Manual for Speed was at the Tour of California and talked with various players in the workings of Team Exergy and Team Garmin-Barracuda (now Team Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda) at the end of the long, hot week. We closed out the week with Team Exergy's Morgan Schmitt after the last day to get his perspective:
This was my first Tour of California. I've been trying to get on a TOC squad for six years. I've been racing as a Pro for six years and it is by far the hardest team to get on for a domestic squad. It was great to finally race the tour this year; if they do turn World Tour, which looks like it might happen, then only Pro Tour and Pro Continental Tour teams will be invited. Given that all Continental teams could be excluded from here on out, I'm grateful to be racing this year.
Its good to be back racing at this level, as this is where I excel. I'm not great at crits or the shorter races, the harder race the better. We've tried to execute our plan as best as possible, but sometimes you don't have the legs or the position for the last kilometer. This last stage today was the one we were really hoping to get Fred in position at the end, and it didn't work out. Stage 2 did though, we got Freddie there and he was on the podium.
Stage 7, Mt. Baldy we had free reign to get into a move, which I nearly did with that Horner move, but I was boxed in and couldn't get free. I was kicking myself for that, especially since you had to work so hard regardless. The first climb wasn't so bad for me, personally, but once we went up Glendora, the second climb, everything becomes super difficult. You're racing with the best climbers in the world at a race like this, so you're basically hanging on as long as you can. At that point I was trying to help Freddie out for as long as I can, and he ended up finishing well. It really was such a brutal stage.
Today was a fairly short stage, and being the last one, it was like, "We're not saving anything for tomorrow or the next day or whenever," so I took a bit of a gamble. I don't usually don't attack; typically I like to follow someone else's attack. After a fairly weak attack that went off the front but came back quickly though, I just said, "Screw it," and attacked as hard as I could. Everything kicked up a bit and sure enough there were seven of us out front.
You don't really talk much in a break. You can sense the way guys are riding. Rory [Sutherland] made the first move on that tough hill which caught me by surprise. Everybody was still there though and guys just kept making attacks despite the long downhill right there, which makes it a bit fruitless to try to get away. All the while the peloton is charging up on our heels, and once attacks start going out you lose any cohesion. A 30 second gap disappears quickly when people stop working and attacks are slowing everything down. I felt good in the break, I was being patient, hoping to make it to that last lap. If we had, I would've just lit it up. Nothing to lose in that situation. I was marking Rory since I thought he was the strongest guy in the break, and he was certainly the craftiest and most tactical guy. All of a sudden he's off the break, which means I'm off the break, and Rabobank was right on our heels. You have to make a gamble on who you cover, that time I read it wrong. It was game over, but it was fun.
I've never really done as much domestique work as I have this week for Freddie. He's obviously a world-class rider and he's riding well this week, and that's all the motivation you need. I've ridden under a lot of guys who have been in yellow jerseys, but I've never been that one guy who's always there first to keep him out of the wind. That was a new experience, taking care of him all week with food and wind and bringing him to the front. If he wins a stage at the Tour of California the team can basically be happy all year. He was our best shot at winning a stage and getting that breakthrough result, so we had to do our best to take care of him.
I've had good legs and bad luck this year. It's frustrating because there have been some great opportunities where the right circumstances don't play out. It looks like I will race Colorado though, and I could have a really good race. everything was fairly smooth this week aside from Big Bear—I was so cracked after that stage. It was a frustrating day, we finished at 7000ft with 110 miles in your legs, and yeat and then we traveling downhill for an hour and a half in an RV on twisty roads to sea level. It was for the better, but thats a long night. That was my lowest spot all week. you just want to shut the door and sleep, but everyone is feeling like that. There are always hiccups with transfers and logistics, and the staff has been really good about it so you just handle it. All you have to worry about is racing bikes.