Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hell of the North - Colorado Style

I had gotten in half a lap on Friday afternoon just after work.  The course seemed smoother as if it had just been graded, though there were still some nasty washboard sections.  Most of these could be skirted by hugging the outside as much as you dare, the only risk being that the road quickly went from fast hard-packed dirt to the dangerously loose and swallowing sand washed to the side by the road graders.

I got there with plenty of time for registration and a visit to the Kybos (ask Kirk what these are if you aren’t from Iowa).  It turns out pinning on your own number while waiting in line doesn’t yield the best results – thanks Kirk for the quick fix.  I got enough of a warm up to wake up my legs and mind, knowing full well that a close to 40 mile race would mean anyone that went off like a shot, a la cyclocross, would be caught by the slow ramp up of speed the group would have in the first lap.
As it turned out that about 2 miles in, that exact thing happened and off went one of the juniors on a solo flyer.  A couple of racers got excited and got to the front to try and catch him right away and by habit I found myself in the first 10 racers at this point.  Things started rotating and I got out front and stayed there for a bit, trying to calm things down to a reasonable pace with 35 miles left, and the junior was still out front by a few hundred yards trying hard to stay away.  Meanwhile friendly chatter resumed in the group and I tried to get my nose out of the wind but stay out of harm’s way near the front – I realized here what I missed about road racing.

Corners went by and we would go from dirt to road, back to dirt.  Saw Kirk and Greg a few different times, Kirk got relegated to the back for disobeying the “imaginary yellow line rule” on the dirt and Greg just looked like he was out for an afternoon ride.  I had a feeling that he was going to be just fine in this race as long as he didn’t get himself all tangled up in the riff-raff. 

Coming into the finishing stretch on this first lap I noticed my vertical water bottle had some unnecessary movement.  I took a quick swig and ditched it at the feed zone to mitigate any issues this might present.  The first set of S curves of the second lap, the right hander was pretty loose on the inside, and I notice the guy in front of me start to wash to the inside.  I had just enough time for a quick brake check before he washed completely out and the pile up ensued; some way this same guy’s leg ends up in my front triangle while I am still straddling my bike upright.  I yank my bike out of the mix and I’m off to mitigate losses knowing that this little split will whittle down the front group substantially.  I hear Kirk ask if I’m ok and I just give a thumb up as I think talking at this point would put my breakfast on my top tube.  I come back into contact and start to make my way up the right side into safer territory and look down to discover the bottom bolt from the offending cage is gone, this’ll be interesting and I wonder if a well placed down stroke on the pedals could just snap the little guy off.  A mile or so later and the problem has solved itself: it is no longer dangling and my bike is now 38 grams lighter; my legs didn’t get the message and feel as if I have added that and more to the bike.

We make the right onto Nelson and four slip off the front.  There is yelling and the pace quickens, the line strings out, and I find protection again on the right side – easing my way up using my out-of-season downhill momentum and clear path to gain spots.  I see Greg moving up the opposite side, doubting he knows what I am planning but let’s see how this plays out.  I make it to the front of the four riders as the group latches on to them, yelling “On the right” as I continue with momentum, and click down the cassette.  The front guy decides this means go right and I end up in the gravel to avoid catastrophe and commit myself to the move, I get back to pavement and kick again and notice Greg is coming with – okay not the plan but this could be fun too.  I round the corner onto 51st out front with a clear road ahead and proceed to bury myself on the gravel – stealing one glance down to see 40 something on the Garmin.  The road levels and I keep the pace high – not daring to steal a glance anywhere but ahead while my legs scream to stop.  And there it is: my limit.  I give a shake of the head and fall back into the quickly approaching group.  Well we didn’t get away that time but the group got strung out and the pace is a bit lifted, I could say the secondary mission was accomplished here.

Things continue to happen here and there but mostly just a spirited Saturday ride although my heart rate seems a bit high for over an hour of riding at this point.  I wonder how long I can sustain this pace and how many more matches remain.  I tempt fate and move to the front while headed south on 65th Street.  I notice one guy up the road a hundred yards and another coming up at a good clip on my right; I decide to latch onto his wheel to see what ensues.  Well we are rolling off the front all non-shalant and no one is following, I’m still just hanging on trying to recover from the last effort thinking this effort isn’t going to last long on that hill coming on Nelson Road.  An ill timed attacked has us going through the corner at the same time we overtake that lone rider, seconds are lost.  I pull through and hold for a bit and give the guy behind a chicken wing, he comes through for just long enough for me to recover, he chicken wings, me and the rotation timing is established.  We rotate a few cycles thinking we might have just made the move, then that hill rears its ugly slope in front of us and I feel myself slipping backwards while attempting to pull through.  He sags back and I just give him a look of I don’t have it today but that was fun while it lasted.  I let myself get swallowed by the group and the hill grows longer.  And now I’m being swallowed by the empty space behind the group.  I stand up to close the gap, nearing the top, and my legs scream.  I sit back down, shift the weight back in an attempt to find some muscle that still has enough left to propel me up this hill.  No luck there, I try standing, and quickly remember after a couple rotations why that didn’t work just a moment before.  By this time I’m at the top and watching the group string out on their southerly procession down the dirt.  I can’t regain contact and resolve to just commence damaged control and get myself to the line without getting caught by the 40+ crowd.  Well that almost happens until the finishing chute when I see the leaders coming up and move to the right allowing them a clear line, the 40+ podium passes me as I ease across the line and stop the timer.
I make a right and stay on course to try and find that 38 grams I shed earlier – no such luck but I did manage to get my half full water bottle back from the feed zone.  I lick my wounds on the way back to the truck as I hack up all manner of earthen material I just ate for an hour and thirty-six minutes.

A great race and I accomplished my main goal of mixing it up in the pack, having fun making and covering moves, all while getting a good workout.  Team tactics could have been more organized but I suppose that is what you get with a quick email exchange the week of the race.  I am Looking forward to pinning on another number at Koppenberg and hopefully delivering Greg to the line in May.

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