Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, April 21, 2014

2014 Independence Valley Road Race

I'm usually pretty psyched for this race.  It's the first race if the season that we get to go uphill!   Two things (well three) prevented me from having this feeling.  I was still feeling the affects of hitting the deck at the 2nd Sequim race and the weather peeps told me it would be pouring rain by the time we started at 1:15.  I'll get to the third reason in a bit.  We had a good squad heading down for the Masters 35+ field so psyched or not I going to roll off the line for this one.  When we arrived in Rochester is was, as predicted, pouring down rain.  We took our time getting ready inside the Swiss Hall and basically didn't come back out until we had to stage for our race.

We rolled out and even though there were a few attacks (none by me) we reached the first climb together.  The pace up was pretty tame and I had no problem reaching the top at the front of the pack.   The speed on the descent was pretty tame as well.  I think everyone wanted get a feel of the wet surface once before taking any risks.   As we regrouped on the flats and I started hearing a weird noise coming from my bike.  I couldn't figure out what it was until......(reason # 3) I noticed that the shoe on my front, right brake was loose and was just flapping back and forth on my wheel.  I reached down and tried to tighten it but couldn't feel the nut at all.  A few seconds later it shot off my bike making an awful noise as it bounced around through the pack.  I later realized that along with my front skewer that was sheared off in my crash the nut on the brake shoe must have done the same thing.  There was basically nothing holding it on.  The opposite pad was pinned against my wheel so I quickly reached down and opened the brake release all the way......Wait, now I have no front brakes for descending these wet roads.  While all that was happening Jeff Reed(Starbucks) had rolled off the front and got a small gap.  No one gave chase.  We still had 50 miles or so to go so I guess no one thought he could do it alone.  Of course I know better and when we reached the 2nd climb I attacked and separated myself from the pack.  No once chased me either.  I had no idea how far up the road Jeff was so I just put my head down and went to work. 

I passed the finish line and was told Jeff had a 1:30 gap on me and soon after was told I had about a minute on the pack.  I dug a little deeper and soon was told I Jeff was only 1:20 up the road.  I reached the steep climb for the second time and decided to put in a big effort.  Things felt good until about 3/4 the way up.  All of a sudden I felt a sharp pain around my left hip.  I thought I was fully recovered from my crash (minus the road rash).  but I hadn't had the chance to go full steam like this during any training rides.   It felt like something was pulling on bone, tendons and muscles all at the same time.  It was almost unbearable.  I only had a short way to go before the road leveled out a bit so I just grit my teeth and pushed on.  As I rounded the corner I eased off a bit to see if the pain would go away.....NOPE.. Shit!  I pushed hard until the downhill section and as I made the turn almost forgot that I had no front brakes.  I took the descent with extreme caution and was glad I had a clear line and no follow car.  I used the whole road to keep from having to use my brakes.  I totally forgot about the pain in my hip.  That didn't last long.  At the bottom I took the right hander and got out of the saddle.  Shit, this isn't going to go away.  I took a look back and couldn't see the pack so I just kept pedaling as hard as I could and tried to figure out how I could make this pain go away.  It was brutal but I was told Jeff was only 1:10 up the road now so I was still making up time on him.  I don't know how accurate the info I was getting  but it gave me some motivation to keep going.  I kept at it for another five or so minutes before I couldn't take it anymore and had to ease up some which did help.  After a few more minutes I took a look back and could see that pack slowly closing on me. I decided to sit up. 

The pack came up on me pretty fast and Joe Holmes (Tete de la Course) and one of the Oregon guys flew by and yelled at me to jump on.  I got out of the saddle but just couldn't respond.  As I waited for the rest of the field I was now worried I might not even be able to hang at the back of the pack.  This sucked.  I had to work super hard but was able to hook onto the train.  I ate, drank, stretched, cussed an prayed that no one would attack for a bit.  That didn't happen.  The field decided they didn't want Joe up the road and soon we were strung out single file with me dangling off the back.  Alex kept falling off and pulling himself back on.  I couldn't figure out why he was pedaling at such a high cadence in this tail wind. I found out later his DI2 battery had died and he was stuck in his little ring.   He dropped off one last time and drifted off the back.  I was about a second away from sitting up and joining him but decided to put in one more dig to see if I could get back on.  I somehow managed to bridge up and spent the rest of the lap trying to use a little energy as possible.   We worked our way towards the 2nd climb and I realized I was no longer racing.  I forgot that Jeff was off the front and couldn't help the team to try to help pull him back.  I was now in survival mode.  The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I don't think I've ever pulled out of a race unless I've had a mechanical.  A flat tire right now would be nice!  The pain was not going away so I did make the decision that if I got dropped on the climb I would just limp back to the parking lot and quit.  I suffered my ass off to make it up but was unable to hang with the pack.  There were a few guys behind me and I was just going to wait for them at the bottom and try to roll with them and then head back to the parking lot.

Near the bottom of the descent the wheel car flew around me.  I was no longer in the race. I was totally dejected but knew there was nothing I could do about it.  I second later a large pickup truck flew around me and when he settled in behind the wheel car the pack slowed up.  Even at the pace I was pedaling I soon was right on the bumper of the truck.   I had no plans on rejoining the race but at least I could get a free ride for a bit.  Before long I realized that we were right on the pack so I kept moving out to the right so that the follow car could see that I wasn't (wink, wink) drafting.  I was on the shoulder and decided to dig hard one more time to see if I could catch on.  I somehow did and then thought, "Why the hell did I do this?"  I still had another full lap to go with two more climbs.  I was barely hanging on during the flat sections. 

We passed the finish and  approached the point to where we take the right turn and head towards the climb or........I could just take a left and head back to the car.  Do I quit and roll to the parking lot or do one more agonizing lap?  I'd already decided to quit twice so maybe it would be easier this time.  Well, for some reason I kept going.  My new goal was to make over the top of the climb with the field.  If I didn't I was going to turn around and head to the car.  If I crested on my own and kept going I'd pretty much have to finish the rest of the loop on my own....for no f'ing reason!  Somehow I fought through the pain (kind of) and made it to the top just hanging on to the last wheel.  Sweet!!.....I think.  With no front brakes I stayed off the back so I wouldn't get in anyone's way on the descent.  I did have to put in an effort to get back on after we rounded the corner at the bottom of the hill.  I finally realized that Jeff was still up the road and was probably going to take the win.  If it wasn't one of our guys I was super happy it was Jeff. 

I wasn't sure if I was being stubborn or stupid. I only needed to get up one more climb and then hobble to the finish.  Easier said than done.  Before we reached the climb a few guys jumped off the front.  Me, Nikos and Tom were the only three left and I wasn't going to be able to attack or help lead anyone out at the finish.  I was pretty much worthless.  I decided to do what many "Non Climbers" do and raced to the front with a full head of steam.  Hopefully I'd be able to get at least half way up before getting swarmed by the pack and by the time I drifted back we'd be near the top.  As I started to drift back through the pack I saw Nikos fly by towing a couple of others.  I looked back and noticed that somehow a bunch of guys got dropped and one of them wasn't me.  The only other person around me was my teammate Tom.  I told him that since Nikos was up the road I was just going to take it easy to the finish.  He somehow convinced me to keep going.  We took turns rotating and I soon realized that when you are hurting there are a lot of small hills on that home stretch that I'd never noticed before.  I also never really realized that you still had eight more miles to go before the finish.  It was about the hardest eight miles I'd ever done.  With Tom's help I coasted across the line for 10th.  I probably wasn't as happy as Jeff was with his 50 mile off the front solo for the victory but I was proud of myself for gutting it out.  It was a small victory in my head.

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