Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Pesticide prologue

Wednesday, 31 May

Our 3-mile prologue at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic started at a fruit warehouse and rolled along, ultimately more up than down, through orchards (newly sprayed, from the pervasive smell) on the hills above the Columbia River. Mt. Hood was a sentinel in the distance, gazing down at us across foothills and more orchards.

The thing I learned today is not to believe what everyone tells you about a course. That may be a very good thing to keep in mind through the stages ahead at this race, because nobody has said a kind word about a single one of them—except perhaps about the always-great views of Hood. The race organizer added a half-mile to previous years’ prologue, giving us an uphill start, a quick downhill, and then on to the rollers.

The course had been described to me by many people as being downhill, then uphill, with a little kicker to the finish. My description of the course is rollers with a short little hill at the finish. True enough, you couldn’t ride the whole thing in your big ring, but the “hill” before the kicker wasn’t much.

What no one had mentioned but was significant for me was the really rough pavement. Combined with a cross-headwind, it made for a little more thrilling bike ride than I hope for. I was flying along at 25? mph, hanging on for dear life and wondering what would happen if I encountered a big bump and a big gust at the same time. The Shimano neutral support guys knew where to be—about 200 meters past the end of the worst rough section.

My ride was okay. It probably would’ve been 10-15 seconds faster if I’d been able to preride the course. I got caught behind a car that dawdled along the course, riding its brake lights. I didn’t know what it was going to do, and I didn’t what to slam into it if it stopped abruptly. And then the marshalls at the last turn up to the finish thought their job was to yell encouraging things rather than direct riders to turn. It is kind of a cool finish: the gradient doesn’t get steeper but the diameter of the curve as you go up the hill gets tighter and tighter so you don’t see the finish line until you’re about 20 feet from it.

We had a few spits of rain while we were sitting on trainers (but everyone here seems to be like Dave H. and wouldn’t even let me observe out loud that there were wet specks on my bars), and a little more of a sprinkle on the way back, but nothing that affected the race or even really hastened our packing up afterward.

I just HAVE to mention what a great sponsor today's stage had: The Fruit Company. I guess it was their warehouse and parking lot that we used for staging. They had a table set up in front of their building and gave out beautiful apples and pears and fresh pineapple juice. You could take the enormous Anjou pears, or they would slice them up for you. I am really looking forward to my smoothie tomorrow morning!

TRIA had a couple of top 10 finishers today, and I managed 22nd in a field of 72. Tomorrow we will ride on much of the course from the Wasco Wild West 75, except that there’s an added section with a left turn, a sketchy descent, a really sharp (“acute”) right turn, and then hairpins down a 1% descent to the finish. I remember that both Martin and I were thankful that we weren’t on our single bikes in the wind on that course, but I guess I’ll get to find out what that experience will be like.

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