Monday, July 25, 2011

Cascade Cycling Classic 2011

It’s over…6 days of racing against a tough competition. 2mi prologue, 74mi Road Race, 14mi TT, 71mi Road Race, 50min crit, and 67mi Road Race without a rest day.

Bend is great! The weather was gorgeous and the scenery is incredible. The residents are very supportive of the race. We stayed with a host family, which made it even more fun! You had a choice of 50 neutral bottles in the feed zone, where do you get that! The town is small so no matter where you go you run into other racers. I loved it!

The races were tough! We had all sort of National Champions in the stage race.We started with 105 racers on Tuesday and ended up with 64 by the end of Sunday.

Those girls are no joke! When I thought I have some sort of advantage in a race, I was proven wrong within the first few miles of the race! Any minor weakness became immediately apparent and the list is not short.

But hey, that was the perfect way to see how much training I got to do during the winter. So I am looking for a place somewhere warm, a lot of mountains, and a great cycling scene. (Any recommendations are highly appreciated)

I know what to expect at Cascades and I am coming back next year with a bigger goal in mind.

Thank you, residents of Bend, for your support, especially thanks to Sami F., Liana O., and Chuck M. for host housing and race support!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stage 1 Cascade- Tough luck, Tougher Course, Toughest competition

74 mi race with 7000 feet of climbing.

The race starts with a 28 mi descent, followed by a 20 mi climb, followed by a 15 mi descent and then another 11 mi climb. Tough course with even tougher competition, probably the strongest field I raced against so far.

Today I learned what speed wobbles are: SCARY! Finally after Toona, I feel more comfortable descending and then my bike plays games on me!

During the first 28 mi fast descent I hit 43mph when suddenly my front tire started shaking. I tried to ignore it first but when it got worse and it became an uncontrollable movement, I had to slow down big time to get control of the bike again.

Since the peloton went over 43mph, I had to watch the gap getting bigger. I had to wait until the road got flatter to chase back to the group. Great! I just used a major amount of energy on a part of the race which shouldn’t require any effort whatsoever. It’s not like that the upcoming 20 mile climb would be challenging….

I don’t need to mention that the 20mi climb was long, like really long. Long enough that you have time to think about how hard this climb is. Long enough that you are debating with yourself why you had to eat so much the past years, if you were only 20 pounds lighter.

Despite the rather lengthy suffering going uphill, once on top of the McKenzie Mountain, you are riding through the lava field, which is spectacular. Very moon-like, only that the gravity part seemed to have the reverse effect.

After another 15mi descent, I timetrialed with 2 other girls for about 10mi and got caught by a group of 10 5 miles before the finish. The end! I finished. It was hard.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pre-race report: Cascade Cycling Classic

Taking place in Bend, Oregon, the Cascade Cycling Classic starts next Tuesday, has a prologue and five stages. The 34 page tech manual got posted a few days ago which got me all excited. The overview of the stage is as follows:

Tue: 2mi Prologue, out and back

Wed: 74mi Road Race

Thurs: 14mi TT out and back

Fri: 71mi Road Race (Men: 84mi)

Sat: 50min crit (Men: 75min)

Sun: 67mi Circuit Race (Men: 83mi)

I learned from the past few races that either the elevation charts are targeted towards total confusion for the racer or I missed an elevation chart 101 course somewhere.

I always get fooled by those tricky charts for better or for worse! Either I am suddenly surprised by a 2 mi wall ahead of me, which did not even appear after microscopic inspection of the chart or I am fearing that seemingly immense mountain drafted on the chart, and I hit a speed bump in reality.

Figure 1: Stage 1: 74mi Road Race

The real challenge I am facing is the range of the y-axis of stage 1. The average East Coaster is used to an elevation range maybe between 300 feet and 3000 feet.

Cascade starts at 1600 feet and climbs up to 5400 feet which makes me wonder if besides a topographic map and a compass (see Tour de Toona report) I might be better off with an oxygen mask.

People who have been riding with me know that I already sound like a dying train at sea level. Let’s see how many racers I will aggravate with my rather noisy breathing pattern at 5000 feet.

When studying the x-axis of the elevation chart, I happened to find out that one of the climbs stretches to an entire length of 20 mi. How many Old Angler repeats would that be?

In any case, I am sure this will be another exciting week of racing!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tour de Toona Stage 3 - Road Race or Adventure Race?

From left: Ainhoa, Erin, Patty, Sarah, Brenna, Monika

Saturday: 90.9mi Road Race with about 7000feet of climbing.

This stage was definitely not a usual road race and more reminded me of Adventure Racing! You would think the challenging course would make it an unforgettable race in itself but there was more to come.

After about mile 44, the motor ref stopped the entire women’s field because we were not on race course anymore. So we had to turn around and restart the race. Since there was a breakaway up the road which also got off the race course, the break was allowed to start 3minutes ahead of the peloton.

After about 60mi or so, the same happened again. We got somehow off course and the field was neutralized. But instead of restarting right away, we had to wait for the break to come back because they also went the wrong way but farther ahead. By the time they came back, the two Men’s races, Cat 2 and 3, came through. So we probably spent 20 to 30minutes sitting in the shade waiting for the restart.

Once the race restarted, we faced a long and steep climb up Blue Knob including a grade of 18% gravel section. Once over the mountain, groups formed and I got into a group of maybe 15 racers with my teammates Lindsay and Erin.

We all rode together over the next mountain and everything was fine until mile 75 when I got a flat. I was about to run back to the last QOM half a mile when a follow vehicle stopped and provided a new wheel.

The entire process took maybe two or three minutes, unfortunately too long to be able to catch on to my group. So I raced for 15 miles by myself to the finish, but happy anyway!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tour de Toona - quick update

Field: 78 racers, Pro/1/2

Four stages: Wed: 3mi TT, Thur: 72.9mi Road Race, Sat: 90.9mi Road Race, Sun: 30mi crit

Wednesday - 3mi TT in Altoona, with 16 corners.

This was an all out sprint effort, a lot of fun; I was done before I realized it.

Thursday - 72.9mi Road Race with mountaintop finish

I woke up extra early on Wednesday for the drive up to PA. I wanted to see the two King of the Mountain spots which gave me the chance to see the second part of the race course. The course was never really flat, always rolling. When it was somewhat flat, then you had to deal with strong crosswind. There was never a time to relax on those 72.9mi. At the beginning of the race I was worried I would get dropped on the climbs. I realized really fast, I had to worry about the downhills.

The downhill sections were definitely not my favorite part of the race. I had to get used to trust two thin rubber tires to hold me up when descending at a ridiculous high speed. I checked my max speed after the race and it said 67mi/hr. I know, I know, this is probably not correct but I definitely felt like I was going that fast, especially when it was pouring rain! For about half an hour, we got rained on and partly pretty heavily.

We lost some riders on the first climb 35mi into the race. Then it was a matter of holding on all the descents. As all breakaway attempts were always caught I didn’t worry to stay in the front all the time. It all came down to the final climb: 4.3 mi and about 1700ft to the top.

I started off slower than most of my competition but was able to keep a consistent pace and passed about 10 people climbing up. That gave me motivation to push harder so I wouldn’t get passed again.

Today: Rest Day and we probably will need it because tomorrow we are facing 90mi and about 7000ft of climbing.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Toughest weekend so far...

This might be the hardest weekend I will have for this year. I do not have a race!!! The more rational half of me (my coach) asked me to take off to get ready for Tour de Toona.

To obtain your full sympathy for my weekend-off-concern, we have to put this in numbers, cyclists and Germans like analysis, I am both:

So far in 2011, I have raced 40 races in 20 weeks, averaging two a week. And I am far away from burn out. That means it has been five months since I have had a weekend off to do something else. Now the issue arises that I forgot what “something else” was!

Let’s talk for a second why I am taking off: Tour de Toona. Two weeks ago, I almost had a heart attack when I tried to digest the stages of the tour:

6 days racing: 3mi TT as a warm up, 2 stages > 70 miles, 2 stages > 90mi, and a nice 30mi crit at the end! And we are not talking about flat courses.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who got a little worried about this race because I looked back at the website again recently and it got shortened…by a lot! Only four stages with 1 stage >70mi and 1stage >90mi plus a rest day between.

Either way, I am excited to race the Tour.

However, the weekend-off-issue is still not resolved.

I think I will go back to my cycling roots, the old times riding with the V Day group who taught me how to shift, encouraged me to take the reflective tape off my mountain bike helmet, and waited for me when I got dropped after 20 miles… it seems so long ago, was 2010.

Danny, Danny, and Bruce – Thank you, guys, for teaching me how to ride a bike!