Thursday, February 8, 2007

Tour of Bahamas (2/3/07 - 2/4/07)

It was a jam packed two days of racing and adventure!

Curtis and I made it to Nassau, Bahamas and checked into our Wyndham "Last" Resort hotel. After going to the Friday kick-off meeting we found out the start list...much different than last year! There were 4 pro teams, Rite-Aid (DS: John Wirsing), Kelley Benefits (DS: Jonas Carney), Slipstream/Chipolte (DS: Jonathan Vaughters), and Aerospace Engineering (DS: Roberto Gaggioli, but wasn't there). Also, the entire U23 national team (VMG, DS: Chann McCrae) was there...all 20 of them! These guys were like big gnats flighting around the swat one, and another one is right there! They were getting ready for the Tour of California (at least 8 were going).

What could be the top team in Florida this year, Bike America/Potters Landscapinig, were also there getting ready to go race in Belize next week. Also thrown in were Ricardo Hernandez (last years winner), Laser (Daniel Chavez who is Joels brother), and many other assorted amateur teams and rogues like Curtis and I. In all there were over 100 riders in the Pro 1,2 field.

The good news was that the start/finish was in the same spot each day, the bad news was we had to ride 10 miles each way to get there. Which wasn't a big deal, until the last day. The roads were narrow, full of pot holes and sand, with the assorted large debree thrown in for good measure. They also wanted us to observe the center line rule...jeesh! A pretty big ask for such a large field.

Stage 1: 3 Mile TT
We pedaled out for Curtis' 10:40 start time...I started at 11:08, so if Curtis was going to make us late...then he would only be hurting himself :-) We were told that it was a shorter distance to the start than it actually was, so we arrived just as Curtis was being called to the start house. I finished pinning his number on just as his 30 second man left the ramp. Not exactly the best way to start your TT.

Curtis let me know that the turnaround at the top of the hill wasn't marked well, and told me how to make it through the quickest way possible. This helped out a great deal, and made my job much easier. Coming back into a headwind made it really hard. Ricardo Hernandez was my 30 second man, and Ivan Franco started 30 seconds behind me...ouch. Anyhow I finished in 6:22, with Ricardo doing a 6:3?, and Ivan going just under my time with a 6:18. This placed me in 11th overall, and with 15 places in the overall, I hoped to hold my spot. Curtis paid for his efforts to make it to the start on time, and finished a bit further back.

We rode back to the hotel and got ready for the next stage at 4:00 pm...of course the elevators in our lovely hotel were stuck, so we walked the 8 flights to our room.

Stage2: 45 Mile Circuit Race
This was a 6-7 mile circuit and flat, with some scattered showers. Halfway through the race they had a bonus sprint for time, 3 seconds, 2 seconds and 1 second. Curtis suggested I go for the bonus sprint, instead of banking on a chaotic field sprint finish...this proved to be great advice. The race was fast and furious, with countless attacks. I think Curtis or I were in every one. The sprint lap came and Slipstream and Aerospace setup the pain train. I came out of the last corner on the inside about 15-20th place and sprinted to the front just as Aerospace was releasing Frank Travesio from his leadout...I was coming around him, but he got me by half a wheel. Eric Keim from Aerospace was 3rd. The race progressed when a large break formed toward the end of the race, Curtis recognized the danger and made a long solo bridge...ouch. Aerospace wanted to setup Travesio for the win, so they wouldn't work in the break, and started chasing it down. The break looked very diverse, with all the teams represented...but it was caught around the last lap. The last lap was quite a battle, it was pin-ball I didn't move up as far as I should have, and came in 20th making sure there weren't any time gaps between me or any of the leaders. Gene Dixon (Athens, GA race director) was there doing timings and results, so everyone had wireless transponders on their it would pick up any time gaps. With the 2 second time bonus, I had moved into 8th place. Ricardo Hernandez won the race.

At the end of the day, we ended up with 95 miles...and arrived back at the hotel in some nice misting rain...and the dark.

Stage3: 102 Mile Road Race
This was a 17 mile circuit with one hill that didn't seem like much in the beginning...but turned into my ass kicker in the waning laps. The first lap was once again crazy fast, and then slowed down slightly as we progressed. It got hot! I went through about 6-7 bottles, and those who know me...know I don't usually drink that much. I also stuffed down a ton of food. Curtis went with several breaks early on to make sure we were represented. There were 2 time bonus sprints today, but decided to not waste the bullets...and make sure I had a shot at finishing with the leaders. Aerospace's Trevesio was trying to unseat Slipstream's Will Fishkorn (he did a 6:01 TT!!) from the lead. Trevesio was 1 second behind after his bonus seconds and finish from yesterday.

With two laps to go, a large split happened in the field going over the hill about 1.5 miles before the finish. As I went over, I started cramping...and thought it was over. The group was almost out of site...a couple guys attacked and I jumped after them, knowing my race was over unless we caught the group. We ended up with about 6 of us, and we chase back on after a few miles...I was pretty cooked. Each lap Aerospace, Slipstream, and Rite-Aid would put in in the gutter in the very long crosswind section. This would be the finish of many riders race. By this time I REALLY was starting to cramp. We started up the hill where the feed zone was, going into the last lap...I grabbed my musset that had 2 water bottles and a gel. Both of my hamstrings locked...I got over the top and started chasing. The race carivan started passing me, and as Jonathan Vaughters went by, he was yelling in his teams race radios to drill it...not what I wanted to hear. I was able to muster the energy to pace back through the cars...and catch the group again. Now I had to make it over the hill one last time and stay with the leaders to preserve my place...oh, and not totally have my legs seize like a car engine running without oil!

As the Slipstream and Aerospace drilled the last lap, and up over the last hill...I barely made it. With the tailwind finish we were being led out at about 38 mph, and gaps started to form in the group. I was able to stay seated and power to the finish in 9th place...and make sure there weren't any gaps in time. I still haven't got word on my place on that stage, because Curtis and I had immediately ride back to the hotel to pack our bikes and head to the airport. That day we ended with about 125 miles...double ouch.

A couple of the guys ahead of me didn't make the split that happened about 2 laps to go...and 1 or 2 were dropped on the last lap. This helped me move up to 5th overall. Ricardo Hernandez won again (although not without contraversy). Curtis was able to cover the breaks when I couldn't, and paced me to the front when needed. We were a bit short handed this weekend, but we rode well together...and I appreciate him sacraficing his race to help our efforts. I can't wait to race full force.

We had a good trip, and some very hard miles. I haven't hurt that bad in a race in at least 3-4 years...probably the last time I did the Pro 1 race at Athens.

Final results from a Canadian online mag...

Full results from

Stage 1:
James - 11th

Stage 2:
James - Field, with a 2 second time bonus sprint. 8th overall

Stage 3:
James - 9th. 5th overall (Top Amateur)