Giro del Cielo P123 Race Report – by John Jantz

Stage 1: ITT

 

This was my first true ITT.  I purchased a TT bike back in January but an unfortunate accident in March prevented me from riding it at all until about mid-June.  But with this race in mind, I was able to get a few good sessions on it in the weeks leading up to the race.  The course was very twisty and hilly, something which made me a bit nervous as I was returning from a collarbone injury and definitely did not want to eat it in a TT on stage 1!  I told myself that it would better be safe than sorry and that I would use the horns if things got hairy on a descent or turn.

 

As soon as I mounted the bike to warm up I noticed that something seemed a bit off with my powermeter.  According to the Vectors, I was warming up at an average power of 290w with spikes above 400 regularly.  I suspected that something happened during travel to throw it off, meaning that I had to completely ignore the readings of what it said and would go by feel for the TT.  As they lined me up, I had a moment of strange calm before the holder let me go and I found myself mashing the pedals and heading for the first climb of the course.

 

The calm ended quickly, however, and within several minutes of starting, I was already into “ragged breath” mode, something which was undoubtedly facilitated by the punchy climbs on the course.  I soon found myself coming up on my 30-second man who I was able to pass without incident.  Periodically, I caught myself wondering when my OWN 30-second man would begin to close the gap on me but I dared not look back and kept my eyes glued on the road ahead

 

About 2/3 of the way through the 13 mile course I began to feel my legs aching that dull, hollow ache that they get when I go out too hard and am starting to die.  Suddenly, getting up the minor hills on the course seemed much more challenging, especially when I would crest them at what seemed to be a crawl.  However, I kept seeing the miles tick away on my Garmin and told myself “only 3 more!”  I knew I could hang on for another 6 or so minutes, no matter how painful they would be…

 

Just as we turned back onto the main road for the finish I heard the guy who started 30 seconds behind me come whizzing up.  As he passed, I did all I could to keep him a consistent distance in front of me and I stayed about 10 yards behind him until we painfully rolled past the line.  11th overall, 10th on GC – not bad!  And with Dan making the podium and Will right behind me, we actually were in first place in the team competition… a great start to the weekend!

 

Stage 2: Criterium

 

Being a spry 140lbs with a max power output of about 850w, crits have never been my thing.  And this being my first P123 crit, I was a bit nervous to say the least.  At least my teammates were there!

 

The race itself was more of a stream of consciousness than anything else.  As a team, our strategy was to try to get someone in a breakaway but we knew that would be tough considering how many motivated fellas there were in the field.  The first 30 minutes were highlighted by numerous attacks by Will and a breakaway by Dan that actually had gathered about 7 guys at one point.  I was convinced that that was the one so I made my way to the front and did my best to slow things down and mark attacks.  However, after several laps, the gap started closing between the groups (probably as a result of the dozens of attacks that kept chipping away at it) and things united once again.

By the halfway point in the crit, my normalized power was about 335w and I was feeling the repeated accelerations.  I told myself I would try to cool it a bit and just sort of drifted around near the top 1/3rd of the field.  Somewhere in the last few laps, a small group got away and one of the break-members actually managed to hang on for the win.  The final lap consisted of me finding myself toward the back of the field as everyone jockeyed for position.  I saw Will make an ill-fated but valiant assault as we entered the final, uphill, 500m straight but to quote Will himself, he “was probably about 200w short of success.”  As everyone revved up their sprints with 250 to go, I grabbed some wheels, got low in the drops and engaged a somewhat pathetic seated sprint but surprisingly found myself moving up through the field fairly quickly.  Crossing the line in 17th place in my first crit with the “big boys” was pretty cool!

 

Stage 3: Road Race

 

Going into the road race, I had no idea what to expect.  There were murmurings of a breakaway attempt (again) but I suspected that any plans would go out the window as soon as things started heating up.  At least one of our other teammates, Erik, had driven down to join the festivities!

 

The first 20 minutes of the race were savage.  Attacks exploded off the front left-and-right and I saw Will get up the road at least once only to be painfully dragged back.  Soon after one of his attacks, Dan launched into space with about two other guys and I went to the front to try and calm things down and give them a chance.  While marking a counter-attack, I found that I actually had created a decent gap on the field so I committed to the bridge in hopes that we could get TWO guys in the breakaway!  But as I hooked up with Dan, he shouted to me, “I’m marked, GO! GO! GO!” and proceeded to shut it down and drift back to the field.  He sacrificed his own breakaway to give me a chance – I was honored and extremely grateful for the chance but at the same time nervous for the effort ahead.

 

And the game was on.  I found myself with three other guys including a CCB rider who I knew to be extremely strong.  We began rotating pulls but from the start it was evident that the group’s cohesion was not there.  After about 4 painful miles of sloppily sharing the wind, the CCB rider sat up and announced that he was mailing it in.  One other rider joined him while another pressed on full gas by himself.  I decided to settle into a light tempo and told myself that I would try to make it over the course’s 1 minute hill away from the field at my own pace instead of drifting back only to HAMMER up the incline before I was fully recovered from the break attempt.

 

As I crested the hill with the pack closing in, three riders came roaring up behind me.  Fortunately I had taken the hill easy enough to have recovered somewhat and I decided to hop on that train in hopes that we could start something anew.  Surprisingly, our gap on the pack continued to grow (no doubt as a result of some excellent blocking by Dan, Will, and Erik) and within a lap we picked up the solo rider off the front from the first break attempt.

 

For the next 45 minutes, the group seemed to work fairly well together.  I noted that the organization would fall apart every several minutes so I took it upon myself to shout orders though it was unclear if they actually had any effect on getting the paceline to be any smoother.  It was difficult to tell from the contradicting time checks we were getting but the trend seemed to be that our gap was growing!

 

Then disaster struck.  As we were coming up on the end of the lap, I shouted for a time check to some people on the side of the road who had given us one the last time we passed.  At this point, I was next in line to pull and as the people shouted back, the rider in front of me maneuvered in an unexpected way as I pulled through and it was too late for me to halt my motion toward the front of the paceline.  I felt a violent smack as my helmet smashed against the pavement and my hip slammed against the road.  I sprung up as quickly as I could to find that all of the other members of the breakaway had also gone down in the incident.  Fortunately my recently-repaired collarbone was still intact and I hobbled off the course with my now-deceased bike feeling dazed, disappointed, confused, and frustrated.  How could that have happened?  What could I have done differently?  I later found out that I had suffered a fractured my pelvis in the incident, which was strange since I actually walked the quarter-mile back to the car.  Unfortunately the injury marked the end of my 2017 season but I am already looking forward to 2018.

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