Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Luther Crit Race - 36:38 (2nd place)

Luther Criterion was really my big chance at winning my first race in the C group because it is a time trial which is mostly all up hill (it climbs the whole of Luther pretty much). Although I'm at the top of the leaderboard of the Cs, I really would like to win a race.

I headed out over to Luther with Scott in the truck. Scott was pretty sure I would beat him today because he hasn't been training much but he's such a good climber I didn't believe it. Though being a bit lighter than usual gives me a bit of an advantage. In particular it gave me an advantage over my rival (and good buddy) Jeff, who usually wins the time trial races but weighs 220lbs, so on a climb I should have him.

I felt the asthma was more under control today and I was breathing fine during the warm-up.

A huge turn-out made for an interesting ride. The 'D's set out 30 seconds apart and then the 'C's. I made sure I was not the first to sign up today since I like trying to catch people up (I think I was a sheep dog in a past life). Scott offered to sign up ahead of me to let me chase him down - quite an advantage.

Time came and Scott flew off as I sat waiting for the 30 seconds to elapse before I could go. I set off and moved it. It took a while before I could even see Scott because the old Luther Road was pretty twisty with some bumps on it. After a mile or so I saw him and saw that he had already nearly caught the person in front of him (so had already gained 30 seconds). I decided to focus on the person in front of Scott since I figured I would not catch Scott, at least not quickly if at all. Scott seemed to be moving pretty quick.

As Scott past the guy in front, the guy pulled onto his wheel and drafted him. This is not allowed in a time trial and it made it a little tricky to figure out what was going on. After a while I realised I was reeling them in but I wondered at what cost. Since the start line my breathing had turned to panting and I wondered how long I could breath like that. I told myself that if I could ride the Death Ride fairly hard I could probably ride one smaller climb hard.

I pulled up alongside the guy behind Scott and as I did so we turned a corner to see a sheep dog standing in the road right in front of my wheel. I braked hard and lost precious seconds as Scott ploughed ahead. I told the dog owner there was a bike race coming through and turned around to hear a yelp from the guy I'd just past - I don't know if the dog bit him or not but perhaps that would be karma for the drafting! I wonder how many seconds I lost to the dog but that is just racing I guess. I found it hard to be mad about it since I felt pretty much akin to sheep dogs with my bike chasing mentality.

Pretty soon I got moving again and chased Scott again. I overtook just as the road surface turned poor, we went over a bridge and then looked at some vertical looking tarmac. This was the climb.

I'd ridden this road a year ago but was taking my time then. I knew it would be steep but not how steep nor for how long. Seeing a couple more riders ahead gave me some motivation to attack the first climb. A couple of folks with kids on the corner shouted encouragement, which is always helpful, as I turned the switchback to the next climb.

The switchbacks went on a while with some scattered riders ahead to ride down. As I went past I rasped "this is tough" to offer some commiseration with the people I was crawling past. At times I stood on the pegs, mainly to stretch my legs but partly for a bit of extra speed.

After a surprisingly short while I heard the sound of traffic on the main road ahead through the trees. This was a bit of a mental lift and helped me pick up the pace a bit. Thoughts of Scott not too far behind were also in my brain.

Finally the smooth tarmac of the main road up luther appeared. The grade of the climb lessened but it was still pretty hard. A couple more riders ahead provided a bit more motivation for some speed and I managed to hold 9-10mph up this section.

Very gradually the gradient began to lessen and I explored harder gears whilst maintaining high cadence. I knew the flats were ahead and I had been warned about not "lolly gagging" on the top section as it's natural to ease off a bit up there.

As the road flattened and straightened I could see Jeff's blue shirt ahead but found it hard to judge how far ahead he was in time. Seeing my big rival was enough to get me to really give it some welly, well, as much as I possibly could. About now I got a stitch in the right of my chest. I'm not prone to getting stitches so it was annoying. I tried to ignore it and race on.

As I hit the flats I got it into top gear and went for it. The stitch moved to the centre of my chest and was getting irritating and tight. I figured this was yet more exercised induced asthma and did my best to ignore it and pedal like hell.

With the finishing cone in sight I was surprised to see Christine drive past. She is generally supposed to get to the finish line before the riders do! We'd been a bit quick and got there before her. I knew the drill and made sure to note my own time - 36:38 which I was very pleased with.

At the top the pain in my chest was massive and I quickly got off the bike and crouched down. The guys got me to walk around a bit to make the blood move around my body a bit and I used my asthma inhaler. The pain was quite severe but after 5 minutes or so, the inhaler began to kick in and things eased off. During this time Jeff came by and we asked each other what time we'd done. He knew he'd done very well and got there in 36:19 or so - pretty impressive for a big guy. It's great to have some excellent competition out there, and to compete against people I like. Jeff's a star so I don't mind losing to him too much, especially when he is putting in a stellar performance like that.

Scott appeared soon after and I'd beaten him by a few minutes. Somehow it's not satisfying beating Scott because he's such a strong cyclist it feels like a temporary victory. Still, I am pleased with second place and a pretty respectable time. I'm a little disappointed by the continuing asthma hassles but lots of people are having similar troubles right now it seems, they say due to the Sagebrush.

Getting dropped off at Scott's house to get my car was a good opportunity to check out what was left in the kegerator, hang out and say hi to Amy.


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