photo by BikeReg.comphoto by Jack Miltonphoto by JS McElveryphoto by JS McElveryphoto by JS McElvery


Mark McCormack’s 2005 Race Diary

 Diary EntriesJune 16, 2005

Redlands Bicycle Classic

Well, as predicted I managed to get out for an easy evening ride after arriving at my host house in Riverside, CA. Unfortunately for me, I felt as badly on my bike as I thought I would. I wish someone would figure out how to “beam me up” like on Star Trek so that I wouldn’t have to spend so many hours sitting in an airplane. Perhaps before I retire from racing this will be possible?

Oh, that ride was only 30 minutes long.

The next day provided an opportunity to catch up with our host family, the Zahn’s, who hosted us last year for both the Redlands Classic and the Olympic Trials Road Race. I was also able to do some recon on the prologue course that would be raced on the following day.

In the morning of race day I managed to get back to the course for another pre-ride. The prologue course is a 5km uphill corkscrew that makes its way up to the top of Mt. Rubidoux with lots of blind corners. Not the type of course you would want to race up at full speed without knowing every corner, pothole, sand patch, etc. I also like the morning pre-ride because it helps reduce my warm up time later in the day and helps calm my nerves.

Stage two was a 100 mile point to point road race with a 6 mile mountain climb to the finish. The race was very fast and some strong cross winds kept me alert throughout the long day. Since the Tour de Georgia is a few weeks away, we all decided to remount our bikes for the two hour ride back to our house from the stage finish. Not everyone was enthused for this post race training ride, so I decided to stay on the front and pull the entire ride home. I didn’t hear anyone complaining that I was spending too much time up there, so I just kept plugging away.

Stage three was a downtown criterium on a 1 mile circuit with 9 corners. One of the hardest and fastest crits I race all year. Perhaps it feels so hard because it comes so early in the season and I am still learning how to ride on dry, ice free pavement. In the end our team put together a very impressive chase and lead out to set up our sprinter JJ Haedo for another victory.

Stage four: read the last sentence from the above paragraph and you will see what happened again. Not a bad weekend for Colavita/Sutter Home.

I had the good fortune of a Red-Eye flight home so with a fresh bar of soap, lots of cold water and a large towel I made myself ready to head to the airport about 45 minutes after finishing the 90 mile final stage. Lucky me. Actually, I prefer taking the overnight flight from California so that I don’t waste an entire day sitting on a plane.

Chris Hinds Criterium – Lincoln, RI

I can’t believe how different this race is from the Wednesday evening Union Velo Training Crit that I do most weeks. The course is the same but the tactics are polar opposites. I was lucky to have my brother/director Frank alongside for this race and he turned a few heads with his performance and result that day. It brought back lots of great memories to be in a two man break with him for the final 4 or 5 laps. The nice thing was that this time I was the one making him suffer, unlike the previous years when he was always stronger than me. Funny how times have changed.

Tour de Georgia

I flew down to Atlanta on a Friday, 5 days prior to the start of the big Tour. There was a race in Anniston, AL on Saturday that we decided to do as a good way to get in some extra racing and get the travel out of our legs. It was a night time criterium that finished in the dark under the scant lighting in downtown. The race was very fast from the start and at about the ½ way point a break of 12 formed. Colavita/Sutter Home managed to put 5 riders in the break. I was one of them. We lapped the field with about 10 laps to go and my entire team took the front for a long lead out. It all paid off as once again JJ took the win. This guy is good. I can see him winning a stage in the Tour in 5 or 6 years.

The next day we did a short recovery ride before packing up the vehicles and heading east to Augusta to do the Masters. Oops, wrong sport. We were there for the start of the Tour de GA. It was great to see all the teams with all their big rigs set up in the parking area: mechanics shining the gear and getting everything ready for a very challenging week ahead.

Funny thing about a big Tour, mechanics and soigneurs work themselves so hard to keep the riders at ease and rested. There is so much pride that goes into their work. I don’t think that the average cycling fan realizes how important these people are in the lives of professional cyclists.

The race starts on a Tuesday and continues until Sunday (assuming you make the time cut everyday or don’t get disqualified). For me, this race turned out to be one of my most bizarre events in my 21 years of competitive racing. In the first few stages when I figured I would have my best chance of doing well or contributing to a teammates success I had some nasty allergic reactions to the pollen (that is my story and I am sticking to it). Then on the fourth stage when I was being pelted by hail and blown around by 50 mph winds and then eventually crossed the finish line some 6 hours later I come to find out that I have been disqualified. Motor pacing was the crime, disqualification the penalty along with a hefty fine. There was no doubt that I motor paced. I can see that it is considered “cheating” but when I am simply trying to get back up to a group of 20 other dropped riders in order to get the next 3 hours of the stage over with sooner than later don’t really see the harm in it. I wasn’t in contention for GC or any stage placing that day. Sometimes the officials here in the US read the rule book letter for letter and leave little room for interpretation. All of the Euro guys and managers I talked with after the incident were shocked when the saw the DQ. “Riders do this all the time in Europe, it’s no big deal” was a common response.

It was a big bummer to be out of the race so I tried to find a flight home the next morning but didn’t have any luck. So, rather than sulk for two days before flying I continued with my own stage race. Saturday: 5 hours with lots of climbing. Sunday: 6 hours with lots of climbing. Not really the best way to have a training camp, but sometimes it pays to make the most of a bad situation.

Turtle Pond Road Race

What an awesome course! I was a little disappointed to have to race in the rain, but after driving up to Concord figured I could use a little more rain in my life.

I missed a big break that was gaining time about 1/3 of the way into the race and wasn’t about to let it stay. I found some allies for a few miles and after some very hard chasing managed to get the break back. I used the tough finish climb to finish the effort and went straight through that break. A few guys came with me and after about 5 miles it was down to two of us. I enjoyed working with my break companion and admired the abilities and effort he was putting forth. We both stayed away to the finish and I was first to cross the line. Again, if you didn’t get this race make sure you go next year. The course is one of the better road courses we have in New England (not too hilly that only pure climbers can excel and not too flat that the sprinters take the glory).

Avelgem, Belgium: House of Book and Page

I flew over to Belgium two days after the Turtle Pond Road Race and had the great fortune to stay at the home of my new teammate Jon Page and his wife Corey and their very cute daughter Emma. JJ and another teammate Derek W. were also there with us. Jon has a mini van their so we had a great setup over there for getting our groceries, driving to races, etc.

The day I arrived in Belgium Jon and Derek were planning on racing since they had already been there a few days. I was ready to fall asleep but decided to join them for some fun in the rain. The plan was to go and start the race just to jump start my legs after a very long travel night/morning. Turned out to be pouring rain in De Panne that afternoon for the race and it was quite cold as well. I think the cold rain really helped to numb my muscles, hiding the fact that they were swollen and fatigued from the trip. I won! I couldn’t believe it. The race was amazing. Fast from start to finish, groups going and coming. I just kept taking turns with my two teammates covering the attacks and with 20 miles to go I was in a 4 man break that would stay to the finish. I attacked with about 600 meters to go to win solo. What a feeling.

Racing in Belgium is great. We would walk into the pub in the town center, which was usually located near the church, go into the back after making our way through the crowd of older folks enjoy some beer and cigarettes. Once at the back we would hand our license to the official, they would give us a number in exchange for 8 euros and we would sign next to our slot on the start list. No pre-reg here. After the race we would go back to the same place or another pub near bye. After collecting our prize money we would hand back our number in exchange for 5 euros. Every race was exactly the same. We raced for 3 euro.

All in all the trip was a huge success. I raced 9 times in 12 days. I won three, finished second twice, and in the top ten at all the other races. JJ won a race and Jon and he both had several top five placings as well. The races were all about 120km and the longest drive I had to do was two hours. Most of them were within a 1 hour bike ride from Jon’s house. What a life!

After returning home from Belgium I knew that my fitness was near the best I have ever achieved. My confidence was very high and my motivation to continue to train and race hard was super.

Tour of Connecticut

Three days after returning home from Belgium I was off to New Haven for the start of the T de CT. I couldn’t believe how fast those three days went by. My kids are changing daily and Suzanne has been amazing at home keeping the ship afloat.

In New Haven the course is just under ½ mile with four corners and pancake flat. The race is so fast and there is very little opportunity to move up during the race. There were lots of attacks but nothing was going away. Our plan was to cover and smother any breaks. We wanted to get to the finish with our entire team on the same time as the winner so that we could keep many options for the following stages.

Coming into the final lap it was all together with the sprinters all down to just one or two lead out men. I was feeling pretty fresh after following my teammates around for most of the final 10 laps. I jumped past the Navigators train going into the first turn and took JJ and Seba cleanly into two turns to go and then things go a little dicey in the final turn. Vassilli Davidenko won the stage after a great move on the inside in the last turn. JJ and Seba still held on for 2nd and 3rd.

The next stage was in Waterbury. This stage is unreal. It is held on a roughly 4 mile circuit that contains nearly 2 miles of climbing each lap. This stage blows the race to bits by the end and from the first lap riders were being dropped. Vassilli took another impressive victory after out sprinting his three break companions. My teammate Davide finished 2nd. Another close day for us but not close enough.

The final day was the Litchfield Hills Road Race that starts in Torrington, CT and does a 117 mile loop before returning to Torrington for 10 laps of a 2 mile circuit for a total stage length of 137 miles. The weather was nasty. It was in the 50’s and raining. Mostly everyone started the race with the clear rain jackets on and to my surprise they remained on for nearly 110 miles. I opted to start without the jacket. I had figured out the perfect dress code for these conditions while in Belgium. I will admit to putting on my rain jacket for about 30 minutes late in the race when the action settled down and my body temp dropped. No need to freeze. As the race returned to Torrington the roads were finally drying up but the damage had been done. I could tell that the long miles in the cold rain had taken its toll on most of the peloton. I also noticed that the Navigators were starting to lose their composure after two laps on the finish circuit. It was then that I put in an attack to see if I could shake things up a bit. It worked to perfection. I ended up being joined one lap later by Todd Wells and the two of us put our efforts together for a 14 mile TT. The gap back to the field had grown big enough so that whoever won the stage would also win the overall tour. I finished off the day with a repeat win on that course and a repeat win for the tour of CT. What a great feeling.

I mentioned above that my confidence in my fitness after returning from Belgium was high. This performance boosted that confidence again.

Captech, Bike Jam, and CSC Invitational

These three very tough crits before getting to the biggest week in US cycling were a great opportunity to work on my speed and keep the systems firing before the biggest events of the year.

Captech is in Richmond, VA and is 62 mile race on a very hilly course. This is another race held in the dark. It was very hot and humid which added to the difficulty of the course and poor lighting. The field was decimated by the halfway point and the attacks were still going from the front. I ended up creating the winning move and with 10 laps to go was away with Vassili D, Karl Menzies, and one other. I tried to jump clear just before the final two turns and ended up with a nice gap but misjudged my speed going into the final turn and over braked. VD and KM flew by me with about 100 meters to go but I held on for the final podium spot.

Bike Jam is in Baltimore, MD and is in the same park that Cross Nationals was held a few years ago. The rain and wind started about 5 minutes before the start. It was awesome. Within 2 laps I was in a 5 man break with my teammate Aaron, two riders from Kodak/Sierra Nevada and one rider from Snow Valley. Within 5 laps it was down to three riders: me, Aaron, and one Kodak (Glen Mitchell). It was a 40 mile team time trial. We stayed away the entire race. I attacked first with 3 laps to go and Glen chased for an entire lap. As soon as he caught me Aaron counter attacked and went away solo for the win. I waited patiently behind Glen for the final lap and took the sprint for 2nd. A great day for the team and my legs were feeling super.

CSC Invitational is in Arlington, VA and is another 62 mile race on a relatively flat course that is 1 km and has 5 corners. Team CSC was there with Bobby, Lars, and 5 others. They were there to race too. They attacked from the first lap until the last lap. In the end a four man break stayed off for the win. My team missed the boat this day. I ended up third in the field sprint though and managed to stay out of a nasty crash going into the final lap. I was relieved to have missed that crash and to have finished well from the field after a very tough race.

Philly Week…

Check back in a few days to read about the Wachovia Series.

Thanks for reading about my journey.


photos by Jonathan McElvery, Jack Milton, and

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