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Tour de Georgia Diary by Tyler Wren
 
By Staff
Date: 5/9/2003
Tour de Georgia Diary by Tyler Wren
 


Tyler Wren in Colavita-Bolla red and white. Photo courtesy of Colavita-Bolla.

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 in 1996.

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.

Prologue

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

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

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

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

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.

Stage Five

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 weeks straight!

Thanks for reading. I will leave you with some numbers…

  • Number of miles I raced last week: 610

  • Number of times I flatted: 1
  • Number of times I crashed: 1
  • Number of minutes between the flat and the crash: 2
  • Ounces of chamois cream I used: 8
  • Number of saddle sores I developed: 2
  • Number of Italian riders who looked and acted like Mario Cipollini: 1
  • Number of Dutch National Team riders: 8
  • Number of Dutch National Team riders who could not corner: 8
  • Number of times I got dropped and had to chase back on through the caravan: 1
  • Number of stages: 6
  • Number of hotels: 6
  • Number of times the window fell off in my hotel room: 1
  • Number of times I got a massage from Alexis: 6
  • Number of times Gustavo said yes when I asked if he was tired: 0
  • Number of times Gustavo probably thought “tired” meant “fresh”: every time
  • Number of times I have stolen West Virginia’s Mike Jones’ diary format: 1
  • Number of times Sebastian said “Do you know where is gassus station?”: 48
  • Number of curse words Mike knows in Spanish: 28
  • Number of non-curse words Mike knows in Spanish: 27
  • Number of times I was impressed with Sebastian and Gustavo’s mastery of the English language: a lot
  • Number of times my roommate Mike farted in our room: 7,528
  • Number of turns in the prologue: 16
  • Distance of the prologue: 2.6 miles
  • Number of bottles I drank on each stage: 8
  • Number of cases of tendonitis I developed: 1

And one last one from Colavita-Bolla Racing Communications Director Greg Wheeler:
Number of times Greg intends to room with Mike when working races: 0!


Notes:
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 armed.

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 junior competitor.

Alexis Dabroski was our massage therapist and “do everything” staff member at the Tour.

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 achievements.

Team members mentioned above: Gustavo Artacho (Argentina), Karl Bordine, Mike Luther, Sebastian Alexandre (Argentina), Shawn Willard, Greg Wolf, and Nathan Russell (Australia).

 
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