Saturday, 26 April
In the field of 60+ riders at this race, skill and experience levels sure run the gamut. We have some really fast racers--including a former world hour record holder--and some not-so-fast folks who are racing for the first time. We (I'm racing tandem here) were the 24th bike to start the 40K TT this morning, and the first one to cross the line. (We probably passed $75,000 in bikes on the course!) We ended up with the 5th fastest time for that stage. This afternoon's 8-mile hillclimb (1600') was a bit more challenging for us--and for others. It's kind of demoralizing when the guy who started 2 minutes behind you passes before you're 2 miles into the race. We slipped to 7th in GC but increased our gap over the other 2 tandems in the race.
Some mean comments about other riders. Many clearly do not know how to pin a number: right side? right side up? A lot of 'em started the 40K TT with 2 full water bottles. Now, I know hydration is important, but you're adding whole minutes to your time if you reach for your bottles enough times to finish 2. And if you paid all that money for the aero bars on your bike, why don't you use them? Don't ride the flat headwind parts of the course on your hoods. Don't come into the flat finish holding onto your brake hoods. Then, of course, sometimes you think things along these lines and get put into your place. I couldn't help but notice one guy rolling into the finish who looked like he REALLY needed a bike fit. And then I realized who it was: he's a recent RAAM winner, so obviously his position works for him.
Last year the view at the top of the hillclimb was stunning. You could see at least 7 major peaks in the Washington and Oregon Cascades. But today was hazy and you could barely even make out Mt. Hood. Still, the hills are beautiful shades of green and gold and pink. A local explained to me tonight that the pink tint comes from the red heads on the new grass. It adds only a very subtle shading overall.
Tomorrow is 47 miles out and back. The first 4 miles are steep and twisty, and then the road straightens out and the gradient moderates. But it's still pretty much 23.5 miles of climbing and 23.5 miles of descending into cross/headwinds. Last year it was savagely hard. It just wasn't any easier after the turnaround. And then there's those gnarly tight turns at the end. And it's racing all the way, so there's not so much looking around to admire the scenery. But on the way home, we may drive the newly substituted segment for the big road stage for the Mt. Hood CC. Locals say it'll be 40? 50? miles of very gradual headwind climbing before the last climb to the finish. Not nearly as epicly (epically?) nice as last year's route. But then riding in snow wouldn't be so nice either.