Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018: Stage 5 Avon to Breckenridge

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 5 Avon to Breckenridge

93.8 miles
8441 feet of climbing
High Point 11,318 feet

Stage Results

General Classification (GC):  20th (+87:22)
Age Group 45-54 (AG):          5th   (+51:37)

I woke up and ran a full body diagnostic, wiggled my feet, moved my head, lifted my arms, raised each leg and finally slid out of bed, yup I was in one piece.  Whats more I actually felt, dare I think it, good.  My Heart Rate Variability (HRV) reading was up and the app, in friendly words informed me I was ready to resume training.  All in all a good start despite a quite literal pain in my butt,  My saddle sore felt like Mt Vesuvius.   Still whilst I was not on a bike and standing up I could almost forget about it, almost.   

At 7:30am the race started with a police escort through Breckenridge.  There was time to settle in and get used to the pain as I sort to find the best position on the bike before the first timed section of the day.  That would be Tennessee Pass, starting at mile 10.3.  At the start of the timed section and climb it was no surprise to see the race brake apart.  Clearly I was not the only one feeling fresher after the time trial day.  As the lead riders rode away I slipped into a now familiar tempo as we headed upwards.  I wanted to do well but the next few days where firmly in the back of my mind.  They included the Queen stage and they would be hard and I would need to reserve energy.   I found myself riding solo pacing myself towards the riders ahead of me.  I was concentrating on my cadence as the medic on a motorbike came along side to check in with me.  "you doing alright" he said,  all I could think to say was "its a pain in the butt" and then nod as he moved on up the road.  It was nice of him to check up on me.

The strategy was holding and I slowly connected with and passed a number of groups on the road.  As we crested the first peak of the timed section I connected with a small group for the descent.  It contained one of the women riders and her groups coach.  He was providing both pacing and encouragement.  As we transition from the descent onto the next climb he marked the transition letting her know they were on the climb and for her to watch her pace.  I wont lie I felt a fleeting pang of envy at the support and then pushed on into the wind.  As I rounded a turn I could see another group just ahead.  I controlled the urge to lift my pace and close the gap, instead I pegged them just ahead of me without investing additional power and effort.  I crossed the line in 34th place 16:07 behind the leaders and less that 5 minutes behind my rivals.

At the feed station the TT1 team re-grouped and moved off together to cover the 10 miles to the next timed section at mile 37.1.  Timed Section 2, Turquoise Lake was 15 miles of rolling terrain and here I made my a big mistake.  Previous experience should have told me to wait for a group, instead still feeling a sense of well being and strength I rode into the timed section with only 2 other riders.  In a group I would have been able to shelter and make use of the velocity of a group whilst in a small group the effort was constant and punishing.  What's more the riders I was with were feeling stronger than me and I soon found myself having to drop back or risk going to far into the red, I would not recover.  Even though one of them was on my team we were not riding as a team and I was soon off the back and having to do all the work myself.  It was demoralizing to find myself isolated and I was frustrated with myself knowing I was giving away time due to a tactical error of my own making.  I could do nothing else other than measure out my effort.  The results confirmed what I already knew.  I finished the 2nd timed section in 76th place.  The only saving grace was that the time lose was not as bad as it could have been, 17:05 down on the leaders and more than 10 minutes to my rivals.  The cost in effort however was my biggest concern.

The distance between time section 2 and 3 was only 3 miles and I rejoined most the TT1 riders and a good size group still smarting from my mistake.  Timed Section 3, Fremont Pass was an up and over with a 10.5 mile climb and over 10 miles of descending.  I would not make the same mistake twice in one day.  The group started the timed section together and worked well as the pace was slowly lifted.  With around 3 miles to the summit stronger riders started to move to the front and push the pace  putting the group in difficulty.  In contrast to my earlier decision this time I raced smart.  I knew we had a long descent and both Phil and Dan were in our group.  Both are powerfully skilled and fast descender's and given the length of the descent I felt confident that controlled losses on the climb could be recovered over the top.

I had moved up to second in line when the rider ahead of me put in a small kick.  I did not respond, instead I maintained a hard but steady tempo.  The lead riders including one of our team members pulled away as I stayed on the front joined by Dan.  We kept the pace hard without blowing the group apart.  Later that night Phil texted me "Yo! You rode really really strong today and professional.  Kept a solid (hard) pace up the climb without blowing the group.  You impressed me today!"  that was high praise indeed and I let Phil know it meant a lot.  His reply was "Thank you man! You made the Jersey look good!".   By the time we reached the top the leaders were out of sight but the chase was on.

In quick succession Phil and Dan lifted the pace with others contributing to the overall speed of the group.  The descent was open and not technical lending itself to faster and faster speeds as each rider used the rider in front to propel themselves forward.  It was exhilarating and whats more the plan was paying off, the breakaway was in sight and we were closing fast.  In no time at all and to their surprise we had bridged the gap.  At the feed station Sean came up to me and said "How did you guys do that!", I told him I had a good feeling that as long as we did not give too much time away with riders like Phil and Dan we would have a good chance of bringing it back together.

All back together and screaming down the mountain we were approaching the end of the timed section which without a doubt would be a bunch sprint to the line.  As we approached the line I watched the riders ahead of me and started looking for position, at the speeds we were travelling positions were changing fast.  With 500 meters to go I slotted in around 4th place and waited.  It all came together as a rider accelerated on my left, I moved onto their wheel.  I was carried forward rapidly, it was now or never so I opened up and accelerated hard off of the wheel to take the bunch sprint on the line.  It felt awesome after such a hard day of racing and a personal victory after my earlier mistakes.  I would later learn that I finished the 3rd time section in 15th place overall 3:35 adrift from the leaders.

We stopped at the feed station to fully regroup then headed out to complete the last 17 miles to Breckenridge.  The ride took us on swooping downhill bike paths which was a lot of fun to ride..  It would have been even more fun if I was not feeling exhausted and my butt was not on fire, but the scenery was spectacular, that was until we exited the bike paths.  The last part of the ride was on road the went ever so slightly uphill.  It was a grind, and I spent the last few miles watching the wheel ahead and willing the distance to the finish to close.   Then just to run salt in the wound there was a last little kicker up to the finish.

Once across the line we gathered at the Team Type 1 tent and I gobbled up an energy bar and sat there listening to the arrival of riders and contemplating the day.  I was bone tired and wanted to get to my room and start the recovery.  I was 20th overall and 5th in my age group so I could not be too disappointed.  There was however still apart of me that wanted to give myself a slap upside the head  for the stupid decision in time section 2.

The downside of long days in the saddle is the lack of time to get a massage and nap before having to get ready for the rider briefing.  On this day I would soon discover it would be even more condensed.  Firstly the hotel we were staying at was a short walk away.  An easy walk if you had not just ridden 93.8 miles.  Once at the hotel I discovered I was on the 9th floor.  Not normally a problem but at this hotel getting to my room was to put it bluntly, a hike, requiring a long walk from reception to a slow lift that stopped on the 7th floor.  On the 7th floor there was another walk to a second elevator up to the 10th floor.  By the time I got to my room I just wanted to stop moving.  But no, then I got the text asking if I was ready for massage, I was, only to discover that Tina was in a completely different wing of the hotel requiring multiple elevator trips and a, you guessed it, long walk.

By the time I was done with massage and hiking around the hotel I had no time for a nap and resigned myself to getting to the rider briefing to be held in an outdoor tent attached to the hotel across the road.  Yup more walking.  It was obvious that I was not the only one tired as the turnout for the briefing looked considerably lighter.  Still tomorrow would be the Queen stage and I wanted to get all the news.  My butt on the other hand wanted me to stop sitting on a hard surface - like now.

Up until this point Team Type 1 had organized dinners but tonight there seemed to be some indecision.  Phil was staying at his place and others had decided to make their own plans.  I was hungry, no scratch that, I was really, really hungry but that was warring with being really, really tired.  I wanted food to magically appear so that I could eat and sleep.  It is amazing how poor your thinking and decision making muscle can be when you are tired and hungry.   Given the lack of dinner direction I thought I would be able to get food at the hotel and retire to my room.   Yeah like the universe was going to let that happen.

The plan fell apart immediately I got back to the hotel.  I was informed that the restaurant was closed because of some issue, staff, and some other excuse I can't remember.    Bottom line I would have to go into town to get food.

I found myself walking yet again as I worked my way into town to a restaurant I was hoping could cater for my diet.  Reception had neglected to tell me there was a hotel shuttle service when directing me, like that wouldn't of helped at all.  I found the restaurant and at last a break, I could eat the food.  I promptly ordered take out and on the way back to the hotel called Sarah to help pass the time as I walked back "UP HILL".  I can only think that the fatigue helped me avoid a melt down.

Once back in my room, I unceremoniously scoffed the food down before getting ready for the morning.  Normally I got my bike clothes and food ready so that things went smoothly in the morning.   With all that had gone on I realized I did not have my laundry back.   One of the nice things about riding with Team Type 1 in addition to the massage time and personal support was that our full kits were washed daily as opposed to once by the Haute Route and only allowing 2 items.  I texted and decided I would deal with it in the morning, that is how tired I was.  I got into bed, turned over and coughed, I then realized I had been coughing quite a bit but I had not paid attention to it. Phil had been coughing for a few days and so had a few other people.   I really hoped I just had a dry throat. 

I was just dropping off to sleep when the phone rang.   I reached over to hear the receptionist informing me they had my laundrey.  "Great" I said.  "I will pick them up in the morning" hung up and finally went to sleep.  It would be a monster day tomorrow.

MaxLifeOut and keep it RubberSide Down ....

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 ....