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Chuck Coyle's Racing Chronicles: Tour de 'Toona
By Staff
Date: 8/4/2003
Chuck Coyle's Racing Chronicles: Tour de 'Toona

The International Cycling Classic (Tour de 'Toona)

Sunday July 27th

I flew into my hometown of Rochester, New York, a few days before the race in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to spend some time with family and to get in some low-altitude recovery from my recent 5-day altitude camp in Leadville, Colorado; which is at a thin 10,200 feet (3109 meters).

I somehow managed to convince my brother, Mike, to take a few days off of work and make the 5-hour drive with me so he could check out some racing. I still don’t know when I should tell him that I also volunteered him for possible race caravan duty.

This year’s edition of The International is a bit interesting because it overlaps with the NYC Invitational this weekend. To make everyone happy the organizers of The International have the race officially ending on Saturday with an optional crit on Sunday. This way racers have the ability of racing ‘Tuna as well as participating in NYC if they so choose. I would love to do NYC but after racing for 6 days I don’t think that driving from PA to NY is the best recipe for success, plus the crit course in Altoona is a fun one!

I will not be riding with my normal team this week, I have freelanced myself to the Big Shark Cycling Team that is based in St. Louis, Missouri. If you are ever near Washington University in "The Loop" be sure to check out Mike’s shop, it is one of the best bike shops you will ever go to.

Tomorrow is a short 3.5-mile slight uphill ITT that doesn’t start until 6pm. The biggest bummer about racing that late is filling up your day with activities that are fun but do not take anything out of you…….. oh the problems with being a bike racer!

Monday, July 28, 2003

Individual Time Trial

Today was a 3.5-mile, short, uphill ITT that will have little effect on the overall General Classification but may affect how tomorrow’s race pans out. I have not seen the results from today yet but from what I hear it looks like Saturn not too surprisingly has Nathan O’Neil in first and Tom Danielson in second. It is hard to know how they will choose to race tomorrow but I would guess that they are going to set tempo and let it come down to a field sprint. This way they will be able to keep Nathan in the jersey for another day without too much difficulty.

The major obstacle today was filling up the day before the 6pm start. Mike and I rode the course in the morning and were able to get late checkout from the hotel but that only covered us until noon. We burned some time at the local mall but that was short-lived so we decided to drive to the start and get a good parking spot.

Mike has a Nissan Xterra and since we had an hour and a half still on out hands we folded down the back seats, laid down, threw a movie in the laptop and did some quality relaxing.

It is interesting how much effort we put into a 9-minute effort (8:15 effort if you are super fast). We rode in the morning for 1.5 hours, ate the right food at just the right time and warmed up for another hour…….. for an effort that lasts under 10 minutes. It makes you wonder what would happen if you just did what you wanted to all day, didn’t warm up and just jumped on your bike and hit it full tilt. Would you be 20 seconds slower, 1 minute, faster??? I am curious, but not enough to try it myself………

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Stage 2

Unbeknownst to me yesterday, my boy Chris Baldwin (Navigators) ended up winning the ITT by 8-seconds over Saturn’s Nathan O’Neil. Before the start of the stage he told me that he was feeling good but I had no idea that he was feeling THAT GOOD. Good on ya, Scooter!

Today was the first "real" stage of the race; the Johnstown Circuit Race, which consisted of 3 laps totaling 75-miles. The race was super aggressive right from the gun but for the first two laps it seemed like everyone was feeling good and wanted in any potential move that might sneak off the front and I was no exception.

I was in a couple of the doomed moves but was feeling good and having a good time participating in the race. I decided to have a whack at the points sprint at the end of the first lap and managed to get 5th. This is OK, not great but the problem is that points only go 4 deep! Dooh!! After the sprint there were about 10 of us that had put a little gap on the rest of the field and 2 guys attacked off the front of us and got a bit of lead fairly easily.

I was thinking about going with them but Chris came up to me and assured me that his team would chase them down and warned me not to burn too many matches. The 2 ended up getting a maximum of 5 minutes and another chase group got a couple minutes as well. Navigators startled to chase too late but still managed to catch the chase group of 5 on the last lap, but were not successful in bringing back the leaders; although at the end the gap was down to a mere 30 seconds.

I was up there banging bars for the final sprint but it was getting a bit crazy and I ended up only in the top 15…….

Tomorrow is the hardest day of the tour; a 101-mile march from today’s start in Johnston back to Altoona over 2 serious passes. The GC is sure to shake out quite a bit over the last climb 80-miles into the stage.

Wednesday July 29, 2003

Stage 3

Rarely do we get to do big point-to-point races here in the US. Today was a 100+ mile journey from yesterday’s start line in Johnstown, PA back to Altoona. The course had 2 major obstacles, one steep climb that we hit about 5 miles into the race and another big climb on the backside of Blue Knob State Park, about 20 miles from the finish.

I had no expectations about going over the last climb with the lead group and I did not fail to live up to my expectations. The Herculean Move of the Day goes to O’Neill who attacked over the top of the last climb and held off a 14-man chase group all the way to the line and took the jersey off of Baldwin’s shoulders in one foul swoop. Man, those Aussies are tough SOB’s!!

As for me, after the climb I was just doing damage control. By this I mean I was trying to do as little damage to myself as possible……

Thursday July 31 2003

Stage 4

I am too sore to say much. Let me just say that it really hurts to go down at 35mph but my road rash is nothing to what happened to Nathan O’Neil (Saturn) who went down in the finishing sprint. Nathan will have to be in a medical halo for 2 months but he is expected to have 100% recovery.

In my crash Chris Baldwin overlapped wheels with one of his teammates and took out himself, John Lieswyn (7-Up) and a handful of other people. I went skidding on my back for what felt like a mile and finally ended up in a torn up jersey and covered in rocks and dirt.

I limped in the finish (luckily the crash happened only 15-miles from the finish) where I ended up over 12-minutes down.

Friday, August 1, 2003

Stage 5

So far this is the only stage that anyone should be concerned with. I know that Baldwin’s win over the entire Saturn team in the ITT was impressive and all but he has won lots of races and no one was overly surprised by this. On the other hand I managed to get on the podium for the first time in an NRC race.

I woke up today super sore and banged up from yesterday's crash but I was determined not to miss the break. This was a good course for me and I had a good race here last year, which gave me that little bit of extra confidence that never hurts.

The course was 4 x 20-mile laps that rolled along the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside. Towards the end of the first lap a small group had gone up the road and had about a 20 second gap. That is when Saturn’s Phil Z. looked at me and said, "That looks like the move, Chuck." I knew he was right and decided it was then or never. I lit it up on the left side of the road, stayed out of the saddle until I knew I was alone and had a good gap on the pack.

I then buried my head and didn’t look up until I was on the back of the break. We rolled it along good and steady and by the 3rd lap we had a maximum advantage of 3:20. Navigators started to chase on the last lap but we were gone.

In the break the only two people I was really concerned with were 7-Up’s Oscar Pineda and Ben Jaque-Maynes (Sierra Nevada). There were a bunch of attacks but nothing that really stuck or hurt too much. With 1k to go 19-year Evans Cameron from Broadmark Capitol Cycles attacked and no one wanted to be the one to bring him back. I was sure that Ben would drive it home because he was more concerned with GC than an individual stage result. He did give it a push but it was too little too late, and we were left battling for 2nd.

Oscar jumped before the last corner, got a little gap and I came around Jake Rosenberger (Jittery Joe's), but I was not able to get to Oscar who came in 2nd and myself 3rd. Even in a perfect situation he would have been tough to beat in a 2-up sprint.

Saturday, August 2, 2003

Stage 6

Today’s stage is starting to become infamous in the world of domestic racing. Throughout the year you will hear guys comparing different roads we ride on to "Blue Knob" and this is the day that we get to do it for real.

The 95-mile day consists of 3 major climbs with the first one being the worst, up to the Blue Knob ski resort. A small break had gotten a 3-minute gap by the time we hit the bottom of the Knob, which is when Saturn’s Tom Danielson decided to make his move. In the course of the 4 mile climb he amazingly closed the gap and proceeded to ride straight through the break. This kid is amazing!

Navigators’ Mark Walters was in the break and jumped onto Tom’s wheel which meant that as long as Mark sat on Tom and won the final sprint that he would win the stage and the overall; it was a good position for Navigators to be in.

I am not sure exactly how it all panned out because I was in a nice little group not really battling it out for 50th place but Tom won the stage and the overall. For what seems like the 40th time Navigators were once again denied a GC Stage Race victory…….maybe next year, guys.

Sunday, August 3, 2003

Day 7

Today really was the 7th stage of the tour but because of the NYC Invitational it was officially considered a separate and optional race. All week the weather has been on and off, considering this we really have been getting rather lucky. This was all about to change………

Today’s race was a 30-lap crit in the heart of Altoona spectated by collection of sparse albeit enthusiastic fans that turned out to watch in the overcast and windy but dry conditions. As long as the rain was going to hold off I was a happy camper; I had no desire to hit the deck again.

Less than 10 laps into the race there had been a handful of unsuccessful break attempts but then the right combination of  7 of us got a little 10 second gap and we quickly brought it up to over 45 seconds. This is when the sky opened up and the course turned into an ice skating rink. Less then one lap after the rain started I was on Chris Baldwin’s wheel and he slid out in the last corner and I had no choice but to smash right into (well really onto) him.

It was a right hand corner but I somehow managed to high-side and flew over Chris and luckily landed on my left side. I say luckily because my right side still looks like raw hamburger and it would have been terrible to go down on raw meat. I took a free lap and was put back in with the lead group of 6. For the rest of the race I was playing it super safe, just marking guys and trying to keep the rubber side down. The only thing I was really worrying about was making sure that if a Navigator guy went up the road that I would go with him.

One of the Snow Valley guys went up the road and no one wanted to be the one to chase; Chris had since pulled the plug on the race and everyone just looked at each other. We were soon racing for 2nd and with one to go the other Snow Valley guy who had been sitting on attacked right after I pulled, and he also stayed off to the finish. I came in 3rd in a sprint between the remainder of us.

All in all it was a great week, 2 podium appearances, 2 crashes and a week full of good racing!

Till Next Time,

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