Tuesday nights is hills night for our team. We try to keep it to just our team--unlike Hains or the Goon ride. It's a time to build a little comraderie. For some reason, by trying to slaughter each other on the hills, we somehow come to respect and admire each other. No idea how that works.
One especially hard ride last year I was determined to stay with Lance. My max had been 185 bpm for about 10 years. I managed to grab Lance's wheel, wheezing, hacking, sweat dripping down my sunglasses so I couldn't see (not that my eyes were working at that point). Keep that wheel. Listen to the beep beep beep get faster and faster. I looked down: 192. Next hill. 195. Twice.
That--a 10 bpm jump in HR--is not supposed to happen to a guy hitting 35.
Well, that kind of shit happens on Tuesday hills. And it's one of the reasons I'm sometimes afraid to show up.
Anyhow, one of the lords of Tuesday hills is Tim Brown. Last year, he wasn't. This can be explained by his bike upgrade--from a 25 lb monster to a 16 lb Giant. It can also be explained by his consistent attendance at Tuesday night hills. He's just stronger at hills than he was.
Highway to Heaven Hill Climb, MABRA Hill Climb Championship
It was no surprise (to me, anyhow) that he's now the MABRA hill climbing champ. This past weekend he laid down a ridiculous time in the Highway to Heaven Hill Climb. He would have podiumed in the 1/2 race, right behind Nick Bax.
Brown photo by Rick
The thing is, Brown's more of a rolleur than a climber. He can sprint, he can TT, and he can climb. So, yeah, watch out.
What's more amazing is that Dennis, competing as a Cat 4, was only several seconds behind Brown. Dennis finished 3rd. Like Brown, Dennis bought a nice new Giant midway through this season. He'd been riding around a Bianchi with a 42 small ring and a 11-22 cog on the rear, if I remember right. On that bike, Dennis rode a 60 miler with 10,000 feet of climbing this spring. Unimpressed? Try riding Angler's hill about 30 times in your big ring. Tell me what you think then.
Dutchie photo by Rick
The moral of the Highway to Heaven, now that I look at what Brown and Dennis have in common, is that you should buy a new Giant TCR Advanced. That and ride around on an absurdly heavy or impossibly geared bike for a while before making the purchase.
Millerburg Stage Race
Millersburg was, hands down, my favorite venue this year. Our team didn't do as well as we hoped, but the racing, the area, and especially the locals provided more than plenty of compensation. In fact, I met my first local cycling fan in Millersburg.
My late season goal had been geared toward the Millersburg time trial. It was my first real time trial since doing triathlons, and I wanted to nail it.
Saturday morning was absolutely beautiful: 69 degrees, with a mist covering the ground except for several mountain peaks which glowed in the morning sun. Stunning.
A 9.5 mile TT, and I went out crazy fast. Three miles out I caught my 30 second man. I saw Lance heading back up, with no one around him. Sucks being the first out of the gate--no one to chase.
I was feeling good, really revved up. I hit the turnaround point and checked my average: 340 watts. Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my chest, like a load of bricks. I could hardly breathe. I've bonked and blown up; I know what that feels like. This felt like my heart was spasming. Anyhow, I rolled for a bit, then stopped. Probably best to keep moving toward the start, or at least forward, I thought. The pain wasn't stopping. If I was having a heart attack, too late to do anything about it now. I kept pedalling. My 30 second guy passed me, then other riders. I kept pedalling. It felt like half my heart was working.
I made it to the start, averaging about 220 watts on the way back. I still don't know what happened, but I ended up finishing 42nd. Maybe I was just having the mother of all blow ups. Whatever. It was disappointing and worrying, not to mention painful.
I thought I might just go home. I'd never felt that kind of chest pain.
I'm glad I stayed. The crit was exactly how I like 'em: on the side of a hill, technical, and with a short finishing stretch that rewarded positioning rather than pure sprinting. Although DJ Brew was racing, I figured the hill might take it out of him. We'd invited DJ to one of our Tuesday hill sessions, and he was solid, but not as dominant as he is on the flats.
DJ (p: Jim Wilson)
Well, DJ proved he can climb. On the last climb he was the first over the hill. Next was his teammate Jorge. Proof of their strength, and also their smarts. Together, the worked the front, kept their position through the snaking turns where it was too technical to pass, and when we hit the finishing stretch, it was clear who had the best sprint.
I was happy finishing 6th, with Sam a few places behind me. To ride and not have my heart explode.
My race preparation for Sunday included a tour of the Hershey factory and massive amounts of chocolate.
Judging from this picture, Erika and I have taken a hit off of what Sam called "the bong hit of victory"--some of the same stuff Lance was smoking when he won Lancaster County's road race.
I thought Lance had the road race in the bag when he and his two breakaway companions worked it to a 40 second gap with 5 miles to go. Lance had a good ally back in the pack in Sam. When it comes to making you feel like you're going fast when you really aren't, there's none better in the business than Sam. Legs blurring, in a deep tuck, face a masque of pain, Sam sat on the front for probably three miles, somehow convincing the field that, indeed, we were working hard, despite averaging 15 mph. Eventually, the grumbles started.
"Dude, we're going 15 mph."
"Get Bike Rack off the front!"
Someone shouted, "The break's got 40 seconds. Let's move!"
Hysteria! Teams went to the front and started working.
Unfortunately, one of Lance's breakaway companions was completely useless. Otherwise, he would have won. We caught Lance with about 3 miles to go.
At that point, the jockeying for position started. The finishing mile was, in order, a moderate climb, a screaming descent, a sharp right, then a quarter way round a traffic circle, then a 300 yard finishing straight. I figured being at the front going into the first right was essential.
It was. I jumped on the downhill, swung around the pack, and was 4th going into the turn. Jorge was in front of me, DJ behind. Jorge jumped, and I grabbed his wheel. We still had about 600 meters to go, though. He was just pummelling it, though, and we gapped the field.
I came around him and was first into the corner. I thought I might slide out, we were going so fast. From there, two guys had caught on, and although we'd gapped the field, I couldn't hold any of them off, and missed the podium by a spot.
Overall, I managed 5th in GC, but the payout only went through 3rd place. That disappointed me, actually. At Walkersville, for example, they dished out $70 for my 7th place Cat 4/5 finish.
However, that's the only complaint I have about Millersburg. It was the one race I've done this year where the town seemed not only interested in the racing, but genuinely involved in the race setup and volunteering. The race was a community event rather than a promotion of an individual or a team, a reminder of what's good about small towns and all the things that those of us who live in the city and suburbs don't have: continuity, identity, and tradition. Several residents had volunteered at all the past races, and recalled to me some of the finishes and accidents from past editions of this race.
While waiting for the finish of the 1/2/3 race, I talked with my first true cycling fan. Don't know about you, but I've never actually met a fan of local cycling--someone who's brother, spouse, or son doesn't race. This was just a local guy who liked to watch bike racing. Here he was, sitting with his wife on some steps in the shade, recalling past races and accidents, describing how the race had evolved from its previous two editions, how expensive it all is. Other locals stopped to greet him and talk about the race.
"Some girl last year said her bike was $8,000," he remarked.
"Yeah, it's an expensive sport," I replied.
"You gotta love it to dish out that much money," he observed.
Man, I thought, this guy gets it.
Millersburg's Cycling fan (behind my ugly head) (p: E. Viltz)