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Aspen Cycling Club – Emma-Roubaix – Report

15 Aug

I realize that in past weeks I have been, perhaps, a little critical of Aspen Cycling Club races. I apologize, not for my criticisms, but for the one-sidedness of my analysis. So before I begin this report, here are a few good things about Aspen Cycling Club racing:

  • Tactical Uncertainty – You never know which of the 20 or so guys in each race with Ajax or The Hub jerseys on in an Aspen Cycling Club race will be working together.
  • Beautiful Scenery – Granted, it’s hard to pick a spot in the Roaring Fork Valley where the scenery will be bad, but in every Aspen Cycling Club race, no matter how bored or far off the back you are, there’s pretty stuff to look at.
  • Wide Range of Talent – Because fields are self-selected, most Aspen Cycling Club races unfold like a Spring Classic, with the big names marking each other, lesser-known teammates doing most of the work, and attacks being frequent and tactical. None of this USCF Cat 4 pack-welding-until-group-sprint-or-some-pro-level-athlete-
    from-another-sport-rides-away crap.

  • “Safe” Courses – Personally, I prefer technically challenging courses, but it is nice to know that in most Aspen Cycling Club events, there’s little to no chance of crashing out due to bike-handling ineptitude.

Ok, enough boot-licking. I was psyched for this race as I am for any race that ends with “Roubaix,” (‘cept maybe like “Alpe d’Huez-Roubaix;” that would put me off a bit) simply because I love racing my road bike on crappy surfaces. I was extra psyched because it rained all night and most of the day leading up to the race. As I registered, however, I came to realize that this wasn’t all good, because many people (perhaps Aspen Cycling Club people especially so?) do not like riding in the rain. The turnout was small. Weak sauce, indeed.

I warm up adequately but still not well, and arrive at the start line mere seconds before the gun. I get a rolling start because, for some reason, they count down Aspen Cycling Club starts from 5. Most people leave on 2. There were 11 guys in my field, which meant the start would be even slower than usual. I decided immediately that I was having none of it, and began to ride a modest tempo at the front of the field. Soon, I had a 50 meter gap, and at the first turn, out of sight of the “field” (if you can call it that) I sprung away, despite not knowing where the course went, or what it was like.

The first mile or two was, contrary to what the title might suggest, incredibly well-paved and rather hilly. More “Emmastel Gold” than “Emma Roubaix.” But after a bit, the road, as promised, turned to dirt. Sadly, the Rocky Mountains (unlike the Appalachians with which I am so familiar) have never undergone any serious glaciation, and most “loose” rock is the result of water erosion, and found almost entirely along rivers and streambeds. This road, well up in the hills, was no exception, being red, and in some places, slick from the rain, but utterly free of anything resembling pavé. Very misleading, Aspen Cycling Club.

What made matters worse is that this dirt road was not the flat, narrow fare of northern France, but wide and most definitely uphill. Divine mercy provided many curves, and a wide variety of pitches, but overall, it went UP. No idea how many feet, but for long enough that I was getting angry about it. I battled hard on my opening solo, but inevitably, I was caught. Fortunately, it was only a small group (like there was potential for it to be otherwise), comprised entirely (as is so often the case in Aspen Cycling Club races) of Ajax riders.

It was a weird combination of Postal at the 2002 TdF and Domo-Farm Frites at the 2001 Paris-Roubaix. I was Hincapie in the Domo Sandwich, but instead of sending Knaven up the the road, Heras was leading Lance to the top of this dirt-paved La Mongie. Lance and Heras gapped me by a bit, and rather an than flame out in a glorious blast of lactic acid keeping pace while towing their teammate back to them, I kept them in sight while staying at/below threshold. As we near the top, the the Ajax guy behind me says (between gasps) there are guys coming up and we should wait to have a stronger chance of chasing back on. What? Is this guy seriously trying to help me chase his teammates down? Or is it a ruse to slow my tempo, widen the gap and ease his ascent? Oh, the tactical rigors of Aspen Cycling Club racing!

The gap at the top of the first climb. That’s me in the red lid, second group.

I looked back repeatedly and saw no one near enough for me to care about, and so kept the heat on until we crested the hill. If the group chasing is serious, they should have no trouble snapping us up on the descent. And, halfway down, they do. A big chap in the French colors on a Motobecane, a compact ball of muscle in a The Hub (which sells Treks) jersey on an Orbea (which Ute City Cycles sells, BTW), and some dude on a Peugeot. As the descent steepens, some numbnuts on a motorcycle passes us utterly unnecessarily, making things a bit tight in a turn at the bottom. Peugeot man skids his rear wheel a lot, which tells me he needs to use his front brake more. Suddenly, there’s a brief uphill followed by a hard 180. I set up for the turn, and initiate a brief but unsettling front wheel-slide, as I realize that it’s an unswept 180. I retract my previous statement about “safe” Aspen Cycling Club courses.

Now the real fun begins. The two leaders are well ahead, but still in sight on a flat, relatively straight headwind section of the course. I’m in a 5-man chase pack, with three dudes who are psyched to have caught up this far, and a teammate of the two leaders. So I just sit at the back. The other three guys will pull out of excitement (for a bit, anyway), and if Ajax man does not want to chase, I can rest up for the 3rd place sprint. But, instead Ajax man organizes, or tries to organize, a pace line (see Aspen Cycling Club thing-I-like-#1 above). As expected, this fails after a few rotations (I pulled and rotated effectively, but never rode hard), but gives me plenty of time to see how everyone was doing. Peugeot-man is breathing mighty hard and standing up a lot. Motobecane doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything, so I’ve got my eye on him.

After the failure of the paceline, Ajax man makes a big old attack. I am at the back of the group, and, despite feeling real good, am out of position to chase. Besides, I want to see what everyone else will do. Orbea dude reacts late, and Peugeot man is right on his wheel, and Motobecane man does… nothing. Just stares at the road in front of him. So I zip past and hop on Peugeot-man’s wheel. There’s some sort of rotation, but I’m not really sure why, as the Ajax fellow lately of group has, at most, 15 seconds on us. Puegeot dude is breathing-super-heavy now, and I, still wanting to size up whether or not I want to work with these chumps, throw some labored breathing and weak pulling in as well. I also make a note to insert myself directly behind Orbea-man.

Sure enough, the gent on the Orbea wants none of our help (or rather, thinks we will be no help), and so he attacks (from the front of the line…) in the small ring. I stop gasping, lock onto his wheel and ride for a few seconds, until he looks back and sees that I’m there. Then I push it into the big ring and blast by him. It’s called tactics, bro, and you just got a free lesson. I wanted to throw back one of those Lance-to-Ullrich looks, but y’know, moving from 5th to 4th in an Aspen Cycling Club race is simply not that big a deal. I keep crunching in the big ring against the headwind and hill (both largely insignificant at this point) and catch Ajax dude, who criticizes himself for attacking too early. I agree and we work together very well, up to the (*arg*) turnaround.

On the descent, he hollers to me that the two guys ahead “know how to descend.” This would be useful information on an actual descent, but, in the best Aspen Cycling Club tradition, this is a long, unchallenging 52-12/13 spin, that any grandma in a wheelchair can go fast on. We go past the 180 again, but not around it, and begin another long, grinding ascent. But unlike two weeks ago, my legs feel dandy. Not good, but that sort of numb that makes it so you can push pretty much any gear at 70 rpms. Suddenly, I’m doing lots of pulling and feeling great about it, while Ajax man is suffering. Eventually, I come through for a pull, look back a second later and he’s gone. Then I really start to pile the coal on, and am not just within sight, but also about 20 seconds of the two leaders.

The chasers wouldn’t be there for long.

Now, had this not been an Aspen Cycling Club race, I would have really gone for it here, but I couldn’t shake this suspicion that things were going to start going uphill for a long time again. I had gleaned at the start that the race ended near something called “Deaf Camp,” and I didn’t see no deaf camps around here. Without K markers, or any sort of projected time, I had no way to judge how far out I was, and uncertain of how vanquished the riders behind were, I kept the tempo up, but didn’t go cross-eyed.

My suspicions were validated repeatedly over the next 20 minutes. I passed “deaf children ahead” and then I passed “Aspen Deaf Camp” and then I passed a bunch more mile markers. Between these things were hills, rolling, interspersed with the occasional little descent, but all in all (as was especially evident on the return to the start, it was, like pretty much every Aspen Cycling Club road race, up, up, up. I even passed the dude on the moto again a couple of times, and he, when I asked “how much further” gave me “two riders ahead” and later “45 seconds” as responses.

I had just finished a particularly tough section of road when I came around a corner to find ANOTHER especially tough climb. To make matters worse, just as this happened, I took a peek over my shoulder and caught sight of >1 chaser, still about 30 seconds back, but way closer than I wanted, with my legs feeling pretty beat after all that tempo and anticipating the finish line. My shoulders hurt, I had a hard side-stitch (from not drinking more than 8 ounces of water over the past hour) even my back above my kidneys was starting to hurt. I was upset about the prospect of not being on the podium after getting free so decisively, and may have even audibly dropped an f-bomb.

But then I was all like “Cosmo, pull yourself together and be pro about this.” So I sacked up and stood the whole pitch ahead of me, and upon reaching the summit, saw an “Aspen Cycling Club Finish Line 100 Meters” sign. Sweeeeeeeeet. I soft-pedaled home, leaving myself a nice fat gap of 6 seconds on Orbea man and Ajax dude. Embarassing part: I had lost 45 seconds to the leaders in the final 10 minutes of the race. Very Weak. But, 3rd is 3rd, and even if there were only a handful of racers, I still raced well. As the “pack” (7th-10th – the biggest group to finish at once) rolled in, Charlie Tarver *did not* hold his line in the sprint, and would have Bettini’d another racer right into the boards had there been boards (there was a yellow line and no on-coming traffic) and the gentleman in question, having been cut-off, simply slowed down, and Charlie retained his 7th place.

Salida Criterium – Report

3 Aug

So I got out of bed on Sunday with a serious pain in my neck and left shoulder. Judging by the rocks I was picking out of my helmet as I packed up for the ride out, my head did do a fair bit of landing on Saturday. Good thing the course marshals didn’t see it.

After you drive out over Independence Pass and come out past Twin Lakes on the other side, there’s really no trees above 4 feet tall until you reach California. Seriously, folks, it’s barren out there. And hot and dry and sunny. As far as I can tell, you’re never hydrated out there. There’s only two states: dehydrated and near-death. On Saturday, I was near death. Even after drinking a gallon and a half of water last night, I’m still dehydrated. Racing in the desert is not fun.

I walk over to registration and grab my numbers. I take a gander at the results sheet from yesterday and – ouch – third page. I haven’t been that far down since US XC Ski Nationals in 2004. But then again, this is an ACA race (it’s like the USCF, but for some reason, people in CO want to be different…) so I take a closer look. For some reason, it’s indexed by bib number. I was really 26th, which put me just off the first page. Of 65 starters, only 36 finished in my field. Like I said, it was hot.

Seeing as they were an hour behind schedule yesterday, I stop in at the start line to ask the officials if everything is going as planned. Some fancy-sunglasses official sees my bandages and is like “whoa, I heard somebody crashed yesterday.” Yeah, uh, these are from Wednesday, though I did crash yesterday, thanks for noticing, are we running behind? “No, were on-time. It’s awesome that you’re sticking with it and racing today. Don’t worry, the course is long enough that we won’t have to pull lapped riders.”

Ok, jackass. I don’t generally toss bottles (it saves like 2 ounces and generally costs 6 dollars) but if I do today, one’s going right into this guy’s scrotum. The only time I ever got pulled from a crit was when I ripped the living daylights out of myself at Tufts, bruised a rib and went into shock at Jay’s Deli 20 minutes later. I am now fully motivated. Still, as I went back to my car and put on my jersey, there were doubts – I had just crashed in two consecutive races. Perhaps I am not as good a bike handler as I’d like to think? No, no, Tom Boonen crashed like 5 times in 3 days at this year’s Tour, and he wins group sprints and Paris-Roubaix all the time. I’ll be fine. As I come back through the start, a different official asked me if I really wanted to do this. I told him I’d crashed in my past two races and my luck was bound to change.

Warming up hurt. I was super stiff and sore, old and crusty and generally in a bad mood (just like Greg Lemond). It took about 10-15 minutes of really cranking it around the course to get everything loosened up. Then they called the Cat 4 men to the line. It was my second most perfect warm-up ever, after the TT at Boulder. Unfortunately, I got the line in the second row of riders, and forgot to downshift, and when they started, failed to clip in. It was my worst crit start ever, and I pulled a muscle in my armit yanking on the bars as I tried to get my bike going. After the first corner, I was like “whoa, there’s way more riders than I thought there were in this field,” and if you think that, you might as well not even bother peeking out behind out, because you are in dead last. Still, I got it spinning and wormed my way to the front after about a lap.

Course was a rough figure 8, with a downhill finish right before the center and a “backside” sprint line for some of the primes that was, I s&!+ you not, 20 meters past the third corner. All the turns were 90’s, but 2, 6 and 8 had lips, potholes or other obstructions right where you didn’t want them. The uphill from corners 4-7 was slight and even, but enough to keep you (well, me) puffing. Early on, I felt good, but I always feel good early, and after getting beat on yesterday, was in no rush to bury myself early. Plus, the first primes were pathetic: 10 dollars off a large pizza a Doughy’s? Pass. 10 LiveStrong bracelets? Come on, half the dudes in the race have them. They put out some cash primes on the backside line, but I’ve had enough road rash for one week, thanks.

Physically, I was fighting a losing battle, slipping deeper and deeper into the pain jar with each successive lap. I pedaled too-big gears early on, which took a whole lot of sting out of my legs, and I don’t generally drink in crits (I lack dexterity and am usually breathing too hard to drink) which is a M I S T A K E when racing in the desert, even for only 45 minutes. But my general lack of talent has made me, y’know, tough, so bring on the pain jar.

With about 10 laps to go (hard to tell, since they changed the lap counter from 25 to 4 at 4 laps to go) a 50 dollar cash prime went up, and some dude took a flyer. The field chased back to within in a few seconds, and then everyone sat up; it was a pattern repeated throughout the day – surge and stop, surge and stop. I don’t think I’ve even been in a race with so little teamwork in it. Despite the pain, I wanted it to be faster. The dude ended up taking the prime, and the field let him go out again, until they put the 4 laps to go sign up. I was upset about the 4 laps to go thing purely because I was way back.

I tried my darnedest to channel McEwen, but it was hard working worming up. Some crackhead on a Specialized kept clipping pedals and tossing elbows and generally making a spectacle of himself. He seemed to want to be right in front of me always. I noticed that most of the people had way pimper bikes than me, too, because I’d catch a wheel and see a fancy Look seatstay junction and think I’d seen it before, but no, it would be a 585 Special Edition instead of a 585. I love my 200 dollar Airborne frame and beat-to-hell Ultegra 9 and Ksyrium Elites, but dang, I’m starting to look destitute out there. Kids will start throwing me pennies after the race if I don’t upgrade soon.

Anyway, I got it back where it needed to be by the bell lap. I was 4th or 5th going around turn 8, but the kid was still up the road, so I should have been up higher, anticipating the last little bit of surge from the field. I got behind a bad wheel, but the sprint was one of those stupid sitting-down ones and I was pretty dead anyway. I caught a few guys, but was out in the wind for a long way to take 9th. Considering the beatdown I’d taken over the past few days, I’m fine with that.

I took me a full lap and a half of coasting and gasping after the finish to get to the point where I could breath comfortably again. The ripping side-stitch on my left may have been indicative of altitutde, but I think I might just be plain old out of shape. Time to get some real riding in. Oh, one more thing: while cooling down I got to chatting with a couple of the other guys in the race. They wanted to know about my bandages, so I told them about my Wed and Sat crashes. When I got done talking, they were looking at each other wierd, and then asked “You didn’t crash yesterday as so-and-so a spot, did you?” And I was like “yeah,” and they’re like “Dude, that was the fastest part of the course. We hit 52 mph going through there every time.” Yeah. That’s fast. I was on the brakes when I packed, so probably going way slower, but still. 52 is fast.

Salida Road Race – Report

1 Aug

Some of you no doubt said, upon reading my report from Wednesday’s Maroon Bells-Ashcroft, “Oh, Cosmo, you fat little turd, you only didn’t like this race because it’s got lots of climbing and you a loathsome hunk of chubby, unathletic flesh,” Untrue. Climbing does not negate my enjoyment of a race course in the slightest. I am huge fan of the Mad River Glen Road Race at the GMSR. It’s climbing done right. Just like today’s Salida Road Race. 1300′ of climbing per lap, in what is basically just an “up/down” 11.9 mile loop.

What makes it different you ask? Well, first off, there’s the descent, which features a variety of twists and turns, and speeds of 50mph+, there’s the fact that the climb itself isn’t just a slog, but has steep sections, false-flats, downhill segments, sharp, banked corners and requires a fair bit of panache. If someone jumps, do you respond immediately, or let them tire on the false flat? Do you slow off toward the top of a pitch to catch the wheel of the person in front of you as the turn into the headwind? How far before the crest of the hill do you have break to be out of sight when you hit the rolling (for real rolling, this time) headwind section at the bottom? GOD, it was fun.

I began the day by making use of the sanitary facilities at Safeway. Unlike in Carbondale, my contribution to the local water treatment plant will someday find its way to the Atlantic. Exciting. Then I register, then I get all my stuff set, then I go to rollout, but it turns out they’ve delayed it one hour until HIGH NOON. Keep in mind, Salida is definitely in the desert; not as much in the desert as Whitewater was, but there is no shade on course. So I sit in the car, chugging water with the AC cranked and playing Warlords on a Mac Plus emulator. Noon comes around, and I go to rollout.

“Rollout” is a 7 mile ride out to where the race actually starts. When we get to the “start” (which still isn’t on the course), we sit around for 10 minutes staging, despite the fact that we arrived staged. Finally, we start racing after 30 minutes sitting in the sun. The course, as I said, is sweet. Up, then down, finish line half-way up the climb, but at the end of a 1.5km, dead straight false flat. Very cool. But our first entrance to the course is at the very end of the descent, just before it turns right onto a rolling headwind section.

Now, I didn’t climb so great on Wednesday. So I was not psyched to hit the first pitch of the climb. And yet, I rocketed up it, standing and cranking easy in 39-17/19. The descent snakes it’s way through pitches and corners, and has no trees (very Ventoux), so you can really judge your efforts based on the field. I kept it near the leaders over the steep stuff, and was locked in as we hit the false flat. Then I started getting wrecked, spinning gears smaller than I had stomped earlier. Weird, but I think it’s these slight ups where the altitude really gets me. ‘Tev. As we run through the finish the first time, I give the leaders some space, recover around a slight downhill/90° corner, and mash up to the high point.

Knowing the descent is tricky, I take it conservatively, a few guys get by me. But it all seems pretty easy (if you keep your toes), and on the last section, I just tuck up and bomb down the road. Me a few other dudes reach the leaders right as they hit the headwind section. Yes! But then, on one of the longer rollers, I start to get shredded again, spinning pathetic l’il gears, but unable to push anything harder. Knowing there’s lots of guys coming back up behind me, I drift back into the last little group of riders. Just then the wheel car passes me, and noting the main field is only a few seconds ahead, and not moving very quickly, I hatch a plan.

Ah, the moto draft. Semi-legal and oh so effective. I surge for a few seconds, catch the Passat’s slipstream, get in the big ring, and just coast up to the main field. As I swing past the passenger’s side door and reintegrate with the field, the driver shouts at me. Not to DQ me, as a USCF driver might, but to say “Nice work! Way to race smart.” Sweet. The ACA rules. Damn right I race smart. 5 seconds of effort, 15 seconds of rest and a nice, plush position mid pack. The moral boost alone was enough to make me forget about the pathetic l’il gear suffering of earlier. And no official making my life miserable.

As we head up the hill for the second time, I start to get in a solid rhythm. Hit the base of hills hard, see what the good climbers are doing, and react accordingly, whether that means pound it over the top and snare a wheel to drag you over the easier stuff, or back off and spot the skinnies a few seconds to be easily retaken on the descent. Second time over the high point, I am the first chaser to a group of 10 leaders. I start smoking it down the descent, tucked down, and popping up to brake right before the corners. But as I approach this one corner (more a junction, really), I realise suddenly that I am going waaaaaaay too fast. I get on the clamps, but they appear to do nothing. I’m leaning hard, so hard that I can hear the rear tire scream as it starts to skip sideways. If I could just get a little more over…but I don’t want to lose the front, also. Gotta find that happy mean…

Oh, I was so close to that happy mean. Another foot of pavement and I could have had it. As it happened, I just inched off the edge onto the unbelievably loose (but also soft!) Salida dirt. I hit it going fast, but mostly just cartwheeled and ended up sitting on my bottom on the edge of the pavement, essentially untouched. Worst damage was some dirt got on my Wednesday forearm rash and hardened into a dirt scab, that had to be removed extremely painfully in the shower hours later.

So I, with big old bandages on arm and leg, quip “man, this is really not my week.” I never crashed in consecutive races, never crashed in road races, never ridden myself right of the road on a descent before – just bad things that never happen to me started happening. But hey, how could get any worse, right? Well, very easily as it turns out. The course marshalls could get involved.

Me: Man, this is really not my week.
Marshall: Yeah I saw your bandages.
Me: (attempting to get up) Well, better get going.
Marhsall 2: Don’t let him keep going!
(racers shoot by)
Me: What?
Marshall: (holding me down) Hold on. are you ok?
Me: (thinking that obviously I am) Yeah, just little cuts and dirt. No big deal.
Marshall: (takes off my helmet) Just let me look at your head.
Marhsall 2: I didn’t seem him crash, only heard the squealing tires. Did he land on his head?
Me: (complying, acting as cogent as possible after doing a 20-25mph cartwheel to dispel any thought he might have of head injury.) I should be fine. It (indicating helmet) just kind of skidded on impact.
(other racers zoom by)
Marshall: Wait, you didn’t land on your head, did you? If you did we have to take you to medical.
Me: (wanting to explain that I landed in about 15 different places at once but not wanting to seem head injured) Naw, I just rolled. Really, I’m fine.
Marshall: (handing me my helmet) well, better check the bike.
Me: No really, it’s ok, I got it.
Marshall 2: (to me) Y’know, you’ve already got some bandages. Maybe you should slow it down.
(more racers go by, some women)
Me: (internalized eye-rolling, profanity-laced internal diatribe about how I havn’t crashed in over a year’s worth of racing) ok.
Marshall: (has already taken bike and walked it across the road) Let’s see, nothing seems to wrong. Wait, this brake is sorta rubbing a little
(more racers shoot by as he fiddles with it)
Me: Yeah, ok. Just give me the bike.
Marhsall: Ok (hands me the bike). Just ride up way on the outside, ok, so other racers don’t hit you.
Me: (muttering as I pedal off) what other racers? I’m in the seriously cheap seats now.
Marshall 2: Man, its a good thing we were here to help him out.

I usually am pretty conservative (but still fast) on downhills to avoid incidents like that. I think the reason why this one got blown is 1) the tailwind kicked up, between laps 1 and 2 really rocketing you down into the corner, and 2) the event horizon for this particular off-camber corner is very far off, as the road dips steeply (9%, I’d say) in the 200 meters right before it. Anyway, from here on out, the race was mostly a question of survival. By the time first two laps were done, I was both out of fluid and dehydrated. I wasn’t cramping, but I definately felt weakened by it. To make matters worse, the huge thing of water bottles just after the line was labelled “finishers only; feed zone ahead.” Yeah, feed zone with no neutral bottles. Uncool.

Finally, with two to go, they realized that people were going to DIE if they didn’t throw out some free water, so from then on in, I felt alot less like I was fighting just to finish. I picked off lots of stragglers, just churning along, and slammed a Crackpack with a lap to go, which bought me another place or two. But dang, after the race was done: NO WATER. And a 9 mile ride back into Salida. In the hot sun. Along a 65mph state highway. Poor form. Anyone who finished today was tough. Normally, I don’t say that finishing further down the results sheet makes you tougher, but dang, today, in the hot, dry, cloudless conditions, for 60 miles (76 if you count the rollout and return, the longer it took you, the more toughness you needed to do it.

Maroon Bells-Ashcroft-King Hill – Report

1 Aug

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.

Ride for the Cure – Report

22 Jul

People in Aspen look at me funny. A lot. Like when I don’t know where Highlands is. No matter how many times I tell them: I don’t live here in the winter, and I have no desire to live here in the winter. 30 bucks is too much for a lift ticket. You think I am going to pay 80?. “Oh, well it’s way higher in Vail” they say, not realizing that I don’t care. Anyway…lots of weird looks at registration (upon finally reaching Highlands) when I say I’ve never ridden to Maroon Bells before. I figure it can’t be that extreme if the freaking transit bus goes there.

The race starts with a bit of downhill, and my teammates, or at least the few who climb worse than I do, started it by gunning off the line. Mad field splittage resulting in a group of 12 with 3 ute city guys. Awesome. Except I can barely keep pace, sitting at the back. Still, dudes in front of me keep dribbling off, and I keep chasing back around them. I’m keeping a good spin up, shouting up ahead every time someone attacks etc. And after a while, I don’t feel so awful.

I probably feelt ok because the course is pathetically easy. It’s like 7 miles at 5% grade. Maybe once or twice it kicks up to 7%. It should have been the sort of climb I love, and I should have been mashing, not spinning, but there’s that altitude thing (not as bad today as it was at Woody Creek, 4 days earlier), and every once in a while, I try to spin uphill because the guys in CTS jerseys worship climbing 120 rpms like some sort of weird cycling Jesus.

Eventually, by a humorous “Marmot crossing sign” the road kicks up, and some guy attacked. The field splits up a bunch, and Elliot who used to ride for University of Colorado takes the win. Mike won a sprint for third, and I think Dylan, Ute City man #3 was right ahead of me, wherever we ended up. (I couldn’t stay for results). It was a pretty silly race, I thought, but when I got back to Highlands and the people saw I’d climbed the thing in 34 minutes, out came the funny looks again.

Woody Creek Criterium – Report

22 Jul

Ah, it’s so good to be back racing in The Valley. The unbelievably slow starts, the sketchy riding, the incredibly thin air…truly, la dolche vita. This week’s race went down not on roads, but on the Woody Creek Race track, which was purchased a few years back by the private and exclusive Aspen Auto Racing Club or something like that. Thus, as the track was intended for motorcars, I was expecting not to need to use my brakes. As it turns out, the very last corner before the finish line (see map here – finish line is directly opposite “existing finish line” on map; proposed sections do not exist.) was over 180 degrees, and, with the massive tailwind on the straightaway before it, most definitely needed brakes.

As usual, I arrived late, around 5:59pm, but the Men’s A start wasn’t until 7, so I had plenty of time. Got to chill, meet some teammates, show off the new team kit, and warm up. The course was dead flat, and most of the corners easy, but a massive headwind at the finish managed to keep everything together. ON the line, the organizers switched things up to make the event a 15 lap points race, points on 10 to go, 5 to go and double at the finish. I’d never done a points race, but I was betting on it being my kind of thing.

The start was pathetic slow, even with the headwind, so I up and r-u-n-n-o-f-t right around the 3rd corner and down the back stretch, getting up to 37mph, before putting on the brakes to cruise through the hairpin at around 25. It was tough going down the home stretch, but my little flier did several important things: 1)let me gauge how fast I could swing the hairpin; 2) let me gauge how hard sprinting into the headwind would be; 3) made the field think I was looking to breakaway – and by corollary, not a good sprinter; 4) revealed which teams/riders were looking to keep the field together by showing me who was first to chase; and 5) raised the pace. All this from 30-40 seconds of moderate effort. God, I love tactics!

Anyway, I kept cool after being caught again just before the first corner, and sat in around 5, 6th wheel. The jastling for position wasn’t so bad, but Charlie from The Hub has a bad habit of halfwheeling people. Turns out, I learned, after offering him a teammate’s wheel so he’d stop hovering between us just off to port, that part of Charlie’s crash damage is he don’t see too good, and prefers to ride between lines like that. Scary.

The bell rang, and I took a little pull and slid into second wheel. Not a whole lot of fighting involved, and I found myself lead out nicely by an older chap in an Excel Sports jersey. Though it was a little far out, I said “Aw, why not?” and cranked it up, popping around perfectly into the wind. I had so much time staring at that line unmolested that I took a little peek behind me, just to make sure other dudes were sprinting. Well, they most certainly were, so I got back to my work at took the first sprint by a wheel. Sweet! 5 points pretty much guarantees a Top 10 finish. (The distrib was 5, 3, 2, 1.)

Then things kinda went downhill. Teammate Mike (who’s 15 and darn strong, if tactically questionable) busted OTF with some guy in a Carlton College kit. This allowed me to sit on, which was plenty fine with me; after 5 days back at altitude, I was having a mother of a time clearing any lactate. Ajax decided they wanted to chase, and the field started splitting. I really wanted to be near the front, but man, was I cooked, gasping and whooping like an asthmatic bullfrog. I dropped to second group, and was clinging to the last wheel (like a child). Fortunately (for me, not the team) Mike got reeled in as the bell rang, and things cooled off while people at the front played “not me.” Someone one the next sprint, but I have no idea who.

After much fighting and gasping over the next few laps, I got up to the front group (let’s say 12 guys). At two laps to go, Ajax had a rider up the road, which was fine by me, as I was pretty confident in my ability to take the second place points if he got away. Then Ajax, who had apparently stolen T-Mobile’s play book just before the start, began chasing themselves down. Attacks flew, and I kept the chase on until just after the bell, at which point I hit a lactic wall, beyond which I would not be able to sprint. So I swung off and let someone behind me chase. Mike flew by me and hooked up with the group, but was too far back to factor in the sprint. I was gapped, for sure, but lost no positions (I hit the line 9th or so?), and my winning the first sprint was good enough for 4th overall. Awesome! I love points races!

Fitchburg Longsjo Classic – Report

6 Jul

So the weekend’s action started on Wednesday, for some reason, as the organizers saw fit not to schedule any races on the national holiday on Monday. That’s a little less cash in my pockets, but whatever. Sign-in went according to plan, except that my psuedo-teammates, Rudy Awerbuch and Steve Weller were planning to use disk wheels for the TT?

Excuse me? Disk wheels for a Cat 4 TT? Am I the only man left alive with some sense of shame?

Anyway, next morning, it was off the Best Western parking lot. Steve and I slide our Subarus in at a choice location, and who should pull in next to us but the Sierra Nevada pro team. Suh-weet. Since our crew had start times throughout the day, we spent hours just kicking back and chewing the fat with pro racers and mechanics about racing, The Life and sexually predatory women. We let their wrench borrow our crack pipe (that’s a disk wheel pump adapter, kids) and he tossed us a bunch of free tubes. All in all, a damn good time.

Race didn’t go so well. About 40 minutes before my start, I was ready to rip, but for some reason, they threw me in with the Juniors. Maybe it was too much sun, maybe it was too much humidity, maybe it was the 10 days of drinking beer, eating too much and not riding in Alaska last week, maybe it was the incompetant putz that tried to hold my bike at the start but instead pulled it so far backwards the chain fell off when I started to pedal, but I just couldn’t get it going. Cadence too low, gears too high. I ended up in 27, 1.2 seconds behind Rudy with the Disk Wheel and almost 2 minutes off the pace. Coulda gone worse, though. My boy Rossman finished a few seconds up on my in Cat 3, but they gave him a finish time slower than the Cat 3 Women’s Winner.

We protested this injustice the next day, and the Official’s (typically pig-headed, mad-with-power) response was to claim “it’s pretty much infallible.” No checking how Rossman’s 30 second men did, no taking finish time and subtracting start from it, just “here’s the results sheet. It’s infallible.” Now you know why I crumple my numbers and ride all over the yellow line.

Stage 2 was a circuit race, one hill, maybe 200 feet of climb, then downhill the rest of the way. 3 mile circuit, 18 miles for the Cat 4 men. Sprint up, coast down. Dull Dull dull. Some Harvard kid was entertaining, as he decided to sprint every lap, regardless of whether there was a points prime or not. Lots of pushing and shoving, but no one wanted to eat pave on stage two, so things were mostly clean. My chain popped off (damned Ritchey crankset – see my review) with 2 laps to go, tangled in the cassette, and despite a sweet 15-second repair by neutral support, I never got back on (pace was sick).

Stage 3 was a nice little road race, 48 miles, 12 mile circuit, finish on top of Mt. Wachusett. The climb wasn’t two bad, coming mostly in bursts, followed by flats. Seeing as my GC chances were blown losing 3 minutes the previous day, I rode up front in support of my psuedo team. Steve battled for a lot of points sprints (which were on top of the hill for some reason), and I battled to break 60 on the way back down. Lap one got up to 57.1, but then my pos computer copped out. I think the final time down I might have got it, as we (another rider and I pacelined downhill) hit a speed trap after the descent at 51mph. When I had been doing 57, I hit it at 46. Somehow (my guess is when the Juniors passed us) a guy got clear. Arial Herrman, formerly an ECCC C rider with me back in the day, rode up and asked me if there was a guy up the road. Im like “No way.” He’s like “Im not sure. Im gonna ride up to the ref and check.” So he did, promting 2 other riders to attack because they’re idiots. Turns out there was another guy up the road. An Olympic rower. HONESTLY, USCF, why can’t you put pro atheltes into Cat 2 as soon as they finish cat 5? PLease? Im sick of losing to hockey players, triathletes and rowers. I lack talent and would like to compete against individuals who are likewise disinclined.

Anyway, all hell broke loose when word got out that there was a man away, and I got sucked down to 30th or so with the masses surging to the front (yeah, NOW you want to work). Being out of position cost me on the climb, and I ended up in the first straggler group, 5 guys, 3 of which refused to work because they had men up the road and the other rider in the group had been a GC contender. So it was me and this hapless fellow, trading pulls past 3 wheelsuckers. Tactics are a bitch. When we finally hit the REAL climb (not part of the circuit), I got trounced, and ground my way up in 39-27. I caught like three dudes at the line, though, so that was pretty hot; still, I was a ways back. Rudy did manage a phat finish that pulled him up to 14th on the GC. Solid.

On to the crit. Damn, I love crits. This one was .9 miles, tilted slightly uphill, with one sweeping 180 and two 90s at the other end. Mostly nontechnical, no real chance of a break. I rode (again) at the front, which was easy because the pace was pretty low (for a crit). What wasnt easy was getting to the front, since the guy in front of me (GC leader) couldnt clip in at the line, and then the next guy I got behind (some shmoe) also couldn’t clip in off the line.

I was trying to set up steve for a few sprints, and finally got my chance on prime number 3 (of 7). Coming down the back stretch I hit the front, and opened a (small) gap through the corners (yeah bike handling). Then, noting that Steve was not directly behind me, I jumped at 300-350 to go, looking to make the fast men behind me work and pull him up. About 75-50 from the line, I ran out of gas, and 4 guys shot by me: the Green Jersey, the other Green Jersey (we had two that day; so much for Official’s Infallibility), some other fast guy, and Steve, clinging to their rear wheels.

Despite (or because of) the relatively low pace, there was lots of shoving. I am a wide little dude (170lbs at 5’8″), so I’m all for a little argy-bargy. But lining up for the first 90 corner on the backstretch, there was some serious clumping/pinching. A guy on the outside curb lost his balls and twiched in; the resulting effect was like those little steel speheres on strings you see on investment bankers’ desks, and I was the end ball. I could have leaned back against the guy who hit me, but there was space inside, so why not take the bump rather than risk piling up the field? Well, because unbeknownst to me, there was someone halfwheeling me. He paid the price, and went crashing into my rear wheel, taking a few spokes with him. I was hammering to regain position, but Steve past me and said “dude, take a lap; you’ve got no spokes.” Untrue. I still had 19 spokes (of an original 24) and the wheel was still straight. Not shabby.

Neutral support was (again) awesome, and they shot me back out into field (about 80 positions down) with a nice new Campy Eurus. Good wheel, that Eurus. I Robbie McEwened my way back through the field, got the front, chased down the final break, and was swallowed on the bell lap. I grabbed the wrong wheels twice, and ended up back in 25th or so. Now, why in the hell every Cat 4 wants to sprint, I don’t know. Guys, there are no points for 24th place. If you’re out of position, just let it go. Someone’s going to get hurt when people go head down-elbows out in mid-pack. I cruised over for god knows what place, and called it a wrap. Now back to Colorado.

Snowmass Village Circuit Race – Report

26 May

So after Sunday’s debacle, I was ready for a little revenge on the various bike shop teams of Aspen [BTW, the “Telco” guys are really “Jelco” guys; they’re from Ajax Bikes, I believe]. Today’s course was a short circuit that basically went up moderately, and then down less moderately. I think the loop was 3-5 miles long; I have no idea since I was racing on Bubba’s *sweet* Orbea Orca, to get the bike noticed, and perhaps the only part about it was the utterly incomprehensible Shimano Flight Deck computer. I got the thing stuck on kilometers and then it just kept rotating through its various functions. Anyway, we did 5 laps, which meant that the selection would be based entirely on cranking watts.

In my two previous races, I missed three good breaks. I was determined not to let this happen again. I marked every damn thing that moved for the first lap, which was pretty hard because a lot of people made little testing attacks, and because I climbed McClure pass yesterday (in 39×23) and the legs were a little gooey to react. After about a lap, the tactical circle jerk began, and with the pace mind-nimbingly low with only 12-20 miles to go, I decided it’d be good time to take off. The Ajax dudes were all over the front when I went, and just sat there, which was cool by me. I cranked it up over the top and down the hill, and I think my lead peaked out at about a minute.

I’m not a real breakaway kind of rider. I can ride pretty aero and put out a few watts, but I think I really lack the lungs. I stayed away for over 2 full laps, and got the bike plenty of airtime. But when the big guns wanted me back with two laps to go, they brought me back fast, hewing the field down to 15 or so guys in their surge. When they made the catch, I cranked it up perfectly, letting two guys by and then hopping in third wheel. The Ajax guys and some real big, powerful dude in green forced the pace down the hill, and back up. At some point, green dude broke and took an Ajax guy and Charlie from the Hub. I was surrounded by Ajax guys, and pretty sure this was the winning move, but was a bit knackered (as the Aussies say) from the solo. Besides, pack welding is no way to ride in a practice race.

As the bell lap came, my group (about 10 strong) made a few little attacks, but no concerted effort to chase. Up the road, something must have gone down, because Charlie got shelled and drifted back to us. I led on the downhill because I’m a good descender and we had to work our way through the women’s field). I pulled intentionally wide as we swung back the final climb, and hopped in behind two Ajax guys. The leader turned screws and whittled us down to 4 or 5; I know we had at least 2 Ajax guys, Charlie, me and a Boulder Couriers guy named Patrick. Ajax tried a lead out, some little weaving action, but Charlie (who is both tough and coy) and I maneuvered perfectly. I was perfectly position when Charlie jumped, but right as I moved to go by him, I froze. Maybe I lost the finish line in the sun, maybe I had my head down too long, maybe I was just zoning out, but for whatever reason, I pulled the trigger, and then eased back. Bad mistake. It would have been the perfect move. Instead it became the perfect lead out for Boulder Couriers man. He roared by on the right, while I languished boxed in behind Charlie. There was still a bit of space on the inside that maybe could have accommodated me, but it’s a practice race, and I think the last thing Charlie needs is another coma.

So it ended up being a very embarrassing 5th for me. Despite the sluggishness in the legs (and the 172.5mm cranks; I am die-hard 170 man), I felt damn strong, and after climbing Independence and McClure passes with a limited 39×23 minimal gearing, I guess I am starting to turn out some good watts. And my positioning instincts and bike handling are right where I want them to be. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to nail down judging the distance to the line and end up winning a sprint or two.

Aspen Criterium – Report

23 May

After Saturday’s hill climb, I was a little more prepared for the “Aspenness” of this morning’s crit. Like when I noticed they ran the A Women (these aren’t USCF races, after all) simultaneously with the Veteren Men (35+) Sure, it worked out well for the one chick who could keep pace, but sure wasn’t fair for the two who couldn’t. Or when I went to check-in and they zip-tied a transponder to my fork. I ask “is there a finish camera?” They just look at me and say “No, that’s what this chip is for. Why would be need a camera?” Unbelievable. Head tube angles, chip position on the fork, aero forks, straight blade forks; all these things make this a bad idea. Aspen just further proves my theory that money makes you dumb.

Racing got under way with a countdown from 10 seconds to go. Needless to say, I left on “2.” The course had 9 corners, which sounds way worse than it was, because the roads were wide and largely flat; it was nowhere near as tricky as the Beanpot. The action was hot from the gun, and I found myself alone in third on the road. I started closing on two leaders, until one of them took off. I passed the other loser, and was catching the solo ahead, but the field was catching me faster. So I eased off, and the second I rejoined the field, another attack went, and those left behind shut down. Great. Just what I wanted. Fortunately, I got together with some motivated parties, and we got a good pace going until some lazy dickhead got to the front and the pack bunched up, ejecting another break without me in it.

So now, I’m in the third group on the road, after somehow missing two breaks, and the race becomes absolutely dominated by team tactics. These guys from The Hub of Aspen (in fruity pink get-ups, I might add) and Ajax Bikes just sat on the front, and everyone else in the group was too beat-up or too satisfied with hanging on to help. I was very theatrical in my attempts to rally the field; I even, after one long pull, sat up and starting pointing at people, screaming at them, asking if they had anyone up the road. But it was all futile. Fortunately, this was only 20 minutes or so into the hour-long race, so I fell back into the field to rest up a bit.

Around 30 minutes to go, a team that had missed the break, Boulder Couriers, I think, came to the front. Now, I don’t want to speak badly of them, because they seem like nice guys, but damn, I hope they courier better than they ride tempo. At least, I think, the effort was enough to inspire the rest of the teammateless riders and I to start pulling, and with about 8 laps to go, we came in sight of the second group. And promptly stopped. The Hub and Ajax guys came back to the front, and we stalled out again. *Sigh* I said to myself, and with five to go made the bridge (towing the whole field behind me) on a lap-and-a-half long pull. It was tiring, and to make matters worse, as soon as we got in contact, everyone suddenly had legs again, and started attacking, and taking crazy cornering lines.

Now, I should mention again that this was not a USCF race. This madness was open to anyone who signed up, aged 19-35, regardless of category. The dude who won looked good, Cat 1 good, while many riders looked like they had no clue how to ride in a group. I heard and heard of some epic crashes, and even got to see one; a two man attack about 25 minutes in, where, a corner after the broke, the second guy slid out. He then proceeded to hop to his feet (and after I passed to the inside of him) get creamed by like 50 other dudes. Kiddies, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: if you crash, make sure that a)you’ve stopped moving and b)THE FIELD HAS PASSED YOU before you get up.

Back to the action with 2 to go. I slip down the drops for better aerodynamics and stability, and box a few guys off my line in the second corner. I swear to God, I’ve never heard so many people call for the inside. Inside is bad, dudes. You will get flattened or at best lose positions. So don’t do it. At the bell, I am right where I want to be, 4th wheel with field s t r u n g o u t. And of course, right at this moment, all the team tacticery fails in an instant. It becomes a five-wide game of
“Not me” as people look all over the place for someone to lead. And of course they sit up on the best lines, so all attacks are suicidally close to, well, suicide. There are two complete reshuffles of the field in the last lap, and I drastically misjudge the second. Turns out, you have to start the sprint 3 corners from the finish straight. I manage to catch sixth wheel, but it’s too far back, and I can only make up one spot in the sprint, for a bitter 11th place (5 riders got clear in the initial break), right behind Crazy Charlie (who f-ed himself up real bad snow biking a few years back.) I am starting to feel worn from my training as of late, but hopefully I can salvage some face in Wednesday’s road race.

Ride for the Pass – Report

23 May

If I had to sum up this entire weekend in a single acronym, it would be “WSM” (Western Slacker Mentality). Let’s start with the Ride for the Pass, an alleged hillclimb race from Aspen to the top of Independence Pass. I declined to actually race this, electing instead to ride with my friend Sam who is a month out of ACL reconstruction. Anyway, I arrived about an hour early. The start line was so dead that I missed it on the drive in. I registered, used the facilities (which were fantastic), filmed a casting call for a Suzuki commercial and picked up my transponder chip. Then I sat around for a while. About 20 minutes before the gun, people started arriving in droves. A massive crowd overwhelmed the chip-dispersal table, with recreational riders cluttering up the racers. People began lining up, and the announcer began counting down to start, even though scores of people had not yet picked up their timing chips. I and an experienced race official approached the announcer.

Cosmo: You can’t start the race yet; many riders don’t have their chips.
Announcer: No, we have to start now. It’s out of my hands. The timing system is already running.
Official: Well, we could just let them know we started 5 minutes late.
Announcer: No, that’s too complicated. WE’ll just start now.
Cosmo: Uh, actually, sir, it’s not that hard, I’ll even do the subtraction for you…
Announcer: GO!

Many, many pissed racers left late. Upon seeing one irate young woman tear out of the chip distribution table, shouting “get out of the way,” one round-bellied, hairy-legged Serotta-rider commented “Hey, I thought this was Aspen.”

The course was acceptably scenic, and was pretty much a constant 6 or so percent, with a few flats. Sam spun his MTB cassette pretty easy, and I mashed away at a conversational pace in various rear cogs between 12 and 23 teeth. An hour, four food stops and countless snowballs later, we arrived at the finish, but I noticed right away that it was, quite literaly, anti-climactic. So I kept spinning up the road, and lo and behold, it continued up another thousand feet or so, through the most scenic views of the day. The top, 4.1 miles past the finish on my computer was like another planet; eerie blue skies, white mountains, 10-foot snowbanks and patches of rock blown clear by the wind. Too bad 90% of the competitors never saw it. What the hell kind of hill climb starts 2 miles out of town and end 4 miles down from the top? Lazy, lazy westerners.