This weekend was the annual Tour of Walla Walla stage race. I always enjoy going to this race because it's often sunny and it feels like the first real road racing event of the year. Friday's stage, however was anything but sunny. We started the 60 mile stage with cloudy skies and 60 degree temps, but by the halfway point it was in the 40s and raining. Long story short, I had a serious lesson on the effects of hypothermia. The only thing that kept me racing was that I had to finish in order to race on Saturday and Sunday. After finally warming up in a pile of blankets and sleeping bags, I felt like I had been hit by a train.
Saturday's time trial was pretty uneventful, but everyone was happy to feel some sunshine on them. Chris Ellis kindly let me borrow his aero bars so I didn't get time cut. The 9 mile course is always a nice one, with mountain views and quiet farm roads. The criterium that same evening was fun as well. Lots of corners and a long straight away. Definately one of the easier, more fun, safer(no crashes) crits I've done. Was top 15 with two laps to go, but lost my good position before the sprint.
Sunday's road race was a very challenging one. This year the race organizers switched the friday and sunday road races, so we were now doing 91 miles on the old friday stage(previously only 60 miles). Wind and hills were the theme of the day for sure. Massive tailwinds on two prominent climbs splintered the field into small groups, only for it to come partly back together on the descents. My teammate Kevin and I struggled to hang on the first lap(of 3). On the second lap, Kevin and half the field were gone and I was barely staying with the lead group. By the third lap, I was getting dropped on the climbs but somehow clawing my way back just in time for the pace to ramp up again. Ouch! I was finally relieved just to make it over the final climb and finish with the leaders(only 30 of 100 starters).
Happy to have survived that one.
Walla Walla ended up being a bit more challenging for me this year than in years past, but I know that the extra suffering will only make me stronger for future races. Next up is a mountain bike race that I have wanted to do for a long time, the Mudslinger down near Corvallis, Oregon.