Obviously, I’ve been mentally overwhelmed since Sunday morning when I heard my friend, Glenda Taylor, was killed at the Kansas State Time Trial Championships. The last couple days it seems like I’m just going through the paces, trying to not allow my mind to venture over to those unanswerable thoughts.
Saturday, I actually entered and raced the GoPro Mountain Bike XC in Vail. I did this sort of out of the blue. I came out to Colorado to visit friends and ride with them. Little did I know that the town of Vail was hosting the GoPro Games.
I am generally not good at altitude unless I’m there for awhile. And historically, 4-6 days is really the absolute worse for me. Saturday was day 6, so I didn’t have high expectations. And, since I wasn’t planning on racing, I was doing a lot of things on the bike that I wouldn’t normally have been doing. Not resting for sure.
Anyway, I wanted to race in Vail and there was a race, so why not? It was a little strange though. It was raining before the start, pretty hard. Then about 10 minutes before the official start, it quit. I rode up the hill a couple times with my old Specialized team mate, Todd Wells. I hadn’t seen him since a year ago in February. Man, time flies.
I had already warmed up by riding from Silverthorne to Copper Mountain on my road bike, so I had nearly an hour riding time already, so wasn’t really worried about the start. I also wasn’t worried because I planned to start absolutely as slow as I could. Red lining at altitude, when you’re not acclimated, is a sure way to have a horrible race.
Todd and I turned around right when the announcer called the Pro men to the line. We just lined up at the front. I asked Todd if there wasn’t an official call-up and he said it was just an unsanctioned race. I never thought I was going to have clear dirt in front of me at the start.
But, I stuck to the plan and started like a snail. The course was pretty much straight up and then straight back down, with two, couple minute climbs in the middle of the descent. I got to the top of the hill the first lap in about 20 minutes and was pretty happy with myself for not destroying my lungs. I was somewhere back in the late 20’s, but felt alright.
If I can get through the first 30 minutes to hour, then there isn’t such a chance I’ll completely blow if I go harder at altitude.
I started down the descent and was surprised on how slick it was. I wasn’t handling my bike very well and the guys ahead of me started pulling away a little. Not much, just a few seconds, but I’m a better bike handler than I was showing.
Vincent was down the hill and told me that I was just 4 or 5 guys out of the top 20. We started the 2nd time up the hill and I was riding better. I kept in under control and passed 3 or 4 guys. The next time down, Vincent said the guy in front of me was 20th. And I could see 5 or 6 more guys.
So I decided to climb harder the final lap. I caught a bunch of guys and got to the top in 16th, I think. There was one guy ahead of me on the descent and I thought I might catch him on the short climbs to come.
I got about half way down the hill and all of a sudden I heard a crazy racket, like my rear derailleur had gone into my spokes. I looked back and the derailleur was in the middle of the cassette. I stopped to see if I had broken a spoke and my rear disc rotor was just dangling there on the hub. The hub itself had sheared off and the rotor was just hanging.
So, I took my rear wheel off and took the rotor off. But, I couldn’t get the wheel back on. It was like something was stopping it. I tried for a long time, over a minute, but it wouldn’t go back into my dropouts. Of course, this whole time, guys were flying by me.
I was in the middle of the trail, kind of jamming it up, but it was on a descent and there wasn’t any place to really go.
I finally figured out that the other side of my skewer, the threaded/derailleur side, had a little silver washer that was part of the threaded end. It had broken off and was floating on the skewer, thus not allowing me to put my rear wheel back in. So, I unthreaded the quick release, tossed the washer and put my wheel back.
Anyway, it was a challenge getting the rest of the way down the hill with only a front brake. It had dried up by then and was loose. I caught a couple young guys that had just passed me, but they blew by me on the last little climb before the finish. I had no motivation by then. I finished 23rd. I think the best place I got up to was 16th and maybe could have finished 15th, by looking at the results. The guy I was ahead before the disc mechanical finished 16th, 10 seconds behind 15th. I lost at least 3 minutes screwing with my bike.
It really didn’t matter. I was happy with how I rode. There were only 8 paying places and I was nowhere near those. The field was pretty stacked with most of the best MTB riders in the country. I haven’t raced a race like this in ages. I’m pretty happy with how it went.
So, that was it. I went back to Silverthorn and finished mowing the yard that evening and then headed down to Denver to stay with Vincent in Arvada.
Trudi had taken the car to the Park-n-Ride and I got on my bike to ride over to pick it up close to downtown Arvada. I was riding through some neighborhoods, just looking around and saw a parking lot with a bunch of bikes. I thought maybe a tour was starting there. Next thing I know, I’m at Wheat Ridge Cyclery, Ron Kiefel’s bike shop, and there is a criterium going on. I ride up and Dave Towle is announcing. I go up to Dave, a friend for a long time, and say hi. I ask him when the Pro race is and he says 4:30. It’s only 1 then, so I tell him I’ll come back.
So, I ride back to Vincent’s house with Jim Copeland, an ex-Pro that rode for LA Sheriffs and Saturn. I hadn’t seen Jim for a real long time. He had won the Sunshine Hillclimb in Boulder the day before in the Master’s division and was just going out for a ride up Lookout. I turned off to get my helmet and stuff for the race.
I didn’t have any race wheels, on clinchers. I’ve only raced on clinchers a couple times in my life, but the course was super wide open and cornering shouldn’t be an issue. The problem was it looked like it was going to rain.
I got a number, rode to Starbucks and got a coffee and pinned it on. Rode back and it was time to start. I line up to a previous KC rider, Lance Sulzen, who told me he won the race the year before. I hardly knew anyone racing. It is sometimes hard to recognize guys with their helmets and glasses on. So, we started.
The race was pretty quick. For sure quick the first 15-20 minutes. I think the average speed was close to 30 mph. The course was pretty wide open and just up a slight hill and then back down to the finish. It was L shaped, with two corners in the last 250 meters. Perfect for me.
It was fairly obvious that it was going to most likely be a field sprint. Too wide open and too much rest. Nothing really got away and then there were 6 laps remaining.
And it started raining. Hardly anything at first, just a big drop every once in a while. I looked and still 4 more laps. I was thinking, just hold off. I had planned on stopping if it rained.
We kept going pretty good and still with two to go, the road wasn’t too wet. There were a lot of white paint, crosswalks on 38th street, that looked way too shiny for me. I was already pretty much at the front of the field by now.
Then it just started raining with about a lap and a half to go. I got a little shuffled back, but came out of the last corner with the bell around 10th. I jumped past a few guys going up the hill and was in pretty good position starting back down. My shoe got a little involved with another guys front wheel, but we both we okay.
There were 4 corners at the end, a left, right, left, then left. Finish max 100 meters later. I got a little boxed in and went through the first left maybe 4 guys back. I tried to dive inside the next right and did, but it felt like my rear wheel was crazy loose.
My inside foot came unclipped and I had to put it back on the pedal. A couple guys passed me, so maybe I was in 6th. The next left, I had a good line and when I turned, I just about fell. My rear wheel was going around me and I straighten out and hopped up on the sidewalk. I had a rear flat and it wasn’t the rain, but the tire rolling off.
I just rode to the final corner and then guy in front of me still fell, even though we were hardly in the top 15. I rode to the line and finished in the 30’s. The field had really come apart the last couple laps because of the rain.
I was very fortunate on having all my skin. If I would have had race wheel, sewups, I would have been fine. I was riding 25mm Clement clinchers and really didn’t have any idea how they handled in the rain. I still don’t, other than I didn’t fall, which is a good sign. It is sort of amazing to me that I couldn’t tell the difference between a tire breaking loose because of a slick road and low tire pressure. But, like I said, I never race clinchers and this is just one of a handful of times I’ve actually cornered on a flat clincher tire.
If I would have had my race wheels with 25 mm, with Vittoria CG’s on them, I’m thinking that race would have been winnable. Lance ended up 3rd this year, after winning last, so a pretty great result for him, considering how sketchy it was at the end.
It was down pouring at the finish and I was lucky that Vincent was there. He gave me a ride back. I didn’t really want to put a new tube in and ride back in the rain. I already had close to 70 miles for the day, after a pretty hard two hour MTB race the day before, so I was kind of done. I felt badly that I didn’t make my way back to the start/finish and say hi to Ron. He was announcing during the race and I never actually caught up with him. The race was great, right in front of his shop, which is enormous. Pretty cool venue.
So, kind of a bust weekend result-wise. I felt pretty good in both races, did better than I had expected, considering, so that is good. I experienced a lot of different race situations. Wet, slick descending MTB racing, then dry descending a couple hours later, with only a front brake (which was worse). Then a couple laps of a pretty slick rainy criterium. It’s nice knowing that I can still do some of that stuff alright.
Monday, I went out with Vincent and did another pretty hard MTB ride here in Arvada. We rode up North Table, then through Golden to Apex and climbed up to the top of Lookout MTB. It was a lot of climbing. I’d picked Trudi up late morning and ate with her around 11:30, so was sort of bonky by the time we got back close to 7.
I really haven’t taken easy ride since I got to Colorado. I had 26 hours last week, with only 3 hours of racing, so obviously I wasn’t resting up much for the races. I felt okay climbing yesterday, just a little blown at the end.
Today, Vincent and I are heading back over to Buffalo Creek to ride the first half of the Bailey Hundo. We’re meeting a bunch of his team mates at 9:15 in Bailey. It should be around 50 miles on MTB bikes. I am really enjoying riding off-road right now, so I’m just going to go with it.
I was hoping to make it to Tulsa Tough this weekend, but I think that Glenda’s memorial service at Washburn University is going to be on Friday. I might try to do the last two days though, kind of depends. I’d really like to do Sunday’s race on Crybaby Hill. It is one of my favorite races of all time. Pretty hard course and crazy spectators.
Okay, this is a long one. Hope you didn’t feel you wasted too much of your time. I’d better get going.