Thursday, June 01, 2006

Craziest thing I ever...

Thursday, 1 June

An incomplete sentence, maybe, but those words from another rider pretty well summed up the best bit of race entertainment (?) in the women’s peloton at Hood today. At the end of the first of our two laps, a woman dropped back in the field (not off the back, mind you) and started to roll down her shorts. She eventually had them pulled down below her crotch, positioned herself off one side of the bike, and I would assume she peed but the view and the thought of what was to come made me move up faster than anything has ever motivated me before. I’ve been in races where women have peed on the bike, but I had never seen the drop-the-drawers approach. The fact that she was able to keep pedaling (intermittently) and stay on the back of the pack suggests that she has practiced this before.

The other surprising thing about today’s race was that most of the field stayed together. Our Columbia Hills stage was much the same as the Wasco tandem race plus about 10 extra miles. The climb was the same, and oh did it hurt this time. The field got all strung out the first time up but everyone eventually caught back on. There were a couple of exposed descents and some 90-degree right turns in the new section. But the two much-talked-about features were a “heinous”/“acute” right turn and tricky hairpins in the last 5 miles. The acute turn was so heinous that the pack slowed down and navigated it carefully. The pitch in the apex of the turn was probably 20%, and there was gravel for added thrills. But it didn’t split the field. The hairpins were down a very gradual descent (1%?) and weren’t hairpins, just a twisty road—with a headwind. We all checked them out the first time around, thinking it would be a sweet place to get away and be out of sight going in to the finish.

I thought I was really smart on the first lap for knowing the course and tried to move up near the front in the half mile before the climb. But it was REALLY windy up there, and about half the field had the same idea. So fighting for position lost out to fighting the wind and I started up the hill in the last quarter of the field. I abandoned any notions of good position before the second climb, but the wind had picked up, which favored those of us on the back. I thought there would be attacks in the last 10 miles, what with those technical turns and fast descents and some painful little rollers. But no, we were all still together even after the acute corner. There were no attacks in all those twisty bends, but the speed really ramped up. I found an experienced wheel I knew and stuck to it. Things eased up a bit with 2K to go. I was waiting for an all-out explosion in the last kilometer, but it never materialized. I even moved up in the sprint. And (dare I say it?), the high-speed slightly technical finish was pretty fun. Several women said they didn’t like it, but I wasn’t one of ‘em!

This is the first time I can remember that I’ve raced with a rolling enclosure and got to use the whole road for the race. It was great. And it was the biggest field (72) I’ve been in for a very long time. There were a few times when our moto official moved up through our pack with the photographer behind him on another motorcycle. That wasn’t fun the first time (although it helped me move up), but we figured it out. The dead porcupine feature was gone from the shoulder. There was some interesting bike handling and a few choice words. Mostly, though, it was a pretty mellow race. Even the top of GC recognizes that the topography is what makes this race. Starting tomorrow.

Stage results are here.

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