Doing it all the hard way...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Vance Creek Road Race 2014 Race Report and Photos

Even before I point you to the photos let me refer you to Rule #9

Now, if you want to see the Race Photos go HERE !

If you want to see the Race Results go here !

If you want to hear about my saga; read on..
Time to build an Ark...
I checked the weather three to ten times a day each day leading up to Saturday's race south of the hamlet of Elma, Washington.  It went from bad to worse and despite a dry departure from home I knew the rains would come with a vengeance. 

Hottie photographed the morning races under light rain. I tried to read the dark clouds and wonder if we might get lucky.  I hooked up with teammate Big John and we warmed up and discussed clothing options. 

The pre race excitement was only tempered by two things. The absolute certainty of limitless suffering on the final climb and the near certainty of biblical rains which would start any minute. 

We rolled out behind the Cat 1-3 Masters and in front of the Cat 1-2 women.  After the neutral roll out we amped it up pretty quick.  The early season races had seen some of the graybearded peloton forced to hold their fire because of teammates in breakaways. These strong men weren't going to let anyone sit in today and the attacks started right away. 

The congenial mood of the start was soon replaced with a silence that reveals that racers are digging deeper than they might like.  These were the cracks that the strong riders were looking for.

Down in the valley we were on farm roads and as Paul put it very succinctly, "This ride tastes like Carnation."  There is an early season TT in Carnation that goes through an agricultural area on pavement that always has a thin film of animal excrement.  The rain had started almost as soon as we rolled out and the spray that was coming off wheels 
This machine is actually shooting shit next to the course.  Chicken shit if it matters. 
The challenge was to get enough oxygen inside you minimizing the mud, cow shit, chicken shit and chemical who-knows-what from getting inside you. 

We were thirty strong and there was an abundance of fast guys.  Despite the weather all the fast guys had come to race.  There are a few Rouleurs like myself who prefer the courses without the big climbs. These brothers skipped the race.  It was a climber day. At the port-a-toilet the urinal portion was designed for men no taller than five and a half feet.  This was an omen.  The course was ill suited to myself and Big John.

Emerging from the narrow farm roads we headed south before we would turn and begin the uphill rollers that culminate with the final climb that makes everyone question themselves.  We were greeted with a headwind that killed any chance of catching your breath. The front of the pack swung from one side of the road to the other as riders were searching for a place to hide from the wind. There was none.
Those aren't flecks of pepper in my teeth.....
We turned right, heading west approaching the hill we would climb on each of our four laps.  Big John was at the point of the peloton and I was hoping he could slow them down and I could keep in contact. 

The climb started and the strong me were again looking for cracks. I quickly shifted down and kept a high cadence.  I was losing places and I could see a separation opening. I pushed hard and caught the back end of the front group.  I started losing ground an inch at a time and as we passed the 200m sign a Bikesale rider passed me on my right and I grabbed his wheel and focused on nothing else. 

I ignored the screaming in my legs and pedaled on.  They screamed louder and I tried to make them hurt more.  I caught back on. I looked at my HR on my Garmin.  188.  My max HR is 182. Okay, I was about to die.

On the descent what I lacked in fitness I made up for with a lack of fear.  By the time we made the sharp turn at the bottom I was sitting third wheel.  We jockeyed a bit and I looked around.  We had lost ten and were a pack of twenty.  I looked back and could see nobody.  

Twenty angry men..
We continued to fly and the attacks kept coming.  I dug down and held on.  More attacks. More digging from Davo. I latched on. I drifted back and then there was a gap.  I gave it all I could.  I was back on.  I was hurting.  My time would come.  Recover now Davo!

We approached the climb the second time.  If they kept it real I could hang on, if they ramped it up I knew I would be dropped.  The rain increased in intensity and I was getting soaked.

After giving it just a little more than everything I had, I was dropped and I looked back hoping to see a two or three riders with whom I could work to either catch back on, or at least share some suffering for the remainder of the day.  There were supposed to be ten guys behind me.  I saw nothing. 

The Cat 1-2 women had started five minutes behind me and I did not want to get caught. I kept riding and looking back.  Where were the other riders from my group?    The two remaining laps would be hell to ride solo.

I flew down the hill and soon was on the farm roads for the third time. I looked straight down and the water on the road reflected and it was like I was riding on a mirror.  My back was hurting but I was still going pretty fast so I kept drilling.  I felt any icy rivulet of water go down the top of my left foot under my shoe cover. 

I had water spraying off the ends of my handlebars like streamers on the end of children's bike handlebars.  There was a perpetual roostertail coming off my front wheel.  My downtube is shaped to be aerodynamic. It sprays water off of the front wheel onto my shoes as I pedal.

I kept driving.  I still felt strong and according to my bike computer I was still going fast which motivated me. I turned and fought the headwind alone.  I got down low and fought my way to the right hand turn. 

As I was climbing toward the finish line and the parking lot I kept seeing cars with bikes on top leaving. We had four laps and the pro men had six and the Cat 3's has five so nobody SHOULD be leaving until I finish my fourth lap. 

I climbed toward the climb.  It was ironic as I was hurrying to a climb that I knew would hurt.  I downshifted and kept going.  After climbing a good ways you hit the 1k to the finish line (and then another 13+ mile lap) sign and then you just keep climbing.  
It was raining, but lucky for us it was a cold rain !
You can see the 200m sign and the finish line is still hidden by the hill.  When you hit the sign you can see the finish line and it is a false flat during which you do a slow motion climb and you are suffering for all to see. 

On the downhill the rain stung my face and I could hear the words from an old song, "and you bleed just to know you're alive." It felt good to feel the hurt on my face. It meant I wasn't frozen. My legs kept driving. 

I was glad to be racing.  I was even glad it was raining.  I was glad I wasn't giving up.

On my final lap I again looked over my shoulder on a big open corner and saw nothing behind me. I was glad the women would not catch me.  I finally caught one rider, then another who were spent and despite my kind words, each waved me on as they chose to suffer their last lap in solitude. 

It was cold and despite having a vest in my center rear pocket from the start, I saw little point in putting it on as I was soaked to the bone. My knees were happy. My hands and torso were happy.  My feet were wet and getting cold.  If there had been five laps I would have had a problem. 
Behold the power of the Lion of Flanders !
On the final climb I started to cramp and dialed it back just a tad. I was still in zone five, but my eyes weren't rolling back in my head. As I approached the finish I spotted Hottie and raised my left had to reveal the yellow Belgian wrist band with the Lion of Flanders which was a revered gift from El Pirate from CX worlds in February 2013. 

John had taken a top ten finish and I took sixteenth.  In the Men's 1-2 race, out of 47 started 30 did not finish the race.  Lots of folks didn't finish their races, I was glad I finished mine.   It hurt.  I uploaded my file and Strava categorized my ride as an Extreme Sufferfest.  I'll go with that.  Fifty three miles of fun. 

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