July 3rd 2014

It's pretty cool in Madison. I've never been this far inland, spending my entire life on the coasts. Except, of course, when I lived here as an infant. Me being back "home" has spurred my mom to incessantly send baby photos, which is fun except that it's eating my cell phone data up.

Anyway, some of us flew out, some drove out, but all arrived at the most amazing host housing (a concept that is new to me) in Madison.  Early Thursday morning, our under 23 riders prepared and headed out to the U23 road race and our elite riders followed. They were finishing up strong rides as we arrived. After 30 seconds of warm up, I found some friends and chatted until it was time to line up for the the race start and a 3 mile neutral roll out down the descent. Somehow there were two flat tires (how does that happen?!) and somehow there were no crashes. An early break went which our team captains, Adam Switters and Roman Kilun, had told us not to worry about. This was not so easy given that it is the national championship. Adam and Roman chilled at the back for the first 50 miles and only came near the front as the early break came back. At this point attacks started flying and climbers started pushing the pace on the 3K hill, though nothing stuck or broke. TMB U23 contingent kept us fueled  with Osmo on the hill, which was key given that Madison doesn't quite have the same humidity level that Berkeley does :)

Coming into the final lap of the road race I made sure to be near the front. Cole House attacked on a steep hill, which forced Team Horizon and Marc Pro to chase through the rollers and flat section leading into the final climb. Kilun positioned me into the base and set a strong tempo. I removed my Garmin and put it in my pocket (no peeking!) as we were swarmed by eager climbers. I made sure to stay in the top 3 by following Max Jenkins (of Marc Pro Strava). Our group soon ate up House and Emerson put in a small attack riding a few seconds off the front. My group of three included Jenkins and Eric Slack (Canyon Bicycles) who was not totally cooperative. As we came into the plateau before the final pitch of the climb, I took the front to not let Emerson get too much of a gap. I realized it was a little too late and put in a mild attack up the next and final pitch. I got a gap but realized that there wasn't enough road left to catch Emerson. While watching Jenkins I crested the climb and was riding in through the last 100 meters of the course when I heard Slack sprinting around my blind spot on the outside. I stood up and sprinted uselessly, Slack timed it right and I couldn't catch him. A few seconds later I cross the line for third for the bottom step of the podium and my first USADA experience. 

-Walton Brush