Saturday, July 24, 2010

Race Across Oregon-Day 1

Okay, okay, it's taking longer than expected to get my blog updated. Tons of photos and data to sort through and a full work day to 8 weeks until Furnace Creek 508 means I "need" to ride bike too.

I'll get a full write up and photos posted, but it will take awhile.

Thanks for your patience.

+++++ interim update +++++++

Plans to put together a little video of our participation in Race Across Oregon hit a snag. In consideration of my riding partner's privacy concerns I won't be making one. I'll post some narrative and photos here in the next few weeks.

We were a team united by a common goal.

We even had a mascot suitably attired in team kit thanks to my sister!

We had a 15 passenger van converted into a bike race support van, complete with lights, signage, and a microwave oven! All that was left was to ride the bikes.

I took the team's first leg, a climb from Hood River up a few side roads then on Hwy 35 up towards Bennet Pass. It would include the steepest pitch of the entire RAO coarse. I had my bike tuned up prior to RAO but did not get a chance to ride it. A mistake that I knew better than to commit. I did run it through the gears on the work stand but found out that is not the same as riding! My triple chainrings are 56x43x30 so I drop to my small ring quicker than most folks would. Unfortunately I found out very quickly into the race that I could not shift into my small chainring. That meant I climbed some pretty steep pitches in 43x28. Doable, but not the high cadence spinning I'm accustomed to. I tried to adjust the barrel adjuster as I rode but as luck would have it the shop had it turned completely down and I had no additional adjustment available.

I rode 19.25 miles and climbed 2270 ft with a 14.3 mph avg. Not too bad by my standards, but was enough out of contention that I was only ahead of the lone female rider at the end of my leg.
As luck would have it, she was the female half of the other mixed double team, Team Teal, from Canada.

The plan was for Lauren to ride a leg as soon as a rider exchange was legal. I knew I'd be tired, this was a race and we both expected to be putting out some effort. Before this race was over we'd be riding on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but it wasn't your normal Sunday afternoon bike ride by any stretch of the imagination!

There were some pre ride jitters and last minute pointers as she prepared to take her first pull.

I'd jump back on when she figured she had enough and ride on up to the summit then descend to Shearers Falls. It would be a long leg, but with mostly downhill I figured I could do it and keep Lauren fresh for her anticipated climb from Shearers Falls up the long unsupported hill towards Grass Valley.
She ended up riding an 8.68 mile leg with 1210 ft at a 12.2 mph avg.
I used my down time to adjust my front derailleur shifting. It would not be a problem for the rest of the ride. Another benefit of having the bike inside the support vehicle.

I jumped back on the bike and climbed the remaining elevation before turning on Forest Road 44 and heading mostly downhill to the Deschutes River. I ended up riding 49.89 miles with 2733 ft of climbing, and a staggering 5454 ft of descent. I averaged 18.6 mph for the run. Even at the time I thought it might be a bit too long a leg to bite off. By the time I really knew it was too long we were too close to Shearers Falls and Lauren's climb to put her back on the road without just toasting her prior to the climb. I just pedaled it on out. The male half of Team Teal had passed me on one of the climbs about half way through my 50 mile pull. I just didn't have the legs to challenge him.

Giving Lauren a long rest might have been a good plan however. Lauren climbed the 1617 ft in 11.58 miles from Shearers Falls at a very strong 9.3 mph average. I and the entire crew were very impressed.

From this point on for the first day we pretty much traded half hour stints on the bike. We rode past hundreds of wind turbines, all sitting mostly idle in a rare low wind day. It was warm though, with temperatures in the upper 90's. Lauren and I both took to our hot weather plans and did our best to cool off during our down time (plenty of cold fluids, wet towel compresses, electrolyte replacement) and to keep temperature rise to a minimum during our on bike time. (cold neck wraps, soaked jerseys, squirt gun soakings as we rode) Our crew had very defined roles at exchanges and we didn't have to remove wheels or anything else. This would prove to be very advantageous during the night when the entire team had to come to a stop to do the exchange. We stayed within minutes of Team Teal throughout the day, once evening came we started making progress.

We started catching solo riders and many of the two person teams who had dropped me on the first climb up Hwy 35 that morning by the time we neared Condon and were passing a whole slew of them in the Heppner area. It was very gratifying to just power past them. As much as I'd like to attribute it to strong legs it was at least equally the result of very quick rider exchanges. I didn't time a changeover, but I saw other teams stop, unrack a bike, put the front wheel on, set the rider on the road, who'd now wait until the other bike had it's wheel removed, and bike racked before they could ride on. We probably had our exchanges down to well under 30 seconds. Bikes stored ready to ride and unfastened before stopping, the crew took the retiring rider's bike and rolled it in. We'd take off down the road while the bike was being fastened in, gps removed and data downloaded, and any issues dealt with.

I was pedaling up Franklin Summit playing cat and mouse with the male half of Team Teal. I'd pass him, he'd pass me, repeat. I finally decided to conserve energy and just pace behind him and his support car. I knew the summit was coming soon.......and knew I had the gearing to use the descent down the back side to my advantage. I could hear Team Teal's support crew as they talked to their rider via the PA "The Flying Aquarians are keeping the heat on". Indeed, just biding my time, waiting for that descent.

As we approached the summit I poured the coal to the effort. As I crested the climb I shifted into the big ring, a monster 56 and started grabbing smaller cogs as I gained speed. I was in 56x11 as I roared past Team Teal and another competitor who was a hundred feet of so ahead of them. I kept the power on because when you pass want to pass with authority. Don't give them the idea that they might just be able to draft you or regain the lead. It was pitch black by now and it took a bit for my support car to make the passes. I did not have my HID light on, only a 1 watt LED. I was beginning to wonder why I didn't have the bright light on as I was rocketing down the hill at 45 mph with a LED headlight and getting beyond the headlight range of the teams I had just passed. But before it was too long or too dark I could tell that the Flying Aquarian support vehicle was back behind me. We had some excellent auxiliary lighting that completely eliminated shadows.

During the night we had planned on doing longer pulls for several reasons. First, to allow the "off" rider to get more meaningful sleep. Secondly, to reduce stopped time since at night everything had to come to a stop while we exchanged since rules dictated that the rider had to be in the headlight beam at all times. Dave, our crew chief had us doing 90 minute pulls. It worked well.

Lauren and I put a 17 minute lead on Team Teal during the night hours.

I ended up with 154 miles and 12,079 ft of climbing on the first day.

DAY TWO will be described later.


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