Friday, May 04, 2007

Tour of Virginia stage race, April 24, 2007

I’ve found that I get a mix of visitors to my website and blog, from those interested in diabetes and know little about triathlon, cycling etc. to those who know the details and strategies of the sports. I try to make it readable for both!

Raced my first pro multi-stage race, the Tour of Virginia,
www.tourofvirginia.com starting April 24, through the Shenandoah mountains of western Virginia. I was honored to be invited considering that I don’t race pro cycling, just a triathlete who poses as a cyclist between swimming and running. Ha! (My coach joked one time that we triathletes are really not that great at any of the 3 sports, just pretty good at doing them all together.) But if you train and race with the best in each sport, you get better. They go fast!

180 riders from some top pro teams racing in Europe and North and South America - Priority Health/Bissell, Rite Aid Pro Cycling, Colavita-Sutter Home, Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada, Caico - 31 teams total. I was there with my friend Phil Southerland and the all-diabetic Team Type 1, but ultimately raced for the composite team “Skinny J’s” sponsored by Shenandoah Cycle Company

Stage one was the opening Time Trial, a short prologue of pain. Time Trialing is just you against the clock, no drafting and what I do cycling in the Ironman, so I felt right at home here. Just wish it had been 40 miles rather than 4 - these little cyclists can accelerate like rockets while I’m just getting warmed up! (To give you an idea of the different physique of a triathlete v. a cyclist, I’m 6’3” 175 – 180 lbs and most pro cyclists are under 5’10” and 140. I felt like a giant!) In a short TT you basically try to warm up as best you can, then line up right before your start time to explode off the line and see how long you can redline your engine . . . here it was up the hill out of the gate… down the other side, around the turn around point and then back up that hill . . . wondering if the guy who started a few seconds behind me is gaining on me . . . until lactic acid was coming out of my eyes and my chest felt like someone poured battery acid down my throat . . . . Fun! At least I didn’t have to save anything for a run! I finished okay, but not great. On this short course a few seconds meant a difference of 50 places so the times were really bunched tight.

Stage Two was also that first day, a criterium race that evening about 20 miles away in the town of Lynchburg, Va. Criteriums are definitely NOT my specialty. In criteriums you do multiple laps around a circuit course usually under 1 mile in a city. Lots of spectators and lots of tight corners and turns for up close racing action. I’ve attached a map of this criterium here. Just think of 180 cyclists packed around you bumping into you like commuters pushing into a subway car, blasting to speeds over 30-35 mph and suddenly braking to under 10 mph in seconds, up and down two short steep hills and around 90 degree corners, dodging curbs and bumps that can send you flying, with your legs on fire and your chest pounding. Bike handling skills are critical at these speeds in these packs, where one mistake can cause a massive pile up. (That’s how I broke my collar bone in 2006 when a cyclist went down in front of me in a race.) My goal was just to get through this stage riding in and out of the group, without getting in a pileup so I could race the next day’s Stage 3 road race. Glad to say I made it! CyclingNews Stage 2 report: http://www.cyclingnews.com/road.php?id=road/2007/apr07/virginia07/virginia072

The next day was Stage 3, a tough 107 mile mountain stage. The profile I've
attached looks like a shark's mouth. It was here that I paid for running the Boston Marathon 7 days ago! (Not how I would have scheduled it, but I really wanted to do both after getting these two special invites!) The field took off in the first hour, averaging 27 – 29 mph over rolling hills. Hold on, where's the fire guys?!! My speed on one descent hit 52 mph, and that was still with the peleton of 180 cyclists packed all together! Clearly some of the teams were looking to inflict some pain on the field early to get their climbers off the front when the big climbs started. I was one who took some of that pain! I was doing a decent job until we hit one of those mountain thingamajigs and I suddenly felt like I was going backwards. I hung in with some others who also got shelled by the group, but we could not make the time cut off at the finish (finishing within 12% of the stage winner’s time). Over 60 racers suffered the same fate that day, so I was in good company and did not feel so bad about that! CyclingNews report Stage 3: http://www.cyclingnews.com/road.php?id=road/2007/apr07/virginia07/virginia073

Still had a fantastic experience! Guess I need to find a swim race to complete the circle before my next triathlon! See you soon! (Special thanks to Jeff Haden at Blackbird Images, www.blackbirdimages.com for these race shots.)

1 comment:

Kim said...

Thank you for bringing such nice posts. Your blog is always fascinating to read.