Tour of Walla Walla is one of the PacNW’s biggest stage race and was the season opener for the Trek-Red Truck team. This is a big race for the team and has served as a stepping stone for many of BC’s now pro riders, TRT has taken the GC in this race 3 or maybe 4 times so expectations are always high.
Located in Sout-Eastern Washington it features 4 stages over three days in and around the rolling hills of picturesque onion country. Trek had a 6 man squad and we were motivated to show our stuff.
I knew my fitness was going to be good for this after crushing an excessive amount of riding at TRT team camp two weeks earlier, but i wasnt sure how my legs were going to hold up with the hard efforts. My goal for this race was a top ten on GC and perhaps a stage podium. My thoughts was to lose no time on stage one, same in the crit, do a good TT, and finish in one of the lead groups on the last stage where there was sure to be time gaps. This is pretty far off what actually happened…
Stage 1 Road Race
-Just under 100km, 3 laps including and finishing at the top of a 3km climb.
Pretty uneventful first 2 lap, third lap going up the smaller climb going through the feedzone a group of 6 was rolling off the front. I thought for sure this was going to be the break to be in so i laid it down to get a across. Once i did it was all for not and the pack was right there a minute or two later. Hit the final climb to the finish and the gaps start to open, my legs are just not there and i end up losing 30 seconds or so. So the stage one is done and im not in ideal GC position, only thing to do is recharge and refocus for the crit.
Stage 2 Crit
Pulled on the sweet Sugio skinsuit for the first time which is good for style+speed points plus the good ol speed booties which according to Cody are negative style points…I disagree.
Spent most of the race trying to get in anything going up the road to see if i could gain some time back. Like in any crit that was a tough ask so on the last lap it was all together. Narrowly avoided the last lap carnage which claimed skin and broke bones (hope everyones healing) and found my selfin decent position going into the final series of corners. Tyler took 3rd me in 6th and Cody in 7th, GC is unchanged.
Stage 3 TT
After a nice 5 hour break sitting under the TRT team tent bumping electro bangers out of terrible car speakers and ingesting large amounts of caffeine its time for the (sweaty) skinsuit and booties to come back on for the time trial. I had my sweet Speed Concept bike out for a couple rides but this was its maiden race. Not much to say, Pacing felt good, position felt good, felt aero, passed someone, didn’t get passed. Finished 17th, 1:14 back of the winner, now sitting 20th on GC 1:45 back.
Stage 4 Road Race
Funny pre road race story: I rode over to the start with a set of pedals in my back pocket to give to one of the cycling BC coaches before the race. On the start line with less than 3 minute to the start i reach into my pocket to crush a power goo and realize i forgot to unload my cargo. I franticly start looking around for a place to ditch these things where i could pick them up after the race as I didnt really want to lug them around for the whole race. Luckily i spot a buddy whose race didnt start for another 15 minutes and toss them to him and he passes them on to their owner. Problem solved, onto the race.
-150ishkm, 30deg, lots of decent sized climbs, Pan handle 3 laps thenback on the pan handle to the finish.
All hopes of a high GC placing seem dashed so its all about going for the stage.
Neutral roll out through town and then were off, a minute later Craig and I initiate the early break. 5 of us, we start rolling hard to establish the gap and after a 10 or so minutes it looks like the pack is coming up on us quick. Guys are starting to call it and sit up, but as thats happening a group of three breaks away from the peloton and bridge up to us, so now we are 8, the pack slows up a bit the gap goes out and its back on. We keep rolling it hard for the first lap and the gap reaches about 5 minutes, everyones working and we are rotating like a well oiled machine. On to the second lap and a few guys are starting to sit on, the pace slows up and the gap comes down. At the end of the second lap its down to just under a minute and it looks like were going to get caught, we keep rolling on but morale is low the end seems near. Strangely enough after that the gap goes back out and once again its back on. Half way through the last lap we get joined by a big group of about 10 that broke out of the pack including TRT diesel engine Felix. So its now 18ish guys, 3 TRT, 3-4 Garneau, 2 H&R, 2 Jamis-sutter, and assorted others. We hit the final climb with H&R on the front, half way up Barrajo (Jamis-Sutter) attacks hard to the left Jordan from H&R reacts quickly and follows, I hesitate a few seconds before giving chase as well. I connect onto Jordans wheel just as he does the same on Barrajo’s, we both hang on as he continues to pull hard to the top of the climb. As theroad flattens out at the top I glance back and we have what looks to be a 15 or so second gap. We ease into a rotation and start trying to put more time into the pack with 10km to the finish. With 1 km to go we have about 50 seconds on the remnants of the break, Jordan who is more interested in the GC than the stage is leading it out with me on his wheel and Barrajo behind. The finish is flat or even slightly down hill but with a large headwind making it a difficult one to time right. As we pass the 200m to go sign I do a weak jump to the left, a second later Barrajo jumps between jordan and I, I kick again to get onto his wheel which takes me a few seconds and slingshot past him with about 30m to the line to take the win. Unexpected result was to put almost 5 minutes into the yellow jersey and move into second on GC behind Jordan.
Team all rode a superb race and I’m lucky I was able to benefit from there support and come away with a result… Especially Craig for strategizing in the break. Adding that to Tyler’s 3rd place in the crit and we had quite a successful weekend down in onion country.
The day was finished off by crushing every carbohydrate in sight, feeding “Izzy” the local camel a sack of carrots, and cooking up a disastrous yet delicious omelet turned scrambled egg catastrophe, oh plus a frantic search for my missing wheels which turned out to be in the trailer the whole time.