cascade classic 2014
i drove out to race in bend, oregon, for the cascade classic. i got a few requests for a write-up; tl;dr types can skip this post entirely.
the day after
some of you who know me IRL or are connected via Facebook (or both) may have seen this bit. it's significant for me.
some things went really well and others went poorly, but i learned some powerful things about myself and that
is something that will stick with me far longer than memory of any race result (or non-result). for much of the weekend (esp after the time trial) i was thinking about the 5 or 10% that was missing from my legs/lungs/mind. it wasn't until after the races were over that i remembered a photo i took. this photo is one i took 48h after waking up from surgery. on that day i rode my bike on the trainer for 35 minutes at 1 watt. yes, ONE watt. it was all i could manage.
it made me realize how easy it is to focus on how far we are from where we want to be -- beating ourselves up over it, in some cases. if i never knew it before, this weekend helped me to realize that it is far more important -- for me at least -- to appreciate how far i/we have come.
i had a conservative race and got what i deserved, but i left feeling like i will return to the racer i have been in the past.
this is one of the races that really got me hooked on racing --a few years back it inspired me to finagle an early upgrade to cat 4. that year, the night before the first stage i went to bed thinking i might win it (delusional,though true for just about every stage racer before any shots are fired)--but what i got was a great reality-check. it inspired me to race more and train harder. i loved bend and loved the race. i've since returned to bend 3 more times for the CCC and twice to race nationals. the CCC has turned into a bit of a race-cation.
this race pulls talent from a broad region. i raced cat 2 this year, and what i've noticed is that cat 2s travel far-and-wide to race against a large cat 2-only field in search of <drumroll> upgrade points. it's easier to get upgrade points against a cat 2-only field vs p12, right? so goes the prevailing wisdom.
i love that whatever field one is in, whether it is cat 4, cat 2, or masters (can't speak to the p1 or women's fields
), there is top talent at the big races. i've always felt like performance at these events is a good indicator (one of manY) of whether one is ready for an upgrade. often the top guys already have the points to move up to the next level or are in search of the last few. it's a nice way to cap time in a category. given the challenging season i've had, i wasn't quite sure what to expect. i've never entered a race NOT thinking i had a chance
to win. i spent a chunk of the drive-time getting into a head-space where i might have a chance. i believe that if you think you have no chance to win, you won't....but if you think you have even a small chance, you might
for those that speak power, my CTL was in the 40s after my last injury in may. in the past i never showed up with CTL under 105. things would be....interesting....this time around.
the organizers switched things up a bit this year. cat 2's got to race 4 stages in 4 days instead of the typical 4-in-3. this appealed to me, as did the chance to race the same TT (prineville) as used by the p1 field and as used in prior nationals events.
rolled into bend the night before the TT to HOT and SMOKY conditions. in fact, conditions were unpleasant enough that my wife and i discussed leaving immediately. temps were in the upper 90s. had to deal with a health issue for my wife that night @ urgent care.... i hoped it was the last trip that i'd be making to a hospital that weekend. my track record this season wasn't good in that department.
stage 1: TT
this 25k course is flat with a few rollers. unlike some courses (e.g. the old skyliner's TT), this one is honest. if you blow up half-way, you're going to hate life. i love it for that reason.
this late spring/summer in my town has been perfect weather for riding (generally highs in the low 80s) but terrible
for acclimation to racing in the heat. i took to riding in the heat of the day, with a base layer -- and i even did a few sessions indoors on the trainer in the 10 days leading up to cascade. not sure how much i can really prepare for racing in 97F, but i did what i could.
i'm usually grateful for late starts (mine was @ 1:30pm), but this time it was the heat of the day and winds were increasing to 15mph (cross-tail out, cross-head back). kept as cool as i could for my warm-up; once on-course there is no mercy.
i'm normally pretty relaxed prior to a TT as i know exactly what i've trained to do. this year has been tougher for me as the injury to my femur has compromised me a bit in the TT position. i've had some good days on the TT bike and other days where the most i could do was tempo. it's a little hard to plan for that, so i tossed aside any power goals. i know how to pace TTs and knew RPE would be the best thing i've got.
wound up putting out about 10% lower power than i did a year ago on this same course, but i used the watts i had in the best way i could. it was good enough for 20-something out of ~110 racers for an ~35' effort. the winners crushed it (~1:40 faster...chapeau!), but tons of riders were 3, 4, 5 minutes or more off the pace, even if you rule out the ones that were just saving it for the road stages. i was psyched as the road stages are material and that gap was not insurmountable. i went through the mental calculations of what i'd ride at 'normal' power, but i put that out of mind as who knows if the old 'normal' ever returns.
i'm sure the heat affected everyone equally. earlier start times had a bit more of a benefit than later ones due to the winds, but the differences in the cat 2 field were minor with some starters at 1 and others at 2 -- it was more pronounced in the pros (as early as 10:30) vs later starters.
stage 2 RR around bachelor:
24h after the TT, the leg that i've been working back to full strength was STILL sore. that TT position, esp one that i hold for 35' without moving, puts some serious strain on it. when i hopped on my road bike for today's warm-up, i didn't feel any residual pain. the masters and other amateur fields were starting their 4-stages-in-3-days today. the parking lot was really social, and seeing tons of friends who return year after year is one of the things that makes cascade so cool
they switched up the course this year--racing around bachelor counterclockwise instead of clockwise.
just 2 hours before the start i learned that the course was now somewhat of a point-to-point. instead of starting at bachelor and descending for 20+ miles, doing a few loops, then climbing back up, we were now staging down low and doing an initial ~6-mile climb to make it a 97-mile stage.
this was my first RR back and it showed. i positioned myself toward the back a bit more than i normally would at the outset. there were a few dumb crashes, including one at the final feed zone (~10k away) and one literally AT the finish line (a rider did an awesome bunny hop of the downed rider's bike as he crossed the line). i saw that one coming and had wisely gone through the feed near the front, skipping any hand-ups.
the race finished with about 10 miles of mostly low-grade climbing, followed by a flat bit before a sprint finish. through creative riding i managed to find myself in the lead group at the top of the climb. i made my real mistake here--i played it safe. i knew lots of riders had been dropped and i'd be moving up on GC. i raced conservatively and didn't risk going for the win. i cruised in for the same time as the lead group. sure enough, i moved up to 10th or 12th on GC, but i kicked myself for playing it safe. i got what i deserved (theme for the weekend!).
stage 3 crit:
another change to courses this year -- we raced counter-clockwise. this crit often features a number of crashes in as the road goes from wide to narrow in turn 3, as well as a few in turn 4 as there's some wavy pavement and riders feel the race can be won or lost coming out of that turn. i feel like the new course turns out to be safer. the "most dangerous" corner is now turn 1, and people rode more intelligently IMO.
i was scared for this stage. earlier in the day i considered not riding it. i did everything i possibly could to prepare over the past few weeks, but i have to admit that breaking a few bones this season messed with my head, and here is where it showed the most. i decided to line-up, race a few laps and see how i felt. i just didn't feel comfortable with 110 riders squeezing into turns, so i relinquished space after space and found myself pretty quickly at the back. under normal circumstances i might be able to survive tail-gunning ,but i didn't have the fitness to overcome my weak brain and tentative cornering. soon enough i was riding solo OTB. kept my nose down as i wanted to make the time cut and figured i'd at least practice cruising the course without touching brakes.
lost 4' on the stage; GC=meaningless, and it highlights the issue with NOT racing for the win on stage 1.
i was pretty close to DFL and got pulled about 1/2-way through. what's most embarrassing is that i really tried my best--was riding as hard as i could, no soft-pedaling. ego-protection mode lets me think that it was a victory just to step up to the line (how's that for self-delusion!) and that the next time i'll have my head more in the game.
stage 4 circuit race:
this course was unchanged from last year, or so i thought. it's a circuit with some rollers, a lower-grade climb, then a short, steep pitch to continued climbing. it normally finishes in a sprint with a field that passes through 2 roundabouts in the final 2km...and it can get a little crashy. there was a new finish this year that eliminated the roundabouts and finished with 500m at 6-9%.
picked myself up off the floor after yesterday's crit and thought i might have a shot today. i rode the first 2 of 4 laps conservatively and could feel my confidence coming back...slowly. i was with the lead group mid-way through the final lap, but as with each of the prior laps i hit the base of the key climb at or near the back. i felt like i was floating up climbs that day, but on the final lap starting at the back meant i had more ground to cover, and the leaders accelerated over the top. a slight descent and a small gap meant i was now in a chase group as they rode away. hit the final climb feeling pretty good and dropped all riders in my group and caught some stragglers from the lead group, but ultimately it was ~30" behind the day's winner. i didn't quite have that killer instinct and again got what i deserved by letting so many riders pass me before THE key section of the course.
still, i was thrilled when i crossed the line. it was a HUGE relief to get through the 4 days cleanly. it wasn't until the finish that i realized how heavy the stress of being constantly aware of crash potential for 3-4h of the road stages. we accept some risk when we line up to race and mostly block it out while racing, but this weekend the wrong imagery was too far forward in my mind. i wasn't worried so much about the issues with a crash--i was more concerned with the burden on my family from having to deal with a third issue this season.