Valley of the Sun Stage Race: Men’s35+
by Patrick Hampton, Artscyclery.com Masters Team
“Nothing goes up the road, nothing. We need the race tomorrow to stay together,” says Matt Carinio, my teammate, 40+ national road race champion, and leader of the Valley of the Sun Stage Race 35+ field after the time trial.
“OK,” I say. “We cover everything?”
Matt replies, “didn’t you hear what I said? Everything!”
Matt and I are relaxing back at our race HQ in Glendale, AZ, talking about the road race stage the following day. Matt is back to defend the jersey he won last year. This time, he has me, barely a one year vet of the 1/2/3 scene, instead of uber-strong teammate Craig Nunes. Craig had planned on racing, but a last-minute change precluded him from participating. I have some big shoes to fill.
We set out early for the road race the next morning. It won’t be light for another 90 minutes, but we’re the first race off at 8:00 am and the course is over an hour away. We take the time to warm up and spin the legs out. We roll to the line at the appointed time and I glance nervously around to see who’s who. It’s a small field of about eighteen riders, and we’ve not raced against any of them before. Traditionally, the race can be windy at the bottom of the circuit (we do 4 laps) and I understand Matt’s concern. A small field could easily blow apart early and it would be hard to bring things back. The top four in the GC are all within a minute of each other. The rest of us at over two minutes back are there to work for a teammate or try to get ourselves back in contention. I’m there for Matt.
The attacks start as soon as the neutral roll out is complete. I count five or six in the first five miles. I cover them. The first decent dig comes a couple of miles into the tricky crosswind on the bottom of the course. Willie Payton (CLR) kicks hard and I jump on his wheel. He settles down and I look round. We have a gap of about ten seconds. A minute or two later, we’re joined by Danny Bennet (Landis Trek). I look around and the pack still seems uninterested.
Danny says, “I’d rather this be hard, but smooth.”
I know what he means and the three of us start to rotate. At the bottom of the feed hill we have about 30 seconds. Up and over we go. As we start rolling down toward the start/finish, I glance around and see two riders bridging up. One of them is Matt. He tells me later he threw down at the bottom of the hill and four riders jumped on his wheel so he sat up, waited, then hit it hard again and kept going. The second time, only third-place GC rider Ryan Arnold with MRI can hold his wheel. They join just after the start/finish and the the pace goes up.
“Come on guys,” says Matt. “Nothing is established yet. You’ve got at least fifth place if we all work together. Let’s go.”
The next two hours and 75 km become a five man TTT. The wind increases but we all share the task equally. We hold the pack at thirty seconds until the last lap when their impetus to chase us down seems to fade. Second place GC rider Kurt Page (US Military) told us later that he’d been effectively towing everyone around with no help. Lucky for us, he’s a strong rider!
On the cross/headwind section for the last time, Willie sits up. I sense he’s tired and feel sorry after his contribution to our success. He gave it his all. We round the corner to the hill for the last time as four and I set tempo until the base to try to make up as much time on GC as possible.
Matt had told me earlier that morning he felt I could ride into the top five in addition to defending the team’s position. I sure as heck was going to give it a shot.
At the base of the hill Matt, jumps out and Ryan gets on his wheel and the pair go at it. Danny ups his tempo and starts to gap me as I watch the finale unfold. Matt digs a couple of times and Ryan manages to hold his wheel. They arrive at the last 75 meters with Ryan slightly in front. Ryan holds on for the win with Matt in second. The jersey is safe with Matt. I’m disappointed for Matt. I know he wanted the win, but I felt we’d executed as planned and achieved the bigger objective of securing the overall win for the team. It’s hard to feel bad about that!
The crit on Sunday plays out as predicted. A three man break 25 seconds up the road. Matt is 5th in the crit and first in the general classification. Win number six for the Artscyclery.com team this year! I could not be more proud to have contributed and I’m stoked for Matt and the Artscyclery.com team.