I smashed my legs real good this past weekend. I’ve put in a great block of training over the past two weeks and the weather has been perfect for it too. A lot of intensity and a lot of hours, which will either pay off in some good form or a sinus infection. I’ve been drinking kiefer though, which has been proven to boost the immune system, verified by many independent tests paid for by the dairy industry.
I capped off last week with a race yesterday, the Mead Roubaix up north of Boulder. I was facebook chatting a friend on Friday night when he informed me there was a race on Sunday. A road race no less, not a crit! So I did what any rational person would do and signed up for it immediately without thinking about any prior engagements I might have had. A few hours later I remembered that I work on Sundays, so I spent the next day pounding my head against a wall for throwing $45 away on a race that I wasn’t even going to get to do. To punish myself I did a hard day of intervals on Saturday, which Sam had planned for me. Sunday would be a group ride if I could find one or just a long ride with a lot of climbing. Still good trainings, but I was mad at myself for wasting money on the race.
But, long story short, the restaurant let me take the night off so I could race. I love them people! I woke up on Sunday and realized that Saturday’s ride had left me requiring quite a bit of caffeine to get through the race that day, so I made a quadruple pot of coffee. The race was half dirt and half pavement, falling in line perfectly with all the other fake cobblestone wanna-be races this time of year. The race website excitedly proclaimed that there would be “no sand traps this year!” Sand and gravel do not equal cobblestones! Whatever, they’re still cool though and I figured I’d flat no matter what I did so I decided not to invest too much emotional energy in the race since I’d likely flat out right before the finish line.
My rear tire has gotten pretty thin, so I changed it after I had breakfast. I’d pulled a newish tire out of someone’s garbage can a few months ago. It was a Continental grand prix 4000, lightly worn. I put it on my rear wheel and started patching a couple spare tubes to take with me. There would be no wheel support whatsoever at the race. Just a sag wagon, so I planned to come prepared for flats with three brand new multi-patched patched tubes. It was the first time I’ve raced with a saddle bag and a frame pump.
Within five minutes of putting the new tire on, I saw that it had gone flat. Shit. I took the tire off and inspected it, finding a huge gash in the side wall. I assumed there must have also been some invisible wire or piece of glass that had jabbed the tube too, so I threw it away and put my old tire back on. It was getting close to my designated time of departure, so I hastened my work. As I patched my third spare tube, the rear tire suddenly started hissing and let out all the air I’d just put in. So now there was an invisible piece of glass or metal in my old tire?–That for some reason hadn’t flatted the day before, but now decided to while the bike was just sitting there immobile in the garage? Okay then. With the clock ticking, it was time to get desperate. I still had to get my kit on, grab food for the race, chug the rest of my coffee, then ride 25 miles to the race. So I stole the tire and tube off of my roommate’s rear wheel and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t get a third flat in the garage because I was running out of tubes and time.
The wind was in my favor and with a bit of hard riding I got to the race with 20 minutes to spare. There was a small turnout with only 30 something guys in the 1-2 field. But what few guys were there were strong, so I figured it would be somewhat of a hard race, especially with all the dirt and gravel. The course had two gravel sections per lap and five laps total. As we rolled off the start line I finished eating a bar and sat at the back. No reason to move up for a while. That decision proved wrong, as we came upon the first gravel section sooner than I’d anticipated. Mayhem erupted as we hit the extremely loose gravel. Guys swerved off to the side of the road, never to be seen again. The tiny peloton bust apart, with me near the back closing large gaps until I finally got to the front bunch before the road turned back to pavement. The hard packed dirt roads I’d heard about were more akin to riding atop sand dunes.
The group was down to less than 20 riders five miles into the race. Two guys had gotten up the road in the first couple miles and still held an advantage of 30 seconds. We soon hit the second, longer and harder, gravel section. This time only seven of us made it out together and quickly caught the two up the road to make the ‘peloton’ a group of nine. Here’s the run-down on the rest of the race:
Lap 2: Our group of nine remained together despite some attacking and poor cooperation. One Competitive Cyclist, one Optum, three Juwi Solars, one Cal Giant, two Primal Racing, one Tokyo Joe’s, me.
Lap 3: I was at the front and crashed on the second gravel section, taking out the guy behind me, completely my own fault. My front wheel just washed out in one of the many deep sand sections. Someone ran over my arm, which hurt a little. I made it out fine with a sore elbow/arm and some minor road rash. Both me and the guy I’d crashed made it back to the main group eventually. My derailleur hanger was seriously messed up though and I had trouble shifting for the rest of the race.
Lap 4: I attacked on the first gravel section, which helped get our group back down to around nine guys. I’d aided a small group of chasers get into the lead group when I’d crashed. Someone counter attacked right after I did and I hurt really badly for the next five minutes.
Lap 5: I began getting tiring and tried to do less than my fair share of work to bring back two guys that had gotten up the road at the end of lap 4. We caught them on the second gravel section and with five miles to go there were just six or seven of us left. I flatted. I cursed the race and the lack of wheel support. I changed my flat tire and rode in for 10th place.
I’ve never raced on such sketchy, loose gravel roads and I’ve never spent so much time Tokyo drifting. I imagine a large part of the reason that the Tokyo Joe’s guy won was because he’s used to that sort of maneuvering. The race, while touted by some as being too dangerous, in my opinion was fine as long as you didn’t mind risking a crash (it’s gravel after all so it’s a soft landing). Riding in that terrain was pretty technical and there was no way you could sit in if you didn’t have the legs or the balls. In fact I think it really helped my bike handling skillz. What I didn’t think was right was the lack of a wheel car. Seriously? A race that’s half gravel and you don’t have a single support car? Come on that’s just stupid and extremely lazy.
My roommate, Kim, came by to watch the second half of the race and check out the beer garden, which I think was probably a better time than racing. It was a beautiful sunny, hot day and the start/finish was right in the middle of the town park. Perfect conditions to watch a bike race, drink a beer, and eat a hot dog. I almost got a hot dog after the race but my stomach was a bit queazy, and we had plans to stop by the frozen yogurt place on the way home. So instead of riding back and making the day’s total distance 120 miles (probably too long), I got my road rash cleaned up, drove the car home, and ate frozen yogurt. Not a bad day at all despite losing another race due to a flat tire. And as an added bonus, since Kim crashed on her face the other day our house is well stocked with Tegaderm.