Monday, August 5, 2013

Race Report: Lookout Mountain Hill Climb by @ActionJCyclist aka Greg Jackson

I arrived to the start line as one of the last riders in the Cat 4 group of 23, wanting to take the extra time to warm up as opposed to standing there and letting my legs cool down. All was going well until I took a quick drink of water and tried to put my water bottle in my cage, but I dropped it and it started rolling down the hill! Fortunately, somebody caught it for me and as I went to put it back, I noticed that my front water bottle cage was broken and unusable (the King cage did last me about 15 years), so I had to use the back cage, which always takes extra effort to get a bottle in/out. After I got my bottle situation sorted out, I noticed that I has somehow dropped my chain, so I quickly got off my bike and put it back on. There were several comments from people behind me saying they weren't really sure if they wanted to line up behind me or not. I thought about telling them to do what they can to follow me if they wanted to get in good position, but figured I did not need to instigate any more issues before the race even started.

As the gun went off, a few people right in front of me were unable to clip into their pedals right away, which thought to be odd, figuring that most people racing would be able to get this down. The race got off to what seemed like a very fast start, so I wanted to work my way up right away before any gaps started to open up. I quickly moved up to around mid-pack when a gap opened and I moved into about 6th, pulling the gaped rider back up. At about a mile into the race, Joseph Clemenzi from Sports Garage attacked, but I had mistaken him as being from Psimet/Zilla, as they have similar kits, thinking that he was trying to soften things up for one of his teammates in the race. I decided to sit tight and not worry about him. Soon riders started popping off the back and I had to go around a couple of people at times to stay with the lead group.

The pace was hurting, but I don't think I was the only one, so I kept with it. My only strategy for this race, as it is rather short at 4.6 miles, was to stick with the main group as long as possible and see what happens. You can do anything for 20 minutes, right?

Somehow I ended up in the front of the group as a couple people started slowing down, so I just went around them and maintained my speed. I led the group around the first set of switchbacks and probably for about a mile or so, then I let another Michael Nightingale from Boulder Running Company take a pull at the front. I snuck in right behind his wheel so I didn't have to worry about anybody getting gaped in front of me, but he only took a short pull and that left me to take over again. I figured that because it is a hill climb, I would rather climb at my own pace, so I didn't really mind. After another half mile or so, Michael Nightingale said that we should bring Joseph from Sports Garage back in, so he and I traded short pulls at the front for a little while. Shortly, we had pulled him back and only had about 20 yards or so, so I stood up and mashed up and around him, hoping that I could get a good acceleration around him and he would not be able to hang on my wheel. However, it did not go as beautifully as I had planned it in my head, and he simply latched onto my wheel.

At this point, our lead group was down to about 7 riders with a good gap to any other riders, and I was exhausted after my recent hard effort, so I decided to slow the pace down slightly. Nobody went around me for a bit, but then Aaron Buechter, who was wearing a Rapha kit that had be worn so many times it was completely see through above the chamois, reveling the upper portion of his ass (lovely...), decided to take up the pace-making. Soon, the group was down to 5 riders as we approached the second (and last) set of switchbacks. I was sitting in 4th position, but struggling to hold the wheel in front of me, so I let it go, thinking I could catch back up after the two switchbacks. However, there were not two switchbacks, but four switchbacks!

After we were done with the switchbacks, I resolved to try to catch back up to the three riders in the front. I quickly dropped Mitchell Fyock of PSIMET/Zilla Racing and started to make ground on the lead group, with every turn I seemed to gain a couple seconds on them, as I got out of the saddle a few times to stomp on the pedals and urge my bike to go that much faster. I was completely in the red, but knew the finish was closing fast, so I pushed through the pain, fighting to catch up and snatch a podium spot, until I came around a turn and saw the 200m to go sign... I sprinted it into the finish line, finishing 6 seconds behind the winner at a time of 20:00.

All in all, it was a good race, but I still can't help but think that maybe I could have pushed that much harder around the final switchbacks. I guess it is easy to look back and think you could have done something differently, but it is often not in line with reality. I remember telling my legs to move faster/push harder, but they simply did not respond to my commands.

In hindsight, taking 9 days off to go backpacking for a week, and then coming back and playing football earlier this week (which absolutely destroyed my hamstrings and hip-flexors), were probably not ideal for my race prep. Oh well.

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