Tour of Walla Walla

Keller Rohrback brought its A game to Washington’s biggest stage race. Stage one was Friday. Three laps, each one ending on a 3K climb. Attacks began immediately and in the early race jitters there was a crossing of wheels near the head of the pack that took out a chunk of the field. Our own Karl Cunningham and Colin Westbrook were taken out in the event and while Karl was able to get back on his bike and finish the race with a groupetto Colin had an equipment malfunction that prevented his reentry into the race. Only a few miles into the race and we were already down two riders for the day and one for the entire weekend. A fairly inauspicious start.

In more pieces than it should be

Colin's 'equipment malfunction'

Attacks kept being launched but with a field of 110 starters the pace stayed consistently high. Midway through the second lap Jamie put in small acceleration on a false flat section after a group was reeled in. A break of 6 formed that was quickly whittled down to four (Adam Thuss from Red Truck, Phil Elsasser from Haggens Berman, and Steve Fisher from Hagens Berman’s (“HB”) ‘B’ team). The four worked together with intermittent cooperation. There is a long fast descent that ends ~12K from the finish. Jamie went to the front for the descent, tucked into an aero position and rolled down the descent. At the bottom he flicked the next rider through only to look behind and find that without taking a single pedal stroke he had opened a 10-15 second gap. Figuring that if they were going to give him the gap he had better use it, Jamie motored from 12K to go. The three chasers were soon joined by two more that had bridged across the gap through the feed zone climb. Sebastion Salas from H&R Block and wunderkind Logan Owen from the HB ‘B’ team. The 5 of them chased but a 40 second gap remained at the base of the final climb. Sebastian and Logan had far fresher legs and immediately dropped the three riders from the original break while steadily reeling Jamie in. Fortunately, though Jamie is not exactly known as a natural climber, he had enough in the tank to finish the stage in first place 9 seconds ahead of Logan Owen, 15 seconds in front of Sebastion Salas, and 56 seconds in front of the hard charging field that had split several times on the final ascent. Ian finished in the lead group with Galen and Dan in the second big group 28 seconds back. Karl came in under the time cut with a mix of other crash victims and dropped riders.

Jamie Wins Stage 1

Jamie emerges from the pain cave. Photo by Catherine Cooper

Despite an early chunk of very bad luck stage one was a great success with Keller Rohrback taking the leaders jersey and sitting second place in the team GC.

Stage Two:

The time trial. As one racer commented on the start line of stage one, we brought the basketball team. We are big boys and we TT well. TT race reports are pretty much just results so that’s what I’ll give you. Three of our five remaining riders finished in the top ten with Ian taking 9th, Dan taking 4th and Jamie took the win to make it two stages and two wins for KR. The TT results extended Jamie’s hold on the leader’s jersey to over a minute, leapfrogged Dan and Ian into 8th and 9th places respectively and put Keller Rohrback into first place in team GC.

Stage Three:

The Crit. Criteriums in stage races are always an interesting affair. There are GC contenders who are primarily concerned with maintaining their position or perhaps leapfrogging a spot or two with some time bonuses, and then you have the riders who are out of contention looking for a chance to redeem themselves. It can lead to some very squirrelly racing. Fortunately we had good (dry) conditions and a very safe race. Ian grabbed a couple of primes and Jamie took another for a total of $160, a little over half of what was put up for cash primes. The officials unexpectedly shortened the race from 7 laps to go to 3 laps to go. Just after passing the start finish with three laps to go Jamie noticed that his rear tire was soft. There were no further free laps and not wanting to risk losing time and the jersey Jamie was forced to finish the race on a quickly deflating rear wheel. With two to go the rear was bottoming out in the corners, and with half a lap to go it was on the rim. Jamie managed to finish on the very tail end of the field, and did not lose any time but the pucker factor was incredibly high. Final result, a few good primes and we retained both the leader’s jersey and the team GC lead. Beers and pizza were enjoyed by all.

Stage Four:

Kellog Hollow road race, a course known for challenging hills and absolutely vicious winds. In years past we have done two laps on this course as the first stage. It’s a very challenging course and typically an elite selection of 20-30 riders was made that would then compete for the win. This year they made it the final stage and they made it a lap longer (91 miles and 5000 ft of climbing). It was brutally fast from the gun. On the first tailwind climb Sebastian Salas unleashed a field shattering attack that ended up with him off the front solo, and a long line of gapped gassed riders behind him. After the descent over the first hill there is a long stretch of straight on head wind. The lead group slowed down allowing most of the pack to come back together at which point Galen, Ian, and Dan assumed their position on the front setting a tempo that quickly brought Sebastion back into the pack as he had realized there was no way he was going to survive 90 miles solo in that wind. Several attacks followed with the team shutting down ones we deemed dangerous until one got off the front that we decided was a safe break to let build up a gap. It was Todd Herriott from HSP (2:08 down), Kyle Farrell from Garage (2:34 down, though we thought that he was 3:30 down), and Kennett Peterson from Hagens Berman who was over 18 minutes down. Galen, Ian, and Dan set tempo on the front maintaining a gap of between a minute and a minute and a half. When we would reach the tailwind climbs attacks from the climbers would go bringing the gap down and dropping some or all of Jamie’s teammates who had been working on the front of the race the entire time. On the first climb of the final lap one such attack brought back the exhausted initial break away, dropped Ian, Dan, and Galen who had been working on the front all day and prompted counter attacks from Dan Betchold and Chris Parish the Hagens Berman riders in 5th and 7th places respectively. With those two up the road, his teammates dropped, and all of the other GC contenders surrounding him Jamie had to decide to chase solo or wait for his teammates to catch back on. Jamie elected to wait. And lo and behold, the teammates caught back on. They went straight to the front and resumed the tempo through the dead on headwind. Coming into the bottom of the feedzone climb the break of two had a 1:51 gap making them the virtual first and second placed GC riders on the road. The climbers drilled it up the climb again dropping Ian, Dan, and Galen for the final time. Jamie had to emerge from his protected position and do some work himself. The good news was that the remainder of the course was almost entirely strong headwind, conditions that favor the larger stronger riders. The bad news was Jamie was isolated and unsure if any of the other riders would be interested in helping to bring the break back. On the headwind climb it was initially just Jamie and one of the Garneau Evolution riders setting pace up the hill. The two brought the gap down to 1:30 and Jamie convinced Morgan (who was sitting in 3rd and stood to lose 2 places) and Steve Fisher to start helping. Together they brought it down to just over a minute gap by the top of the climb. From there it was downhill and then flat to the finish but with a wicked headwind. A few others started smelling blood in the water and kicked in with the chase. By 3K to go the gap was down to 20 seconds. At this point Jamie stopped chasing because he was comfortably back in the jersey and if the break was reeled in he wanted to have a chance at the sprint. Dan and Chris managed to hold off the pack by a scant 7 seconds getting themselves a very well earned first and second place. As Jamie would have it, the real all stars of the day were his teammates who performed a Herculean amount of work while he sat in saving his energy for the attacks up the climbs by Sebastian and Morgan. They worked all day, got dropped, chased back on and then worked some more. Truly amazing efforts by them and there is no way Jamie would have won without them. Everyone had a great race and it was worth the suffering!

Keller Rohrback walked away with a very big win this weekend and we couldn’t be more proud.

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