Quick summary: 53rd, “the ramp”, “the roller coaster”, moved up to 60th in the GC
The stats: Power (348 avg / 800 max), Heart Rate (158 avg / 179 max), Speed (27.8 avg / 41 max), Cadence (85 avg / 123 max), Climbing (3196′), 72 miles (2:35:25)
The details: I was a little nervous about this race because I got dropped from it pretty early in 1998 when I was racing with the pros as a college student. We raced the same exact course as we did back then, but this year I was able to hang with the pack which dwindled each lap until there was only about 50. Mike Olheiser was able to lead Stefan Rothe out for several of the intermediate sprints moving him solidly into second place in the points competition. Mike got boxed in at the finish and wasn’t able to move up but still finished with the front group. With a few crashes and people getting spit off the back, Mike moved up a couple spots to 10th in the GC.
The race wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be, probably thanks in part to the feed zone, but it was still amazingly fast — 27.8 mph for just over 2 and a half hours. I staged at the designated area, first in line thinking that I was going to get a great start. Unfortunately, half the field knew that there would be no punishment for going to the real start line and jumping in as soon as the course was clear. So I started not in the first row, nor the second, but rather the 6th row about halfway back in the peleton. By the circuit’s long descent, I had moved close enough to the front to attack off the front so that I could cruise up the climb on the first lap. I had a decent gap, but the group was moving faster and I wound up towards the back of the group by the top of the climb. The next lap was tough until a break got up the road without Colavita Sutter Home. They moved to the front and set tempo for the next 50 miles or so gradually bringing the break back.
After the first few insane laps, I got into a good rhythm on the climb always making sure to carry some momentum into the bottom of it no matter where I found myself in the pack. I also made sure to be in my little chain ring before the bottom of the climb so that there was no chance of dropping my chain — which lots of people did and quickly found themselves off the back of the group. I was nervous about the top of the climb which had a 90 degree corner followed by a flat section, then a downhill onto the “roller coaster” (which I’ll describe in a minute). I thought that the pace would be insane across this section, but the feedzone was positioned there and I think that caused enough confusion to keep people from hitting the afterburners until the start of the downhill. But the afterburners were definitely hit on every lap, starting with “the ramp” that marked the start of the “roller coaster”.
What am I talking about? The “ramp” was a one foot paved angled drop from one section of pavement to another section of pavement that stretched across the entire road. This marked the start of “the roller coaster” — an extremely fast slight downhill that had a 90 degree righthand turn towards the beginning, then a very bumpy road with a gradual lefthand bend. We would hit between 35-37mph on almost EVERY lap. It was hang on to the wheel in front of you for dear life, single-file, until you hit a gradual climb marking the end of “the roller coaster”. At the top of the gradual climb, we made another 90 degree turn and the start of the circuit’s primary downhill which today was into a slight headwind. At the bottom of this downhill, a 90 degree turn put you immediately onto the steep climb to the finish.
With two laps to go, I was caught in a group of about 25 gapped off the back. I helped a smaller group of about 10 emerge from this and bridge back up to the pack which had dwindled to maybe 75. Then the same thing happened on the last lap accept this time, I wasn’t able to bridge back on. I finished at the front of the first main group behind the pack 1 minute back from the winner in 53rd.
Here is my HR and power data:
- My attack off the front on the first lap
- A little bit easier while Colavita was riding “tempo” at the front
- Getting harder here
- Gapped off, chase back on with 2 laps to go
- Last lap!