Early Season Grind

After an explosive start to the season, the TCNF.LEGAL p/b West End Bikes team has settled in and shifted their focus to some of the hardest races in the area. Over the last couple weeks the team has set out for the gravel and the hills, hoping their strength and experience could propel them to the top step of the podium. The results didn’t disappoint.

Most notably, a book-ending of the podium at the new Yamhill Gravel Fondo this past Saturday. It was Steve Wright and Tom Cody getting out to race the back-roads of Oregon Wine Country. With 49mi of the 60mi race on hilly gravel roads, it was destined to be a tough day. However, our two strongmen proved to be ready, as Steve took the win in the 50-59 age group with Tom securely in 5th.

The weekend before last (4/13-14) was filled with miserable weather and a popular choice to stay inside. However, two TCNF men decided they were racing no matter what. Newest member, Koosha Aslani, braved the cold rain and finished 16th in the Masters 3/4/5 race at Kings Valley. 

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Paul guts it out in the miserable weather at Walla Walla

Visiting our neighbors to the north, Paul Bourcier was the sole team member at the hyper-competitive Tour of Walla Walla. For Paul, it was all about gaining fitness as he chose to race in the Pro/1/2 category, with the young legs. A steady performance was the objective, and Paul accomplished just that. He finished in the top third of the field all weekend, and most importantly, survived the final day’s road race, which forced over half the field to abandon. Surviving the brutal weekend left Paul 22nd in the general classification.

The weekly series at PIR has started, and others around the state are only a week away. In addition, Montinore Road Race, a team favorite, is only two weeks away. Read up on some race reports from the early season to get pumped up for some big months ahead!

The Team’s Gorge Gravel Grinder, According to Paul (4/7)

When I originally sign up for this one I thought it would be the traditionally drier Gorge and hard pack fast tracks.  Forecast called for 80% rain and 50 degrees the night before and it had been raining quite a bit during the week.  The roads are pretty hard out there so I had my fingers crossed that I could ride the 700×28 tires and I had even checked out some roads near town.  Then, Chad sent out an email that the roads were not quite so hard and even suggested 40c or 29ers for the Grand course.  Ouch.  So I switched over to 35c and glad I did!  Ian Tubbs decided not to race after driving from WA, because all he had was 30c.  Once I started on the first descent it became quite apparent you needed them.
So we line up for the Medium race, which now was much larger.  Shane was by my side 2 minutes before the start with no ankle chip on.  He quickly road back to the car.  I never saw him again, since I moved up to the front right away where the real racers were, Steve and Cody. Stay up front, Stay alive!
We hit the first gravel climb out of town and there is a pretty good pace at the front and group of about ten forms include Steve, myself, Seth, Waclaw Godycki TA, Rob Tornai TA, Tom Hainisch and Brad Petersen. The group thins as we start riding some tricky high-speed descents followed by more climbing.  We eventually reach the penultimate extended climb that never ends, but this year there is a killer 20 mph crosswind strong enough to move your front wheel left and right making it incredibly harder.   We are now down to five guys attempting to echelon, but then again the road is soft on the far edge.  So it is hard to determine which hurts more, the soft road or the crosswind.  Steve is chasing.  I am on the rivet about to pop and the road just keeps going after each false summit.  After the race, I checked my power and I manage to ride about a 40K TT’s worth of power in the middle of this grinder.  I make it to the top and some pavement with my tail between my legs.   We rest for a bit and I go to grab some food right as we enter a flat gravel section before a downhill and Brad attacks with Rob chasing after him into a headwind.  I get stuck chasing then Waclaw jumps over me and I am not able to bring them back on the downhill after Waclaw meets up with Rob.  Tom and I never see them again.  
I cramped four times throughout the grinder one time stopping and walking briefly but still was able to chase to get back to Tom, the previous year 2nd place finisher in the Grand.  At one point, I had him on a downhill totally out of sight until we reached the pavement and was not able to TT away.  With 7 to go I cramped again and he took the opportunity to turn it up for the 2nd place old guy 4th place overall slot.  Somehow I was able to start chasing and we drag raced all the way in with him finishing 20 seconds in front of me.
At the end Steve was 5 minutes behind for 6th overall.  Cody and Shane road it in for 13th & 14th in the Medium and Bruce 5th in the Small.  There were 26 DNF’s in our grinder.  Vikki came in 22nd in the small with thumbs so cold she could not take her clothes off. There were 26 DNF’s in her race. The weather really turned to the worst later in the afternoon, which included a hail storm.  Dillon Caldwell said,  “I would of quit at 80 miles in 3rd if I could have.”
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Paul – 5th overall at Chico Stage Race
Paul’s Weekend in Chico. Chico Stage Race (3/29-31)
The race went well and mainly came down to the 2nd 90 miles stage with a 4-mile gravel section that includes a tough hill.  As I expected, the race was pretty stacked with most of the California National champion stars except for Dan Martin and Dean Laberge.  There were a few new faces wearing Pete’s and Thirsty Bear jerseys, which I did not expect along with a rider with a name of a god “Aris Sophocles” who road like one from Bend, OR.  Thank God he’s only 39.  We will be seeing him in Baker City unless he races with the Cat 2’s ☹. 
90 mile RR
Ten miles in, a group of three with all big teams represented go up the road on the very open wind-swept road.  The field is now hovering around 22mph and Jonathan Baker who is a big favorite gets away and they let him.  Two chasers jump, and I join them knowing that Baker was strong enough to go the distance and help me ride up to the group of three.  Ten miles of very hard paceline riding and we catch the three-man break.  Another ten and we are joined by Aris, Chris Phipps, the star of Thirsty Bear, and Nick Theobald, a past national champion for Pete’s, right before the gravel.  Phipps goes to the front immediately and throws it down to my amazement.  Nick chases after him and we are duking it out on gravel with another 50 miles to go!  Not sure why, but it hurt.  Things get organized on the wind-swept section on lap two and Aris is now squeezing the bunch in the crosswinds in fear of the field / 35+ riders catching us.  Again, more work.  It comes down to the last ten miles before the gravel and guys are resting, Aris takes the lead and pulls us all to the gravel.  In the meantime, I started cramping a little, just a few miles before where it will all be decided on the gravel.  As expected Baker throws it down on the gravel hill and takes Theobald with him.  Phipps and Aris chase and I got gapped off right behind them by a rider and just could not close it.  I am by myself in fourth and Jason Grefrath from Thirsty Bear catches me.  We work together to my amazement and keep it within 30 seconds of Phipps.  So now, I am in fifth, a few seconds off Jason from the finish because of a time bonus. 
Next up is the TT.   I have a rough start having to do a standing start from my new aero onesided Speedplay pedals.  Phipps just catches me at the line and Jason Grefrath gets me by 12 seconds.  Bryant wins of course and Baker does about the same time as Phipps to hold onto 1st.
Final Crit.  Aris got away with ten to go and soloed for about 8 laps until Bryant reeled him in after pacing for about four laps.  I stayed active and went with a few breaks to put pressure on Jason.  Ideally, I should have been out there with Aris, but did not have quite the confidence. 
The GC remained the same and I placed 5th overall.
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