What an unbelievable weekend. I am immensely proud of the team and their accomplishments. This was the biggest, baddest, fastest race that El Grupo has ever participated in and we are leaving with our heads high knowing that we can hang with the best of the best. We raced against National Champions, Cat2’s, and state champs and we left with results, and the knowledge that we deserve to compete against the best. We competed this weekend with style and heart and I really just want to emphasize how proud I am of the whole team. This weekend was true validation for me as a coach. Letting me know that what we are doing as a team is working and that we are on the right path.
So how did it go?
Well Friday was the time trial out in Avondale. Crazy west Phoenix- like in nowhere land. We did just fine in this event. There is not much story telling in this one. You go out for 7.1 miles then turn around and race back for a total of 14.2 miles. As a team we do not practice this discipline much so against the competition we did not do “great” however for us we did quite well. We tried our best for sure to compete with the gear and bikes of the others but still we were at a disadvantage, for sure. We used our aero bars, old school TT wheels and ancient TT helmets.
The road race, though, is our best team discipline and where we really performed extremely well as a team.
Lizzy’s race was 25 miles. One and half times around the circular course. The course started with a flat run to a right turn followed by more flat to a right turn and then the hill. A glorified Pistol Hill-type hill that was approx. 3 miles long, then down the hill to another right turn followed by some rollers to the start line. The finish was at the top of the hill.
Lizzy had a small field to race, however one of the girls was a nationally ranked phenom from Colorado. As Daniela put it: she was her height and Lizzy’s weight. On the first lap Lizzy hung on to her until the hill. At the hill she, Laurel, got away, while Lizzy pulled away from the other girl, leaving Lizzy in nowhere land with the question of to chase or wait for the other girl. She chose to chase and approx. 12 miles later caught Laurel. 12 miles of chasing is hard work and Laurel knew it. Even remarking to Lizzy oh my how long have you been there. After all the chasing Lizzy was unable to hang with Laurel up the hill but only finished 20 seconds behind. A remarkable ride.
Logan was next having a 41 mile race. 2 and half laps of the course. This was one of the first times that I have seen Logan really intimidated at the start of a race. He was a bit shocked at the size of the field, the quality of the riders, and the gear of the rest. He started the race in the back of the pack and looked hesitant. But at the top of the hill on the second time around when I saw him he was in total control breathing easy riding in the chase group of 15 strong following the lead group of about 4. The chase group then on the last lap was able to catch the leaders so at the base of the climb on the last lap Logan was right there with the leaders when his body ran out of sugar and started to cramp on him. Even with this though Logan finished 19th and a head of last years National Champion, and third amongst AZ riders. Not bad for running out of sugar.
Marcos road in his first Cat5 non Junior race and finished quite well in 16th place and in the second chase group. I did not get too many details from him but he had fun and road well.
Donovan and Nathan were up next in the afternoon and had a 57 mile race or 3 and half laps. The boys started at noon so by this time is was hot. No arm warmers or anything needed. The first lap around everything stayed together and not much action. I was in the feed zone watching this one so the first time I saw the boys they were all together. By the second lap though things got exciting. Nathan had broken away with one other rider and were chasing two leaders. Donovan found a group of 5 to ride with no more than 1 minute back of the main pack. Nathan road in this chase group until the bottom of the main hill when the pack caught him and his break away companion. At the 2 lap point Nathan needed water and in a group of about 40 moved to the side and grabbed a bottle from me. I can’t tell you all how proud I was of him for accomplishing this. In a pack of 40 going roughly 25 miles an hour Nathan grabbed a water bottle from me. Donovan then came by about 5 minutes later with his group and grabbed 2 in the space of 20 yards. So with 1 and half laps to go Nathan was still in the main group, but the race really got hot on the last lap when before the hill two guys were able to break away. Nathan let them for a bit but then chased them down. Yes out of a group of 40 of the best in the Nathan breaks away and catches 2 of the best in the nation. Once arriving to there group the two riders do not take well to being caught so they take turns attacking Nathan. Nathan then has to chase each attack down. Over and over this process goes until Nathan just can’t take any more and his legs start to cramp so he has to let the two go. He ends up holding off the field and finishing 4th over all. Donovan comes in alone 16 minutes later having left his group behind on the last climb. The hardest race he has ever ridden.
Nathan result though is the greatest result on the National stage ever for El Grupo. The absolute best in the country came to this race and Nathan hung with them and beat a lot of them. Barney King at 8am the next morning would take the time to congratulate us on the finish having heard of it. Really for a kid who had never been athletic before and only riding a year and half this is crazy huge.
We kicked butt in the road race and then we got our butts kicked by some crazy flu bug. By the next morning Logan, Nathan, myself, Daniela, and Donovan were all sick. Nathan, Donovan, and Logan all puking and Daniela and myself wanting too.
The race went on though and so we had to as well. Donovan though was unable to race he just could not do it and he probably would have done the same as Nathan who puked all over himself and bike on the first turn of the race. He still was able to get up and finish though.
Lizzy unaffected by the bug raced her heart out and had she held on to the first move of Laurel I think could have beat her. She spent the rest of the 15 minute race chasing only loosing by 46 second with no help while Laurel was pulled around the course by 2 boys. Next time we will not let her get away.
Marcos had the hardest race of his life in the crit as he tells me. I have never seen so much pain on Marcos’s face before. he worked like crazy and safely finished in the group.
Logan pulled out our great result of the day in the crit. After puking and feeling terrible he was able to finish tenth. In the first group that sprinted for the finish. The National Champ won it with Logan on his tail just a second behind. He raced incredibly smart and patient. I was worried all race. He just hid. Then, on the last lap made his move to the front and gave it a go with zero energy. A very gutsy ride.
I am so, so proud of this team. All five of the youth riders have now been around for more than a year and have always had great attendance and work ethics. They have stuck to the El Grupo training program and have each come away from the National stage knowing that they can compete with the best. We raced big well organized teams with kids from all over the country and we competed. These kids deserve to race on the National stage and I can’t wait for Nationals next year. People will know who we are. I hope this is inspiration not only to the five that raced but to the rest of the team that wants to race. Come to practice, have good attendance, work hard, put heart into your training and great things can come.
Thank you to all who came and helped as well. A huge thanks to Daniela and Damiano for being the best family members ever. To Richard and Alex who raced very well and help immensely. Of course, to Kathleen our team photographer, super parent and supporter.( Check for here photos her web site soon) And of course to the Franklin’s, who without their generosity, I am not sure we would have been able to do this. THANK YOU TO ALL.