Saturday, April 17, 2010
Last Saturday I completed my first race of the season. Ragnarok 105 is a 105 mile race primarily on gravel roads. At the beginning of the race, riders are given course directions for the first half of the course. Then at the half way point there is an aid station where riders pick up a final set of directions for the remainder of the course. This is not a new format, but for me it was the first race I've done where the course is not "marked". It was also the longest race I have done where I had to ride and working with a group of riders.
Going into the race I was confident in my fitness but less confident in how I would do reading the course directions. It didn't help my confidence that my computer stopped cooperating with me the day before the race and I was not 100% satisfied with my map holder. However, my goal for the race was to be competitive at the end and hopefully be in the final sprint for a spot on the podium. I knew this was lofty goal for a first timer, considering there were a lot of strong riders in the field. But I knew I had put the training in I needed and my legs felt really good leading up to the race.
The race started out much slower than I had anticipated with a lot of chattering between riders. Eventually we started approaching the first KOM (King Of the Mountain is a series of climbs throughout the race where riders race to the top. The first riders to reach the top are awarded points for their respective finish. At the end of the race, there is a separate KOM winner. KOM is a race with in a race) The pace picked up as the people who wanted to win the KOM attacked the climb. At the top the leaders slowed down for the majority of the field to catch up again.
I started getting frustrated with the pace but knew eventually the stronger riders would attack and thin the heard. After the 3rd KOM, I noticed my frame bag which was holding all of my water had completely unzipped and my 80 oz. bladder was falling out. I also noticed the group was about to turn onto a section of paved road and I knew this was where the attack was going to take place. I couldn't get my bag zipped up while riding, so I had no choice but to pull over, get off the bike and zip up the bag. As I did so, I watched the lead group take off down the road and leave me on the side of the road. By the time I was back on my bike 6 riders were a good 1/4 mile ahead of me. If I didn't bridge the gap my chances of finishing in the top 5 were shot. For about 5 miles I put my head down and chased the group ahead of me. Thankfully the group didn't work together for too long to keep the pace up. At the bottom of the 4th KOM I caught the group and rode at back of the pack for a good 15 miles trying to recover. Eventually I started to feel better and was able to start taking pulls at the front again.
As the group kept riding together the pace was not super hard, but the wind and rolling hills of the river valley added up and my legs were getting tired. I could tell I wasn't the only one hurting, at about mile 75 the group fell silent and no one was talking. Around 95 miles we reached the final big climb, it was the kind of climb that crushes a persons spirit and made me question if I should get off my bike and walk, but continued to slowly turn the pedals. As I reached the top I was the lead rider, I decided to keep my head down and the pace up. At this point I was comfortable trying to stay in the front of the group, hoping the last climb had wiped out the rest of the field. This wasn't the case.
The road gradually kept going up , this is where Charlie Tri, last years race winner, made his move. Charlie attacked on the final climb and I couldn't grab his wheel. At this point the race was on. We bombed the final gravel hill at about 35-40 mph. At the bottom of the hill we turned onto a paved road. Charlie had a good 100 yards on me and I was hurting. Next thing I know another rider is on my wheel and then Tim Ek passes me. I wished Tim luck chasing Charlie down and he responded, "You're coming with me". That was all the motivation I needed to push a little harder. Tim and I chased hard after Charlie. We were headed into town and toward the finish line. Putting safety second priority Tim and I blew across the highway, passed moving cars and blew through 4-way stops at around 25-30 mph. (Yes, this may not sound too smart, but I assure you we were looking out for one another and I never blindly cut through traffic. However it was a rush and I was having a lot of fun)
Tim and I were making ground on Charlie, but he was riding really strong and we ran out of room. Charlie rode a really strong race and tactically did everything right. Tim had more left in the tank than I did and finish second. I happily finish 3rd and did what I set out to do at the beginning of the race; be competitive and try to be in the final sprint for a spot on the podium.
Finishing time 6 hours 16 minutes.
Now playing: Leo Rondeau - Down At The End Of The Bar