Tyler Wren in Colavita-Bolla red and white. Photo courtesy of
Eight of the Colavita-Bolla professional team members were spoiled recently
in Georgia. The nice hotels, enormous delectable meals, gifts from each city,
warm hospitality from the locals and the beautiful landscapes served only to
temporarily distract us from the real task at hand: the newest, richest, and
most difficult stage race in the United States since the Tour DuPont shut down
The longest ride I had ever done on my bike before this week was around the
120-mile mark, and the longest week I had ever put in was around 320 miles, but
the Tour de Georgia would irrevocably alter both personal marks. The biggest
lesson that I learned from this race is that my body is capable of so much more
than I realize. I was forced to mentally will myself through so many
accelerations and extended periods of high speed when my legs had nothing. My
legs felt so thoroughly trashed after stage four through the mountains, but I
was able to get on the bike again and complete the fast 88-mile circuit race the
next day. Before I take you through some of my experiences from each stage, I
want to express my gratitude for the services of Dan Coleman, Albert Wei,
Alexis, Veronica and Sebastian. [See notes below.] They were up
late every night preparing our bikes, feeds and bags for the next day’s battle
while the team members lay in our beds vapid, capable of nothing more than
drooling in front of the television.
The prologue was a technical 2.6-mile individual time trial through the
Spanish moss-covered town squares of downtown Savannah with sixteen corners.
After scouting the course of in the morning, Gustavo, Karl, Mike, Sebastian,
Shawn, Greg, Nathan and I launched ourselves down the starting ramp for about
five and a half minutes of lactic delight. Given the competition, we finished
well, with Gustavo being our top finisher about 22 seconds down on the winner
Nathan O’Neill. My Aunt from St. Simon’s Island made the 2-hour trip to come
cheer us on and (successfully) encourage the photographers to put one of us on
the front page of the sports section.
Stage One was a 136-mile stage from Augusta to Macon that lasted 5:30 for
most of us. I was surprised by how pedestrian the pace was for the first three
and a half hours of the race. With tame terrain, and a long week ahead of us,
the peloton kindly kept the pace slow. Most of the first half of the race felt
like a level 1 recovery ride. I was reminded of the caliber of the field as we
approached the finishing circuits in Macon and the pace approached 30 miles per
hour. As we came into town, my front tire flatted. I got a quick change from
Mavic neutral support, and my selfless, tan and ridiculously powerful teammate
Karl waited to help me pace back on.
While chasing back on, my bike slid out from under me, and I went down pretty
hard on a brick road section. My front skewer was completely unlatched - Mavic
had not tightened it properly! I fixed the problem, remounted, and cruised into
the finish with Karl nursing my injured knee, hip, pinky, elbow and ribs.
Everything proved to be mostly superficial, so the only downside to the crash
was the 4:30 that I lost to the leaders. My new longest ride of my life.
Stage Two was a 124-mile jaunt from Macon to Columbus. With Henk Vogels in
the lead, the Navigators team felt the need to flex their muscles, and motored
on the front to give the stage a 30-mile per hour average speed, despite one
difficult king of the mountain line. Most criteriums fail to pan out so quickly.
120 riders finished in the main bunch, despite the rapid pace, which is a
testament to the depth and strength of the field in this race, which included
Rabobank, Sidermec, US Postal, the Dutch National Team, and most of the domestic
professional squads. I held on to finish with the bunch, while Nathan and
Gustavo fought for top twenty finishes in the technical and scary finish won by
an Italian from the Formaggi Pinzolo team.
Stage Three replaced stage one as the longest ride of my life: a 138-mile
trip from Pine Mountain to Rome. Periods of the race were even easier than the
first stage, and I entertained ideas of instigating a long suicide break, but
ultimately decided against it. Rain came towards the end of the stage, and it
was, as Forrest Gump calls it, “stiiiiingiiiing rain.” Visibility was reduced
dramatically, which made some of the high-speed descents quite treacherous. The
finishing circuits in Rome featured a 20-percent wall, which broke things up a
bit. I finished in the third group on the road, nineteen seconds back. Each day
I found it more and more difficult to make high-end efforts; the distance was
taking its toll, despite the wonderful nightly massages from Alexis and the
“diesel breakfasts,” as my roommate Mike referred to them.
Stage four reinvented suffering for me. It was 122 miles long from Dalton to
Gainesville, and included two king of the mountains lines. My legs have never
felt so tired as after this stage, and it seemed that my body began to
compensate and use all sorts of other muscles to keep the pedals turning over.
My butt, back, calves, stomach and of course my thighs and hamstrings were
incredibly sore. I could barely dress myself, or climb into the van after the
race. During the race, I felt strong on the first KOM, and was climbing with the
leaders. I thought the tempo was fairly strong, but was greatly discouraged as
eventual race winner Chris Horner of Saturn pulled off halfway up to take a pee
as Roland Green of US Postal was attacking. The second KOM was much more
difficult, and the numerous rollers before the climb sapped the strength from my
diminutive legs. Gustavo, Shawn and I rolled to the finish in the gruppetto,
losing twenty minutes, but making it to the final stage.
My grandmother, an Atlanta native, organized a small fan club for the team
and me at the 88-mile circuit race through downtown Atlanta. The course featured
many corners and rolling terrain. I only had the strength to hang on the group
during this fast stage, and was nearly dropped when a Jittery Joe’s rider gapped
me and six other riders off the back of the field in a particularly heated
moment of the race. I plummeted through the caravan and thought that was the end
of the race for me. I dug very deeply, though, and was able to claw my way to
the back of the pack again about half a lap later. The stage was fast, and was
basically a three-hour criterium. Shawn powered his way to fifteenth at the
finish while Gustavo and I cruised into the finish further back.
I will remember this race and the suffering I endured whenever another race
seems difficult. The Tour de Georgia gave me confidence in my abilities as a
bike racer, and a renewed appreciation of riders who race like this for three
Thanks for reading. I will leave you with some numbers…
And one last one from Colavita-Bolla Racing Communications Director Greg
Number of times Greg intends to room with Mike when working races: 0!
Dan Coleman is Colavita-Bolla Racing’s “go to guy” for, well, just about
everything. He’s also a police detective by trade, and he is
Albert Wei is the assistant Director Sportif of Colavita-Bolla. Albert
has been with the various iterations of the amateur program since his days as a
Alexis Dabroski was our massage therapist and “do everything” staff member at
Veronica Bates is team member Nathan (“Chook”) Russell’s fiancée, and a Daily
Peloton contributor in her own, inimitable right.
Sebastian Alexandre, aka Seba, is our on-the-road captain and Director
Sportif, and a former Pan American Games medallist on the track, among his many
Team members mentioned above: Gustavo Artacho (Argentina), Karl Bordine, Mike
Luther, Sebastian Alexandre (Argentina), Shawn Willard, Greg Wolf, and Nathan