Masters 45+ Hillclimb
2:37:07hrs, ~27 miles/7000ft vert, 44th/78
The Mt Evans Hillclimb was a "F" race for me, "F" for fun. Still though, I had a target finishing time in mind. Scaling how I did against Tom Danielson a few years ago on Mt Washington, I thought I could muster a 2:15 finish, good for around 15-20th place in the Masters 45+ category.
We arrived in Denver on Friday, picked up rental road bikes for the race, and went for a short spin on the awesome Denver bike path system. It was hot out. The bikes worked well but felt a little sluggish. Our rentals were steel frame Bianchi's, probably weighed about 22 lbs, and were a tad small at 54cm. I normally ride 56.5cm. When I spun up on a descent, something didn't feel right. The crank arms were only 170mm. I normally ride 175mm. But that wasn't the worst part. The Campy equipped bikes actually rode quite nice. The worst part was tire treatment. There were these really heavy strips inside the tires to protect against punctures. The strips were just like glued type patch material but wrapped around the outer portion of the tube. If that weren't enough, the tubes were filled with Slime. I think my rear tire was almost half full. I brought spare tubes and tires along just in case the rentals had touring tires. But the tires were so hard to get off, and the strips so messy to put back in, I opted to leave the stock tires on. We had to rush after the race to get the bikes back and pick up our MTBs before they closed at 4pm. There just wouldn't be enough time to swap things back over.
We got the bikes from Paul's Cyclery. Paul warned us these were not racing bikes. He also told us he had only one flat in his rental fleet last year. I supposed if you are a tourist or on travel and looking to squeeze a ride in, not getting a flat has high value. But all that stuff in there probably increased rolling resistance at least 4x. The slime in the both tires made them feel like they were on a magnetic resistance trainer. Paul is a super nice guy, and I would do business with him again. Armouring the tires makes good business sense. Had I known this, I probably would have taken one of my wheelsets with me.
Just over 1000 people were registered for the hillclimb. Apparently there was another road race going on that stole riders. Last year there were about 1200 finishers. Tom Danielson was supposed to race Saturday but didn't show. Being a 2+hr TT, I did not warm up rigorously. I lined up a little late and ended up at the back of the pack.
Finish at 14,000ft
The race starts off fairly flat, and it is definitely pack racing. Speeds of around 20+mph were held starting I think (no computer). Drafting was everything. The lead pack held together for the first 7-8 miles of the race. But I was dying. Many guys were casually talking in the pack for the first few miles while I was just killing myself to stay in the pack. I was freaking out. It had to be the bike. 7000ft altitude does not make that big of a difference for a low lander. By the 8 mile post, I made conscious choice to let lead group of about 30 riders go and ride at my own pace. I pretty much rode the remaining 20 miles of the climb by myself other than passing dropped riders from the field 15 minutes ahead of me. But even riding at my own pace became increasingly difficult. The bike was so sluggish I began to doubt I'd even finish this climb. With 5 miles to go and the steepest part of the race, I started cramping up. With 1km to go, I was having such severe cramps that I would slow to a track stand to keep hamstrings stretched out for seconds at a time. I finished, but not until most dropped riders from my field passed me.
Switchbacks to summit
I was in a pretty foul mood finishing. There was nothing but water up top (pure water, no carbs or electrolytes), and no food. I wasn't mad because of placing poorly. I didn't expect to do well here anyway. I was mad because of the damage I did to my legs at the beginning of a week of epic riding. I had so many screwed up muscles in my legs I couldn't even walk right at the top. My time of 2:37hrs is only slightly faster than when I rode my mountain bike up Mt Evans three years ago with knobbie tires at a recreational pace. This fun race turned into a death climb. With no nutrients up top whatsoever, the descent was going to be long. It takes better part of an hour to descend. A couple places required pedaling and my legs immediately went back into spasms.
Dave finished a few minutes faster than me in the 35+ category. He was on a similarly equiped Bianchi. Another New Hamshirite, Tom Ramsey, finished in around 2:27 in the 55+ category. Tom took his race bike with him.
Other than the racing being a catastrophe, the day was perfect. A little warm at the bottom, maybe 50's up top, and very little wind. It was clear and you could see a hundred miles in all directions. After the descent, it was warm. It nearly hit 100F in Denver nearby. We got the bikes back in time and grabbed our MTB's. Our next destination was Salida, CO for an Epic 54 mile trail ride at 12,000ft. I'll have to save how that ride went (fantastic) and today's ride in Taos, NM (fantastic but brutal) for another day.