Let me start with saying I absolutely love the Valley of Sun Stage Race. Being the first race for the team, our objective was to make a statement in this race. To show the other teams that Pacific Premier Bank is present and we are not going to let you take that wheel.
The cherry on top of this Phoenix stage race was our host house. Aaron and Mandy, the entire PPB team thanks you. Aaron’s stories about when he was a mechanic for team GT back in the day accompanied by Mandy’s delectable food was a treat. Leaving Phoenix was hard because of Aaron and Mandy’s hospitality, the team is super fortunate to have opportunities like this.
Stage 1 ‘s time trial left the team with James in striking distance of GC(general classification) just outside of the top ten, Chris and Ian both had solid rides and slotted times between 20-30th place. I had a tough day and flatted, but I get to start tomorrow’s road race.
When I think of Stage 2, the words that come in my head are epic and valiant. Usually this race is warm and sunny, but the polar opposite this time. Cold, windy, and wet for the entire 94 mile road race (6 laps of the 16 mile long circuit). James flatted inside the neutral section. 100 yards into the race and I flatted around mile 8. Glad we got the flats out of the way for the rest of the day! Chris, Ian, and I remained observant and followed moves with intent of getting the right mix of guys up the road with James inside the move we had a guy in. The crosswinds up the climb and on the flat to rolling road between mile 2-6 made the race difficult if you were not sheltered. The team ensured that we had a guy in the move if KHS pro cycling attacked. KHS brought a whopping 10 riders to the race, it was evident that KHS was the predominate team in the race. With two laps to go, the winning move was formed. James was in it, but nobody else from the team. James illuminated the race and came in 2nd, moving up to 2nd in GC. 3rd place in GC was a mere second back! Being the first race of the season, this was definitely a very thrilling experience. This is a big result for the team and put us on the map. Driving back to the host house with James, the ambiance of the car was upbeat, yet serious. I kept my cool the entire drive home, but filled with excitement and trying not to freak out on James about what just happened.
Stage 3 was just fun, but short lived. The 60 minute criterium created this overwrought feeling for me. Marking riders who threatened James’ GC position was the team’s new mission. The team is close to a big result, yet the consequences of letting a marked rider win a time bonus sprint would be create a rippling effect. Riding the towards the front and launching a few attacks to create some urgency for KHS to ramp up the pace a little just to ward off any attacks leading into the bonus sprint laps. Once we crossed the line for the final lap, that pressure was lifted. This feeling of joyfulness overcame me watching James step on the podium.