Team Skyline opened up their early season racing with races in Texas, ahead the first USACrits event, Delray Beach Twilight Criterium.
A week earlier, Ryan DeWald packed left for Washington D.C. to join Garrett Olsen on the first road trip of the season. With the customized Sprinter loaded up with bikes and gear, the two set out on a two day trip to Plano, TX.
“I’ve been doing it for ten years now. I have the system down,” said DeWald. “I brought Garrett last year, got his feet wet, and now this year he’s already on top of it, crushing the pedals and getting results.”
The pair make up a growing Team Skyline, an elite amateur team targeting USA Cycling NCC and USACrits series races. Along with a 25 member masters team racing in the mid-atlantic, they have plans to create a junior development program, and are looking for more elite riders to join the team.
“We’ve been approached by a bunch of riders that wanted to join, but we are looking for the right riders to fit what we are aiming to do,” explained DeWald. “We are looking for quality riders that we can groom and develop into top level pros.”
Based in Reading, PA, DeWald has been racing for 21 seasons with teams like the US National Team, Rite-Aid Pro Cycling, Battley Harley-Davidson, and XO Communications p/b Cisco Systems. His vision, experience, and leadership will be a key component to develop Team Skyline into a larger program, a goal for the upcoming seasons.
Olsen, hailing from Washington D.C., joins the team from Battley Harley-Davidson, and brings the additional firepower and business acumen needed to develop the squad. Olsen attended Villanova University as a recruited defensive end. Graduating with finance and mechanical engineering degrees, he was also the president of the Villanova Cycling Team, and pioneered their national program. The Villanova squad finished 6th at nationals in their first appearance. He is currently a mechanical engineer on leave from Boeing.
Walburg Classic Road Race
While the Mid-Atlantic was digging out from the snow and ice, Team Skyline was training in the warm Texas sun, preparing for the Walburg Classic Road Race.
“We did 18 hours the first week,” explained DeWald. “I went from doing about 4 hours a week on the trainer to doing 18 hours last week. I’ve got to do another 18 hour week this week.”
“The snow hit Ryan a lot worse than it hit me. When he was getting 4 inches of snow, I was getting a lot of rain,” said Olsen. “We both got Scott mountain bikes in December and we were just riding those in order to get miles in when it was super, super cold. At times, it was zero degrees when we were riding.”
The Walburg Classic is a Texas Bicycle Racing Association (TXBRA) event made up three 26.5 mile laps, or about 80 miles. Though it is a relatively flat course, it is known for its heavy winds. The beginning of the race started off calm, with low winds, but that didn’t last long.
“There wasn’t much wind to write home about,” explained Olsen. “In fact, I even commented that to Bret Crosby and he kinda laughed at me and said ‘don’t worry, it’s coming.’ By lap 2, it was so fierce I could barely hang on. On lap 3 was even worse, it went from 5 mph, to 15 mph, to 25 mph.”
The event drew talented riders from the south, along with a few international names. Bret Crosby (Giant South – On Road) was a strong contender for the win, along with former British national champion, Kristian House (Rapha Condor-JTL), former US criterium champion David Wenger (Super Squadra), and US track champion Chris Carlson (Matrix/RBM). Heath Blackgrove (Boneshaker Project) and former Moto GP champion Ben Spies (ELBOWZ Racing) were also in the mix.
“TXBRA (Texas Bicycle Racing Association) is a hotbed for cycling in the winter,” said DeWald. ”You can come down here in the early season and start racing in mid-January, and these guys are flying right now.”
Team Skyline’s goal was to sit in, and stay in the lead group. Olsen drifted from front to back, trying to conserve energy and keep a constant load for training. Instead of driving the pace, they elected to keep out of the wind. As the race went on though, the lead group became smaller and smaller, until they were forced to face the wind.
“There was nowhere to hide,” explained DeWald. “Gaps started opening on me. I got spit out and had to shut it down going into the third lap.”
By the third lap, Olsen continued to fly the Team Skyline banner in time trial mode. With five miles left the group was hitting crosswinds of 25 mph. About 40 riders were left until the pace started to increase. Olsen ended up in a group of three riders who were working to chase back on. With about two miles to go, Olsen and his companion were able to drop one of their trio, and with about one kilometer left, he was on his own. As he crossed the line, he was about 200 meters off the back of the main group, finishing in 36th place.
“We didn’t finish as well as we wanted to, but to tell you the truth, that wasn’t the goal,” said Olsen. “The goal was showing up and training.”
Pace Bend Road Race
Sunday’s Pace Bend Road Race in Spicewood, TX, was much different than the day before. Temperatures soared into the 80’s, and riders were suffering as they tried to stay hydrated. The closed, rolling, 6 mile course saw the laps tick down fast as riders pushed to complete the 80 mile event. Little breaks were getting away briefly, but quickly brought back by the peloton.
“It was so hot, we were drinking a bottle a lap,” explained DeWald. “Your stomach was bloated, cramps started to hit by mid race. I tried to shake it off and ride into some moves like my normal self, but I just don’t have that fitness yet.”
“I took 14 bottle feeds,” said Olsen. “I was feeling pretty good. I was actually giddy in the first 30 miles. My fitness really wasn’t that great, but I was just a lot more opened up. Saturday I wasn’t really able to put any power down. Sunday I was a lot more opened, I was able to actually roll through some of the moves. A lot of the times I rolled into the moves by happenstance, because I kinda just went with the motion of the ocean.”
Towards the end of the race, Olsen tried to make a move on the finishing straight to create a break. Lacking the surging power that will come later in the season, he was counter attacked on the climb, and had to chase. With four laps to go, he was able to join a move that included Crosby, Blackgrove, and some of each of their teammates. Knowing it was the right move, Olsen jumped in as DeWald ended his day early, and transitioned to support Olsen in the feed area.
The break had around 40 seconds on a chasing group of five, but neither the Boneshaker Project or Giant South-On Road riders could organize the group. After the chasers caught the lead group, two riders went off the front and did not look back. At the final climb, the group of ten was caught by a chasing peloton, with two riders still up the road. Olsen had been suffering cramps for many laps at this point, and kept changing his position to fight them off the best he could. At the bottom of the climb to the finish line, he sat in deep in the field.
“I knew I couldn’t get the win, I would just blow up, so I started in the back around 30th, and I just spun and passed all the guys that were blowing up. I never got out of the saddle, and finished 11th.”
As he crossed the line, the effort became too much, and his legs seized up. A fan pushed him to the top of the hill, and as he coasted down, he still could not move his legs. He coasted up to a police SUV, and leaned against it as he could not even clip out of his pedals. After five minutes, he was finally able to move his legs enough to get back to the Sprinter.
“The sprint definitely taxed me. Honestly, I thought I got 25th or 30th. I didn’t even check the results. I couldn’t believe it, because I started way, way back. I thought we were just going to see what happens.”
On their first day off in ten days, DeWald and Olsen were taking it easy in the house they rented for the first two weeks of the trip. It wasn’t spent sitting around, watching TV though. Besides running for supplies and groceries for the week, DeWald was gluing up tubulars on their Zipp race wheels and looking after their Scott bikes to make sure they were ready for the coming week’s training and racing.
Next up on the schedule is the 23rd annual La Primavera in Lago Vista, TX. While not a true climber’s course, there are plenty of inclines, especially on day two. Saturday’s main climb will be a 1.3 mile stretch at about 2.5%. On Sunday, the climbs are shorter and steeper, with a 15% grade to start each lap. On both days, it will be key to always be in the top 15 on the climbs to stay with the leaders as the pretenders start to fall off.
“Lago Vista is the 22 year for it to happen,” said DeWald. “I’ve been second, third, fifth, ninth, but never won the race. It has always been a bench mark for me to see how I’m doing at Lago to see when I’m going to come into form.”