The Examiner’s Adam Martin rodealong with the Toyota-United support staff during Friday’s time trial to see what a team and a rider go through during a stage.
Bent low over his handlebars on a machine that looks more like a drag racer than a bicycle, Chris Wherry leaned so low into a turn that it looked as if his wheels would slip out from underneath him.
Following Wherry in the Toyota-United team chase car, Kirk Willett beeped the horn as fans in lawn chairs waved cowbells and hollered themselves hoarse along the gusty, 14.5-mile time-trial course.
The race looks different from the inside of a team car. For one thing, you can see it. Stationary spectators only get to see riders fly past for a few seconds. Tailing Wherry throughout the course allowed us to watch him overtake two riders, surpass 45 mph going downhill and sprint through the finish.
While the longer stages make up the meat of the race, the time trial gives a unique opportunity for riders to compete individually, against the clock, around a short, fast course. They leave the starting gate one minute apart and drafting, the key to winning the long group rides, is not allowed. The strategy employed in the longer stages, of rotating in and out of the lead, does not work here. The only hope to win is to "hammer on the big ring" — cyclist-speak for riding like hell.
But in a 30-minute effort, "You can’t blow up the legs in the first five minutes," Wherry said as he cooled off on a stationary bike after the race. "You’ve got to keep a high tempo, but you’ve got to be sure to save a little bit for the climb."
Wherry’s tempo seemed to do the trick, as he dropped Britain’s Charly Wegelius of Liquigas and American Taylor Tolleson of Slipstream in the course of his 32-minute, 29-second ride.
"I think it was a great time trial," Wherry said. "Sometimes course designers try to make them really hard, putting in all kinds of climbs." But this course was fast and fair, he said. The only problem was the wind.
"Because you went out into a big headwind, you’d think you’d get a tailing wind on the way back," Wherry said. But only about four to five minutes of the course really provided for a true tailing wind, Wherry said. The rest of the time, the wind gusted perpendicular or directly against the riders.
"The only thing I can do is go out on the course, give it my best effort and then report back to them here, saying ‘The wind will come up around this turn,’ that kind of thing," Wherry said. The team was working to bring time-trial favorite Christopher Baldwin into the top 10.
"This is one of the determining factors [of the race]," Wherry said. "And Baldwin is one of the best time trialists in the world."
Meanwhile, Wherry faced a new challenge.
"Hey, babe, we can’t check into our hotel until 3," he told his girlfriend, Melissa, who approached him as he rolled his legs cool. "I’ll try to get a shower on the bus."