There was much contemplation and consternation over various and sundry equipment choices for this race. So much so that Ryan at Revolution told me he was starting to feel guilty about the amount of money people were spending prepping their bikes for this one event.
My approach was a little different. I looked at the course profile and figured that fire roads and pavement would probably go faster on my cross bike, so that's what I decided to ride. I became a little apprehensive after hearing the course recon stories about the super sketchy descent. The descent turned out to be a graded dirt road as wide and nearly as smooth as my driveway. It was steep, but nothing technical and nothing dangerous. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
My super-secret stealth training program consisted of riding my bike most days for as far and as hard as I felt like riding it. Some days that was pretty hard and pretty far, like hundred miles of nowhere. But most of the time I either commuted to work on my road bike or did a lunch ride in the Orem foothills or a lap or two in Corner Canyon on the MTB. If I didn't feel like riding, I went to the pool with my kids and worked on my suntan.
When we got to Beaver for packet pickup on Friday night I got the idea that I should change categories, and rather than race the 30-39 age group, I would race with the pro men. The genesis of this idea was the guidance given regarding categories that Pro/1/2 or A flight road racers should race pro. But I had ignored this guidance because amongst those signed up in the pro category were six-time national cyclocross champion Tim Johnson, MTB legend Tinker Juarez, Giro d'Italia veteran Jeff Louder, as well as Tyler Wren, Zack Vestal, Evan Hyde, and Paul Mach, amongst others. Throw me into that mix and one of these things is clearly not like the others.
Nevertheless, when else would I have the chance to race against* (not just on the same course as) the aforementioned pros? So I changed categories.
*In this case, "race against" means "have my ass handed to me by."
Saturday morning, Bruce, the race announcer, made us all feel confident about what was ahead when he told us "no matter what bike you chose, at some point you are guaranteed to have been absolutely wrong." That was comforting. And then we were off.
Caught up as I was in the celebrity of the field, I quickly pulled to the front, telling Tim Johnson as I went by "I have to at least be able to say I took a pull." Peter Archambault and I traded work on the front for a few miles until the road kicked up. The big guns attacked, and I went from first to last just like that. I rode in a small gruppetto for quite a bit of the first climb, but when that broke up, I figured I was on my own for the rest of the day.
I also figured the age group riders would catch and pass me, and sure enough they did. Start order was men 20-29, 30-39, and then 40-49. The first rider to pass me was T$, who would go on to win the 40-49 group. That means he rode past the 20-29 fields and 30-39 fields in their entirety. Wow.
When I reached the aid station at the top of the first big climb, I heard my teammate Pete McMullin call my name. He said he'd been following me for quite a while. He was near the top 5 for the 30-39 age group, so I wanted to try to help him on the flats at the bottom of the hill.
Problem was, he went down the hill quite a bit faster than I did. I got caught and passed by two more riders on the dirt descent, but once we hit pavement, I really opened it up and brought one back. I caught the other two--Pete and Zach Terry--on the flats, and the three of us rode together for a while.
When we hit the dirt again, Pete punctured a tire and was delayed, so it was Zach and me. Zach was complaining about the heat, and I started telling him how I like racing in the heat because it seems to have more effect on other people than it does me. As if on cue, Zach fell behind, and I was on my own again.
The second big climb was the same road we had descended. It seemed steep but not that steep going down. Oh how steep it felt going up. My low gear was 39:27, and I think I was turning it around as slowly as I possibly could without falling over. Nevertheless, I caught and passed quite a few racers on the climb, and as I neared the KOM, I saw Evan Hyde up ahead. I'm sure Evan found this annoying as hell, but I was gaining on him, so I kept pushing it and crossed the KOM just ahead of him. He returned the favor by riding away from me, never to be seen again, moments later.
With about 15k to go, my legs started cramping. I thought I just needed some water and was close to the last aid station. Water helped me feel better for a while, but then the cramps came back. Peter A., whom I had passed on the climb, caught and passed me. I tried to stay with him, but the cramps flared again, to the point that I had to stop twice and get off the bike to stretch them out.
Shortly thereafter, Slyfox pulled up to me on his scooter and said that the women's leader was getting close. Six time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes was the next to pass me, but this time I managed to keep her in sight. As we approached the final climb, I figured if the road ever leveled out, I would pass her. It never did.
I crossed the line right behind Clara (nevermind that she had started eight minutes behind me) and promptly laid down on the pavement. Tyler Wren had finished over an hour ahead of me, with Zach Vestal, Benjamin Blaugrund, Jeff Louder, and Paul Mach rounding out the top five. Local hard man Reed Wycoff finished sixth, just eight minutes behind Tyler. I was 19th in Pro Men, and I'll be honest, I feel pretty damned good about that result.
A few minutes after I finished, Bruce announced Pete M. After four minutes of effort, he got the puncture to seal and ended up fourth in 30-39. Right after Pete was Grizzly Adam. I never saw Adam on course, but we must have been close all along. Adam was easily the best-prepared racer, and it paid off.
Racers continued trickling in, including the Suncrest crew, Jonnie J, JW, Sam, Evil, Bright, and GRust. My teammate Alex Kim, who refers to himself as a fat crit racer, and to whom I had insisted that 'cross bike gearing would be plenty low, came across 11th in the 40-49 category.
Amazingly, everyone had a look of agony at the moment they crossed the line, but within minutes, it was all smiles. The reason for the smiles was that Burke did a fantastic job organizing the race. Burke is a racer, and this was a racer's race. You could tell he's done a lot of events over the years and knows the characteristics of a quality race. Enough cannot be said for the volunteers. The aid stations were staffed by some of the friendliest people I've ever met, and the public safety officials who were dispersed throughout the well-marked course were full of smiles and encouragement. As Adam said, this race is an instant classic--be ready at registration next year, because it will fill and fill quickly.