Ah hill climbs…
Funny enough in the two full seasons I have raced bicycles, this is the first ever hill climb I’ve competed in. I have done one other hill climb during the Tour of Catskills Stage Race but it was only 2.2 miles long. I was also getting over a bad chest cold and rode it a lot slower than my potential calls for. This past season has brought about many changes in my racing style. I have found more confidence in Criteriums and Circuit races and have placed a smaller emphasis on hilly road races. It’s not by choice per se, ironically enough Colorado has plentiful mountains but because of hard-to-get road permits, mountains roads are unable to be used. Hence the placement of lots and lots of Criterium racing.
The day before the race I pre-drove the course with my friend Sean. We made our way to boulder, up Canyon Rd and then turned onto Magnolia Rd which is where the “real” climbing starts. I’m not sure it was the best idea to pre-drive the course as the feel of riding in a car is obviously a lot different than churning the pedals.
Our category (1/2’s) was set to go off first at 8:10 A.M. I woke up around 5:30 and slowly got everything packed into the car. I must not have planned our timing right because we were rushing around to get out the house. Until Mickey gets a little older it’s best to bring him along when we will are away from the house for 4+ hours. As the older two, Cooper and Frito get the privilege of holding down the fort. Mickey, Maija, and I arrived at the start with about an hour to spare. I jumped right onto the bathroom line and waited, and waited, and then waited some more. 3 Port-a-John’s was not enough. Even for a small hill climb crowd I felt they should have provided better services. I pinned my number, did a mediocre warm-up and readied myself for the tough climb which lay ahead.
The whistle blew and right away 2-3 guys jumped up the road and had a considerable lead on the group. The group itself was small with between 20-30 riders. I knew a few guys in the group but there were a handful of unattached cyclists with blank jersey’s. It’s my perspective some of these riders don’t compete in RR’s and Criteriums. Whether it’s from a fear of close corner racing or other outside constraints, competing outside HC’s (Hill Climb’s) is not everyone’s cup of tea.
We raced up Canyon road for a few miles at a reasonable but fast pace. I could still see the the couple of riders up the road who jumped early. Luck Pie was doing a nice job at the front of keeping the speed high so the gap of the break remained close. I was using my power-meter during the climb but I didn’t have heart rate. I could tell my heart race was higher than normal during the ride up the canyon. This troubled me because the heavy-duty climbing doesn’t start until you turn left up Magnolia Rd. Once we made the turn I gave a hard effort in my largest gear (12-27) up the first steep switchback only to find my legs not responding the way I had imagined. I maintained a bit of contact with a front of the group for a short period of time. Little by little the distance of most riders in front of me grew father and father apart. I started going back and forth between a few riders. They would pass me, I would pass them but in the end they went up the road faster than I did. I think knowing the course for next year will help in terms of how to pace myself. Personally I like to race against other riders rather than myself and the clock.
I found myself in the red, with heavy legs, and barely turning the pedals at a 50 rpm cadence speed. The 10%-20% grade roads did not help either. Overall I was having a bad day on the saddle but I tried to make the most of the HC and get a good workout in. The latter part of the HC was spent riding alone. I bridged up to a small group after the top as the pavement turned to dirt. I love riding a road bike on dirt roads. Xterra racing on the horizon? The fast winding dirt roads with small punchy climbs suit my riding style well and I enjoyed the bumpy roads for 15 kilometers before the road turned back to pavement and descended into the town of Nederland. The finish ended on a 2 mile climb which was only a half mile before the Eldora Ski Resort. The two mile climb was more exposed with a barren landscape. I was quite tired at this point but no one passed me all the way to the top. When all said and done I finished the HC in about 1:31:00 with a 26th place finish out of 30.
“I’ve had better days”.
All in all it was a tough climb but a lot of fun. I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with Maija, the pups, and her father who came to visit us.