Doing it all the hard way...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mountain to Sound Relay Race Report

Ready, Aim....

I was asked to fill in and ride the Mountain Bike leg of the Mountain to Sound relay. The mountain bike course went along the Iron Horse Trail a former railroad right of way that has been converted to a gravel bike path. I could use my cross bike….. I was in !

We had a Le Mans start which has always been a favorite of mine. At the gun we ran hundred fifty meters downhill then around a race banner and back up to the bikes. I was trying hard not to max my heart rate and just go fast with a minimum of effort. I was about fifteenth and I grabbed my waiting bike from the hands of Geoff. I had expected there to be a bunch of riders trying to get started and was planning on shouldering my bike for anther twenty meters, but there was an open spot so on I jumped. The gravel was loose and steep so I had to sit and crank to keep traction.

Although I had ridden the trail before I was not familiar with the climb from this side road to the trail so I had checked it out on Google Earth. The ride starts out with two hundred feet of climbing in less than a quarter mile. That is a grade of more than 800 feet of climbing per mile. For those of you who are quick on the uptake, that is a Vuelta-esque 15%+ climb. I had my cross bike with a road cassette so my lowest gear was a 42x25. That is fine for short muscle climbs, but not for a sustained quarter mile of climbing.

In thirty seconds I was moving up and was about eighth and I was trying not to blow up. The road kept climbing and I was smart not to pre ride this section or I would have totally freaked out.

By the time we turned onto the Iron Horse Trail I was sixth and feeling good. My light cross bike was agile and I was moving. I passed two riders and a young guy on a cross bike just blew past me. Then a rider pulled along side and he had a few riders behind him. I jumped on the back of the train and we kept up a vicious pace.

We had six miles to climb on the road to the turn around. I had to push now and again to keep in the group. We were going uphill and gained another four hundred feet since getting on the Iron Horse. Six hundred feet of climbing and now it was time for 800 feet of drop to the finish. At the turn around I counted four riders ahead of us and I felt strong. My drop bars allowed an aero position and I was geared high enough with a 42x11.

We were going fast and I was conserving. Although the corners were gradual, the loose gravel made me nervous. Occasional potholes would catch some off guard. I felt strong and was wondering when I should move out and try and pass the little pack.

Someone went down a few riders up and steering on loose gravel is hopeless. A rider was sideways and sliding in front of me. For an instant, I considered trying to ride right over him but his bike was rolling sideways in front of him looking like a corn harvester from hell. Saddle and bars then pedals and chain ring, then saddle side again, the chain ring looked like a circular saw and I opted to swerve and land on the rider.

“Oh well” I thought as I went down. I can’t tell you what happened next, but I came to a stop sitting on my butt with someone else’s brake cable hooked to the shoulder of my jersey. I pushed the bike over and saw my sunglasses in the road. I put them on and I heard someone ask someone else if they were okay. “I think I’m in shock,” was the weak reply. “You need help?” I asked as I picked up my bike. He said he would be okay and I started riding again. My pulse was still high and I was a little dazed.

On the bike my back and shoulders hurt and I felt my collarbones to make sure they were still straight. Yep, all good there. I knew it would be a few minutes before I was able to figure out what I had hurt. My left shin hurt and I looked for blood and found none.

I noticed I wasn’t able to shift into my two highest gears. I was flying in a 42x13. I passed two other riders who were getting started after crashing. I could see one more and a mile later I passed Hottie who shot the following picture.

I caught and passed another crash survivor and looked back and he had not even tried to latch on. He was cooked either from the ride, or the crash or both. I kept moving and still felt strong. I wished I had more gears as my cadence was high and I needed a break. I wondered where the finish was and saw one more rider ahead. I caught and passed him and he hung on. Then he took a turn and we traded pulls. Finally I moved out and saw a Course Marshall with a flag indicating the end was at hand.

A couple loose turns and I was down to the parking lot. Geoff had a straw cowboy hat that he was waving so I could find him. It was a brilliant idea. I high fived him and he took off for the road bike leg. I pulled to the side and slumped over my bars.

I shook hands with the guy who I had traded pulls with. I asked if he had been in the crash. He said he had not, but was right behind and that it was spectacular. As we talked he told me my jersey was torn and pointed out that I had a dent in my top tube.

Shit my top tube has a dent. I stepped off and looked at the bike. The wheels looked straight and everything else looked okay. I was too trashed to really think about it much more. I grabbed a banana and drank some water. Hottie was up at the start and I began the five-mile climb back to the car.

I was the ninth biker in and was just under a minute behind the riders who were in the front when the crash went down. I would (in the optimistic part of my brain where I regularly lie to myself) like to think I could have passed those riders if I had kept the rubber side down.

When I was able to look at my cuts and bruises, and feel my tender ribs, I realized that I would be sore and useless tomorrow. I decided I should post this today while before my age catches up with me.

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