Maroon Bells-Ashcroft-King Hill – Report

Aug 1 2005

Aspen and I run on different wavelengths. They see a 25mph speed limit sign and say “Why not go 20?” I see a 25mph speed limit sign and say “Get the hell out of my way you tie-dyed, Prada-wearing, hemp-smoking SUV Democrat!” But it’s cool, man. I mean, it takes all kinds to make a world, and I am very “live and let live” about the gaping philosophical crevasse between myself and the entire population of Aspen. At least, I was until last Wednesday night.

The course began with a 7 mile, cornerless slog at 4-5% grade to the Maroon Bells trailhead, then turn around and come back down. Then repeat process up longer, less steep climb to something (I couldn’t tell what) called “Ashcroft,” then go back halfway and finish. Utterly uninspired. “But it’s such a nice ride,” the like to say. Yes as a ride it’s very scenic; as a race it’s monotonous, dumbfoundingly simple and requires only an above-average V02 max to do well. No tactics, cornering or power involved here: you could grab any Kenyan marathoner, throw him on a bike and have him win this race, easy. I don’t know if race courses can be pedantic, but if they can be, this one was.

So it starts with the climb up Bells, which is basically a V02 max test. Despite the straightness and cornerlessness of it, numerous individuals make attempts to crash the entire field. None are successful. I made it a half mile further than last time, probably because I am getting more used to the altitude again. Also, I turned bigger gears. I fell off the lead pack and twiddled the lactic acid away until a gruppetto came along and swept me up. We hit the turn around and I proceeded to bomb back down. After the first half mile, which is a staggering 7% steep, and has some bends that approach 15 degrees(!), I had dropped the group. Miles later, after god knows how long plunking over 53-12, I looked back to see the gruppetto chasing back on. Awesome.

So things flatten out, and I’m like ‘hey, let’s paceline” thinking (since the instructions, as per usual, were worthless to anyone who hadn’t live in Aspen for the past 14 years or so) that it would be flatter, and that by working together, we might be able to catch up again. Like 2 or 3 people gun through, and things just fall apart. So I’m “screw you guys” and throw a pretty solid attack. I’m cranking pretty good, waiting for a little downhill to recover, or a corner to get out of sight. Oh no. No, no, no, by “rolling,” the guy explaining directions meant “alternating between 4% and 5% grade.” Oh, and no corners. Ever. Fµ¢&ing stupid. Like racing in a spin class.

So the chase group manages to pull its head from it’s neither regions long enough to chase back onto me. “Hey, let’s work together,” they say. “Yeah, sure” I say, and then proceed to sit on the back for the next 10 minutes. Then something happened: I stopped being able to keep up. It was definately strange to get dropped on such a whimpy climb, but I could only ride for 5-6 minutes, and then my legs would just die, and I’d have to ease of for a minute or two. Weird, really, considering the relatively easy pace and terrain.

So I just keep drifting back, through each group of riders, including one with a *woman*, and I’m just wondering what the hell happening here. At Boulder, only the top 5-10 pro women could mix it up with me. Maybe my blood is really thin today or someting. Of course, I really didn’t have any motivation, having lost the group on the first “climb,” being bored out of my mind, and just wanting to get off the bike in general. Finally, we reach the second turnaround (two 180s in a road race! I get angry still just thinking about it) and I start spinning the big ring with various cogs between 12-15 back down the other side.

As could be easily predicted, a bunch of guys caught onto me on the descent, and with about 2k to go, one of them jumped, and somehow (on an easy descent) managed to drop everyone but me. The guy was wearing a CTS jersey, so I was totally stoked to take out all the anger and rage of 2 hours of riding one-handed (if you get my drift…) on this guy. I’m locked to his wheel, and right as the road turns slightly uphill before the finish, I commence to whip it up in 53-12. I get in two big strokes, and then I hear the snicker of nickel plated-steel against anodized aluminum.

Yes, my World Championship Series (WCS) Ritchey Crankset, that flexes like a palm bough in a hurricane, had failed to hold to my chain once again. I’ve spent longer trying to adjust the front derailleur so that the chain won’t pop off that piece of crap than I spent studying for most of my classes in college, and still, as soon as one applies serious torque to it on the drive side in the smallest rear cog, off it comes. Right in the midpoint of the pedal stroke, when all your power and weight is over the pedal. Basically, impossible to recover from.

Somewhere before the line at Red Hill, there’s good portions of my forearm, shin, shorts and hip smeared across the road. I am not happy about this, as I have two races this upcoming weekend, and saran wrap in general isn’t such a hot fashion statement. It was extremely ironic that I managed to wreck harder than I ever have (30+ mph) and for the first time in a road race on a course that was basically uncrashable. Way to finish off the worst two hours I’ve ever spent on a bike, all courtesy (well, not really, since I paid to compete) of my friends at Aspen Cycling. If you have any sensitivity to the nuances of road racing, you will skip this course should (god forbid) it appear in their schedule ever again. Save the ten bucks for a shot of cheapest Tequila on offer at The Belly Up. Moving through the crowd, cozying up to the bar and downing that volatile swill involves far more cycling skill than this race ever will.

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