Stage 5 was a 91 mile saunter through the gently rolling hills below Mt. Hood. Included in the torturous terrain were four categorized climbs totaling 10,200 feet of ascending. A day for the climber. Or…a day for the Kennett on a rampage!
I took my own advice from my earlier post and perseverance DID pay off today. Not with a super great result, but with a decent one and earned with a lot of aggressive riding and hardcore suffering, the way I usually race and hope to always race in the future. My mind was finally in a good place today, and along for the ride were a pair of fairly good legs as well. In fact, somehow I felt better today than I did any other day this weekend, which is strange (and I’m not talking just comparatively to other riders either, I mean my power was actually better and came easier today than the past three days somehow). I guess it just took me a long time to open up or something. Who knows. The only thing I can think of is that I’ve been able to sleep the past two nights and I’ve also cut way down on meat and junk food since yesterday (Off-the-bike junk food that is. I still eat apple pies during the race, along with my Hammer bars and gels). Evan Hyde and Dustin Ransom will back me up here when I say that the inflammatory effect that meat and most grains have on our bodies might outweigh their benefits by delaying recovery and damaging muscles. I’m going to go back to my low meat, low grain diet focusing on fruit and almond butter (supplemented with iron-rich clams of course) and see how I feel the next couple weeks. That’s what I had been doing for the three weeks before my diet went to shit for the beginning of this race and I didn’t have one bad day in that time period. Onto the race report:
Our team’s super secret plan for today was to get me and at least three other guys (hopefully including Dan who entered the day at 8th GC) off the front in the first hundred meters of the race. I warmed up on the trainer, getting flack from most of my own team as well as others passing by. But there’s nothing worse than forcing cold muscles into a v02 effort, so warming up for 20 minutes was worth it.
We started just below the Cooper Spur ski lifts and the first 15 miles of the race were all downhill. I thought the idea of blowing my entire wad in the first 10 minute of the race sounded appealing, so I was eager to get the hurt on as we lined up at the start. GO!! Spencer got clipped in right before me and took off in a full sprint. I caught him and within 4 seconds of the starting pistol we were off the front, passing the lead motorcycles and yelling at them to get out of the way. In hindsight I don’t think there was an actual starting pistol. Only in my head.
For the next 14 minutes it was full gas. Spencer was taking the sharp corners better than me but I was pulling through too hard and gapping him off, so our cohesion was somewhat lacking on my part. I think at the very most, our lead got up to about 15 seconds, so not much. We were caught as the hill’s steepness lessened and both of us were well into the red, having already spent a good amount of time above 600 watts in the race’s infancy while 95% of the field had just been coasting. I continued to attack of course. After a few minutes of rest.
After a while, Lang got away with a big group so Spencer and I sat on the front to slow the peloton down a bit. I chased down some bridge attempts until I saw that I was off the front again, solo, midway between the break and the field. It didn’t last too long, for the field caught me right as the road took a 180 degree turn and went up a steep climb. I drilled the base of the climb and got up to some riders who were either falling off the break or had been just ahead of me and had been trying to bridge up to them a minute earlier on the descent. That group exploded. I quickly found out that my legs were not feeling so swell from all the attacking and sat up before I completely blew up. I was pretty worried that we were on the first big climb, in which case I’d be fucked to high heaven since it was supposed to be like 10 or 15 miles long (we’d been climbing now for a total of 3 minutes). The field caught me and I dropped like a stone, going straight back to the tail end, cutting through the peloton like a hot knife through cream cheese or something of that sort.
My worries were over before I knew it and we topped out on the short climb and began a very gradual descent. I breathed a sigh of relief. I picked my way up the sides in the gravel, riding pretty ballsy and putting some good faith in the toughness of my Vittoria tires as I veered off the road through boulders and tree branches. I arrived at the base of the next short climb (like five minutes long) near the front just in time. It was the first of the single lane Forest Service roads and the field blew up. I made the front group over the top, though the field came together pretty much entirely afterwards.
The descent after the climb was filled with potholes, which I hit two of head on. Tires still held strong. The descent ended and the road went up again, though not very steep and into a headwind so the group sat up, not wanting to take any chances of blowing themselves up before the climb got steep again. I was not worried about this and attacked. I had weaved my way from the rear to the front and attacked into the headwind. Two guys had already gotten up the road a few minute prior, but I didn’t even try to bridge up there since they were booking it. I pretty much sat up and started riding hard tempo to wait for some guys to come up to me. I sat just below my threshold just in case the road got steep for the next 10 miles or 20 miles.
Part of me wishes I’d pre-ridden or driven the course, or at least looked at the elevation profile. The other part of me is glad that I didn’t. It would have been nice to know how much longer a certain climb was, but at the same time it might not have been, depending on how much pain I was in and my mental state. Instead, I entered each climb without a clue.
Anyways, a RideClean guy bridged up to me as the climb eventually got steeper. I sat on and didn’t pull, smartly so because he was tiny and didn’t seem to mind the increasing gradient.
All a sudden nine or more guys caught us and we began drilling it even harder. Eventually it was down to eleven of us when the single lane road evened out a bit. We already had a 1:20 gap on the field at that point. I pulled through on the undulating climb/descent a few times, but didn’t really put too much effort into it since I was worried about getting dropped if things went ballistic, which they did.
As the road took a final pitch change and got up to 15% at the base of the final riser with 5K to the top, the break split up. I was sitting sixth wheel when I realized a small gap was opening up with three guys riding away from me and the two guys in front of me. There was already a substantial gap back to the remaining guys behind us. I was still riding at threshold and a surge above that might have blown me up, or so I thought at the time. The guy in front of me jumped around the guy who had opened up the gap and made it onto the back of the three up the road. Me and the other guy slowly lost ground on them as we smashed our legs up the steep, broken pavement surrounded by 10-foot high snowbanks. By the top the most of or all of the other guys who had been dropped on the earlier slopes of the climb caught back onto us. I regret not just going for it all out and making the group with the faster climbers, because my group ended up losing two minutes to them over the next 20 miles. I just had no idea what I was going to be capable of or what the rest of the climb was like.
We descended for a long time, almost had a head on collision with an SUV around a blind corner since the road closures today were absolutely terrible, then entered the loop again for one more lap of that climb. By the top of that climb our gap to the field had gone from almost four minutes down to three. Another blistering descent and the third KOM climb started. I could see the field up on top of the clear cut hill to our left after we came down the mountain, crossed a river, and started going back up a steep climb on the other side of the valley. I punched it hard, hoping to get as much climbing done at my own pace as possible before the field caught me.
It didn’t last long and I was eaten up in no time. I dug super deep here and made it into the race leader’s group, just off the back of a few of the best climbers as they attacked up the climb. I held on to that group for a while but eventually dropped off from what was left of this lead group and became part of an eight man group that contained Olhieser (the race leader) and a number of other pretty strong dudes including my old teammate Sean Passage, who’s riding superb this year. From there on it was just a lot more climbing, a HUGE amount of crazy descending, and then a lot more climbing. Long story short(er), I ended up placing 22nd and moved up to 43rd.
A lot of “what ifs?” went through my head as I laid on the parking lot pavement at the finish sipping on a Coke. What ifs as in, “what if my legs hadn’t felt like shit the first three days of the race.” Strange how your body works. If I had had the legs I had today I certainly would have had a much better race and likely placed top 20 on GC (in my opinion). As it was, even today’s ride got me 43rd, which is pretty crazy since I lost like 13 minutes on the very first road stage. Whatever. I was happy to finally have a good ride. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever feel good again this year (probably a bit of an unnecessary freak out since I’d only felt bad for half a week).
After Mexican food with the team, Spencer and I went home and made and ate a cheesecake. Lang, who finished 4th today and 11th overall!, stopped by to see if it was ready before he took off to Seattle. We had told him about it earlier that afternoon, but were having second thoughts about sharing once the thing was made and ready for eatin. We didn’t say no, but we didn’t say yes either. In fact, we had just been eating it when we saw Lang run over to our house from across the street in the pouring rain from the current thunderstorm, and we quickly hid it and wiped our mouths clean. We’re good teammates on the bike at least.
Spencer enjoying some of the finest cherry cheesecake known to humankind. Only 350 calories per serving! (of three servings each). Lang, you don’t get any.
These are the only two pictures I took this weekend. I choose wisely.
I’ll do one more post tomorrow or the next day with all the pictures of our team that I can scavenge from facebook and other websites.
In other, more serious news, we had two teammates go down hard in crashes this week. Alan Adams broke his neck during the first road race and also suffered a serious concussion. He doesn’t remember how he crashed. He’s up and walking around now and seems to be in good spirits, though he’ll have to wear a neck brace for the next 6-8 weeks. A very close call (not that breaking your neck is a good alternative to anything) and we’re super happy it didn’t end up worse.
Chris Parish was taken out by a very careless motorcycle (not race affiliated) during the time trial and fractured his skull. I drove the van with Colin to the scene of the accident upon hearing Dan’s frantic description of seeing Chris lying face-down on the road after passing him in his TT. Chris didn’t need us though, since the paramedics and police were already there. But after hearing what happened, it took all my willpower to not crush the motorcyclist’s face with my foot. The next 24 hours were very scary for us as we didn’t really know what Chris’ condition was. All we knew was that he had a fractured skull and was being transported to a hospital in Portland. Turns out that he’s taking a turn for the better and everything is looking OK in terms of his immediate condition. Chris, if you’re reading this we all killed it extra hard for you today after Joe’s corny speech to us before the race about “WWCPD?” and how we should dig just a bit extra deep today in your name. Cliche as it sounds, it worked. Get well soon!
PS I can’t remember how to download the SRM files onto Training peaks with my Apple… soooo when you’re up to it you should give me a call and tell me how to do it.