Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lining Up with Lance, Landis, Leipheimer, and Horner

D-Day, or perhaps G-Day (for the Tour of the Gila start), is upon us. Tomorrow kicks off five spectacular, grueling days of hills, altitude, wind, for what's always a star-studded peloton. The funky town of Silver City, an eclectic blend of blue collar, hippie, outdoorsy folks, and artists is overrun with lycra for a week. It's a wonderful place, revered by hardcore roadies both for the quality of racing and the enthusiasm the town shows in supporting the event.

Its out-of-the way locale has added to the race's cool factor, but has also prevented the race from developing the mainstream recognition that it deserves. This year will change that. Although there was controversy when the UCI (Union Cycliste International - the governing body of cycling) moved to enforce an obscure rule, several of the most famous cyclists in the world will be right next to us at the start line, some in disguise.

Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimmer, and Chris Horner are using the race to fine tune their fitness and prepare for the high mountains of the upcoming Giro. Due to a UCI rule that's never been enforced before, the threesome from Astana can't suit up in their Pro Tour team's kit. So, they'll be sporting the logos of Lance's Mellow Johnny's bike shop instead.

Floyd Landis is also on board with his Team Ouch as part of his road back to the top-end of the sport. And a who's-who list of the top domestic pros round out the 168-man field, which includes a five-man roster from my Ten Speed Drive elite team.

Team tactics for us in a race of this caliber is pretty simple: Survive. Our squad is composed of 2 racers from Honduras (Cristian Velasquez, the National road & TT champion, and Armando Orellana); Vincent Owens from Fresno, CA; Emiliano Jordan from Tucson, AZ; me; and Team Director John Freisen who will handle instructions via race radios, feeds, and all the logistics for the whole week.

Of course, lining up against the best of the best is a once in a lifetime experience and my teammates and I are revelling in it. Even cooler - this 23 year-old race will be the center of the cycling world for the week. The press coverage will be huge, the spectator attendance will sky rocket and the benefit both to the town of Silver City and future editions of the race - which was almost canceled due to lack of funds before SRAM came on to foot the bill - will enjoy better funding and increased attendance. It's really awesome to see!

It's All About the Mental Prep Now

I have my share of butterflies before tomorrow's 94-mile day. I worry that coming from sea level to a start line that sits at almost 6,000 feet, with significant climbing up from there, will be a brutal challenge. Could I have trained harder/better/smarter... gotten leaner... done more core, flexibility and breathing work? But, in addition to all of the doubts and fears, there's a real sense of excitement just from participating at this top level.

It's one day at a time with the main goal just making it to the next start. I'm in pre-hydration mode, elevating my legs when I can, and donning my favorite compression tights for air travel, car travel, when I sleep, between stages... they're seeing a good deal of use.

Stage 1 Profile
Stage 1 Profile

Tomorrow will be winds, a peloton strung out in the gutters, flat to rolling terrain, and a long, brutal climb with an exposed, really windy false flat on the way to an uphill finish line in the ghost town of Mogollon. Finish within 20% of the stage winner's time and I live to fight another day... I can't wait to see what these guys will do in the Stage 3 time trial!

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