Monday, April 03, 2006

Independence Valley Road Race

Saturday, 25 March

What a great new race in Rochester, Washington! Field sizes were small in the morning, but the afternoon turnout was better. We all thought this was a new course until one of the cat 1-2 guys told us he'd raced there 21 years ago! The cat 1-2-3 women raced in the afternoon, so I did my usual warm up of helping at registration until 15 minutes before my race start. I heard plenty of horror stories as the morning racers rolled back in from their finishes, and I was getting worried about the size of the hills that were reported out there.

In fact, I was so busy listening to reports that I was about the last to line up for the women's race--which meant I started at the back again. The roads were narrow, so there was no moving up during the neutral 2-mile rollout. And as soon as we got on the course, a TGH woman went off the front. We let her dangle out there for the first mile, which was a false flat/tailwind section. I think her aim was to get a running start at the first climb, but we reeled her in about 200m after the road started up. It was a stairstep climb, with a flattish spot in the middle.

Most of the group stayed together over the top of the hill, but then it strung out on the twisty descent after. Men reported hitting 50+ mph on this, but my max speed for the day was 41. In the run-out at the bottom there was a sharp right turn, and things pretty much came back together after that. We settled into that antiracing tactic of the women's peloton--rotating paceline--for the next 10 miles through rolling countryside with a good (?) headwind.

Another right turn, and another climb. This one was shorter and not quite as steep. Carrie went to the front and rode hard enough to pop a couple more women off the back. Another twisty little descent, and then about 5 miles of pretty flat roads into the finish line. And then another lap (2 x 19.5 miles for the race).

The road was narrow enough that you didn't want to be at the back of the group on the "big" climb, or you'd get gapped off and have to make a huge effort to get back up to the front. So I stayed at the front. And at the top there was no one with me. Sweet! I was so sure someone was going to punch it on this descent on the second lap and I would go backwards out of the group. Maybe I had enough of a gap so that I would still be in the front group by the bottom of the hill?

Not exactly. After the sharp right turn at the bottom, I looked back and saw that I had probably 15 seconds on the next group. Head down, pedal hard, off I go. Between the headwind and the undulating road, it was about impossible to keep a steady rhythm. But every time I looked back, all I saw was empty road. After maybe 5-6 miles, the lead car dropped back to give me the time gap. Did he say 15 or 50? With 50 seconds, I probably had the race locked up. But come on, Martha, how could you have gotten 50 seconds? Both TiCycles and TGH were riding strong in that pack, and neither they nor Gina were going to just sit up. Okay, it must be 15. But I still can't see them. About a mile before the second climb, they closed the gap enough that I could see them (it was only 15 seconds). If I rode as hard as I could, they would probably blow by me on the second hill. I eased up just a tad, and they caught me with about 1/4 mile to the hill.

As we made the right turn onto the last climb, Suz (who had already raced with the Master As in the morning) said "here you go again." I was hoping to just hang on. I didn't quite, but I caught back on in the first part of the descent (!). TGH and TiCycles were driving that front group, trying to keep other riders from catching back on, and we were flying along. I managed to pull through, but every little roller hurt. There was no cat-and-mouse in this group in the last few kilometers, and when the hammer went down at 200m, I had nothing left.

It's an interesting course. The climbs are tough enough to favor climbers, but after the hardest climb there's a long stretch to catch back on before the next one, and then after the second climb, there's still plenty of descending and flats for sprinters to motor back to the front of the race. I'd love to see the finish moved to the top of one of the hills. :)

Thanks to Erik and Dave for starting a new Northwest race tradition. Word of mouth about this course is going to bring out lots more riders in 2007. And thanks to Eric for his kind words about my descending--it's nice to surprise some of the people some of the time!

Race results are posted here.

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