Editor’s note: Ben King is a second-year professional with RadioShack-Nissan. At 23, he is already a former U.S. professional road champion and is a frequent contributor to Velo magazine and VeloNews.com. Read Ben’s previous VeloNews diaries.
Between November 1 and the Tour of Austria ending July 8, I’d logged 43 race days, more than 14,700 miles, and just 19 days off including international travel since November 1.
That training was sort of a “go or blow” attempt to earn Olympic selection. I never blew. In fact, we were wildly successful during the Austrian tour at the end of this campaign. On the other hand, crashes and illness derailed my peaks in search of the form I had wanted. Nonetheless, the team rewarded my hard work with an excellent race program.
While I had the willpower to keep pushing, my engine needed and gratefully accepted a week off. My willpower also surrendered to a few balmy outdoor adventures with a beautiful señorita. It’s a long story, beginning at the 2007 junior world championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico, but she is the “Mexico” I hinted at in a previous diary. She finally received a visa to make her first visit to the USA, but I won’t veer off topic.
The week felt too short, but a panic to resume training returned. Rejuvenated by fresh peach and wild blackberry pie, a natural testosterone boost, Virginia mountains and lakes, and family time, it took just four days for my body to re-habituate to the demands of riding four to six hours in 100-plus degrees (14,000 miles aren’t easily forgotten).
On the six-hour day, Jeremiah Bishop and I stopped mid-ride at a Skyline Drive tourist shop to devour blackberry milkshakes, fries and bagels. It’s the only time I wasn’t ever hungry during the last three hours of a six-hour ride! Soon my power returned. I said goodbye to Mrs. Mexico (really, she could be) and flew to Utah a week before the race to begin altitude acclimation.
Once again, Utah’s local cycling culture impressed me. I stayed with the Cuttings, my gracious hosts for the week, up Emigration Canyon, which seems to be a cycling highway permanently chalked with encouragement for riders.
The local enthusiasts turned out to enjoy and magnify the showdown that the challenging courses provoked in the peloton. Team RadioShack-Nissan proved its depth by winning yet another team classification, being present in breakaways and placing Matt Busche second overall. Highlights for me included a breakaway on the queen stage and the TTT, which I resented and feared before the race and wound up relishing.
My Tour of Utah/Colorado roommate has been George Bennett, a lanky, energetic Kiwi. George joined our dominant team for Utah and Colorado in 2011 as a stagiaire. George also raced for Trek-Livestrong U23, and like me was sidelined in the beginning of his first pro season by a knee injury.
As they did with me, our team leaders, both staff and riders, responded well to George’s genuine inquisitive demeanor and persistent focus, making him an immediate “mate” to everyone on the team. Don’t mistake George’s optimism for overconfidence. He was solid in Utah and building form for Colorado. Whether the two of us are supporting a GC contender or mixing it up for stage wins, look for George to “loight it up loike a Christmas tree” over Colorado’s mountains.
The RadioShack boys and I ended a pre-race recovery ride at Bread Bakery in Durango, Colorado. The owner, a cycling fanatic and baker of heavenly goods, happened to mention that he reads my VeloNews diary. Since I have at least one Coloradan follower, I’ll report from behind the scenes during the tour and will attempt to keep race reporting fresh and entertaining.
For example, in the Tour of Austria one Austrian survived when both cranks fell off at 80 kph. Later, a fistfight broke out mid-pack.
Bring on 2012 rounds 50-57.