Monday, June 23, 2008

Quick Elkhorn summary

Monday, 23 June

This will be quick because my brain is still pretty fried. I spent longer in the car yesterday than I did on the bike--and there were 6 hours on the bike.

As reported, Ekhorn stage 1 was hot but not roasting, windy but not heinous. Huge women's field made for some challenging bike riding, but there was very little sketchy bike handling.

Stage 2 was a TT. Rolling downhill out, uphill headwind on the return. I really wished it had been the other way around because it would've felt so good to finish with the incredible power you feel with a tailwind on a slight downhill. I was mid-pack but okay with my time; I knew the woman 30 seconds in front of me would take a big chunk of time out of me on the way out, but I ended up taking more out of her on the return.

Stage 3 was a crit. Or parts of crits. Understand that it doesn't rain much in Baker City, so the streets aren't made like ours here on the west side. It started to rain as the cat 4-5s were warming up, and there were crashes in the warm up. Once the race started, there was about a crash a lap for the first 5-10 laps, all in turn 1. But the rain stopped, and between the warm temps and the wind, the road was dry by the time they finished. The masters got the only dry, uneventful crit of the day. About 5 minutes into the women's race, it started to rain again, and just at that moment when the road surface turns slick before it is really wet, there was a massive wreck in turn 1. Two riders went to the hospital, one (we learned later) with a broken pelvis. The race was stopped. I think the cat 3s rode part of their race and were also stopped and the 1-2 race never even started. The chief ref took a lot of flack from people who know that crits are possible in the rain, but those people didn't account for the different material used for road construction or the oil that had accumulated on the streets (5,000 motorcycles had visited Baker City in the previous week, on top of the accumulation from normal traffic). It was the right call.

Stage 4 is the queen stage and crown jewel at Elkhorn, the 102-mile road race with an 8-mile climb to the finish on top of Dooley Mountain. The day dawned clear and not even too cold by the women's race start at 8:00. (Women start first and get passed by most of the men's fields; they used to start last, but then they finished about 3 hours after the 1-2 men. So now we get neutralized a few times--not on a climb this year :(--but finish at a reasonable hour. The weather was absolutely perfect all day, never too hot at all. I got popped close to the top of the "first" climb (there's a steep half-mile climb earlier that doesn't even show up in the course profile but usually splits the field), was chasing like mad on the descent, and then got caught behind a tanker truck with an enormous trailer. Two women in front of me crossed the double-yellow centerline to pass him, but the corners were absolutely blind and I wasn't willing to do that. So I never got back on. About 25? miles later, a group caught me and that was it to the bottom of the final climb. Then it's every rider for herself. Huge party with great food, beer, results, prizes, and podium presentations at the finish line.

There are so many great things about this race that I'll bore you with more reports, but that's the race summary part.

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