Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Full circle

Having been gone yesterday, I’m behind on a few things, the most important of which is work. So I’m going to spend all week catching up, both on work and the blog, beginning today with a summary of Saturday’s Harvest Moon Critierium and yesterday’s Lotoja 2: This time it’s personal ride I did with Steve and my dad.

Hopefully later this week I’ll get to some other posts I’ve been stewing over, including how bike shop employees are like Satan’s angels, my until now secret desire to be like Billy Joel, as well as a report on some hikes I did with my kids (which requires finding some video footage I took a few years ago of a bear in the wild).

Now that I’ve promised all this stuff publicly, I’m more or less committed to deliver. My mother-in-law is coming tonight—she’s probably going to think I don’t like her if I’m holed up every evening working on my blog. We’ll see how that goes over.

The race: Harvest Moon Criterium

In an effort to try and get a few more upgrade points and to make my drive to Ogden more worthwhile, I signed up to race in two categories, Cat. 4 as well as the Cat. 3/4/5 Masters 35+ race, hereafter referred to as “35B.”

The course was really short, laps around a single city block, with the finishing straight being all of half a block. Not enough space to make up a lot of ground in a bunch sprint. On our warmup laps, Steve and I realized whoever had the hole shot in the fourth and final turn would likely win. So we planned on making a move on turn three, with Steve leading me out then going wide on turn four so I could come underneath.

Getting to that point was more difficult than I anticipated, though. First there was the old lady who pulled her car onto the backstretch right as we rounded turn two. In fairness, it was the course marshal's fault she was there, as he should have stopped her, but either way it was scary. I don’t know how there wasn’t a pileup, but there wasn’t. I had been about five back—right where I wanted to be—until this point, but in the confusion, all the guys from the back came around, and I was on the back of the train.

The pace was ridiculous, and of course, being on the back and getting yo-yoed, it was worse. Several times, I didn’t think I was going to stay on and was hurting bad. I kept wondering why Steve was moving to the front and drilling it with me so far back.

Finally with about four laps to go, I was able to move up towards the front and find Steve’s wheel. On the bell lap, we were second and third wheel, right where we wanted to be, when a Gold’s Gym guy came around on the back stretch. We got on his wheel, along with Jason from Canyon who was in front of us. The four of us opened a gap on the field, but Steve and I couldn’t make up ground between turns three and four. Steve went wide and I came around the final turn in third and finished in third. Steve finished fourth. Not quite what I was hoping for but still on the podium.

Except I wasn’t. What I didn’t know is that the pace was so ridiculous throughout the race because there was a guy from Cyclesmith off the front the whole time. I think the car on the course helped him widen his gap, but maybe it didn’t and he was just that strong. Either way, kudos to him, because he was so far out, I didn’t even know he was off. It was a tremendous solo effort. I actually finished fourth and Steve fifth. Oh well, still in the points, which is what we were after.

In the hour between the Cat. 4 race and the 35B race, I found out there was only one guy, a Cat. 1 or 2, registered for the 35A (35+, all categories) race. He was trying to find a few more guys to race against. Since it was right after the 35B race, I told him if we could go easy for the first 15-20 minutes so I could recover a bit, I’d race. Three or four other guys from 35B said they’d sign up with the same gentlemen's agreement.

The 35B race went much better for me. There were numerous attacks, but nobody ever opened a gap, so it wasn’t open throttle chasing the full 40 minutes. On the bell lap coming around turn two, nobody wanted to be in front that early, so the pace slowed just a fraction. I made my move. I had a little gap in turn three, they closed on me towards turn four, but I still led around the final corner. I went all out for half a block, and they never caught me. Have I mentioned that winning a race, especially in a bunch sprint, is really fun?

I spun two laps to try and recover, then changed numbers and lined up for the 35A race. During the 35B race, several 1’s and 2’s signed up for the 35A race. They were not privy to our gentlemen's agreement. So they dropped the hammer from the outset, and I hadn’t recovered enough to even try and hold their wheels. I took myself out after one lap in denial then spinning easy for four laps. Officially my season ended with a DNF, exactly the way it started. Unofficially, I’m going to pretend the 35A race never happened, and claim I went out with a win.

Huge props to Ben T. from team Excelerator for reviving this race after it was cancelled a few weeks ago. He did six months worth of planning and organizing in three weeks, and you’d never know. It was one of the best-organized UCA events I’ve done this year.

The ride: Montpelier to Jackson

With legs still a bit sore from Saturday, we rolled out of Montpelier yesterday morning at about 7:00 a.m. It was bitter cold. Hoar frost on the ground kind of cold. Alternate which hand gets stuck in your bibs, and which one is on the bar kind of cold. As we came around bends in the canyon and changed our position relative to the mountains, we got to watch the sun rise about a half dozen times.

Then, coming up the Salt River climb, we were treated to spectacular fall colors all the way to the top. And since we weren’t racing, we actually got to enjoy them.

There was more where that came from in Star Valley, a place whose beauty I’ve never fully enjoyed because during the race I’m focused on other things, and in a car I’m simply going too fast. The river, the trees, the colors—it was stunning.

You’d think it couldn’t get better, but when we got into Snake River Canyon, it did. More colors, bigger, prettier river. Simply amazing stuff.

Finally we pedaled into Jackson and stared at the Grand Teton for about an hour as we pedaled along perfect roads nearly devoid of cars or other cyclists. Shortly before we arrived at Teton Village, I realized that entering Lotoja is a complete and total waste for at least 2/3 of the field.

At least 2/3 of the people aren’t racing, aren’t even necessarily trying to get a particular time, they’re just there to see if they can. And they’ve got their own support vehicle along for the ride anyway.

You can ride that course any day of the year you want, there’s just one day when you have to pay nearly $200 for the privilege. Incidentally, that day you also constantly worry about being wrecked by the hoards of other riders on the road.

If you’ve got your own support anyway, forget race day. Go two weeks later when the trees have changed colors, the roads are empty, and the overall experience is at least five times more enjoyable. Maybe even do it over two days. Because you know what, nobody really cares that you’ve finished the course or how fast—it only matters to you (and maybe your friends who often only care because they want to beat you). But of all the times I’ve ridden that road, yesterday—being with my brother and my dad, enjoying nature, having my mom run support—was far and away the most enjoyable ride. And joy, however you may find it, is what riding the bike is all about.


  1. You are one strong cyclist. I admire the power you've got in those legs.

    Someday I'll figure out how to get up front, stay up front and see if I have a sprint in me

  2. Cool thing to do for your Dad. Does he want my hanger? He can have my sticker as well.

  3. j_e, Thanks, I'm flattered. I really enjoyed meeting you at the race.

    JZ, he has the sticker already. I don't think you can give away a hanger that easily, though.

  4. Fine, I will keep my sticker for the next time KanyonKris' car is at the Hypio's house. Bwaahahaah!

  5. Congrats on win, great finish to your year. Congrats to your pops for conquering the beast. Heck of a year for your family on the bikes.

  6. You know, with the shape I'm currently in I've been thinking about doing something similar at Leadville. Got a free weekend in the near future?

  7. clyde, i'm pretty sure leadville is now buried under several feet of snow.

    too late.

  8. Wow. Congrats on the win- very impressive.

    Nice report on the Jackson ride, too. It never even occurred to me to just do that for "fun", but now that I think of it, so many sections would be a great ride...

  9. Alex, doing it "for fun" I would recommend doing it over two days. And stopping to eat a sandwich or just look at the scenery, which we also did. We started from Montpelier about 30 minutes later than Steve and I took off from Logan on race day. We arrived in Teton Village about the same time we did on race day. Ride time was less. Stop, look around, and chit-chat time was much more. And worthwhile.