Sunday, 13 April
The Kings Valley Road Race is one of (arguably) two classic one-day races in Oregon. It's a beautiful course that truly has something for everyone, and it's an Oregon Cup race so there are usually big, competitive fields. This year was even better than that.
SEVENTY women (cats 1-4) started the race. Equally noteworthy was the fact that the weather was soooooo nice that I didn't even put on arm warmers. (And this race is about 20 miles from where we raced past snow less than a week ago!) It took a while to get over feeling naked with all that breeze on my bare legs and arms. But no complaints. And it was a chance to eradicate those tan lines from the bottom of knee warmers and the tops of booties, which look oh-so-strange in shorts or a skirt.
SEVENTY women in 4 categories have a rather wide range of abilities and skills. At least 10 women dropped their chains at various points on the course, there were probably 6-8 very close (wobble into each other, slide around, stay upright) calls, and eventually one crash. On one roller, I was riding on the left edge of the field, and the woman next to me pulled left to go around a rider who was drifting backward on the hill. When she realized she was going to ride right into me, she tried to push herself off me and shoved me 3/4 of the way across the left lane on the road. After repeated dire threats at the start about the fate of anyone who crossed anything yellow for any reason during the race, I waiting for the follow official to come alongside and tell me my race was over. But either he wasn't there or he saw what happened, and I continued racing (sans one bar end cap).
It was great to see 4 teams really working as teams in the race, although if you knew the riders involved, you could anticipate the strategies. The perfect weather held, it didn't get horrifically windy on the exposed sections, and my result wasn't disgraceful.
A couple of asides. Probably in the interest of hyping the tradition of this race (and its regal name), the promoters post a list of past winners of the men's 1-2 and women's 1-2-3 categories at registration (for personal reasons, I think this is cool). This year they went all out and rented enough port-a-potties to label each one with the name of a previous men's winner. Thankfully, previous women winners were spared this fate. :) And showing that habits die hard, lots of riders started with arm warmers or knee warmers just because it was hard to realize that it could be warm enough not to need them. My favorite accessory spotted in my race was a pair of pink socks (I think) being used as shoe covers; Laurel looked for all the world like she was out racing in pink bedroom slippers!
So, after you get up at 4:15 a.m., drive 4.5 hours, and race 58 miles, what do you do next? Since we were Portland-bound, we stopped at the outlet mall at Woodburn. (This is, like, a once-every-two-years experience for me.) One clerk actually told me, "This great weather is really good for shopping, don't you think?" Well, I think rain is better for shopping because there are too many other things to do when it's sunny, but I didn't argue. The parking lot was jammed, traffic coming the other direction was backed up on the freeway for a mile before the exit, and it was crazy. But I saved a lot of money. :) It says something that I spent more money on a pair of winter knickers for riding my bike than I did on a dress for an upcoming evening work function.
We enjoyed gracious accommodations with friends in Milwaukie on Saturday night and then headed east to the Beautiful Estacada Time Trial this morning. It really is beautiful. The road is along the Estacada river, which is down in a gorge. Except for a few divets in the pavement from rock falls, the pavement is great. It's not flat but the only hill is the last kilometer to the finish. I had not checked my previous time on this course in 2006 so had no idea what to expect. At my finish, I felt like I had ridden hard and had a good race, so what more could you hope for? Turns out I had beaten my previous time by 11 seconds--and had the fastest women's time of the day.
I only say this about a one or two races each year (next up: Elkhorn), but you really should do both of these races. Part of what makes Kings Valley great is that it's not perfectly suited to anyone. Yeah, as one Washington rider pointed out, the course itself is not as hard as TST. But the race is as hard as the riders make it, and there are a lot of riders that events like TST don't draw. Kings Valley is mid-spectrum: definitely not flat, but no epic climbs--just enough hills to split fields and pop riders off the back. And you should do Estacada because it's a beautiful course and it's so much fun to ride on a TT bike and there are frogs along the way to cheer you on.