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

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Grinding the axe at Axel

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