The last time the Tête de la Course Cycling colors were flown in Walla Walla was in 2013 which just so happened to be the last time that I raced the Tour of Walla Walla. Both were back in 2021 – I was there directing the LUX/Sideshow p/b Specialized Junior Men’s Team in the Pro 1-2 race and the TDLCCycling colors were being represented by Will Cucco, Josh Sollitto and Jackson Stoehr in the Men’s Cat 3 race.
The 2021 version of theTête de la Course Cycling Team happened organically. I coach Will, Josh and Jackson as well as another member of the team Milo McIntosh. Josh, Jackson, Milo and two others, Ian Costin and David Burton, all live on Bainbridge Island – Will lives in Tacoma but has made the trek to BI at least once a month to ride with the group.
The main thing that got me thinking about putting the team together is that all of them are juniors (with the exception of Josh who is our token adult and “28 year old junior at heart”) and we have spent a decent amount of time riding together. Plus there really hasn’t been a junior focussed road team in the Seattle area in a number of years and working with juniors….well it seems to be kind of my thing. Then last fall Logan Owen, who I coached for 11 years from the age of 13 into his first year racing for EF Education, told me he was moving to Mallorca and had a bunch of old equipment to get rid of and wasn’t really sure what to do with it. We talked about it and came up with the idea of selling it to help fund the team. And just like that there was a new junior + 28 year old squad in the area.
Although I was officially working for LUX at ToWW I was able to watch the guys (as well as some of the other athletes that I work with) race which was fun. More importantly I was able to give feedback on the spot.
Will, Josh and Jackson all rode really well individually. More importantly they got to know each other better and really started to gel as a team. It was awesome to see. I asked each one of them to write up a brief synopsis of the weekend from their perspective:
I am super happy with how the team did as a whole. I’m glad I was able to effectively fill my role to help Will and Jack succeed and they followed through with great results. I’m also pretty dejected I missed out on a potential GC podium to a stupid mistake, but it happens. The way we worked so well together is really encouraging – that we can achieve great results by using our brains, communicating effectively, and being aware of both our strengths and our limitations. I rarely felt like I was going deep into the red this weekend because I focused on racing efficiently and spreading the load across the team rather than just on myself. I could call on a teammate to cover for me while I rested, I could just follow moves in the peloton knowing I have a teammate up the road, or I can ride off the front totally within myself knowing my teammates are doing what they can to impede the chase. Racing just became a whole different game for me this past weekend. And the game is fun as fuck. – Josh S.
The Tour of Walla Walla 2021 was packed full of memories and some much-needed lessons. Stage one, a time trial, went well. I placed third with one of my teammates, Josh, just a few seconds behind.
Stage two didn’t go to plan for me. With lackluster rest from sitting in a car for multiple hours in the heat and only eating a Subway sandwich for lunch due to some stomach issues, I ended up bonking about halfway through and losing contact with the field. I ended up over five minutes back in the general classification. As Joe pointed out to me after, “learning moment”.
The next day was a 35-minute criterium. About 20 seconds into the race. I spotted a guy with a small gap rolling away. So I rolled the dice and jumped up to him. It turned out he was willing to work with me, so he and I dug in and managed to open up a gap that stretched out to 40 seconds at its peak. Cooperating throughout the whole race he and I rolled in first and second. Following the disappointment of the day before, this podium felt excellent.
My team and I rolled into the fourth and final stage, a 66 mile road race. Long story short, after 40 miles of racing my teammates and I were working well together taking turns covering moves and trying some attacks ourselves. Then going into the feed zone on the second lap I pushed the pace a little and saw that I had a small gap so I pushed it a little harder and opened the gap more. After that I found myself off the front solo. I was able to stay away and rolled across the line for the win with a gap of 55 seconds. Having had stunk up the road on the second stage after getting third in the time trial being able to get on the criterium podium and winning the final stage felt pretty good. -Jackson S
I felt optimistic coming into this race. Having a good team to race with really boosted my confidence. I was very happy that the road race courses were hilly since that suits me, and because it’s important to work well as a team on more technical courses like these. My goals for this race were to get good results as a team, and I wanted to work well as a team. We all knew what we were doing and why we were doing it. If a breakaway went up the road, we would make sure that we were making other teams chase it and we would interrupt the chase effort to try and keep our teammate off the front. Every stage, we got at least one of us in the top 5 places, which meant that we didn’t have a specific person for GC. Though, we were all well placed in GC and I feel like we did a good job representing the team. The most important thing that I learned this weekend is that the quality of teamwork can make or break the race. And when it’s good teamwork, the race becomes easier and more enjoyable. – Will C.
One follow up note, as I was putting this post together I received a text from Will who had traveled down to race in the Cat 3 men’s field at Independence Valley. The text was short and to the point,
“I got first!”