Team Stages

Considerably More Strenuous Than Expected, But a Great Day Nonetheless!

I probably started a little too fast, but started feeling good again climbing Left Hand. Then came the infamous Rowena Trail, which made me reconsider any goals I had for the day. After that I was just trying to finish as strong as possible.

100km is the shortest distance I've raced so far, so I didn't think it would be too tough, especially since there was a section in the middle that wasn't even timed. I was wrong! 

I knew I was going to start fast, and I was right about that. As a smaller rider, the rolling flats leading up to the first big climb (Left Hand Canyon) aren't ever a ton of fun for me, so I spent considerable effort staying in the draft of the bigger guys. That strategy served me pretty well, but I was feeling it by the time we got to the beginning of the big road climb. Then when all the big guys got to struggle while I was able to recover, still staying with them. Of course the groups got all broken apart, but I think anybody I let go past got reeled back in before the top. The benefits of being small and familiar with that climb gave me an edge. I was oblivious to what was coming next.

The flagger directed me to make a turn, but, because there wasn't a rider in front of me, the snowbank didn't register as a trail. I dismounted to get over it, not realizing yet that I wouldn't be back in the saddle for a good while. Coming into the race, I assumed there would be rideable sections of that trail - almost none of it was rideable at all, even for the guys with the fattest tires. The trail gains about 110m over 3km, which doesn't sound too bad, but pushing one's bike the whole time through snow ranging from hardpack to mashed potatoes consitency made for quite the challenge. I've never done anything like that. At least one guy on skis past us descending from the other way. I guess the hike lasted around 30 minutes, but it felt like an hour. My hips and lower back were wrecked once I finally got to the top. I made a last-minute decision *not* to use 650b x 47mm, and it was the right call; it wouldn't have helped me up that section any faster, and it would have made me way slower on the rest of the course. The first timed section ended pretty shortly after we got up the hike. My training partner, Kevin, beat me through this initial section by about 5 minutes, but I'd make it up on the final timed section. 

The untimed section featured a hairy descent down Sunshine Canyon, the unpaved top of which was plentiful with snow, mud and ice. The paved section was a lot safer, and I believe that's where I hit my top speed of >75kph. It was a teeth-chattering descent, but it was much warmer at the bottom, thankfully. The course passed through the NW edge of Boulder, then the timed section starts at the bottom of the Pine Brook climb. Unlike the Left Hand climb, this climb started out steep - right to business. I was unzipped and wishing I had a way to take off more layers in no time at all. Thankfully it's only a 2.6km climb, so it was a relatively short grind. This was followed by a fairly short descent during which we all got a mud shower, followed immediately by a 2km climb up Olde Stage. Short but steep! The 10% grade at the bottom had me questioning my decisions, but the reward was 20km of gradual descending with very few bumps breaking it up.

The course flattens out with about 10km to go and then begins to gently ascend again until the finish. I kept telling myself I was almost to the finish, but I was afraid to check the distance on my bike computer. My main priority was not riding alone, so I burned any matches I had left to stick with any passing pacelines. I only had to let one group go, and I ended up passing all the guys from that line later individually. I dropped Kevin on one of the climbs after Boulder and never saw him again. I ended up finishing the 2nd timed segment about 7 minutes faster than him, beating him by just under 2 minutes total. Official time 4:02:56

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