Friday, July 13, 2018

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

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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 ....

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