This email came in yesterday evening from Jeff Schalk. Jeff is a regional teams rider from the East Coast, and is the powerhouse in the Jeff/Chris combo. They've made a great team in Jeff's power, and Chris's skill and experience.
Hey Steven/Zack -
I'm avoiding making calls from Canada (very pricey) and the internet availability has been spotty. Hopefully you've heard from Chris or Bork or have been able to follow on VeloNews and/or Cyclingnews.
Anyway, Chris and I just rode into the lead on GC today and I'm very proud of what we've accomplished. We were 35+ min down right from the beginning due to both rear derailleurs ripping off in the hayfields right by the start of Stage 1. Bork did a fantastic job fixing the bikes (the neutral parade lap with permission from the race director allowed us to get tech assistance). Chris has been really strong, consistant, and determined (as always), and I've had a really strong motor to use on the fire roads at the critical times. And now we're in 1st!
We had to really work all day to chase on Stage 1, and miraculously pulled the leaders to within 12min. Then, a successful attack of four teams late on Stage 2 (after the leaders fell off) lopped the lead down to 2min. Today, after losing a lead group of three teams about midway (Chris flatted), I pushed the chase group of six teams really hard to close down the leaders (about a 2-3min gap, which took about an hour to close down). For some reason, none of the other five teams seemed too motivated to help chase even though the GC was up the road, so I dug in and did my best to shoulder a huge amount of the pulling. We caught the breakaway at the final aid station just before the singletrack. Chris and I gambled by not stopping for a feed and took the leaders by surprise by blowing through. Chris and I got into the singletrack first and led it down to the finish. Kona lost maybe 4min on us in the singletrack and MonaVie lost maybe 10min, so we're now in the yellow jerseys by 2min or so ahead of Kona.
This isn't too detailed of a report or anything, but I wanted to fill you in just in case you haven't heard much yet. So check out the online coverage for more details. But, at least that gives you a general idea of what has been going on. Like I said, I'm really proud of what we've done. Even if we aren't able to hold on all week for the win, at least we rode from dead last (+35min) into first in just 3 stages with a lot of focus, tenacity, luck, and the right combination of everything else.
I'm exhausted, but we're both excited to continue fighting! I think the best life lesson to take from racing in general has really been learned here in the last three days. Never give up and continue to fight -- you never know what'll happen and if you aren't able to succeed, at least go down swinging. Its been an incredible experience, and we're not even half way. Hopefully we can pull it off. Even if we can't, I can proudly say that we're doing our absolute best.