The Road to Colorado: The Orange & Black build up to the USA Pro Challenge

Athletes of the Orange & Black have been training and racing around the United States to prepare for next week’s USA Pro Challenge, the last of the “big three” US stage races. The “Road to Colorado” takes an inside look at their preparations for seven hard days of racing in the Rocky Mountains.

Saturday, August 16th || Jesse Anthony on How a Season’s Worth of Racing, Training, and Recovery Help Prepare Him for the USAPC

It’s no secret that the bike racing season is a grind. Athlete’s are constantly balancing travel, fitness, rest, and racing in a complicated choreograph. Jesse Anthony writes about how he manages to strike this balance and peak for the big race in Colorado.

“For the third year in a row, I have had a similar race program for the second half of the season. Racing the Tour de Delta or something similar at the beginning of July, then the Cascade Cycling Classic mid-July, and then altitude training for the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge from late July into August.

The way I approached this part of the season was really affected by the back injury I sustained in May after a crash at the Tour of the Gila. Because I was unable to train or race much in May, I was a lot more fresh than usual when our mid-season break came in late June.

Jesse played a key role at the Tour of Utah to help the team capture one of it's biggest stage wins in history.

Jesse played a key role at the Tour of Utah to help the team capture one of it’s biggest stage wins in history.

In the past few years I’ve spent my last few drops of fuel at the Nature Valley Grand Prix helping the team take home the yellow jersey, and then gone home and totally checked out for 7-10 days. This year, I was still gathering momentum through June and I took a few days off the bike after that race, which we were able to win for the fourth straight year.

I came to each race in July as fresh and fit as possible, and let my fitness and strength accumulate naturally through racing. Sometimes I will sacrifice my fitness at one race by increasing the training load around it significantly, with the hope of recovering and being even stronger for a future race, but this year I thought the “less is more” approach might be best. So far, I have been right on track with where I want to be physically, which is rare in this sport!

So, back to late June. I put in a solid week of training in my home in Newbury Park, CA before visiting my family briefly in Beverly, MA and hitting the road with the team for 2 months. My first racing inside this block was the 3-day Tour de Delta. I raced the criterium on Saturday night and felt strong but definitely flat from being out of the saddle for 3 weeks. On Sunday, I won the 95-mile UCI 1.2 road race, so I knew my fitness was on the right track.

After the Tour de Delta I flew to Boulder, CO to begin the first phase of my altitude preparation for the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge. I spent one week in Boulder at 5300′, mostly doing easy rides with a few tune-ups for the start of Cascade Classic on June 15th.

I wanted to be fresh for Cascade, and I had a good week there. I didn’t win a stage or place high in the end, but I felt strong and I was able to help the team secure a podium in the overall GC. After Cascade I recovered for a few days in Superior, CO before staying for 8 days up in Nederland, CO at 8300’. That was the 2nd phase of my altitude preparation, which coincided with a 2-week period of training.

I wanted to fully recover from Cascade before I started a hard training block for the Tour of Utah – another high altitude monster with 50,000 plus feet of climbing. That was tough to balance. Recovery takes longer at altitude and I didn’t want to go too deep in training close to the start in Utah. With only one week of rest between the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge, I sacrificed some depth in my training to ensure I could stay strong through both of those races.

I was able to balance all of my intended training with a lot of rest during those two weeks and I came to the Tour of Utah exactly where I wanted to be physically. I felt sharp – my speed and fitness were there, but I didn’t quite have the day-to-day depth that you need for a week-long stage race. I focused on helping my teammates – I was able to help Carter a little bit on the climbing days, and I participated in setting up Eric Young for the sprint stages. Our entire team gave a huge effort in stage five to deliver Young and Alex Candelario in great position, and Young got us our second huge stage win of 2014.

The week between Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge I spent in full recovery mode – I took a day off, did a super fun MTB ride with Jonas and some of the guys, and went for an easy spin on the road. I finished it off with one hard day of training to get the engine running again.

When all is said and done, I feel good going into next week’s USA Pro Challenge. With the momentum that the team has built all season long and especially at Utah, I’m hopeful we will have success. I know the squad we have racing Colorado is extremely motivated, and we know what we’re capable of. The only thing left is execution, and we’re all ready to put in 100% to get a result at the last big U.S. stage race of 2014.

I hope you enjoy the action across some of America’s most beautiful roads. Thanks for reading and sharing our journey.”

–Jesse

Friday, August 15th || Carter Jones has shown his unique climbing ability in 2014 against some of the world’s top riders at the Tour of California and at last week’s Tour of Utah, where he finished 7th overall. Carter answers some questions about what it takes to climb well mentally and physically, the importance of teamwork, and how is preparing for next week’s USA Pro Challenge.

Tour of Utah, 2014

1. You had a good result at the Tour of California this year, but you had a better result in Utah with more climbing, higher altitudes, and a similarly stacked field. Is Utah more your kind of race?

Utah suits me a bit better than California mainly because it doesn’t have a TT. The harder climbs in Utah this year also played to my strengths, but California has had very selective climbs in the past as well. Thankfully, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge has an uphill TT that suits me well, so its is a nice combination of the two races.

2. People see the climbing skill, but they might miss some of the teamwork that helps you reach the base of those mountains intact. Can you describe one moment from the week when your team came to the rescue?

It is easy to watch the final climbs on TV, but fans are missing the previous hours of racing where teammates spend countless kilometers sheltering me from crosswinds and keeping me safe in the hectic starts and non-climbing finishes. This year stage 5, which we we won with Eric Young, sticks out in particular. I was lucky enough that day to have a rider as skilled and experienced as Alex Candelario to shepherd me through bunch to make sure I made all of the important splits in the first hour+ of crosswinds. After all his help, Candelario was still able to deliver Eric to the line for the win, which is awesome. The most stressful days for me are the ones without any significant climbs. Thankfully I have a great team making sure I get through unscathed.

3. For you personally, what was the most difficult moment of the week? Were you doubting yourself? What did you do mentally to overcome that obstacle?

Powder Mountain, the first mountain top finish was a mental obstacle. It had been since the Tour of California that I had raced climbs at this level, and my first truly hard effort of the second half of the year. So going in I was not quite sure where I stood. Thankfully, very hard climbs like Powder Mountain are relatively straightforward in that you can only go as hard as you can – there isn’tt too much to stress out about. Either you have it, or you don’t. Thankfully I found myself near the front and rode as hard as I could, knowing it would help me get stronger throughout the week.

4. 7th overall is a fantastic finish, but looking back, where was one area you thought you could have improved or done things differently?

The climbs in Utah are so hard that it simply comes down to who is the strongest. So I guess all around I could have been stronger. But realistically I am very happy with my performance. Especially considering the team’s goal is to ride well through Utah and into the USA Pro Challenge. Doing both races back to back puts you in a position where you want to be fresh enough going into Utah that you get stronger throughout and continue that form into Colorado. This comes a bit at the expense of fitness in the early stages – Powder Mountain was my weakest climb. Who knows, maybe if I came into Utah with better fitness, I would have finished higher, but then I would risk falling apart next week in Colorado.

5. You have about a week off until Colorado. What do you plan on doing to prepare for another high altitude, climbing heavy race at the USA Pro Challenge?

If all goes according to plan, I am looking at about three days of resting, some light riding, napping, and eating a ton. Making sure I recover from Utah physically before training again. Then a medium climbing workout to keep me firing on all cylinders, and probably a TT day to regain familiarity with the bike. Throw in a travel day to Aspen, and the race will be starting before I know it.

Thursday, August 14th || Will Routley Reports on His Race Preparations in Winter Park, CO

routleyFellow Canadians and good friends Will Routley and Ryan Anderson have been acclimating and training in Winter Park, Colorado for weeks to prepare for the USA Pro Challenge. Routley reports from the mountains on the team’s activities.

“Ryan Anderson and I both live at sea level in British Columbia. He can see the ocean from his window in Vancouver and I’m out in the sticks, about zero feet in elevation. All this means means there is a lot of sweet sweet ocean air blowing by. Moist, dense and perfect for the breathing.

Needless to say, coming up to a whopping 9,100 feet of elevation in Winter Park is a challenge. In terms of routine, the first thing is that we suffer some disrupted sleep, do a lot of huffing and puffing from simple things like walking up the stairs, and of course, are not riding the same intensity we would at home.

We are a week into it now however, and beginning to be able to ramp up the training a bit, acclimating to the elevation, and starting to look forward to the USA Pro Challenge.

An altitude training camp like this means we are hanging out – Scott Zwizanski is here too, and we’ll have Jesse Anthony join in for this final week. A few of the guys had their wives come for a visit, which was a welcome diversion.

Food is a big thing for us, as we are not so busy here, so the routine is: train, sleep as much as you can, (which is not that much really) and work the BBQ hard. It’s been a string of gourmet dinners. Winter Park is a cool town and we’ve managed to see a lot of wildlife while we’ve been here.

Yesterday on my ride I saw a massive buck in the woods, and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to practice for hunting season this fall, so I got off the bike and tested out how close I could creep up on him. I got pretty close before he finally noticed me, another one jumped up who was sleeping, and the 3 of us just froze (yes, I am a crazy Canadian from parts unknown).

Zwiz and Rosalie also saw a moose, so they were pretty psyched. We even watched an outdoor concert from out balcony at the condo – it just happened to be taking place in a park across the street! All in all we are having a good time, and letting the body do what it does best, adapt. Hopefully the plan works out, and we should all be well prepared for USA Pro Challenge.”

Ryan Anderson sent these shots of himself enjoying the beautiful Colorado mountains in his own unique way.

Ryan Anderson sent these shots of himself enjoying the beautiful Colorado mountains in his own unique way.

Wednesday, August 13th || Course Preview and Predictions from PD Jonas Carney

Performance Director and longtime Colorado resident Jonas Carney gives his thoughts on what’s to come for his team on seven wildly different course profiles at the 2014 USA Pro Challenge.
jonas
Stage 1 | Aspen Snowmass Circuit | 61 miles

The USA Pro Challenge kicks off again with the Aspen Snowmass Circuit. Although a short course, the riders will see little time for recovery with a starting elevation of 7,900 feet and 2,300 feet of climbing in each of the three 22-mile laps.

JC: “Stage one is a tough one to read. It could be a very select sprint that suits a rider like Ryan Anderson or Alex Candelario. Or it could be a stage for an opportunist who makes a selection over the final climb and is able to take the stage out of a small breakaway. Last year was very close.”

Stage 2 | Aspen to Crested Butte | 105 miles

Stage 2 starts with an aggressive descent down Aspen Valley before heading up McClure Pass and tackling the rugged Gunnison Country Road through Kebler Pass. The summit at Kebler will provide no relief – 2014 brings back the steep finishing climb up Crested Butte from the ’11 and ’12 editions of the race.

JC: “It’s likely a group will come to Crested Butte together, but the uphill finish is very difficult. It’s not really a pure climbers stage, but for a punchy climber. we hope that someone like Will Routley or Jesse Anthony can contest this stage.”

Stage 3 | Gunnison to Monarch Mountain | 96 miles

Two trips up the 11,300 ft. monster Monarch Pass provides one of the most grueling sequences of the race. Riders will crest Monarch midway through the race and descend its eastern slope. Two loops through the Salida countryside provide a short breather before a 20-mile ascent to a Monarch Mountain ski area finish line 10,800 ft in the air.

JC: “This is a true mountaintop finish and offers up one of the longest, most sustained climbs of the race. This will be the first chance for Carter Jones to make his mark on the overall GC. Carter showed in Utah what he can do on similar slopes and at similar altitudes.”

Stage 4 | Colorado Springs Circuit Race | 70 miles

This new circuit provides one of the sneakiest challenges of the race. After a start at the world-famous Broadmoor Hotel, riders will tackle four rollercoaster laps through Garden of Gods, Mesa Rd., and the infamous Ridge Rd. with grades reaching 17%.

JC: “This stage could go either way. It’s short a very tough circuit. With the GC being set on top of Monarch Mountain the day before, a breakaway could stick. The GC teams won’t care much and it could be very hard to control for the sprinters teams. It could also be a sprint from a reduced group. Lots of options on this circuit.”

Stage 5 | Woodland Park to Breckenridge | 104 miles

A serene start through some of Colorado’s most picturesque terrain in Pike National Forest belies what’s to come in stage 5, with a long grind up Hoosier Pass, reaching the race’s highest altitude at 11,500 ft, dominating the closing miles. The finish in Breckenridge offers one final challenge – an exceedingly steep kicker on Moonstone Road leads to the line.

JC: “There won’t be a sprint on this stage as the climb at the end on Moonstone is really tough. This is a great stage for climbing specialists and opportunists. The climb up Hoosier Pass is very hard, but the finish is far enough away and has another hard climb, which keeps this pretty wide open.”

Stage 6 | Vail Individual Time Trial | 10 miles

Vail plays host to the Individual Time Trial for the fourth consecutive year. The 10-mile course starts in Vail and ascends the bulk of Vail Pass with the most demanding segment seen in the final three miles of steady climbing.

JC: “This is an interesting TT that suits climbers who TT well. It isn’t necessarily great for TT specialists like Tom Zirbel, and also not great for the pure climbers like Carter. Look for some of our all-arounders to have a good run here.”

Stage 7 | Boulder to Denver | 78 miles

The peloton can finally breath easy as the race comes out of the high mountains for its traditional Denver finish. One of the flatter courses of the race leads riders from Boulder into the heart of Denver for three blazing fast laps through the city.

JC: “This stage will be a sprint. While it goes up Lookout Mountain in Golden, there is a long run in to Denver. The big question is which sprinters will be left after such a tough week of racing at high altitude? Ryan had an awesome result in downtown Denver last year in a similar finish, but the climb midway through the stage up Lookup Mountain will shake things up a bit.”

Tuesday, August 12th || Newlyweds in Training in Colorado

On June 28th, Rosalie Umalie and Scott Zwizanski tied the knot in West Chester, PA. After a honeymoon in Hawaii, the couple has been enjoying the great outdoors in Colorado as Scott trains with some of his local teammates and slowly acclimates to the higher altitudes in preparation for the Pro Challenge. Lucky for us, the newly-minted Mrs. Z is a bit of a shutterbug. Here are her photos and thoughts on their time together in Colorado.

zwiz-wedding

“Our wedding kicked off an adventurous summer filled with fun, training, and racing. Our honeymoon in Kauai combined hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, surfing, and cycling all over the island. From Hawaii, we flew to Bend where Scott trained with Alex Candelario, swam in the Deschutes River and raced in the Cascade Classic.

The next stop was Denver, Colorado to start getting acclimated for the race. One there, Zwizanski did training rides with Braf Huff and Mike Friedman in and around Golden, Tom Zirbel in Boulder, and climbed extreme elevations as high as 10,500 feet in Winter Park with Will Routley and Ryan Anderson, who have been based out of Jonas Carney’s apartment there to prep for the race in peace.

We also added some hiking and some off-road biking in Rocky Mountains National Park and St. Mary’s Glacier to the mix. As part of his carb loading regimen, Scott sipped a few beers at the Winter Park Beer Festival. Colorado is a wonderful state to enjoy the outdoors and has been an epic start to our new marriage.”

-Rosalie

zwiz-nature-hike

When it comes to lush forests and stunning vistas, Colorado is king. These shots are from Scott and Rosalie’s treks through Rocky Mountain National Park and the hiking trails around Winter Park.

teammates

Brad Huff and Mike Friedman (left) forgot their rain gear on a training ride in Golden Gate Canyon and had to improvise. Scott also hooked up with fellow TT specialist Tom Zirbel for a training ride around Brainard Lake with more blue skies and green forests.

zwiz-and-monkeys

Zwizanski made several new friends on his travels in Colorado. There is something similar about all three, but we can’t quite put our finger on it…

Comments are closed.