Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018: Stage 4 Avon Mountain Star Time Trial

Please consider a small donation to Team Type 1, the official charity partner for the Haute Route by visiting my fundraising page, no amount is too small.

Stage 4 Avon Mountain Star Time Trial

9.6 miles
1,898 feet of climbing
High point: 8546 feet

Stage Results

General Classification (GC):  18th (+51:56)
Age Group 45-54 (AG):          4th   (+30:05)

As nights went I had a good one only waking a half a dozen times in the night and using the time to drink water and stay hydrated.  Not having to get up at 4 am was certainly a bonus.  I had time for a good breakfast.  After breakfast I thought I would get a jump on the day by taking my bike to the Mavic service van.  It turned out that the start line was further from the hotel than I had anticipated,  but having already started I decided to continue even though I was not in my cycling clothes.

Sitting on the saddle, well simply sucked.  Every revolution of my legs resulted in a stabbing pain that I had to ignore.  When I got to the start line the Mavic team was just arriving.  I explained my discovery after the work they did yesterday and they asked me come back a half hour before my start time to look at it.  So much for getting it resolved early.  At least I knew where to go.

Back at the hotel I applied lots of cream to my saddle sore and got ready.  I wanted to give the Mavic team additional time to look at my wheel as my intuition was telling me it was not going to be a quick fix.  I arrived an hour early and handed over my bike.  After initial troubleshooting I was offered a spare wheel so that I could continue to warm up whilst they worked.

45 minutes later I checked in and the news was not good. Sometimes it sucks when your intuition is right.  The lead mechanic told me he had replaced everything that could be replaced and the problem still persisted.  I was told that the behavior was better but that the wheel needed to be returned under warranty.  They could lend me a spare wheel but it would not be tubeless.  I was surprised and mentioned that I thought they had the new wheels for testing.  They did but it was just my luck that they only had disc brake versions.  I really did not want to switch to tubes so I opt'ed to trust the improvement and modify my riding to accommodate the problem.  Thankfully the work that was done reduced the effect considerably and I was able to use the wheel for the remaining stages without the chain being thrown.  I was impressed by the support and the effort to resolve the problem, and it was backed up with contact details for the North American Mavic GM and assurance I would be taken care of.

With my wheel back on my bike it was fast approaching my start time and before I knew it I was up.  This was my second time ever on a TT ramp and it really was a cool feeling being held ready to go.  Up until I got on the ramp the riders were being sent out 15 seconds apart so I got ready expecting to go quickly when the marshal said "2 minutes to go".  I had a double take moment followed by a "What".  I had to reset myself as they decided to wait 2 minutes before sending out the last wave.  Great I thought, there goes my carrot to chase.   2 minutes later the starter said "Are you ready?", I nodded, I was counted down and with a solid push and I was off.  Time Trials get real quickly and with the adrenaline pumping I replayed my conversation with Jim (my coach).  Stick to the plan and tempo the climbs, I still had the biggest days of riding ahead.  
The start was a long slightly uphill straight.  It took time to adjust to the pain but I soon established a tempo,  putting the pain out of my mind allowing it to become part of the motion.  Left at the roundabout to shouts of encouragement from the police monitoring the coned off course and traffic.  Short climb, quick descent and onto the first major climb.   With riders leaving 15 seconds after me It was no surprise to be caught on the climb.  I had to put my ego aside and stick to the plan. I told myself "ride a hard tempo but do not bury yourself".   Over the top of the first climb and into a long fast descent.  I crested just behind Matt Busche and held pace out of his draft as we dropped into the last climb.  Matt powered away from me at the start of the climb as I settled back into my tempo.

Half way up the climb I started to increase power, lifting the pace to finish strong and limit any loses. I crossed the line tired but not empty, finishing the day in 30th place with a time of 43:13.20 which was 10:41 down on the leader.  I dropped 1 GC  place and defended my age group position of 4th.  When I reviewed my results I found that I lost 5:43 to Colby Pearce the former US hour record holder and leader of our age group.  Overall I was happy with my performance and my ability to stick to the plan.  Later I would learn that Matt Busche caught Phil Southerland who was minutes ahead of him but just before the line,  Phil always the showman hit the line with his arms in the air just ahead of Matt.  Phil tweeted the picture in good humor and it just goes to show pictures don't always tell the whole story.
I rode back to the hotel with the TT1 Team and then took advantage of the day by heading to the hotel, getting an early massage and falling asleep for the rest of the afternoon.  I know exciting stuff, but I really needed the rest and recovery.  After the rider briefing I was really grateful that the team had dinner plans at the Mexican restaurant in the hotel.  It was great to know that the restaurant could cater for my diet and that it was a really short trip back to my room for, you got it, an early night ready for another hard day in the saddle. 

Afterword:   Looking back on the day there where certainly highs and lows.  I was impressed by the help Mavic provided.  I received support from the lead mechanic and he left no stone un-turned in trying to resolve the issue.  When it was clear it was a warranty issue, he contacted his management and provided me with a contact to get the issue resolved once I got home.  It was great service and I am glad I received it.  Without the help I suspect diagnosing the problem via the bike shop and Mavic would have been difficult and very time consuming.

The TT from the ramp to the finish was a professional rider experience and one I really enjoyed.  There seemed to be Haute Route photographers everywhere but disappointingly that did not translate into pictures.  Surly it would not have taken much effort for every rider to be photographed both on and leaving the ramp and the finish but sadly that was not the case.  

Lastly I feel the need to comment on the prizes which for the most part were being swept up by the professional or ex professional riders.  I can't help feel that there should be an elite and non elite GC ranking where the pro's and ex-pros could compete against their peers whilst giving amateurs the ability to compete independently but still compare there times to the elite riders.  At the end of the day it is the amateur riders that fund the Haute Route and I was starting to feel that more could be done to recognize them.

Keep It Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut ...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018: Stage 3 Winter Park to Avon

Please consider a small donation to Team Type 1, the official charity partner for the Haute Route by visiting my fundraising page, no amount is too small.

Stage 3 Winter Park to Avon

94.8 miles
6,751 feet of climbing
High Point 8,913 feet

Stage Results

General Classification (GC):  17th (+41:15)
Age Group 45-54 (AG):          4th   (+24:22)

Thankfully a 8 am start gave me a little longer to recover overnight from the exhaustion and cold of stage 2.  I woke up feeling a little groggy.  I should mention that my morning routine is to take my Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and then Weigh myself.  I was not surprised to discover that my HRV was down after stage 2.  It was good to be aware of my nervous system and although I would not be backing off for another 5 days, I resolved to try to address the need for recovery .   I then focused on getting ready for the day ahead.   The fact that my power meter was not working was playing on my mind since it worked flawlessly during stage 1 after replacing the battery.   The only thing I could think was that the battery provided might have expired.  It seemed a long shot but I met up with Ben the TT1 mechanic and we changed the battery.  A quick ride around the car park and to my great relief (I may or may not have punched the air) the power meter popped into life.  Ben mentioned seeing a little water inside the battery housing so as a precaution we taped the battery door closed to protect it.

My limited impression of Winter Park was one of a small purpose built ski resort.  The hotel was rustic and not somewhere that left me with the desire to return although the place will forever be remembered.  I am sure it is much more scenic in the winter and to be fair I did not do any sight seeing.  The hotel breakfast was limited with scrambled eggs I could not eat (not dairy free), when I asked for plain eggs they told me I could order them but it was too early for the kitchen.  With the kitchen opening around the time we would be starting it was going to be a limited breakfast supplemented with bike food.

When we arrived at the start line we received official confirmation that Stage 2 had be neutralized and all riders were required to get a second transponder fitted to there bikes for timing going forward.

The effort to fit new transponders meant that we left a little later than the scheduled 8am start.  The first timed section would start at mile 6.5, a short ride distance yes, but I had not factored in that we would be going downhill from Winter Park.  Once again I was under dressed and soon found myself shivering as we descended in the chill morning air.  Fortunately it did not take long and soon we turned left and into the first timed section where all thoughts of cold vanished in the heat of competition.

The group was all together as we hit the gravel and I found myself near the front with the race leaders.  In my morning talking to, I had told myself that I would ease into the day and feel out how my body was doing. 

That plan went out the window as I found myself reacting to a sudden surge in the group.  I was now hanging onto the back of the fastest riders in the field and we were moving.  A small gap appeared as one of the riders ahead folded, I heard encouragement from a team mate to go with them and I redoubled my effort and closed the gap.   I knew I could not afford to maintain the power I was putting out but held on for just a little longer.   Finally I had to make the decision to let them go or pay dearly for the effort.  I unhitched with a good lead on the rest of the field and focused on getting to the finish.  The last part of the 14.7 mile segment was a short but brutal up hill climb to the line.  I could see others weaving across the gravel just to maintain momentum as I fought and weaved my way to the line, finishing 17th and 4:24 down from the leader of the race.

Regrouping at the feed station I took on fuel and joined the main group to cover the 23 miles to the next timed section.  I sheltered in the pack and tried to recover at the feed station before timed section 2,  a 10.1 mile rolling gravel segment.

When we arrived organizers held all the riders to ensure the road ahead was clear.  It was an opportunity to take in the scenery and to meet Matthew (Matt) Busche and ex pro and all round nice guy with seriously wicked hair.  He may be retired but boy did he pass me like I was standing still.

I thought the group might ride together with the  GC contenders attacking once a rhythm had been established.  I was wrong.  It might have been different if the group had started together but everyone left in a staggered formation which meant a group needed to form.  My strategy was to wait for the train and jump on.  Well it would have been a good strategy if it had worked but right from the line the group exploded as everyone went full gas.  It was an unorganized mess and I found myself isolated and chasing as riders all around me buried themselves or went backwards.  I eyeballed my power meter and knew I had to establish a steady state pace and ignore the mellay around me.  Getting myself under control and riding within myself I slowly joined up with a small group of riders.  Over the next few miles the group swelled as individuals joined and as a group we brought back others.  Soon we become the second group on the road.  Mission accomplished I was in a strong group.

The rolling terrain comprised of short hard climbs and fun fast swooping gravel descents.  The importance of being in a group on rolling terrain was driven home as the group dynamic moved us far quicker than solo riders.  The climbs were not steep enough to negate drafting and in the descents the rolling surges accelerated the group to faster and faster speeds thanks largely to Phil and Dan's enthusiasm to go as fast as possible down hill.   We picked up strong riders who had been tailed off of the lead group and forced to ride solo.  The group stayed together pushing each other along.  Climbing the second to last hill Will announced to the rider pulling "you know I am here to Help".  Will is a tour lead and strong.  He took over the lead and the rider he was helping asked him to ease up as he un-intentionally applied pressure and almost split the group early.

With 5K to go I found myself off the front having created a small gap on a fast descent.  It was down hill and I felt good but I reigned in the urge to attack.  I knew the group would move faster than me and I did not have the strength to crush the last climb without committing far more than I wanted to.  I cruised until the group picked me up and slipped into rotation.  Right at the end of the section the trail kicked up into a nasty little climb.  The group slowly picked up speed as the strong riders looked to shed the others.  With 1K to go I was holding with the group, I felt strong and considered my options.  With 500 meters I decided I would try an attack, I kicked hard and put space between myself and the others, I held the attack to the line finishing 14th and reclaiming a few seconds and a little bit of self pride after taking a pounding yesterday.  On retrospect it was not a sensible move.  The time gains were minimal and the energy cost high.  As my coach was drilling into me, at altitude you do not recover like you do at sea level, once you go into the red it is hard if not impossible to recover.  I spent matches I should have kept for later.

The 3rd and final timed section "Walcott Climb" was just 2 miles away and preceded by the last feed station.  It would be a climb followed by a long descent covering a total of 10.1 miles.  I joined the group at the start of the climb and  they immediately went hard.  It had been a good day of racing and I had to considered the pro's and con's of going with them.  I gritted my teeth and decided to stick with the plan of pacing the climbs. It was still only stage 3 after all.  I still found it hard to be sensible but my training kicked in and I settled into a hard but steady pace.  Once over the top I shifted gears and started to drive for the line, I could have used Phil and Dan's help on that descent, but alas I was once again solo .  I dropped into a tuck and hammered down hill,  I caught a couple of riders on the long descent.

I might have recovered more time but my mind was rudely jarred to a problem I thought had been resolved.  At around 50 mph I dropped into a tuck when there was a violent jarring and my chain dismounted.  The chain then wrapped around my crank as I went to drive down on the peddles to pickup more speed.  This all happened in those moments between time and it almost resulted in a high speed wipeout as the back wheel jived.  Fortunately I snapped the bike back into line and was forced to appraise the situation. 

The problem had been present in my Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon UST wheels from new.  I had been told the solution was to run them in.  Well they should have been well and truly run in by now.  I was now facing a dilemma.  My cranks were locked up and I needed to either stop and remount the chain or carry as much rolling speed as possible.  I decided to tuck and use the speed I had.  A few minutes later I could see the road flattening out and I knew I would need to pedal.  With no choice I pulled over and remounted the chain.  As I restarted I went to shift and to my horror nothing happened.  I was stuck in a 50/11 with little gradient and worst of all a slight up hill to the end of the segment.

I had no choice but to grind out the gear, losing momentum and speed with every pedal stroke.  I crawled across the timing line and stopped.  I had a whole raft of emotions warring inside me.  I was frustrated, angry, tired and confused.

Once across the line I sent an SOS to Team Type 1 for mechanical support.   Just past the line the marshal came over and started to look at my bike.  He pulled back my brake hoods to check the Di2 connection, unplugged and plugged in my rear derailleur Di2 cable and pushed and pulled at the cage.    Suddenly there was movement and the rear derailleur started to work.  I did not not question it further but thanked the marshal and remounted to limp into the last feed station.  As I got going a Mavic Support Motor bike sent by Team Type 1 joined me.  He called out "I will watch your back" and followed me to the feed station.  I was frustrated and concerned that I would not make the rest of the ride, however for now everything was operational and Ben the Team Type 1 mechanic could not see any further issues, promising to look at the bike at the finish.

Putting the frustration aside I joined the lead group to finish the last 14 miles of the day.  It was great to hang with and arrive in Avon in the lead group. 

It seemed the drama of the day before was in the past with a new mechanical drama unfolding.  To add insult to injury I was developing a very uncomfortable saddle sore but at that point it was the least of my worries.  On the up side I got to hang out with the race leader on the way to Avon.  At the finish line I took my bike to the Mavic service team to look at the wheel.  I demonstrated the problem and explained what had happened along with the history of the wheel.  They told me to leave the bike with them.  When I picked it up I was told it was a new design and needed to be greased properly.   They assured me it had been fixed and I headed to my room.

Later I would learn that the rear derailleur has a fail safe mode that stops operation in the event of an accident.  The violent nature of the chain dismount triggered the fail safe.  The marshal had unknowingly reset the rear derailleur by pushing and pulling on it.

After a welcome massage and nap I was ready for the rider briefing and dinner.   But first there was the small an insignificant matter of a boil forming in the crease of leg in a location very few except your loved ones and medical staff are willing to explore.  Fortunately the medical team was willing to make a house call and the prognoses was a ruptured sore.  It seemed like all my careful planning was coming apart.  I had gone through bike and saddle fitting only to get my very first saddle sore of my life on stage 3.  I was prescribed both oral antibiotics and antibiotic cream to fight the wound internally and externally with the reassuring advice that it was going to hurt like a [fill in the blank] until I stopped riding on it.  Oh Joy.

At the briefing Amber kindly went to the pharmacy to pick up my medication whilst we sat through the recognition of the top three leaders in the GC and each age group.  It still amazed me that all the riders received was a photo in front of the Mavic Haute Route banner, I felt they could have at least provided a small medal or something to acknowledge the achievement for each stage, the presenter even announced them as bronze, silver and gold medal winners.   Anyway the briefing then outlined the Time Trial for Stage 4 and the order riders would leave in.

My wheel  however was top of mind as the presenter outlined a fast descent between two climbs.  Then I looked on the board and discovered I would be the first rider in the last wave with all of the fastest riders behind me.   For many the Time Trial day was going to be a recovery day.  Not for me, sitting in 4th in my age group I would have to race to hold my position.  At least it would not be a super early morning. 

As I walked to the restaurant with Tina the events of the day were playing on my mind and how the situation with my rear wheel could have been disastrous.   At the restaurant I was asked about my day and I was surprised by the thoughtless jokes about my wheel.  Being tired, hungry and worried I was in no mood for joviality on a subject that could have put me in hospital.  I was also unhappy as I had decided to test my wheel earlier and found that Mavic had not resolved the problem.  So in summary I was not in the best state of mind to hear jokes when I needed help and answers.

Oh well at least I would eat well, or so I thought.  The final blow of the day was to discover that despite being assured that the restaurant would cater for my diet I was informed by the waiter there was nothing on the menu I could eat.  I was speechless, tired and hungry and I had expended energy walking to a place that could not feed me.  I found I was surprisingly calm (or possible dangerously calm) as I excused myself and left to find food elsewhere.

Fortunately I was able to defuse myself (helped by being dog tired) on the walk back at the hotel where the hostess of the Western hotel restaurant was a breath of fresh air.  She helped me with my order ensuring it was gluten, dairy and preservative free.  The taco's were great and with a full stomach I was able to relax.

Putting the high's and lows behind me I made a mental note to visit the Mavic Service team ahead of tomorrows race and do my best in Stage 4 as I pulled the covers over me to embrace sleep and much needed recovery.

Keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut ....

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018: Stage 2 Boulder to Winter Park (Post Race)

As you probably gathered I gave up posting during the event.  I simply did not have the energy or time to create a new post after each stage.  Rather than stress about providing content I decided to share the experience afterwards.  It has taken me a little while to post as I had to recover from altitude sickness that hit the evening of the last stage.

Please consider a small donation to Team Type 1, the official charity partner for the Haute Route by visiting my fundraising page, no amount is too small.

Stage 2 Boulder to Winter Park

89.3 miles
12,173 feet of climbing
High Point 11,297 feet (Berthoud Pass)

Stage Results

General Classification (GC):  22nd (+16:11)
Age Group 45-54 (AG):          4th   (+12:09)

At 4:30 am I was up before the alarm ready for a 5 am breakfast and a 7 am start.  I am not a morning person and I neglected to train for early morning starts and I knew they were going to get old quickly.   The start line was buzzing and the sun was shining as everyone prepared for what was going to be a big day in the saddle.

Inside track:  An advantage of being part of Team Type 1 is that Phil knows, or is known by most, if not all of the organizers and ex-professional riders in the event.  That is not to say they are not approachable, just that it made introductions easier.

It was after one such Phil conversation that I met Colby Pearce (former US hour record holder) and snagged a couple of selfies.  In stage 1 Colby established himself as the leader in the 45-54 age group and was sitting 8th in the GC.

At 7 am the peloton rolled though Boulder  with a police escort.  It would be a short warm up with the first timed section and climb (Sugerloaf) starting at mile 5.7.  With grades exceeding 15% we would climb to the summit, descend for a short section then climb again to the finish at mile 15.8.  As I looked down at my Garmin I was frustrated to see a blank power reading.  My power meter problems were persisting and I would have to ride the day without it, even though I was using it re-actively due to the altitude it was still a mental blow.  I would have to rely on my heart rate as a guide.

I was learning that timed sections make for very interesting race dynamics.  Racers seemed to hit the first time section hard giving you the choice to either go with them and potentially over commit, or ride your own pace and lose contact with the main group.  With three sections I opted for my own pace and soon found myself working my way through riders as I paced the climb.  Later I would discover I completed time section 1 in 39th place, 17:49 down from the race leader but only 4 minutes off of my rivals.

At the feed station the team re-grouped and moved out with a larger group to share the effort over the 9 miles to the second timed section at mile 24.1.  The second timed section would be a mix of climbing, descending and gravel, over rolling terrain.  The start of the section came after a descent where I found myself out in front of our group with a few other riders at the base of the first climb.  I felt comfortable and sat in to share the work.  We pulled away building up a lead when I stood up in the saddle and my chain snapped.  It took me a second to register what had happened and then my heart sunk.  My chain was wrapped around the bottom bracket and I was going nowhere.   When I finally unwrapped my chain I discovered that the speed link had failed.  There is a first time for everything but really at the start of a timed section, did it really have to fail now, apparently the answer was yes.

The main group soon came by and with luck the Mavic support car was right behind them.  I was losing time but my hopes lifted when I saw the Mavic car.  He pulled over and came to help.  I told him what had happened and he took my bike.  In retrospect I should have taken some pictures as it would turn out that I had plenty of time.  I was however metaphorically hopping from one foot to the other.  I was really grateful that I had support but the support was taking a painfully long time as the mechanic rummaged around in his box for a speed link then to my horror struggled to connect the chain.  I could see that the link was not seated properly as he continued to try to force it to lock.  I finally had to point out the problem and then seated the link myself.  It locked and he took the bike and spun the chain on.  I thought "that's it, I am off",  within a couple of peddle strokes something was wrong, the grinding sound was a dead giveaway.  Stopping I discovered the chain had been run behind the front derailleur.  I had to break the chain, re-thread and re-join it.  I had lost somewhere in the region of 10 to 20 minutes in one go.  Finally I was back up and riding and feeling a whole lot of pressure to ride hard to limit my loses.

Without the support of a group I put my head down and ride solo, the scenery was a blur as I focused on the effort.  Soon  I was turning off the road and onto gravel where I redoubled my effort to claw back time.  By the time I reached the end of the section I knew I had committed a significant amount of effort.  I finished the section in 56th place, 31:04 down from the race leader and losing around 14 minutes to my main rivals.

From the feed station we had a 23.5 mile ride to the final timed section of the day.  The climb to the summit of Berthoud Pass and the high point for the day at 11,297 feet.  We rode as a small group as the weather started to turn.  With the first drops of rain we pulled over to put on jackets, which was a good decision, before long it was not only raining, it was hailing.  The weather remained changeable as we continued on.  After the effort in time section 2 I knew I needed to recover and allowed myself to yo-yo off of the back of the group as they pushed harder than I wanted to ride.  The trade off was a lack of shelter but I needed to conserve energy.  As we approached the feed station at the base of the climb I was joined by another rider and a Colorado native.  He said there was a storm front coming and we were in for "some special Colorado weather."  I had no idea what that meant but it did not sound good.

As soon as we arrived at the feed station there was confusion.  We were told that due to the weather timed section 3 had been neutralized and that the day was over.  Team members started to get changed and pack up their bikes.  A police officer confirmed the situation and I stopped my Garmin and prepared to get changed.  What we did not know was the ramification of not finishing the last time section.  Then someone said they were checking with the Haute Route officials.  Then it got even crazier.  The official word from the Haute Route was that the road was clear and the timing section open.  The police officer was shaking his head and reiterated, it was a bad idea and riders should finish here.  We were caught between the risk of weather and being told the timing section was open.  If we wanted to complete the race we had to ride.  Fortunately I had packed some warmer clothing in my sag bag and after pulling on knee warmers, thin glove liners and my rain jacket I headed to the start of the last timed section of the day.

As I hit the start of the 12.7 mile climb I had no idea what was ahead, had I known I would have packed up at the feed station and called it good.  The climb was not steep, but it was long and high.  It was not long before the altitude started to sap what strength I had left after an already crazy day.   As I got higher, I started to fight a sick sensation in my stomach and head forcing me to ease up on the power.  Then about 3/4 of the way up it started to snow, then the wind picked up and it became driving snow reducing visibility and making for a surreal experience.  Head down, I was managing my body and focused on getting to the top.  After what felt like forever I finally crossed the line but the weather and altitude had exacted a cost.  I had arrived in 64th place, 38:14 down on the leaders and losing almost 20 minutes to my rivals.  I would not know the times until much later.  As I reached the summit in the driving snow my only thought was to finish the stage.  One of the Team Type 1 crew said "do you want to go on?" followed by "Phil went on and is just ahead of you",   In my exhausted and altitude befuddled mind the only option was to go on and finish.  I shouted into the wind and snow "I will go on".  Boy was that a stupid decision.

Let's recap the conditions (picture by Rupert Waterhouse as the weather closed in).  Driving snow with temperatures well below freezing. Visibility a few feet ahead and road conditions treacherous.  I had nothing on my head other than my helmet with lots of air vents, thin glove liners, rain jacket, short sleeve jersey, shorts and knee warmers, oh and toe warmers over my shoes.  I was not exactly prepared for the conditions I now found myself in.

As I started the decent, snow drove into my face and helmet simultaneously freezing my head and blinding me.  My eyes felt like they were freezing and I had to clear the snow from my glasses to see.  The faster I went the worse my head froze forcing me to ride my brakes to both stay safe and try to reduce the cold.  It was a losing battle as sensation in my hands was almost gone.  I considered pulling over but with no shelter on the side of the road I feared freezing whilst waiting for help.  Instead I held on to my brakes feathering them as best I could.   The cold was so painful and I felt waves of sickness.  Then things took a more worrying turn as my vision started to tunnel threatening a potential black out.  I shook my head and focused on staying conscious, I chanted to myself  "stay up, stay up, stay up".  I knew if I could stay together a little longer the temperature would increase as I lost altitude.  I just had to stay upright and conscious, then I felt it, slightly warmer air, it washed over me like hope and I knew then I could hold on to the finish.

As I crossed the finish line the announcer called out "another Team Type 1 rider is in", but my scrambled mind barely registered the words.  I heard someone say "lets get you warm" then someone else lead me to an underground garage.  The words and the result were very different.  I was left freezing cold and confused.  What the official had done was lead me to the Haute Route bag drop.  Had they taken a moment to appraise my condition they might have really helped and limited what happened next.  My bag was not there it was with Team Type 1.   I looked around like a dummy for a few minutes trying to figure out where I was and what to do when I saw Phil's bike outside a cafe across from me.  I used it as a beacon, put my bike next to it and headed inside.  Phil, looked at me and said something like "you too", I just nodded and sat down at a table.  I was so, so, so cold.  I just sat there in cold, wet clothes and started to shake.  The shaking increased and was so violent I could not think, speak or control my body.  My bag arrived and somehow I forced myself out of my wet gear and into dry clothes but the shaking got worse.  The riders at the table were trying to look after me.  They got me a tea and hot soup but I could not hold them for shaking, I could not think straight, all I could do was shake.  I was really grateful for the support and help.  After what felt like ages I was able to get some hot tea and a little soup down.  The shaking continued all the way to the team car and back to the hotel.   I ran a hot bath, then crawled into bed and fell into a fitful sleep for a couple of hours, skipping the riders briefing for the next day before dinner.

In retrospect I was very, very lucky, things could have gone horribly wrong in so many ways. Ironically the Haute Route decided to neutralize the entire stage due to timing issues and what I can only assume to be mixed messaging as some riders where neutralized before the climb.  The neutralization would go in my favor with regard to the timing.  Although I finished 32nd I had lost considerable time due to a broken chain and adverse weather conditions.  I had gone far deeper than planned and the aftermath of the cold and shaking had taken a considerable toll on my body.  How I would perform in stage 3 would depend on my recovery and that meant sleep.

Afterword:  Looking back on the events of that day and how the Haute Route managed the messaging left me with a very mixed feeling.
By neutralizing the stage the effort and advantage built up by some was completely washed away.  In addition the effort expended was in some cases unequal and some might say unfair going forward.  I both benefited and suffered as a result of the stage.  My time loss was wiped away but conversely I raced hard expending a great deal of energy for nothing.   More concerning to me was the poor judgement call on behalf of the organization and the decision to go against the advice of the local police officer who's appraisal of the situation was completely accurate.  In hindsight I feel they could have aired on the side of caution.  Thankfully no one was harmed but that could so easily have been a different story as I later learnt my experience was not unique.  Things happen and hindsight is 20/20 vision and whilst different decisions might have been possible I want to believe decisions were made to give riders the opportunity to compete and finish.  What I found disappointing was how the Haute Route managed the decisions and outcomes after the fact.  They behaved as though it simply did not happen.  The Stage 2 video contained no reference to/or mention of the weather conditions.  No photographs where shown and to all intense and purpose the stage was all blue sky's and clear riding.  When someone pointed this out in the rider meeting there was nervous laughter and a quick change of subject.  In my opinion this was disrespectful to the riders that had pushed through and overcome extreme conditions regardless of whether they should have been put in that position or not.  I know the day will forever be etched in my memory as one of my most epic and grueling days of riding, as I am sure it will be for many others.

Keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut ....

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018: Stage 2 Boulder to Winter Park

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet as I am writing it on my phone due to a lack of WiFi and I am too tired to find out if one is a available.  I will update it with more detail later, so do check back.

We left Boulder in the sunshine heading to the first timed section of the day, the climb up Sugerloaf.  With sections with a gradient in excess of 15% and only the first climb of the day it was going to be an epic day.  I felt good on the climb and enjoyed hanging with different riders.

The second timed section was rolling with some hard climbing and gravel.  I started the climb feeling good, then boom my chain broke.  It took me time to untangle the chain which had wrapped itself tightly around the bottom bracket, then a minute to figure out that the speed link had failed.  By then the group behind had caught me and luckily the Mavic Support car was right behind.  As you can imagine if you have ever raced I was eager to limit my loses.  Whilst the Mavic car was a life saver it seemed to take forever and the mechanic could not engage the new link.  I stepped in and connected the link and thought I was off only to find the chain run behind the front mech.  The chain had to be broken and re threaded.  All in all I lost between 10 - 20 minutes.  Back on the bike I pushed a little harder to try to recover lost time.

There was a long ride between time section 2 and 3 during which we were rained and hailed on.  Not fun.  We arrived at the feed station before section 3 to receive conflicting information.  We were initially told the section was cancelled due to the weather.  The Haute Route team told us the road was clear.  The state patrol officer thought it was a bad idea.  In the end after waiting around we headed out for the 20km climb up Berthoud Pass.  On retrospect it was a bad idea.  The weather closed in and at the top the snow was blowing in sideways.  I found the climb hard due to a combination of riding hard earlier in the day, the weather and the altitude.  I felt light headed, sick and had periods of difficulty breathing all whilst trying to maintain a steady tempo.  I conseeded to riding within myself.  At the top I could have bailed out but with another rider just ahead I decided to ride to the finish.  The decision was seriously flawed,  touching speeds of 50mph in driving / freezing snow everything started to shutdown.  My head froze, my eyes felt like they were freezing, visibily was minimal.  I could not feel my hands and I experienced waves of altitude sickness decending quickly from 11297ft. I was riding my brakes hard and repeated the mantra, rubber side down, stay up over and over again as I felt my vision tunneling.  As I got lower the temprature lifted a little and I was able to make it to the finish.

At the finish a Haute Route official said let’s get you warm which was a great suggestion but then proceed to lead me to the official bag drop and leave me.  Freezing and disoriented it took me a few minutes to figure out where I was.  I finally saw Phil’s bike in a cafe opposite and walked in.  As soon as I sat down my entire body started to shake violently.  The guys at the table were amazing, they got me tea and soup, but my mind and body would not respond.  I got in to some dry cloths but the shakes just persisted.  I want to thank everyone at the table for there help.  It took 2 hours before things started to settle down.

Thank goodness for the support of Team Type 1 staff. The got me back to the hotel and once in the room I had a hot bath, short sleep and a much needed massage.  Now it is time to sleep and recover for Stage 3.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018 Stage 1: Boulder - Boulder

The alarm clock went off at 4:45 am this morning and for once I had no  trouble getting out of bed.  I think the adrenaline had been pumping all night in anticipation of the start of stage 1.  I headed down to breakfast at 5:15 am and meet a few more riders at the breakfast table.   Then it was back to the room to get ready.

At 6:15 am I joined the rest of the team at the team bus to pickup water bottles and pump up my tires.  Everything was dialed in and the team was there to look after us and wish us luck.  At 6:50 am we rolled to the start line with 200 hundred of our newest friends, ready for the start of stage 1.

At 7 am the neutral roll out started with a police escort through Boulder.  It was a chance to settle in and get ready for the stage ahead.  For those of you that are not familiar with the event it is not a point to point race.  Each stage has a number of timed sections and the GC (general classification) is taken based on the time sections alone.  This means that after the timed sections you are able to stop to re-fuel at the feed stations before riding to the next timed segment.

Stage 1 timed sections:

1:  Lefthand Canyon climb starting at mile 8.2 and 3134 ft.
2:  Timed decent starting at mile 23.3
3:  Dirt road timed section starting at mile 50.5

With the overall profile for the day looking like the following:

At the start of the climb the group exploded and I settled into a tempo whilst watching both my heart rate and power, both of which I had no reference for due to the change in altitude.  My goal being to rely on perceived effort in relation to the numbers.  I tapped out a steady tempo and started to work my way back up the field.  I caught and pasted the bulk of the team and continued on.  I could see the next group ahead and slowly rode up to them.  with about 14K to go (I had to switch to metric so I could use the race queue sticker provided) I caught the group and tagged on.  The grade was not steep enough to negate drafting and I was beginning to tire although I still felt good so I worked with the group.  I kicked with 4K to go and that was a mistake, I was not able to maintain the same level of power and the group came back and passed me as I worked to get out of the red zone.

Just after the timed section was the feed station and we pulled over to take on more water and food.  I did not know it then but I had also failed to take on enough fluid during the climb.  I would discover that mistake in time section 3.  As a team we rolled out to start the decent with Phil and Dan leading the charge.  We tore down the hill as a group.  I had not anticipated the small little incline before the end of the section and lost a little time.  From there it was on to the next feed station to prepare for the final dirt road flat timed section.

This is where my earlier mistake kicked in, I could feel my legs beginning to cramp.  It was not the best feeling in the world but I was able to sit in with the group as we raced across the hard pack dirt.  Right an the end two of the team came by and I jumped on for a perfect lead out to the final line of the day.  From there we rolled into the last feed station then rode out the last 12k of the day back to the hotel.

Whilst out on the course Sarah was tracking me remotely via the Haute Route site and I received text's om my Garmin informing me of my age group position.  I was very happy with the results for the day, 5th in my age group and 22nd overall.

Once back at the hotel the order was lunch, nap, massage.  Thank the stars for Tina the Team Type 1 masseuse looking after me.  She put me back together ready for action tomorrow.

After a short nap we headed over to the rider briefing for tomorrow.   Both the stage and the weather look tough for tomorrow so after dinner at the hotel it is time to rest and recover for Stage 2.

If you are enjoying these posts please think about a small donation to Team Type 1, the official charity partner for the Haute Route by visiting my fundraising page, no amount is too small.

Keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018: Registration Day

Waking up this morning was thankfully not as hard as I anticipated.  I headed down to breakfast around 6:30am (5:30 pst).  Walking in I bumped into another rider (Michel) and we shared  breakfast together and exchanged stories.

It was then back to the room to get ready for a last ride before it all kicks off.  3 of the Team Type 1 riders hit the road at 8:30 for what should have been an uneventful flat ride.  I say should of because right out the gate my power meter was not working, thankfully it was as simple as a flat battery and solved when we got back.  With none of us familiar with the roads I mapped out a course and then proceeded to take wrong turn after wrong turn until I finally got us going is a straight line.  The first half of the ride was great until a wind storm hit us.  I have never been in wind so strong, for about 10 mins we were scoured with dry leaves, twigs and just about everything else the storm could throw at us and fortunately nothing big, like a tree branch.  We then rode into a strong head wind for the next few miles until it decided we needed a shower, followed by more wind and then sun.  By the time we got back we had been blow dry.

With registration opening at 11am, I packed up my winter cloths and helmet  (I had read they wanted to see that riders had them at registration).  I then walked to the registration hotel, which was probably not the best plan and I am blaming the effect of altitude.   At registration I picked up my rider packet, bags and kit, no one wanted to see my gear but you can bet your life if I had left it behind they would have.  The Haute Route staff where really helpful and got me sorted.  I checked out the other vendors.  I was disappointed not to have won the custom shoe fitting but picked up a water bottle as a consolation.  I really did not want to walk back with everything I had just been given, that would have been very unpleasant.  Thankfully the Team Type 1 crew were there to look after me.

Back at the hotel I got stuck into sorting out my kit and post race bag for tomorrow.  It was not until I finished packing it I realized I would not need it as the race finishes at the hotel (Doh!).
I fitted my frame number and transponder.  Ok, so the frame number was a challenge.  I seemed to be the only one that could not get it to sit right.  I finally gave up and used my number bracket.  I really missed the support of Sarah who would have had me sorted and organized in a fraction of the time.

I was really hoping for a nap but by the time everything was done it was time for a massage.  OMG I did not think I was that tight or sore.

From massage it was back to the other hotel for the riders briefing.  The whole two different hotel thing got old really quickly, it took 30 minutes to walk and an advertised 6 minutes by car which was more like 15 with traffic.   After the Briefing it was back to our hotel and out to dinner with the team.

It was a nice location but I thought the restaurant server had sent someone out to hunt the food it took so long to arrive.  Ok I might be being a little unfair, I was hungry.  It was great hanging with team but as the time went on I felt my self waning and finally decided to say good night.

The race starts at 7am tomorrow with breakfast at 5am, that's a 4:30am wake up (make that 3:30am with the time difference).  I am sure for some it is even worse.

It has been a long day and I am sure it has been the same for many of the riders.  Wishing everyone a safe and fun day 1 of the Haute Route Rockies tomorow.

Keep it rubber side down and MaxLifeOut.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018 - Travel Day

You have got to love travel days.  A necessary evil for me now. but I can remember a time in the dim and distant past when I actually looked forward to flying.   After a night filled with restless energy and anticipation for the journey ahead I woke at 5am ready for Daisy our love bug of a dog to slip under the covers for an early morning cuddle. 

With bags packed Sarah drove me to the airport.  That might not sound like a big deal but for Sarah it is.  She faced her anxiety about driving in rush hour to see me off.  It is just another example of the support she provides for which I am so grateful.  On the drive to the airport I checked on the status of my bike.   I decided to ship it using www.bikeflights.com and FedEx. I  entered my tracking number and discovered it was out for delivery.

Whenever I can afford it and sometimes when I can't, I try to upgrade my flights to either business or first class to make travel as painless as possible, you may think this is flashy but I don't do it for status, for me it is simply worth it to make the journey a little less unpleasant and today It certainly made getting through to the security line easier.

And then there is security.  I know it is necessary but does it really need to be so unpleasant, it is like a vortex that sucks the happiness out of everyone in the line.  Wouldn't it be different if the security personnel where cheerful and treated customers with respect and enthusiasm vs suspecting everyone.  I know this is unfair and I certainly would not want the job, but just imagine what could be. 

I got over it once I got dressed for the second time and finished with the security guard riffling through my backpack.  Go figure, my bag of electronics sailed through but fruit and a bag of potato chips set off the alarm.  

The rest of the flight was pleasant with the added bonus of food on the plane that I could actually eat.  Now that is something that does not happen very often with my diet.  

Upon arrival there was a driver arranged to take me to the hotel where my bike had been delivered and placed in my room.  What a different experience to having to drag my bike bag around with me.

After assembling my bike it was time to meet up with the Team Type 1 crew in the lobby and meet a couple of the riders.  After a few logistics we headed out for a nice dinner and good company.  It feels good to be here and tomorrow things get even more real.

I will be heading out for a short 1 hour recovery ride in the morning after breakfast then over to registration.

If you are enjoying these posts please think about a small donation to Team Type 1.  You can help me meet my fundraising goals by visiting my fundraising page, no amount is too small.

Keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut.