2013 Valley of the Sun Stage Race
by Ryan Arnold (MRI Endurance p/b Monster Media Racing)
I must say, I was a little disappointed when I learned that the men’s 35+ field at this year’s Valley of the Sun Stage Race was going to be 19 guys. Much of that disappointment went away when I noticed Matthew Carinio from Arts Cyclery, the 2012 national road champion, was here.
As we all know, VOS starts every year with a brutal, out-and-back 14.2 mile TT. And, as with every year, this thing felt uphill both ways. I really wasn’t sure how I was going to roll this year. I went into Boulevard two weeks ago exhausted from some heavy training. Thanks to my coach Ben Day, I felt surprisingly good as I approached the start of the TT. Seems like every year something goes wrong. I dropped my chain last year, and my Garmin that wouldn’t start this year. About halfway through, my Garmin came to life telling me I was where I needed to be, which motivated me to push harder. In the end, I found myself in 3rd, 20 seconds behind Matthew and very happy with that.
Coming into the second day’s road race without any teammates, I had one strategy to play: stick to Matthew’s wheel. The first quarter of the first lap started pretty uneventful, with your typical, small attacks. Once we made our way to the back straight where we always encounter some form of a headwind/crosswind, 3 guys went off the front. I had trouble making out who it was, but as they gained some distance I noticed Matthew provide a wave for them to continue on. That made it pretty clear what was going to happen on the approaching climb. Once on the climb, the three guys off the front had a pretty good gap and I knew the move was coming. Matthew went to the front and threw down a vicious attack, looked back, and hit it again. This was followed by a scorching effort over the first ridge. I finally looked back to see it was just the two of us. Once I looked forward again, I saw his elbow flick and I was happy to go to the front and do my part. I’m probably off on my timing, but it seemed like 10 minutes of hard rotation between the two of us until we finally found ourselves on the back of the 3 man break.
I was shocked at how hard we had to go to catch these guys and I kept thinking I was going to have my hands full. Turns out, these guys spent most of what they had staying away. For the next 1 ½ laps, we worked together with Matthew and I doing most of the work over the climb, and being sure the others could stay on so we had help on the back side. Coming over the climb on lap 2, we had a 3-second KOM bonus up for grabs. After some quick discussion, Matthew was nice enough to let me pull through and grab it.
On the final lap, heading down the back straight, the games started. A missed rotation, changing of the rotation pattern, etc. We finally made the right-hander onto the section leading to the finishing climb. Patrick Hampton from Arts Cyclery went to the front and kept a moderate tempo all the way to the climb, which was great because it left the games for the finish. Matthew soon went to the front and I took a couple deep breaths. Following his wheel, I waited. Boom! He launched a nasty attack and, to my surprise, I was able to match.
We settled in. He whacked it again. I was still there. He settled back down, but we still had a bit of hill left and I had no doubt it was just the two of us. The third and final attack came quickly. It hurt and put me in the box. Five more seconds of effort and I would have been gone. I clawed back the couple bike length’s difference and sat in as we crested the hill. We were finally approaching the 200m mark and he slowed to a crawl. As I pedaled by at a slow pace, I commented, ”you’re going to make me do this aren’t you?” I didn’t want to be in first position heading into the finish, but there I was. Just before we hit the 200 sign I thought to myself, “I have nothing to lose. I’ve got to try.” My mind was made up. I jumped with all I had and swung to the other side of the road. Despite my best to stay away from him, I saw his shadow begin to close the gap and reattach. I knew I had to put one last effort in to the line. As I approached the line, I expected him to swing around. It never happened. Holy crap. I won.
After the finish, I asked Matthew if something had happened because I heard him yell something. Sounds like he got a bit crossed up with my back wheel as we came to the line. I wish it would have ended with a side-by-side sprint, but I haven’t fought that hard for a win in a long time. I’ll take it.
Stage 3 ended our weekend with a crit downtown. For the most part, it was uneventful. I wish I would have put in some harder efforts to break free, but I was satisfied walking away with 2nd in the GC. I have nothing but respect for Matthew and I look forward to our long season and hopefully many races together.