Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018: Stage 5 Avon to Breckenridge

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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 ....

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