Road to Vaud

pays de vaud

From left to right: me, Matteo Jorgenson, Sean Quinn, Evan Clouse, and Riley Sheehan

This past weekend (May 25th-28th) I competed in Le tour du Pays de Vaud, a prestigious 4 day stage race in Switzerland, widely known for its relentless climbing and beautiful countryside. I didn’t get to soak in much of the countryside during the race but I definitely embraced the relentless climbing. With over 5,000 meters of climbing in 300 kilometers, the race offered a seriously challenging parcours. The first stage was a short and technical 3.5 km time trial. The first half was almost all uphill before a fast descent to the finish. I went hard up the hill and then raced cautiously for the remainder of the time trial to stay safe. I ended up 18 seconds off the winner, happy with how my legs were I was already looking forward to the next day. The first road stage followed on the next morning and included 120 kilometers with a lot of climbing. About 25 kilometers in there was a big crash that I narrowly avoided (I really don’t know how I didn’t crash here). After chasing back on due to being caught behind the crash the group hit the first KOM climb (King of the Mountain). The field really started to splinter as teams drilled the pace but I was able to make it over the climb with the front group of about 30 riders (there were 126 starters). A few more trickled over just behind the group and caught on during the descent, bringing the front group to now 50 riders. The pace stayed high for the rest of the day and other than one rider who soloed, I finished on the same time as the rest of the pack. The following day was packed with two stages that included lots of climbing and both had a mountain top finish on St. Cergue (about 10 kilometers in length at 6%). The morning stage also had a hard climb halfway through (about 8 kilometers in length) where the field again broke up. My legs were feeling good and I was able to comfortably make it over the climb at the front of the race. Later, when we hit the base of St. Cergue I focused on pacing myself and finding a rhythm that would allow me to get the best result possible. I felt really strong climbing at a steady pace but I would find myself in the box (cyclist lingo for “in pain”) when the field would surge forward to cover an attack. Within the last 800 meters there was one final attack that left me dangling off the back to the finish. I ended up 28th on the stage, just 26 seconds from the main group of about 25 riders. Later in the day the stage played out almost exactly the same, I struggled in the last 800 meters and found myself 16 seconds from the front runners. It was frustrating at first but I reminded myself that earlier this month at Course de la Paix (another international stage race that takes place in the Czech Republic) I found myself distanced by minutes from the same riders that only beat me by a few seconds here. With the two mountain top finishes done and dusted everyone thought the last stage would be a cake walk but that wasn’t the case. On a 5 kilometer climb the field really drilled the pace and dropped a lot of riders. This was followed by another couple tough climbs and an insanely fast descent (we averaged around 75-85 km/h for the 10 minute descent). I again finished within the field and ended up 27th overall and my teammate, Sean Quinn, was able to secure the white jersey (awarded to the best young rider) and 5th overall. I am definitely happy with where my fitness is and continue to see a gradual progression. I’ve also continued to narrow down things I need to improve on, such as being able to respond to fast attacks. This upcoming week we will stay in Aigle, Switzerland for a team training camp before heading to Germany for Trofeo, another UCI Nations Cup junior race.


Thank you for reading!




Grinding the axe at Axel

This past weekend (5/19/17-5/21/17) I raced the UCI 2.1 SPIE International Juniorendriedaagse, known by many as the name “Axel” due to many of the stages taking place in the Dutch town. Axel is infamous for its brutal crosswinds, cobbles, and unfortunately- crashes. So, going into the first stage everyone is already a little nervous which probably makes things even worse. On the first stage the race took no shortage of time getting down to business with four separate crashes in the neutral zone and many others throughout the day. I was lucky enough to avoid going down, although certainly had to pucker up a few times and missed a few by the skin of my teeth. Stage 1 was a bittersweet day for the USAC junior team. Three of us ended up caught behind crashes and left out in the wind. My teammate, Bjorn Larson, and I were fortunate enough to arrive safely to the finish line in the pack. The sweet part of the race was when teammate Cole Davis put in a huge dig to power a four man breakaway and finish second on the first stage, an important 38 seconds ahead of the charging 70-man field. Axel is a race usually decided by seconds so Cole’s 38 seconds would pay large dividends later in the week. The next day was a double day which contained a flat 11 km time trial and a 100k road race later in the day. In the time trial I was happy with how I paced myself and finished in 54th out of 198 starters and moved into 44th overall. Later in the day the road race took more prisoners. Relentless crosswinds caused many to overlap wheels and cause pileups. I was lucky enough to finish safely in the field again without any time gaps. However, we were now unfortunately down to a mere three riders by the end of the day. Sunday was the queen stage which featured three 32 km laps of a hard circuit that included 4 KOM climbs per lap and a rough 2 km cobbled section leading into the finish. All day I felt good on the hills and seemed to be riding stronger and stronger as the group gradually whittled down. Despite feeling solid on the hills I struggled on the final 2 km cobbled section that led into the finish. After noting this early on in the day I attacked hard over the top of a KOM climb; trying to see if anyone would come with me to try and bridge up to a six man move 40 seconds up the road. Unfortunately I was alone after the top of that hill and stuck it out to see if I could get a gap on the group but after a few kilometers they reeled me back in. Knowing that my chances of breaking away were probably shot I then shifted my focus to helping my teammate, Cole, who now sat in 5th position, a mere 46 seconds from the yellow jersey. I pulled hard and strung out the group through the flats and over the remaining KOM climbs before drifting 10 wheels back in the field. When we hit the final cobbled section I was not able to match the pace of the lead 25 guys as expected and ended up finishing 31st on the stage and 21st overall (1:34 seconds from first). Cole was able to maintain his 5th place as well. Although it is not a stellar result, I was proud of my 21st place. It was a hard earned position in a prestigious field and an indicator of my continued increase in fitness these past couple months. Up next on the schedule is Pays de Vaud in Switzerland starting this Thursday (5/25/17-5/28/17).


Thank you for reading,


ConorĀ axel itt