Economic Cycles

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“Rist Canyon Road Race” Race Report

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Man that’s a lot of R’s in the title.

The Rist Canyon road race is a 66.8 mile race up in Fort Collins with around 6,000 feet of climbing. It gets its name from the big 10 mile climb up Rist Canyon. Unfortunately for us climbers, the big climb happens really early on in the race, around 10 miles in. My confidence was a bit shaky going into the race I must admit. I had a really awful Salida road race with some terrible stomach issues just a couple weekends back. Then I had extremely sore legs last Sunday for the team’s annual Copper Triangle ride. Getting my recovery and nutrition right has been difficult the last month or so. I have really good days and really bad days with no decipherable way to forecast either. So for this race, I had to fall back on the tried and true, “eat as much junk food as possible the 2 days prior” recovery technique. I basically stuffed my face with as many good and bad carbs as I could. I hoped this would bring me a good legs on race day.

Thankfully, I was right. I had good legs. We pulled up to the line at 9am with a big group of racers in our category. At the time, it looked like 50 racers to me. Later on I found out we had 62 guys in our group. What a great turnout! The only Primal racers however were Neider and I. (We missed you Alex!) The roll out was really strange. The cat 3’s were supposed to take off 5 minutes before us, but when they went off at 9am, we were sent literally 3 seconds after. The race official blew the whistle for the 3’s, then waved us on through as well. We all kind of looked at each other confused. Some guys went as told, others stood their ground wondering what was going on. The race official insisted that we go NOW, so we all went – hot on the heels of the group that was supposed to be well out in front of us. We knew there would be a neutral roll out, but since we were so close to the 3’s, we had to slow it down and remain neutral for the first 5 or 6 miles. We hit the first climb of the day called Bingham Hill around mile 7 and finally it seemed we were allowed to race each other.

Bingham Hill was a short prelude to the monster Rist Canyon climb. It was just enough to put a little sting in the legs. Neider and I had good position in the front of the pack. For awhile there, I was sitting second wheel behind a Velo One guy. We finally made our turn onto the big climb. A guy in an anonymous white jersey took to the front and set a harsh TEMPO pace. We strung out into single file and I sort of dangled in the top 5, both in the line and on the side of it. The pace was tough at first, but manageable. Neider was right up there with me. Eventually, he took up post in 2nd or 3rd position with me right behind. After awhile my breathing became labored. I didn’t have much leg fatigue but each time the pace upped or we hit a steep section, my heart rate jumped and my lungs began to implode. I could feel I was losing it. This was not good. Several miles into the climb I hit a bad patch. I almost popped but fought my way back into the line. I knew I was coming undone but could do nothing about it. I hoped that the pace would ease as we got closer and closer to the top but it didn’t. The guy in the white kept hammering away on the front like Chris Anker Sorensen softening up the field for Andy.

Around 2/3rds of the way up, I imploded. On one steep roller I hesitated between sitting and standing, just long enough to lose a few spots in the line. It put me immediately on the defensive and I was forced to stand and hammer my way back to the group. It was too much. My lungs were bursting and I was spitting all over my handlebars and top tube. I exploded and sat back down to limit my losses. Like an eery replay of Dead Dog, Neider exploded just seconds after I did. I rode up to him and said his name. Although I can’t be sure that what I said sounded anything like his name. It may have just sounded like, “Neehhhhrrrr.” Dribble. Snot. Spit.

I rode TEMPO for a bit to get my breath back. As we came upon the feed zone I felt better. I was with a couple guys from Pro Peloton, a local Fort Collins bike shop. I knew that I should stick with these guys for the super fast descent. I wanted to follow riders who knew the good lines while going near 60 mph. I looked back hoping to see Neider but he was out of sight. We rolled over the top together with one other guy. The descent was fast, but nowhere near the 60+ mph I hit back in 2009. This time around, my speed topped off at a measly 56 mph. WEAK SAUCE. Anyway, we worked really well together. We each took around 1 to 2 minute pulls at the front for the next 25 miles or so. The scenery was absolutely beautiful at this point in the race. We were twisting and turning through the gorgeous Fort Collins canyons. I was in awe.

While working with these guys I noticed something. Every time the road would tilt up, my perceived exertion would go down and theirs would go up. It was clear to me that I was the best climber in our little group. I knew that if I continued to eat and drink well, I should be able to take off at the first big reservoir roller. We picked up another guy right before we hit the reservoir.

We hit the first HUGE 14% reservoir roller at mile 50. I felt great so I took off and never looked back. I knew there were 2 more rollers and the final climb back over Bingham Hill to go. These climbs would give me the advantage I’d need to hold off my chase-mates for the final 15 miles. I got a good sized gap on the first roller and stretched my lead out on the second one. I kept going with my head down. I rarely looked back in those final 15 miles. When I got within 2 miles of the finish I took a good hard look back. I was in the final stretch of road leading into Old Town Fort Collins. I could not see anyone behind me. Still I pressed on and finished strong.

I finished 13th. I ended up putting almost a minute into the next chaser.

For as disappointed as I was with the result and for getting dropped on the climb, I learned something really great about myself. I learned that I could size up my competitors and act on that information successfully. That I could formulate a plan on the road and execute it. I learned that I could hold off a group of chasers for a long time precisely because I knew the terrain would work to my advantage. I have a strong feeling that next year when I’m in the front group, I can attack out of that group with 15 miles to go and never be seen again.

Even though my 20 and 30 minute power isn’t as good as it was back in March (which explains why I’m getting dropped on climbs I have no business getting dropped on), I set new 2 and 3 hour power records. My Garmin says that I averaged 221 watts for 3 hrs, 20 minutes. That is definitely a record for me.

I look forward to this beautiful race next year. Next time around I’ll know the course and have a good idea how I can win it.

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Written by jlongo12

August 22, 2011 at 11:50 am

Posted in cycling

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