The first day was an individual time trial that was only 4.5km which was interesting because it would mark only my second time on a time trial bike. The prologue wasn't quite my strong suit because it was so short and the course was flat, in addition to not spending a lot of time on that type of bike I had some mechanical issues with a stuck brake but other than those things the prologue went well. I didn't set a blistering pace but finished in the mid-pack of the results about 40 seconds down on the leader. Not really a big deal considering 4 days of 150km+ stages were coming up.
I felt strong on the stages and rode well, however, lack of experience took its toll in that I didn't quite have the right strategy when it really mattered which left me working a lot harder to move up. I was working much harder than the guys in the lead of the race to keep up because I don't have the experience to conserve energy and really give hard efforts when it matters. In the end I finished as the top American which is a nice little victory of sorts, but what I learned was much more important and I'm really excited to do some more racing. I think I have the engine it just can't use it right, so the next races should be better.
Now some exciting stories from the race. On the second stage the course started off with a 5km downhill through a forest on some glistening wet roads. Although I'm not that experienced in knowing where I should be in the peloton, I knew that I should be toward the front in order to avoid crashes and not have to slow down as much for the peloton to weave its way down a tricky descent. As the race started I tried to get toward the front and was sitting in the top 30 out of 150 but it wasn't far enough up. About 3km into the descent, going 60km/h (about 40mph) some guy in front of me went down on the left side of the road and started tumbling down the road and simultaneously another guy on the right side of the road crashed and caused some commotion.
I was able to squeak through the gap in between the crashes but someone behind me wasn't and fell onto my rear wheel. I didn't see what happened to him but I noticed when his bike was hooked on the rear of my bike and I was sliding sideways down the road with some guy being dragged along. I dragged the guy 8-10 meters before he managed to unhook himself and continue falling by himself.
Once I was able to get my momentum back up I began to chase back onto the group of guys that were in front of the crash and got away. As I was getting back on I was descending by myself and pushing the envelope more to get back on before the climb that started at the base of the descent. Further down I saw some others that were trying to get into a break away climbing out of the woods after they had gone over a guard rail - intense.
After the race I was told that a few people from that crash left the race in ambulances - I hope they weren't hurt too bad. Fortunately, nobody from my U.S. team got hurt except for my bike. When the guy fell on me he managed to knock my rear brake pad out of place so it was rubbing on my tire and rim. I found this out on the following climb when a German rider told me it was askew. It was a real drag, pardon the pun, because I was sitting in top 5 on the climb and felt great. I thought to myself that it was better to go back to the team car and get it fixed as soon as possible to avoid any further problems such as a blown tire or something, than to try to continue the race.
It took a while for the team car to drive through the caravan and fix my rear brake- the mechanic did a great job hanging out the window to fix it. Once it was fixed I drilled it to get back to the front group hoping that a break away hadn't formed and that I could still get into one on the next climb on a few kilometers away. I managed to go through the splintered groups of riders from the first climb and made my way to the back of the front group and the base of a 2km really steep climb, that funny enough I had done last year on a training ride, I worked hard to get through the group and made it to the front at the top just as a breakaway had formed - ugh. I worked hard to try to bridge the gap but I had spent too much energy getting to that point and wasn't able to make the move. That is the best story of the race, there were some other crashes and scary moments but nothing as notable. Can't wait for the next one.
The next one is the Vuelta Taragonna in Southern Spain from the 1-5th of June. Before then I have a mountain bike World Cup in Offenburg, Germany, and a week of training in Girona, Spain. I'm a bit sad to be leaving this place in Germany because it is so comfortable but I'm more excited to go to Girona for a week. I've never been there but it seems to be a popular place for cyclists. Can't wait.