Team CashCall Mortgage is a Southern California based Elite Amateur team that has not only won nearly every regional race they’ve entered this season, but have also racked up some impressive results at National Racing Calendar events. Team Cashcall rider and regular Road Bike Action diarist, Lee Muse, gives us an insider's perspective on the “glorious” life of living on the road.
Smack dab in the middle of our 24-day long road trip, we stopped in the Twin Cities for some NRC stage racing action. The first day of the Nature Valley Grand Prix
was quite a busy one. Two races in one day! It was a big day for everyone, but I knew it was an especially big day ahead for me. Both the time trial in the morning and the crit at night were suited toward my strengths. I knew I had potential to do well in both races, so I tried to prepare as much as possible.
The time trial was a flatish 7.7 miles along the Mississippi River, with no aero equipment allowed...just you and your road bike. I had been feeling very up and down for the past week, so I wasn't sure how I was going to perform out on course. I took the first 5 minutes relatively easy, trying to save some for the back half of the course. Halfway through my time trial, I caught my 30-second man. That's always an awesome feeling, and it motivates you to go even faster. I was really hurting in the last 3 km though. I think I blew myself up a bit too early. At the end of the day, uh...morning, I found myself a minute down from the race leader; it certainly wasn't my best time trial. I had hoped to go 15-20 seconds faster, but luckily my teammate Devan Dunn
absolutely crushed it and won the Best Young Rider jersey, AND the Best Amateur jersey. Our whole team was pretty surprised. We were actually packing up to leave when someone came and grabbed Devan. He said Devan was needed at the podium. Our team has never even worn an NRC jersey before, let alone two, so this was a tremendous accomplishment!
Later that day, we drove over to Downtown St. Paul for the crit. The course was right in front of the Xcel Energy Center. It was a cool venue, but I took one look at the course and I knew it was going to be a tough night. The guys rode all in for Justin Williams
, but when he started to struggle halfway through the race, I knew I had to get up to the front to try and get a result. Easier said than done...I was in the hurt box big time. Some days you just have bad legs, and today was one of those days. Even though I couldn't move up far enough, I still managed to find Devan. I rode with him the rest of the race to make sure he, and his Best Young Rider jersey, stayed safe.
This race had a lot of "firsts" us: first NRC jerseys, first TT with no TT bikes allowed, first time doing two races in one day, and first time having a race cancelled. Yup...torrential downpours, flooding, large hail, and 50 mph wind gusts put an end to stage 3, the Cannon Falls Road Race, before it even began. The original course was supposed to be 73 miles through the countryside, with a few dirt sections along the way. With the terrible weather, we knew that wasn't going to happen. The race organizers tried to salvage the day by setting up a circuit race through the town of Cannon Falls, but no one could come to an agreement on the rules. The main concern was that there would be no caravan, but no wheel pit either. If you flatted...you were out of the race. It didn't take long for the organizers to realize that no one was going to come to an agreement on anything, so they called it a day.
After enjoying a leisurely morning spin Friday, with the obligatory coffee stop, I went back to our host house and took a long nap. That night was another fast and furious crit, but this time we were in Uptown Minneapolis. After having the unexpected day off, everyone in the peloton was super fresh and ready to crush some legs...and that they did. Devan got a call up, and rode great. The rest of us struggled, myself especially; I was having another rough day on the bike. I felt like every time I made an effort to move up, my breathing became very quick and shallow, and I had a hard time getting my heart rate to settle down. I was rested from the day before, but probably too rested. I spent most of the race hanging on rather than actually racing. It wasn't a good feeling, and I hope I never have it again.
I finally had a better day at the Menomonie Road Race. At the start, I felt absolutely terrible. I knew I was in for a long day when I was struggling just 20 minutes into the race, but I felt better as the race went on. By the time we hit the finishing circuits, our team had four riders left in the field, and we were 2 minutes down from the leading 8-man breakaway. Another attack went, this one threatening Devan's Best Young Rider jersey. By this time, 95 miles into the race, I was finally feeling really good (go figure). I took charge and started taking some major pulls to help chase down the attack. It felt really satisfying to successfully defended a jersey like that.
The sixth and final stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix was the Stillwater Criterium. I had heard rumors about the course having a super steep climb...I didn't take them very seriously; I probably should have. Yup, 2,500 feet of climbing in a 70 minute crit (Training Peaks race file
). I'm not sure that still qualifies as a crit, but that's beside the point. This course suited the strong men, and as such, it seemed like the perfect course for our team. Devan, Dave, Stefano and I are all powerful riders who can really hang in there when the going gets tough. The climb averaged 18%, and maxed out at 23%; it was a real leg breaker. I mean, there was no mercy at all. If you were in the wrong spot, expect to get dropped; and if you had bad legs that day, forget about it. Well, we were in the right spot, but Devan had a rough day and struggled to stay with the field. He was hanging in there. But once the rain came gaps started to open, and it proved to be too much. I dropped back to try and pace him back to the field, but despite our efforts, we weren't able to make it back. It was a hard way to end the race, losing the Best Young Rider jersey. However, our team spent the entire five days of racing 100% focused on defending that jersey, and we did everything we could, so we can't be disappointed with ourselves.
Like I said before, this race had a lot of firsts for our team. Even though we didn't win either of the jerseys, we gained a lot of valuable experience. Plus, you can't win it all at once...baby steps. We'll get it next time.