Written by Ryan Hentz Tuesday, 07 March 2017 00:00
The Valley of the Sun race provides a great opportunity to test some winter fitness. The race timing of Valentine's day weekend and location work out well. There are a lot of fun things to do in Phoenix for my family, which allows me to talk the wife into doing this race each year. The weather wasn't as nice as previous years, but even with rain, the temperatures were still warm enough that a jacket wasn't required.
The time trail went very well this year. My goal was to try and take a minute off my time like I had done the previous year. There was a really great tail wind on the first half of the time trial, this put me 1 minute and 52 seconds ahead of my previous years pace at the half way point. Unfortunately that tail wind turned into a massive head wind on the way back. I kept my head down and went harder on the way back hoping to maintain my lead over my previous year times. I ended up finishing the TT in 13th place, 50 seconds faster than last year.
On Saturday I headed to the race venue, knowing that we were going to get some nasty weather. I lowered the pressure slightly in my tubeless Schwalbe One tires that look and ride pretty sharp on the Carver Carbon clincher wheel-sets I have. The rain came on and off during the race making for a quite interesting race. None of the racers made any moves on the first two laps so I knew the last lap was going to be a shootout over the last hill. We made the final turn which leads into a short hill and the KOM style finish. I was pushing fairly hard and didn't want to blow up, but then I realized I have more in the tank. Unfortunately I realized this too late and even though I was gaining on everyone including the leader, I ran out of time before the finish line. I ended up passing a lot of people in the last 200 yards for a 7th place finish. I was fairly happy with this result knowing that I could have done better and learning yet another lesson on the bike.
Last year in the criterium for this race, there were 6 crashes. This increased my anxiety level knowing that it may rain and the roads could be damp for this years race. Luckily the rain moved out before our Crit and they also had resurfaced one of the turns that had road damage the year before. The criterium went great without any crashes this year and very little close calls. I was feeling very strong but was surprised to hear the official say 1 lap to go (Since I hadn't heard 3 or 2 laps to go). I was sitting about 3/4 back in the pack so I worked hard to move to the front. Unfortunately working so hard to get to the front left me with little in the tank for the sprint but I ended up finishing with the group and maintaining my GC position.
My Saturday 7th place finish helped move me from 13th to 10th in the GC. A result I could be happy with knowing many of these riders have already been out racing this year. I also had better results all around than I have had at this race in previous years.
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