It’s been over a week now since ToP ended. Oh how quickly we get back into our regular routine as vacation ends, and it writing this post was something I figured I would do sooner than later. Well, at least I’m writing it now, which is a good thing. My boost in fitness from ToP is setting me up nicely for a good summer and fall, so I don’t write this post now it won’t happen.

This is my second ToP, last year being my first. Last year I planned on attacking early on day 5, but never got the chance since everyone was attacking, and my plan turned into survival. About a mile of slow roll out of the hotel I decided to go for it. Ooops. A little too early since there was a stop light just a quarter mile ahead. I did learn from it though that Mike Brown wasn’t going to let me go. Not too surprising. Mike generally doesn’t let anyone get away. Another mile though and I went for it again. Mike was on me, and I think the whole train was, but every time I caught my breath I attacked from the front again, and again, and again. I generated a gap that gave me a little extra motivation, but unfortunately was caught a few miles down the road. It was untimely, as I eased off and rested on a wheel right past the next turn. If I had maintained the gap I certainly would have made the turn and there was a beautiful descent that would have been in my favor. Even if some people caught me, there wouldn’t have been many.

I had to play Andrew’s game for a while, as every time I started to move ahead he grabbed onto my jersey pocket and pulled me back. We eased down the descent, and through Petaluma. That’s right, the Petaluma that Snoopy always wanted to go to and become a world champion arm wrestler. At our first van stop was the rest of the group, the ones that didn’t take the wrong turn. I had actually forgot about the turn for a minute. We slow rolled out from the van stop and I got a flat. Curt and Scott, two of my team mates offered to help, but I really didn’t want to hold anyone up. After I fixed the flat my CO2 didn’t seem to fill my tire as much as I had expected. I’m not sure there was a full 16 grams of CO2 in there. I thought about starting my chase, but instead rolled back to the van which was just a couple blocks away and filled it with a pump. Yeah, only had 60 psi from the CO2. I was glad I stopped. I then started my solo chase, hoping that I would catch up at the next van stop before the climb up Mt. Tam. I knew they would stop there for sure.

What I didn’t know was that Marc, from the Orange County team, had instigated a chase by the Brown brothers by leaving the first van stop early, getting ahead, and then hiding behind a parked vehicle while the group rode past. Marc then jumped on the back. A couple people back there saw him, but the Browns were taking turns pulling, chasing the phantom Marc that they just could see. Marc reported that the pace was getting to be ridiculous, so he eventually went up to the front and said “do you want me to take a pull?” A classic move, but it certainly didn’t help me as I was chasing with no help.

I rolled up to the second van stop, where there were about six or eight riders, but my team wasn’t there, and the top guys weren’t there. I rolled in, and said “I need help!” I swear I heard crickets. Damn it. I grabbed a Coke and a handful of chips and rolled on. I rode up Mt. Tam hard. It was an awesome climb, and I was just amazed that I could never catch sight of anyone. There were a lot of false summits up the climb, which many epic climbs do have, but eventually I was riding along the top ridge of the mountain. The redwoods had vanished, and it was just grassland. I could see Stinson beach way down off my right. It was a beautiful day, and amazing. I wanted to take pictures, but just pushed on. The descent finally came, and I was ripping through the turns thinking “I’m sure I can make these turns faster than Tommy…where the hell is he?” I had been riding solo for hours. Finally near the bottom I saw Marc, Mike Armstrong, and Jerry Logan ahead. I got up to them, and they didn’t even jump on. Damn. Still solo. I pushed on. Unfortunately my route sheet had blown away early in the day, so I was navigating purely off my Garmin. Not a big deal when you’re in the country and there are very few roads, but when there are a lot of roads intersecting I took some crazy turns. There was a 20% (or more) descent that I was really unsure of, and worried because I didn’t want to go back up it. Fortunately it was the right way.

I kept hammering through Mill Valley and Sausalito, and somewhere just missed catching Tommy, Mike, and Jeff who stopped for a sandwich break. Fighting the crowds across the Golden Gate proved interesting. I ended up rolling into the hotel to see Molly there with a new camera to greet the first rider in.

I wasn’t the stage winner though. We had agreed pre-ride to end the race in Mill Valley so that we wouldn’t be racing in the city streets.

ToP ended with a chill get together at Carter’s buddy’s place, so it was a private venue and a great way for us to mingle and share war stories. The war stories became more and more interesting as the beer and wine inventory dwindled.

To my surprise I was awarded a new jersey for Most Aggressive Rider. The Tour recognizes a most aggressive rider, so I thought this was pretty cool. The award is also known as the Combativity Award, or “Le Prix de la combativité in French”. The jersey winners are shown below: Sprinter – Andrew Lee, KOM – Mike Brown, Best – Tommy Brown, Most Aggressive – Jerald Cook, Best New Rider – Jeff Tomaszewski.

Why is Mike so serious in that picture? It must be because he is thinking about winning the Texas sprint triathlon championship, earning himself a pro-license, which he managed to do 1 week after ToP.

My ride is loaded here on Strava.