ToAD

So I am looking at this from the outside but watching our Pro team come together this week and really racking up some results has been so exciting to watch. We have had ups and downs this year, as any new team would, but with all the guys starting to really hone in on their fitness, some special things are starting to happen.

Coming into ToAD, which is an 11 day long stage race in and around Milwaukee WI, I was a bit nervous. Our top rider, Grant had just come out of Tulsa Tough where he should have been going super strong, saying that he felt tired. He struggled with some of the speed and ferocity of the race. As his coach he was set up to be going there and then carrying it into ToAD. And with all the same teams coming to ToAD I was worried that I had blown it as his coach. The rest of the team struggled as well at Tulsa, and we did not have many finishers let alone results each day. I really didn’t want to go race for almost two weeks and have the same thing happen, or not even have guys who could go the entire length of the series.

Day one of ToAD was in Shorewood WI. A fast 4 corner crib with a quick chicane before the final turn. The guys quickly showed that Tulsa was just a fluke. We did’t have any amazing results, but everyone looked much better from the start. For a lot of the race the team road together and as the finial laps counted down Matt did a great job of hold Shane up in the top 15-20 riders. Unfortunately Shane was bumped with 4 turns to go, almost losing his front wheel. He didn’t get the finish he wanted but I was pleased with what I saw.

The guys have really been coming around and doing a great job of supporting Grant and starting to show the great talents they have. John Pratt has really done an amazing job of doing whatever the team needs of him. The last three days he has had to ride on the back of the field either to follow a wheel he was assigned to, or to wait for Grant to lap the field and then pull him to the front. This is not a normal spot for John and we know that he has struggled with riding back there before. It takes a different set of skills to do that. But John is a smart rider and learns very quickly.

The Second day of ToAD was at East Troy, a small town in the middle of corn fields and cow pastures. The course is 6 turns and only .6 tenths of a mile long. Man times I have see the race just blow apart from the size of the field and the number of turns. Grant was able to quickly bridge to a dangerous move about 40 min into the race. With riders like Dan Holloway, Colton Barrett, and Adam Myerson in there this had to be the move. When Grant reached the group he found Dan and Adam arguing with each other and quickly realized that this was going to fall apart quick. Grant knowing that Colton Barrett was a great break away rider he was able to talk him into continuing on with the break as the others floated back to the field, apparently, completely oblivious to the fact that 2 riders had charged onward. Colton and Grant were quickly out of sight, and we strong enough to wear out a full budget forklift team in the process. Long story short, Grant and Colton hold of the charging field and take 1st (Colton) and 2nd (Grant) with Dan Holloway sprinting for 3rd (actually thought he won……) This not only put Grant on people’s radar, but he helped to put our team on the radar as well.

Matt Kelley had a lot of fears that he would not be up to the task of racing after a first half of the year spent on the road for work. It is not easy but he has showed some amazing determination and strength refusing to give up even when the race looks over for him.

Day 3 was Grafton, a great town with a great atmosphere! The course this year was a slight change from the past, taking out a few turns which increased the speed and fun! The plan was multi leveled today. Follow the wheel of one of the better sprinters in the field, go for primes, win money.

With the speed of this course and then one very tight 90*+ turn gaps started to form in the field and Grant again found himself in the move of the day. It looked like it was not a for sure deal for a few laps as the group was somewhat large. But once it started to rotate the gap started to grow. While Grant was up the road the team was following their assignments and trying to stay ready for the sprint at the end of the race. It was great to see the guys glued to “their” wheel lap after lap. The team was dedicated to the task.

As the laps counted down Astellas lined up on the front in hopes of delivering their sprinter to the line, while not catching the break, who they had a rider in. The gap to the break really started to fall now. Grant was starting to hurt in the break as most of the riders with him seemed to be attacking him quite often. This could totally be my perception however. With a lap to go Grant was about to break and the field was coming extremely fast. As the now broken up break away hit the start finish stretch Grant was off the back with his head down trying to hold on with everything he had. Unfortunately he was caught by two riders at the line, luckily however Shane was right there in the sprint as well and we finished with two in the top 20. (10th and 18th) A good day.

Shane has been able to get in the mix a couple times and unleash his sprint. I am hoping that we can get him into it a few more times before the week is over. The field is for sure not nice to small guys, especially when it is time to line it up for the final kick. But Shane is a scrapper and a fighter. He doesn’t back down and I have yet to hear him say he was scared of someone.

Yesterday was in Waukesha WI, another very nice little town with great bars and restaurants to spend our winnings at. This year’s addition also had a change in route with the town doing some construction to one of the roads. The course was now a 4 corner affair with corner 3 and 4 merging into one long swooping turn. Turn one is another tight over 90* turn into a false flat. This race is about positioning and if you do not know how to ride the turns you can spend too much energy too soon. With all the activity Grant had had the last couple days the guys wanted to keep him protected and try to move him up in the GC. This quickly seemed to go out the window however as Grant found himself in moves again. Shortly after Shane put in a monster pull to bring back a dangerous break, Grant followed a strong move and up the road he went. This time the break lapped the field with just two laps to go. John had done a super human job of waiting for him at the back and did well to get him moved up in time for the finish to end the day in 9th.

Grant is really showing that he is an up and coming talent out there in the crit scene in my opinion. He looks to be riding within himself and at times he looks at ease while others around him are struggling. I think the solo break he was in in Iowa really changed him. He saw how deep he could really go if he pushed himself. What has been another big change for him is that he has a team behind him now at all the big events. It is hard to go at it alone when you are just starting, and the guys on the team are a strong group that have each other’s backs. I am excited to see how the rest of the week works out, not to mention the year, and beyond.

Nick