Monday, March 26, 2007

Tour de Tuscaloosa...

All I know is that my whole body hurts, even my fingers hurt as I type this. Luckily I had a fridge full of beer when I got home yesterday to help with the pain. I called it the Tour de Milér Lité. I was in my own little race and I came in first place in that one!

Anyway, The Tour de Tuscaloosa was a blast! Left the house about 5:15am and made the trek up to Tuscaloosa. It ended almost before it started. Got to the Ranger Station at Lake Lureen State Park to pay my admisssion into the park and realized I didn't have any cash and had left my debit card at home (no way to go to an ATM)! Asked the lady if I could go borrow a few dollars from a teammate and bring it back. She said firmly... NO. What a bit... I mean, how rude! But then she asked me if I had a credit card and luckily they took those, which really surprised me! I have never been to a state park where they took credit cards!

Got everything unloaded, met up with the team, saw a few other guys I had not see in a while. Got registered. I road around for a while just enjoying the nice weather and the park. It was really beautiful up there and the weather could not have been nicer. Unless you were racing the Masters and got to enjoy the 90 degree temps at noon!

We had a rolling start with 50 riders in our cat 5 race from the parking lot out to the main road where the start/finish line was. About 1/4 of a mile in, we had our first climb, a gradual climb that went into a steep short climb. In less than 2 miles the pack kicked it up to around 26-27 mph sometimes reaching 29 on the longer stretches of flat for the entire first loop. We would end up doing 30 miles, 3 loops on the 10 mile course. All the turns on the course were 90 degree right handers
which made things a little hairy but not too bad. But it did make it hard on a couple of the turns because there were steep
climb right after. So you would be going 24 mph and drop all the way down, lose all your momentum and have to make a hard sprint up the hill to keep with the group. That is where more interval training will help me out!

I almost crashed once in the middle of the pack. Not sure who was leading the group but every time they hit a hill, they slowed waaaaay down. This caused the pack to compress instantly with everyone slamming on their brakes. Major chaos where I was in the pack. After about 5 miles, they got it all sorted out but the pack was furious. I locked up my back wheel and slid it sideways one time trying not to hit the guy in front of me (it may have been you Dave).

I lasted with the main pack till the last hill that was about 1 1/2 miles from the start/finish line. We were doing about 36-37 down a hill where there was a right hander. They had volunteers out there that were flagging everyone warning them of the upcoming turn. So the pack ended up spreading out so people could safely make the turn. This is not a problem if you are on the front. But I was tasting my left lung just trying to stay with the field towards the back of the pack. That is when the rubber-band effect comes in to play. Once those front guys made the turn, they hammered it and hammered it hard! So by the time I had made the turn, it was an all out sprint to get back to the main pack. Ray was yelling at me from behind telling me to give it all I had to get back to the main group. We were riding at 29-30 mph on this long section that had a slight decline but was mostly flat. We finally got back to the main group but little did I know, the inevitable was about to happen. I was about to get dropped, hard! At the end of this long section of road was a right-hander that went back into the park.Once you made the turn, there was an immediate short, steep climb that flattened out at the feed zone and then went into a long, brutal climb that decimated the pack. I knew if I was going to finish the race, I had to start conserving energy, we had only done 8.5 miles at this point!

So I fell back and joined in with a group of about 10 guys and we started riding together, taking turns pulling. I was doing my part pulling, rarely dropping below 22 mph. It was my turn up at one point and I kicked it up to about 25. The group was telling me that I had dropped my teammate Ray but I couldn't understand them. After a few minutes I finally noticed Ray had fallen off the back. I pulled off to see about waiting on him. He waved me on so I jumped back on the pack. By mile 25,
about 4 guys had pulled ahead from our group, I was with 2 other guys. They were huge and were pulling like nobody's business on the flats but I was able to lead them up the climbs. We had dropped everyone else.

By the finish line, we had caught back up to the 4 guys that had attacked us but by that point, I was done. I think they made a sprint finish at the end. I had been sitting back on these two big guys in their vacuum they were forming but it didn't last. They started attacking. The small climb right before the downhill to the finish got me and they dropped me there. I had nothing left.

Overall, this was probably the most fun I have had at a bike race in a very long time. Probably cause it was new to me, and man, it was exciting!! Went through the finish line with everyone screaming, shaking their cowbells, making all sorts of noise! I ended up 34 out of 50. My original plan was to finish with the main field and end up in the top half. But less than 2 miles
into the race, I knew it was going to be a tough day in the saddle and that was a little ambitious. But I learned a lot and I am very proud of everyone on the team getting out there and doing their best. Beats the hell out of sitting on a sofa, picking Cheetos out of your belly button all day!

Now.. where/when is the next race?!?!?!?!