thing, Phil! I know you’ve been training hard for this. I won’t screw you over. In fact, here’s some downhill for you.”
Me: “Wonderful! Now what’s around this next bend?”
Mount Nebo: “Oh hey, remember me? I’m a mountain, and that’s another 3K of steepness. Die, Phil, die! Bwahahaha.”
I didn’t make it back to the front group. Mike Torckler, on the other hand, was once again the hero of the day for our team, hanging comfortably, and sprinting for more KOM points at the top.
The circuit race in Salt Lake City the next day wasn’t nearly so bad. We had all morning to sleep in, eat, nap, eat, nap, etc. Each lap had a steep climb in it, but by the time it hurt, it was over, so the stage mostly felt like a sleigh ride, as the sprinters’ teams battled it out, and I waited for my legs to feel good again.
Stage 5 was the “queen” stage, 110 miles, with a short climb from the start line, some rolling terrain, and two hard climbs near the end, finishing at Snowbird ski resort. It took forever for the break to go. Every time someone got a small gap, we’d pray that the group would let it go, but then Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) would shoot up the outside to bridge, and it would all weld back together.
The peloton had a conversation with Jens.
Peloton (as Jens starts to move up the outside of the field to attack): “Jens! Let it go!”
Jens: “This is not a gran fondo!”
And then whack, he hit us again. I wish I was making that conversation up, but it happened. Jens will not be intimidated.
King of the Mountains Mike Torckler slipped into the break, and clinched that sweet jersey for Bissell, while I rode to the finish in a small group, and had another conversation, this time with my legs.
Me: “What’s the deal, legs? You were great a couple weeks ago, and now you don’t climb so good. What is it? Did we train too much? Not enough? Did we overdo the altitude?”
Legs: “Whaaaat, we’ve got to be good every week? Or is it every day, you greedy jerk?”
Me: “No, just at these bigger races. You could have chilled out a little bit in the spring, for example.”
Legs: “Ohhh, so you didn’t want to win Merco? Now you’re too good for Merco, huh, Phil?”
Me: “No, no! Merco was nice, but if you could be like you were then, or at Gila, or even at nationals, that would be awesome!”
Legs: “What about San Dimas? I killed that time trial for you! You never thanked me for that time trial, Phil.”
Me: “That’s because I was in the ER, unconscious, covered in road rash, and high on morphine! How dare you mention San Dimas!”
Legs: “And that’s our fault? You going to blame us when your head isn’t looking where it’s going?”
My legs and I are no longer on speaking terms. It’s been awkward. We hope to patch things up for the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado next week. If Carter and Pat could get past the omelet incident, my legs and I can come to terms.
The team picked up my slack no problem, with Carter holding down a solid GC to complement Torckler’s rockstar performance, and all the guys working perfectly together. We finally get it figured out, and the season is almost over, but that’s always how it goes. Colorado will be my last race with Bissell, and I’m excited to help keep our momentum going.