15,800 miles driven, 12,000 miles of flying, three countries, 18 states, five provinces, 40+ podiums, two national champions, six months on the road and it is time to call it a season.
June saw Team SmartStop travelling north across the border to Quebec, Canada where we would relocate ourselves for the next four weeks. We arrived in Quebec, three days before the start of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay and were greeted by something we hadn’t experience in a long time. Cold weather. It was a shock to the system, and it was the first time I realized I didn’t really own any appropriate clothing for colder temperatures.
Feedzone Antics (Tour de Beauce, Stage One, June 2014)
I really enjoyed Saguenay, once the weather cleared up. I went on bike rides, we check out the local bars and the race was a really fun race to be a part of. I have blogged to a great extent about the GP Cycliste de Saguenay and you can find it here.
Basically we went 4, 3, 2, 1 – What happened on stage one? Josh spent the day in the breakaway and Jure finished fourth in the bunch sprint. Stage Two? Way more dramatic, crashes marred the stage with Julian flying head first down a ten foot ditch, needing five people including Creed to pull him out of there. Jure finished third and took over the sprint jersey.
Stage Three – downtown Criterium, I was hanging out in the second pit on the back stretch of the course, at the bottom of a very steep hill, holy cow they flew down that hill. Eric was in a break of four for pretty much the whole race, showing off his strength and new national champ kit only ot be reeled in with a couple of laps to go. Shane Kline finished second in the final sprint, he was disappointed but we were all proud.
Stage Four, the final countdown and the big blast off – Jure wins the stage! After a perfectly calculated stage win, Jure took out the stage, the yellow jersey (by only one second) and the sprint jersey. The team also took the team competition, I got 11 bunches of flowers that day, time to start a flower garden?
So many flowers! (GP Cycliste de Saguenay, June 2014)
We partied in Saguenay, celebrated the win, Julian decided to steal my phone and match me with a bunch of people on Tinder, then proceeded to start conversations with them. I was pissed until I realized I could make this fun by making Julian deal with all the conversations. Every time someone replied I would just hand my phone over. Here’s my favourite conversation.
From Saguenay we headed to St. Georges de Beauce for the Tour de Beauce, the place that would mark my one-year anniversary working in North America, a race that held a place in my heart.
It was really cool being back at the Tour de Beauce, it was particularly nice to be at a race where I knew what I was doing and where I needed to go, to not having to google the grocery store or the Laundromat to knowing where to go for dinner. I had finally come around in full circle. This was the place where I had met a lot people who I now consider good friends for the first time and it was a week of catching up and talking about the year that was.
Amelie and Jason, still friends one year on (Beauce, June 2014)
The Tour de Beauce was an interesting race, we played our cards right, Rob Britton finished in second overall behind Toms Skujins but it still didn’t all fall perfectly into place. Stage three, the Queen stage, was one of the coldest stages we had ever raced in. I still wore shorts to the feed zone (I don’t wear pants) and waiting up the top of Mont Megantic was one of the coldest waits I have ever had in this sport. Thankfully I had stopped at Tim Hortons on the way so the guys were greeted with warm blankets and hot (warm) coffee!
Joshua Berry got pretty dirty on Stage Four (Beauce, June 2014)
The Quebec City stage was one of the dirtiest to date, the guys were covered in mud by the end of the stage. It was cold, wet and miserable. I had fun though; I managed to convince Sam Witmitz, who is usually a rider but was working as the swannie for Team Budget Forklifts for the week, to dress up in the feed zone for the day. I didn’t think he would do it, but he showed up to the stage wearing skins tights, yellow boxer shorts and a yellow cape. With only 24 hours notice I was impressed by his efforts.
Dress ups with Sam Witmitz (Quebec City, June 2014)
Following the Tour de Beauce, Rob, Kris Dahl, Kreidl and I headed to a little cabin in Lac Megantic to get prepared for the Canadian National Championships. I had booked the place through someone who didn’t speak all that much English and my French is terrible so I wasn’t really sure what to expect at all. I was pleasantly surprised, even Rob told me I had done good. It was a nice little cabin, on the time trial course, in the forest.
Canadian National Champs home (Lac Megantic, June 2014)
We had ten days here before the national championships started. With two riders the work load was easy, and they got extra treatment since I only had to do two massages each day. We cooked meals together, Rob and Kris took me on a ride and we all recharged our batteries after a busy couple of weeks.
The time trial was pretty exciting, we all new Svien Tuft (Orica-GreenEDGE) was probably going to take out the elite title, he is only one of the best time trialists in the world and no one could really match him on this course. But Rob was hoping to get onto the podium, the only thing that got in his way was a nasty chest cold he was developing. He unfortunately finished just outside the top three in fourth positon.
Kris won the U23 time trial, it was very exciting, something that he had been aiming towards for the past year and in his final year as a U23 it was a major goal. I am honored that I was able to be there with him when he achieved this goal. He was one of my riders when I was working for Team H&R Block and I have been lucky to watch him grow into a professional rider over the past 18 months.
Kris and Svein (Canadian National Champs, June 2014)
The road race was a couple of days later and we were lucky enough to get Zach Bell back from breaking his collarbone and recently becoming a father to join Rob and Kris for the race. The U23 and Elite race would be run concurrently and there was a strong field of riders in both categories including, Svein Tuft, Christian Myer, Hugo Houle, to name a few. It was going to be an exciting race…for those who could hold on to the strength of the world tour rider.s
Unfortunately Rob was struck by illness and could barely breathe throughout the race forcing him to abandon in the feed zone only a couple of laps into the race. Zach would also abandon, after being present in an extremely strong breakaway made up of World Tour riders and others from the professional circuit, he wasn’t able to hold onto the lead group in his first race back form injury.
Kris finished the hard race in second overall in the U23 category. It was a fun race to watch, Svein rode away from the breakaway group early on into the circuits and basically time trialled to the finish winning the national title by over a minute. This was to be his ninth time trial national title and second road title. He is one insane and inspiring athlete to watch.
From the Canadian National Championships my big journey across the country began. Lac Megantic to Vancouver, it sounded like it was going to be a fun drive before I started but about half way through I was on the path to losing my mind. You see, Quebec is 5,000km from Vancouver, and when you only have four days in which to complete the drive there is a large amount of driving to be completed each day. For four days straight I drove basically the length of New Zealand each day. (But hey, it’s all part of the job)
The drive took a toll, unlike other long distant drives where I was only driving for about 10 hours a day, this was 16 hours in a car on my own. The fact that I was by myself was probably the hardest part, I barely talked to anyone for four days except when I went to check into a hotel at the end of each night. I really missed human interaction more than anything.
It is pretty crazy how much the terrain of the country changes, driving through Ontario was mountainous, there were some beautiful lakes on the route and had it not been raining and miserable I beat that drive would have been incredible. I even found a sculpture of Winnie the Pooh with an explanation of how the stories by A. A. Milne came about, I had no idea they were based on a real bear from Canada!
Winnie the Pooh and I (Ontario, June 2014)
Driving through the prairies was interesting, everyone I had talked to had told me that this would be the worst part because of it’s flat, straight nature, but I enjoyed it. I had the car in cruise control, my iPod blasting and for the most part I enjoyed driving through the countryside. This is when I first started to lose the plot! I thought it would be a really funny idea to film myself singing along in the car and make a video of it at the end of the trip. Upon reflection, and once my sanity came back, I realized this idea was not as good as I originally thought it would be.
The final push was through the Canadian Rockies, my goodness this part of the country is absolutely stunning but when you have sat in a car for three days already your brain is just ready to get to the destination. When I finally arrived to the guys and dropped off their bikes, I couldn’t even string a sentence together I was that delirious from the drive. But after a good nights sleep everything was back to normal and we were ready to race.
We had four guys in Vancouver to race the Tour de Delta, three days of racing comprising of two criteriums and a UCI road race, all part of BC Superweek. Kris Dahl, Shane Kline, Julian Kyer and Travis Livermon were our team to beat this weekend. The first Criterium was held on the 4th of July, being such patriotic Americans, Shane and Travis were devastated that they were not on home soil for their national holiday and chose to ride to the border at Point Robert to ensure they touched American grounds.
That night when I arrived to pick them up for the race, I was handed an American t-shirt and told I needed to wear it at the race, I happily obliged. Along with my starts and stripes tee, I wore Shane’s Chuck Norris hat in the pits (I was acting mechanic, and by mechanic I mean I looked after the spare wheels) so hung out there for the race. Each time the guys came through the start finish, I would yell out “Race for America”, “Race for the Flag” or something along those lines.
Not afraid to make an ass of myself for my riders (Tour de Delta, July 2014)
Shane said it worked, he said seeing the flag every time he came through gave him extra motivation, I laughed but that is how much he loves America. Shane finished first in the bunch kick to finish second overall after Ryan Roth (Silber Pro Cycling) soloed to victory.
Criterium number two was in the heart of Ladner, the little town I had spent last winter living in, so this was going to be pretty cool. A lot of my friends that I had made the previous year were there so it was awesome to see everyone. This was a race for Shane, the course was perfect for him and we all knew it. He spent the first half of the race hanging out in the back of the pack, which made Creed and I just a little nervous, but Shane knew what he was doing and when it came to the business end of the race he came through. I put together a little clip of the race here, just had to use the speed racer theme song for this one.
The final race of the weekend was the Delta road race, a UCI race which the team had high hopes on. But it wasn’t to be. Jesse Anthony (Optum Pro Cycling) took the win and a heavily marked Shane came in for 5th place. It hadn’t ended the way we wanted it to but it was still a successful weekend for the team in Delta.
That night, my Vancouver family invited the team around for dinner, the kids loved the guys. They played badminton against them (Creed and Kris lost and I was made to pay the prize money to the kids) and Creed even “stole” Roberts (10) iPod, much to the joy of Cameron (13). The family loved them.
I stayed in Vancouver for a week of rest after the conclusion of the Tour de Delta, Kris stayed behind to race more of BC Superweek and Adam Myerson also showed up for some of the racing. So although I wasn’t technically working but I still went to the remaining races to hang out in the pits and cheer on the guys.
Amelie and I #Besties (BC Superweek, July 2014)
Amelie was also in Vancouver for Superweek with her team, Silber Pro Cycling, so it was incredible to be able to spend some girl time with her. There was a lot of whiskey drunk and we went on some awesome bike rides around Delta and White Rock. Needless to say, I quickly recovered from my long drive before making the journey from Vancouver, BC to Bend, Oregon for the Cascade Cycling Classic, the last of NRC racing before the big medalist races started.