Hit number two in the BUMPS hillclimb series today, Okemo Mountain. While Whiteface tends to draw interdisciplinary athletes, the obscure Okemo hillclimb seems to draw as much cycling talent as Mt Washington. A bunch of elite riders showed up, most signing up day-of so I didn't know they were coming. Anthony Coby, Charlie McCarthy, Andy Gardner and David Glick are a few. Local climbing phenom Gerry Clapper (Williams Cycling) was there too. Gerry was the last guy to hang with Roger Aspholm at Housatonic last weekend. Sub-hour on Mt Washington, I expected Gerry to beat me by at least two minutes here. He was the only one in my age group I thought I had to contend with.
Hillclimb race reports score pretty low for edge-of-the-seat excitement potential, ranking right up there with individual TT reports. Today's report is no exception.
We line up for 9am start. There were over 90 of us, in one wave. I queued up in first row, about 10 across. Without warning, the cannon (a real miniature cannon) about 8ft away from me goes off. No count-down. We knew race would start any minute, but this thing scared the crap out of us. The cannon was so loud you could feel the percussion.
Flying down the switchbacks to Rt 103, non-neutral, with riders that perhaps never road race, was a bit hairy. Idea was to stay at the front. Once on Rt 103, it is two miles to the climb. About 8 of us got a nice paceline going at 28-30mph. This fast start makes Okemo unique from the other climbs. It starts more like the middle of a road race where people are jockeying for front position when a big hill is coming up.
The first couple tenths of a mile are wicked steep, maybe 15%. All the young Pro/1/2's and Gerry go ballistic. I think I did a pretty good job keeping check on power. A number of riders went way harder than they should've and I soon passed them. Jeff Johnson (Battenkill-United) was ahead of me. We traded places for a while. I finished comfortably ahead of him at Whiteface last weekend but he was putting me into a world of hurt this morning. Maybe I shouldn't have gone for the mountain bike ride yesterday. I figured I was not having a good day or he was working on borrowed kilojoules. Eventually he snapped and was gone.
I was now gaining on Andy Gardner (Metlife). Andy did 6-gaps with us this year, and I thought to gain on him on something like this probably meant he was not having a good day. Later I learned this was the case. Then a no-team rider passed me and Andy. Who was this guy? He looked younger than me, but put me down another spot overall. Things settled down after that with about 1.5 miles of 12% to go. I figured my finishing position was sealed, as there were no other waves with potentially faster riders in them like at other hillclimbs. Anybody that was going to beat me was already up the road. I got a little bit lazy. I never lost sight of Andy, but there was nobody behind me.
Perhaps I backed off more than I expected. I here something, look back, and Bob Meikle is right there. Crap! Where did he come from? I still had better part of a mile to go, which takes a long time at 8mph. I started killing myself and could not grow the gap. I could not let up for even a second. I managed to hold him off to the line though, with only 9 seconds margin. That is only 100ft at 8mph. Bob is another one of those runner turned cyclist types. Seems all these converts climb like mountain goats on 'roids. I believe Gerry Clapper took up cycling after running not that long ago too.
I finished with a 32:08.2 time. This is about 21 seconds faster than last year. A new PR, right? Not so fast. We averaged around 29mph over the two mile lead-in to the climb today. Last year we strolled along at conversation pace, more likely 25mph average. I got pulled along about 40 seconds faster than last year. Thus on the actual climb, I was 19 seconds slower! To be fair, I did pull through a few times leading into the climb, so I earned my share of the fast stuff. But it wasn't an individual effort. Oh well, that is the way these mass start hillclimbs can be sometimes. I was happy with my result.
I placed 7th overall, 2nd to Clapper in my age group who was 4th overall. Colby won it, crushing the course record by nearly 2 minutes with 27:27. Glick, who established the record last year, was a few seconds slower this year. Ann Howard also broke the women's record by nearly a minute.
Since nobody that beat me at Whiteface made it to Okemo, I should be overall points leader for BUMPS now. This means I'll get to wear the KOM jersey at Ascutney next month. I really wanted one of these. I think the BUMPS team did a nice job with the design.
The rain held off for the race. Results were up by the time we got back down. What a novelty! Awards went on schedule, but most of us were passing out during the awards because food was not served until after the awards were done. That's one way to increase participation during awards! Seriously, Glenn Deruchie (Okemo Resort) and Jack Dortch (Ludlow Rotary Club) and team did a fantastic job putting this event on. Some top talent showed up today, and about 50% more riders participated than last year. That is notable in current economic climate.
Joey B and I went out for a loop ride after nourishment. Plan was to head north on Rt 100, hit the 10% dirt CCC/Shrewsbury climb, then Joey would had back via Rt 103 while I explored a couple more climbs. We no more than got to Shrewsbury Rd and it started pouring out. Neither of us wanted to trash our climbing bikes in mud. Joey headed back, I opted for a Rt 100/4/100A loop with a small amount of climbing. At least it wasn't cold or electrifying out. I got in a solid 100 minutes or so of upper tempo to threshold effort. Guess that means I'm bailing on the Putney MTB race on Sunday. I'm a wuss like that. With all the rain they've gotten the last few days, I doubt I could go more than five minutes at a time without falling off.