Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gorge Roubaix

This last weekend, a few of the River City Red Cycling Team went to The Dalles to participate in a very hard race.  Maybe that should be stated, VERY HARD race.  But let me let them tell you about it.  Riders who participated included: Jed Barden, Travis Coleman, Richie Frahm, Brad Hamby and Paul Main.  Brad, Jed and Travis contributed some comments on the two days of racing.

Jed, Paul, Brad, Travis - Thanks for pics, Brad!

Day One - Brad:
We rolled on into The Dalles a couple hours prior to the race where it was a balmy 55 and sunny with a light breeze.  The first race was 50ish miles with 4000' of climbing and 6 miles of dirt/gravel.  The peloton rolled into the first climb at 15 miles and folks started slipping off the back.  I was the first from River City to slide off the rear as we entered the dirt climb and turned into a brutal headwind.  All I could do was hold tempo and hope to pickup stragglers along the way.  The race continued to splinter down to a group of about 15 to include Bardon.  At some point I'm told Travis had a rear wheel change; unfortunately, I was in no position to see any of this as I was off the back deep in the pain cave. The wind picked up to 20-25 knots on the second lap and the temp dropped about 10 degrees with some isolated showers.  The final several miles were dead into the wind, I've never been so happy to see the 10K banner.  I was able to share the last several miles of suffering with a few other guys.  I don't race just to finish, but today finishing was an accomplishment as 25% of the field abandoned.  Jed did more than just finish and stayed with the lead group all the way to the end!  (Jed 13, Paul 23, Travis 24, Richie 27, Brad 31)

Day One - Jed:
Our predetermined goal for the day was to lead Travis out on the sprint to the line.  Except for a few climbs, gale force winds, and a flat tire, it would have worked out as planned.  The weather was impossible to predict pre-race, oh well, sunscreen on and rain jacket in the back pocket.  (My last ride in this area included torrential rain and sunbreaks. 

After the neutral rollout, 15 miles of cruising warmup.  Then the suffering commenced.  After a right hand turn onto the first gravel sector, a mini-tornado lurked around the second corner whipping up dust and tumbleweeds.  A collective swearing and downshifting in the peloton.  After cresting the first gravel climb, a fast and twisty descent on the gravel.  I now know that my eyewear can handle a rock kicked up at 35+mph.  As for the rest of my body--ouch.  Like being shot with a paintball gun. 
Another gravel climb, descent, then back on the pavement to go start the gravel again.  The front group was too big to work together, even though the field was fairly separated by this point.  We hit the gravel for the second time with about half the field.  Up the gravel, down the gravel, more rock missiles.  I tried to join an attack on the second gravel climb, but it was really windy, so faded back to the dwindling bunch. 
Back on the pavement heading towards the finish, there were several break attempts.  But there was such a strong headwind that nothing could get away.  The lead group sprinted up the final climb together for the finish.      

Day One - Travis:
As expected putting in massive mileage with absolutely no intensity tends to make you fit without being fast.  After slow boiling up the first climb I had to back off when we hit the dirt in order to not totally detonate.  Unfortunately as a previous email mentioned this coincided with an uptick in the wind speed to something that could likely be rated on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.  I hooked up with a couple of guys and we started picking our way through the carnage.  Just before the second gravel climb we picked up Richie.  Somewhere towards the top there was an acceleration, a detonation and general nonsense with the end result being that I came across the top with just one guy.  And no I wasn’t the one who accelerated.  On the way down we picked up a few more guys resulting in a group of 6 or 7 when we hit the pavement.  A short time later we picked up Paul and we could see the main group in front of us and getting closer.  I redlined again and came of the back.  At that point I was resigned to a long ride home without company.  Paul’s group caught the field, and strangely enough after a little recovery and some renewed effort I came around a bend and saw that the pack was pretty close.  I buried myself and caught the field at the exact moment they started the long paved climb for the second time.  This precisely corresponded with me immediately falling off the back of the group again!  About 200m later I saw that Paul had drifted off the back.  I rode within earshot and screamed and waved until he understood that it would be much more pleasant riding in together.  About that time Richie came dieseling by saying he couldn’t slow down and proceeded to ride away...  We proceeded up the climb, up the 1st gravel climb, and then at the start of the 2nd gravel climb I had a low tire.  Paul asked me if it was the front or rear although neither of us knew why.  Maybe he only had a front tube?  Turns out he had neither, but through a kind twist of fate one of the follow cars had lost his course map (blew out of the window- see previous wind statement) and was just making his way back on course as I flatted.  I was able to get a wheel change to finish.  Paul and I started picking up riders including Richie in the last 10-15k.  At this point we were laughing at the wind since the alternative was just to cry.  We made our way in to the finish and called it training.

For those who are into power here are a few stats from the ride: My normalized power for 2 hours was 292W then I had a rear wheel change and lost my powertap.  When I slow boiled off the back at the top of the first climb I had gone 385W for 5min, and 356W for 10 min at heart rate over 180bpm.  The 5 and 10 min numbers are not huge for me, but this is where it really shows that I lacked race intensity.  For 2 hrs I was able to ride at ~82% of the 10 min number.  Like I said fit, but not fast...yet!  

Day Two - Brad:
Day 2 was sunny andbreezy with a beautiful lollipop course from The Dalles along Old Hwy 30 to Mosier and where we did a couple loops in the hills.  (50ish miles with 4500' and 6 miles of gravel) We rolled out of The Dalles at a gentlemanly pace which continued until part way up the Rowan pass switchbacks where someone went off the front.  The group chased and folks started falling off the back.  Travis was the first to go followed by me.  Paul continued to dangle just off the back and I had him in my sights hoping to catch.  Unfortunately, when the pack caught the break there was another attack which did us in.  Richie made that small group and Jed was in the second group.  I had a couple guys still with me and we worked together until they fell off about halfway up the climb out of Mosier.  It was a nice steady 3-4% for several miles.  I could see Paul on the switch backs, but could not close the gap.  Travis and a couple other guys caught me on the descent where we saw our ex-bike mechanic Paul Main on the side of the road hand tightening his cassette.  He hooked up with us and we rode in together pick off stragglers along the way.  (Richie 23, Jed 27, Travis 28, Brad 30, Main 31)

Overall--nothing to write home about, but that was not the point.  We went down to get some race intensity and have some fun leading up to RvP.  Mission accomplished!  We also got a sweet pint glass.

Mmmm, beer.
Day Two - Jed:
The goal for the day was survival, and hoping there was some recovery from the day before.  My bold prediction that there would be no attacks on the first climb did not account for all the guys who did not race the day before.  Wimps.  
On the first climb, I am thinking this really hurts and I should not have ordered that second breakfast at the Cousins Country Inn.  On the second climb (first gravel climb), I am looking for the team car with those sticky water bottles.  On the third climb (second gravel), I am looking for the sag wagon.   

Although this was one of the more brutal days on the bike, the Gorge is awesome place to ride.  Even when I was dropped and dragging solo to the finish line, the sightseeing was a great diversion.

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