Report from Bend
Bend was a super venue: great town, perfect weather (some astrices apply personally!), close in, friendly racing on EXTREMELY challenging courses. I went at age 68 to get a feel for the courses with the hope they would keep Nationals in Bend for a third year to allow for my quintadal rejuvenation. Fantasies of victory were challenging to maintain. I stayed in my camper in the very nice Tumulo State Park at the northern end of the road race course. I had selected my gearing base on what I thought were accurate computer maps of the courses. The totals on altitude gain (700 feet in my time trial and 2800 feet in my road race were certainly correct) but the steepnesses were off. I got there two days early and explored the courses on my mountain bike. I found the courses difficult to locate and probably put in 60 miles with lots of altitude gain the day before the time trial. A bit much in retrospect. And the computer map’s 3% slopes were in several place more like 6%. I had been training on 3% slopes with my time trial bike (eg, up to Langor Campground in Hyalite Canyon) and doing fine, but 6% scared me as I only had a 55 tooth chain ring
Time trial. Farcical to be tragic or visa versa: hard to say. Always the thinker, I decided I would ride from my campground to the start properly to warm up (maybe 1000 feet of vertical, see below). I figured just spinning on a trainer wouldn’t do it for such a tough course. I was scheduled to go off third, a minute behind John Haney, whom I could usually beat–a good omen. However, an 8 o’clock start in 38 degree temperatures was a minus. I was feeling pretty good but maybe a touch tired after the warm-up ride to the start. No Haney. No number two. I was going off first. Fug. I could only recognize one guy behind me (a national champion), but all the rest looked pretty young and, to a man, they had the $10,000 time trial bikes. At the start, they hold me too far behind the ramp edge and I almost go off the side of the start ramp at release. Fug. The motor cycle cop falls in behind me, not out front as he should have been. 200 meters in, the course is blocked and I have to turn. This is not as it was on the maps or as indicated yesterday. I turn. But immediately there is another intersection with no obvious indication of where to go. I slow and turn around and yell at the cop. He points. Fug. Finally I am on the 2 mile 3% uphill and it seems to be going better, but by the turn around I’m caught by Greason #1. At the turn around, we start straight east. The sun is rising. It’s blinding. I can’t see a thing. I know there are marked pot holes in the road. Fug and double Fug. I back off. Clearly, this is not to be my day. I try to make it over the first 6% bump but my gearing is just too high for success. Pretty soon Greason #2 and #3 go past and after more bumps it’s 5 Greasons total. My brain is making excuses, but the ego has taken a hit.
Criterium. At least it is at 11:00 in the morning, sunny and just the right temperature. It’s an attractive 6-turn 1000-meter course. 20 feet of altitude change. Very technical. At least 4 of the turns are single file. Clearly, it will be a race of attrition. The announcer says that he will pull you when you fall behind, that you shouldn’t just quit on you own. Encouraging! Now I have to at least finish the race. There are 30 plus at the starting line. Very quickly it’s a long line of 20 or so, me at the back. The turns are scary, at least for me. A couple of times gaps open at the back and I manage to bridge back. Now it’s maybe 15 riders, all the rest soon pulled. After about 7 laps (of 35 total), me and two other guys are gaped. It’s not much, but we’re not making it back. We’re reasonably strong and we don’t want to get lapped and pulled. We seem to be doing the turns better. We’re keeping them in sight and only losing 20-30 meters per lap. About half way in, one of us pulls his flat hand across his throat and disappears off the back. We were reduced to two, and he and I changed the lead each lap. We’re going good. With about 5 laps left we were caught and passed by 7 riders. We stayed with them for a couple of laps before they started their final efforts. I was reasonably satisfied.
Road Race. I had a rest day before the road race. I played tourist in the volcano lands to the south of Bend. I drove to the cold 8:00 start and got reasonably warmed up. I felt good. Again 30 plus strong-looking riders at the line. The past and present national champions were rolled forward and presented to the audience. The front group would be in a protective bubble of motorcycle cops. You would have the full width of the road. Fall out of that bubble and you had to follow the rules of the road; you were a tourist. The course was extremely difficult. It was never level. It had one section a little longer and steeper than our Sheeps Hill. Then a few miles further on it had a short 10% plus pitch followed by a succession of stair step climbs. It was two laps, with a mile long connecting section to the start-finish. On the very first bump someone put the hammer down and it was painful to stay with the group. On the Sheeps Hill section we dropped maybe 10 riders. On the steep 10% section I was sort of in contact, but I wasn’t ready for the stair steps. I was dropped. The caravan started to go past. I caught two other guys and we worked well. At the top we started to draft the follow cars and were getting back on. How professional I felt. We make it. The second time up Sheeps Hill we divided into two groups of 8. I was in the second group. Our group worked well together, but the lead group was going a little faster. At the finish I had a fairly good sprint and finished third in our group.
I enjoyed Bend and the people and the racing. But I really had to work hard all year just to achieve acceptable mediocrity. I’ll probably skip it next year. But for all the rest of you I can’t recommend it too highly.