RACE REPORT #12 Tour of Utah – Stage 1 CAT 4
Four One Seven – That’s what my eyeballs registered in the pitch blackness as I cracked my eyelids open for the first time in several hours. Time to get up! I had prepared extensively for this day, and I didn’t want to blow it by missing my start. I had set alarms on the clock radio, my watch, and my cell phone. I woke up more than 10 minutes before any of them went off.
We were staying with my parents for the week, and my wife would need our van to haul the kids around, so my parents offered to let me use their car to get to the races. I guarantee I was the only racer that showed up in a Cadillac with two bikes wedged into the trunk!
I arrived while it was still dark, and since I had picked up my packet a couple of days earlier, I only needed to put the bikes together and start warming up before the race. The weather was perfect and I took the opportunity to go scout the finishing climb in the car. That was a smart move as I was not familiar with it at all. It was almost 5 miles long, with a 7% average grade. The final half mile was 13% – that’s steep!
Ok, time to put up or shut up. We would be doing 3 laps of a 10 mile circuit through the fields before heading a few miles north and finishing at the top of the climb. The first lap was nervous. I rode pretty hard (HR was 172 a few times – crazy high for flat ground), but I really wanted to stay up front and keep out of trouble. That was good as there were some real man-eating potholes to be aware of. After the first lap, I dropped to the back and tried to conserve as much energy as possible before the climb. There was a high-speed corner near the end of each lap that had a 4 inch trench dug in the asphat and was filled with dirt and gravel. Problem was, the dirt and gravel was still a couple of inches below the top of the road surface. One guy flatted there, but the rest of us made successful hops at 25+ mph while leaning over to take the corner. That was fun!
There was a fairly high speed descent to get to the start of the climb, and I paid the price for not being at the front. I got gapped off the back just a tiny bit and had to ride pretty hard to maintain contact with the group. I was feeling strong, but there was no reason for me to do that much work on a descent. Maybe it worked out for the best, because when our group hit the bottom of the climb, trouble began. There were traffic cones set up the whole way along the climb to block off a lane for us – which was nice, but our group was so big we just swallowed them up. Guys would swerve in the middle of the pack to miss a cone, and it would appear right in front of you with very little time to react. I think at least 6 riders went to the ground at different times – going up hill at less than 15 mph. It was almost comical – but if you laughed, that was almost a guarantee that you were the next one to go to the ground… One guy I saw jammed a little too hard on his front brake to avoid hitting one, lifted his rear wheel off the ground, and set it down sideways – snapping his $800 carbon rim clean in half before hitting the pavement. Ouch!
I rode hard, but tried to stay within my limits. All too often I rage at the bottom of a climb only to fade at the end. This time, I kept the next day’s races in mind and tried to conserve where possible. I had started in last place at the bottom, so I had my work cut out for me. That grade was pretty tough, some guys were really suffering! My heart rate averaged 179 beats per minute for the half-hour it took to top out. I sprinted the last 100 yards to the line, and felt like I would be faster if I got off and walked. That was some steep stuff!
I was very pleased to learn that I took 9th out of 50 in my category – and still feel like I had more to give. Game on!