Monday, May 19, 2008

Hood finish

Monday, 19 May

Let's see, where was I when life got so busy there was no time to visit the internet? Oh yeah, Saturday, the "queen stage" of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, a.k.a. the Wy'East Road Race, rerouted this year because of an uncooperative snow pack. Start for all categories but pro men was in the town of Dufur. As soon as we got there, they announced a 30-minute delay in the start times (the pros started somewhere else, and they had to get past Dufur before the slower categories could start). So we all sat around a high school parking lot in the blazing sun for longer than anyone should ever have to do. They did finally get the race on the road at 11:35.

There were two feed zones on Saturday, one at 25 miles, the second at 50 miles; the finish was at about 75 miles. Sitting in the first feed zone was as close to sitting under a broiler as I ever need to come. No shade, no trees, and, remarkably, no wind. Great views of Jefferson, Hood, and Adams. The pros get their bottles for drinking from their team cars in the race caravan, so when they come through the feed zone, they grab as much "neutral" water as they can in order to have a shower on the bike. End result? Not enough neutral water for the races behind them that don't have team cars for the riders to feed from. OTB guys in the masters race were told "no more water." Fortunately, there was a mini mart about 3 miles up the road, and someone got there, bought out their water supply, and passed the bottles up so no one shriveled up into so much sweaty dust.

Getting to the second feed zone involved passing two race categories strung out along the road. Much time spent driving on the left side of a double yellow line. :) This feed zone was equally flat, but at higher elevation and in a forest, so it was pretty pleasant for the sit-and-wait experience. Guys were absolutely desperate when they came through, you could literally see it in their eyes. Unfortunately, there were at least two crashes, one of them caused by a mishandled musette. Both riders hopped back on and kept racing. The team I was feeding was waaaaaay spread out by this point, so I was one of the last cars to leave.

Shortly after the second feed, the race turned onto highway 26, the major route from Bend to Mt. Hood. There's a huge, temporary, digital DOT sign that says SNOW ZONE: CARRY CHAINS OR TRACTION TIRES. Um, yeah, on bikes. We did eventually see tons of snow beside the road but none ON the road. Little shade on this leg up to Mt. Hood Meadows, lots of "detonated" riders barely able to turn the pedals. I offered up water from the car but guys were too delirious. One of them told me refusing a bottle at 5K to the finish was one of his dumber moves in the race.

What do you do for a rider who crosses the finish line who can't even stand up with his bike, can't open his mouth to drink, can't lean back to lie on the ground? Stomachs cramped up as did calves and quads. It was like trying to bring riders back to enough life to get them into a car. It was a long, slow process.

After all that, the stage race ended Sunday with a crit in downtown Hood River. Since there are no flat roads in Hood River, it's quite a technical course and the vultures hang out at the bottom of the downhill hairpin waiting for crashes. There were pretty good crowds on hand and only a few crashes. We did not stick around for the pro men's race but cheered on our local favorites in the women's race.

I got up early on Sunday to go for a short ride. My ride partner had some local knowledge, so we drove to Lyle and rode up the Klickitat River drainage, up a steep climb out of the river canyon, and then 10 miles of sweet descending back to Lyle. I'll add a picture soon from the top of the climb. I think we saw 4 cars in 30 miles. I understand the Klickitat is normally a clear river, but yesterday it was the color of chocolate milk because of the rapid snow melt. And the water was high enough to be bringing down lots of trees and branches.

One of my favorite thing about stage races--either racing or supporting riders--is getting to know new people and getting to know others better. I am really thankful for all the opportunities that came up at this race to do just that. And in case you ever wondered about even your slightest good deed going unnoticed, I was floored on Saturday when a woman in the feed zone walked up to me and said "I know you. You gave me a bottle of ice-cold water in the circuit race at Cascade last year. You were my savior." I sure didn't recognize her, and wasn't wearing the same team jersey as I did at Cascade, but obviously those 20 ounces of water were pretty memorable. To mix the bumper sticker metaphors: random acts of kindness help us all wag more and bark less.

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