Yesterday was hard. It started out at Summit High School, the same place that hosts the High Desert Omnium, except unlike the HDO, the parking lot was packed. I rode over there from the house I’m staying at and sat in the shade next to the porta potties for about 20 minutes, waiting for the start of the race. Growing bored of this, I circled around the parking lot, looking for familiar faces. I came across the Veloforma tent and said hello to Russell, got heckled by his team for having my number on crooked, then went over to the start line and listened to the race officials complain about something over a loudspeaker. Then we started.
The pace was high of course, and it stayed that way for the next 80 miles. I sat in, not even trying or thinking of going for the break today because of the final climb. No one off the front would survive that climb.
Sitting in wasn’t hard at all, until we got to the first feed zone. I, like a few other people (maybe 10 or 15) rely on the feed zones because we don’t have cars to go back and get water from. And I think a lot of the non professional teams rely more on the feed zones as well since a lot of those guys are just trying to survive and fetching water from the caravan is extra work they’d rather not do. I’m just guessing here, because I don’t see any other reason why they’d even bother trying to get water in the feed zones since that’s the most likely place to got dropped or crash. Crashing there is likely because of all the swerving that people do to avoid slowing riders and dropped bottles on the road, and getting dropped there is likely because the teams at the front of the pack hammer it through the feed zones to drop all of us barnacles along for the free ride.
The back third of the pack got split off from the front during this first feed zone, and I was in the back third, happy to have gotten a successful bottle hand off. My smile was quickly turned upside down as I realized that the entire peloton was single file in a stiff cross wind section, and gaps were forming. Everyone was soon going full speed, trying to catch back up to the pack. After about 10 minutes, the peleton had 15 or 20 seconds on us and I was starting to worry that we’d been dropped for good. Of the 60 of us that were in this group, only 20 were willing to do any work, so our progress was poor. We’d get close, then the slackers in the back would try to sprint up to the pack on their own. The paceline would be ruined and of course those guys wouldn’t make it and come back into our group.
I don’t know how long it took, maybe 15 miles, but we eventually caught up. After reaching the KOM hill and going over, everyone started peeing. I had needed to pee since mile 2, and now was my chance. I pulled over to the side of the road, tried and failed. I did this about three or four more times, and I could NOT PEE!! I was mad, I had needed to for so long, and now I didn’t even feel the urge any more. I thought about water falls and rapids, melting icicles dripping into pools of water, slip n’ slides and the ocean, but nothing worked. I thought about all the difficult and yet successful pees I had in my life. There was the times I had peed into lakes standing up in rowing sculls, the time I had peed for about a minute and a half without stopping, the time I wrote my full name in the snow, and even the successful pee I had off the bike during stage five of the Mount hood classic. But eventually I had to accept that today was not my day for peeing.
Some more stuff happened, then finally we got to the base of the climb. The pace on the false flat section was brutal. I couldn’t figure out why it was so hard, until after the race someone told me that it was false flat with a side wind.
“A side wind? Which direction was it coming from?” I asked.
I was wondering why there was so much room to pass on the left, and that’s where I spent the entire time during that section. In fact, I find that I like to be on the left side of the road throughout the whole race. I’m not sure why, because the right side is safer because you don’t have parked semi trucks on the shoulder to avoid, and the middle of the pack is easier to ride in, although you end up at the back if you stay there too long. Maybe my past life was spent in England town.
Before we got to the climb, I huge rock shot up way into the sky. I had plenty of time to watch it as it came back down to earth. I figured it was about the size of a lemmon, and I kept my eye on it to make sure it didn’t hit me on the head. I just got a new helmet and I didn’t want any dings. I think someone else must have been watching it too and wasn’t paying attention to the wheel in front of them, because I heard a loud bang and a bunch of people went down. I had plenty of time to go around the crash and get back on track before we got to the hill, but it just added to the suspense. In hindsight I’m a fan of crashes. I like them because they’re cool. duh. They’re loud and violent. It’s like watching that TV show ‘Holy %$&!.’ And everyone can agree that that show is cool. But during a race, I don’t like to think about the missing skin and broken bones of my fellow racers, unless of course they tried to drop me in the feed zone.
Once we hit the bottom of the climb, the field shattered a second time, except this time there was even more pain. Guys in front of me who I expected to be faster than me, went backwards. Some of them had probably spent a lot of time on the front of the pack, others probably didn’t care about placing and just sat up and made sure they made the time cut, but I’m guessing the majority just blew up. Or as Gilad would say, “They’re legs blowed up” (of course with a lot of exaggerated hand gestures and evil laughing).
I stayed on the wheel of a guy in an orange kit. We traded pulls a few times, but I mainly just sat behind him. A group of four caught up to us after a long time, then the grade went up again and I was dropped from the pow wow. But they died too pretty quickly and I got back on. I saw the 5K sign up ahead, hoping that it was the 3K sign, but deep down knowing that it wasn’t. I told myself, “Kennett, that is definitely the 5K sign so don’t even think about getting your hopes up!” It was the 5K sign of course, and I thought about how short that was. Only five laps around the crit course. That should only take…15 minutes? 20 minutes? An hour and a half? Who knew? Most likely no one would have. That kind of math cannot be done under those circumstances. It’s simply not possible.
It was hot, painful, and never seemed to end. It was definitely one of those days when you ask yourself why you do this for ‘fun’. I can always think of a bunch of things that would be more fun than cycling, but the strange thing is I’d almost always rather be riding or racing than doing any of them.
The 3K sign showed up after a while. And then the 1K sign decided to finally come around too. By this time, our group had joined up with another 10 or 15 guys, and it was not OK to go extra hard in the last kilometer. I wanted to, and so did some of the other guys. But people were complaining about the grupeto rule, so of course no one sprinted, except for five guys in the last 30 meters.
We finished 5:13 back from the leader, me in 69th place. It was a hot, long day and my legs were dead. The last thing I wanted to do was wait around in the hot parking lot, sitting on a pile of dirt waiting for the women to finish so I could get a ride back to Bend. But that’s what I did, although I ended up getting a ride back with the Bob’s team.
Today was the time trial. I was 64th in GC going into it, but I’m very sure that I plummeted down the list after today’s performance. Jen let me borrow her zip wheels, but even those didn’t stop me from dishing out the worst time trial of the year. I got passed by three people, and my average power was so low I’m not even going to say what it was. I will say that I have averaged higher wattage for HOURS plenty of times before. Every time I do a poor TT (which is every TT this year), it makes me furious and I vow to get so good at them next year that my cranks will crack. And I will. But for now, I’m just hoping to make the time cut of 120% of the winner’s time. With any luck, Tom Zirbel showed up late for his start.
*edit* I did not get cut.