My goal this year was to win the Overall best rider in the both road racing and the mountain biking at the Games. If you’re going to go for it, why not go for it all?
Here’s how it works. The first three places are awarded medals (gold, silver and bronze), but the first six places are awarded points towards the overall win. The racer with the most points wins. This is the only Senior Games that does this.
The hill climb is 3.1 miles and you climb almost 900 ft. It’s fairly easy at the start but progressively gets steeper and steeper and finishes at 12%. It’s held in beautiful Snow Canyon, which consist of tall buttes of red rock that align both sides of the canyon.
Woke up with a major kink it my thoracic spine! It wasn’t muscular, but felt like a rib or maybe my neck was out and was affecting my thoracic region. The good thing is I’m a cyclist. I didn’t need my thoracic spine to ride a bike. If it was my lumbar, then I would’ve been in trouble.
I warmed up for 45 minutes and performed my three “leg-openers.” However, I just couldn’t get myself going mentally. I found my mind drifting off. In a hill climb, there is no one to draft so you have to mentally keep the “pedal to the metal.” My first race was not to be auspicious.
The weather was cool and overcast and very, very windy. We’ve had lightening storms over the past 36 hours. Although I passed the guy who started a minute in front of me, I had my worst time ever. 15:21 and placed 6th. L I’ve got to regroup and get it together for tomorrow’s 40k Time Trial.
40k Time Trial
Got a massage and an adjustment yesterday but still have the kink in my thoracic area. It didn’t matter; today I have to go hard.
The race was held in Zion. If you haven’t been to Zion National Park, then put it on your “bucket list.” It’s breathtaking. You feel like you’ve dropped into a John Wayne Western. As I drove to the start at the Majestic Lodge, huge bluffs of jagged rock lined each side of Highway 9.
The weather was nasty with dark grey clouds and 30+mph winds. I needed a second opinion. I called my buddy Mike Lukich. After discussing my gear with Mike over the phone, I decided to change wheels from a solid disc wheel on the back and tri-spoke on the front, to my Zipp 808’s. These wheels have a somewhat, high profile, but much better in a cross wind. It was a good choice.
I set up my trainer and started to warm-up in the rain. I had a rain jacket and wore a hat, but the rain made the wheel on my wind-trainer so slippery I couldn’t get any resistance to the back tire. I had to keep wiping it off so I could complete my hard intervals to open my legs. The rain slightly let up as I set up for the race, but just as I began, once again, it started to rain.
I did the first 20k in 23:14! I was averaging about 31 mph! The course is not flat either. You climb about 640 ft of which 400ft is on the way out. If I could go that fast without the wind I’d be in the Tour de France!
The wind was precarious. One of my friends didn’t change his disc wheel and went into such a terrible speed wobble he had to stop and get off the bike! I got blown around quite a bit too. I passed a bunch of people that started in front of me, but I got passed my two guys who started behind me. I was able to stay with them for about 11 miles but in the last mile they pulled away from me.
I ended up fourth, about 1:53 behind the winner. All three racers who finished ahead of me were all big guys that must have weighed over 200 lbs. I think the weight helped them in the strong winds. I was happy with my placing since I placed 6th last year. My big mistake was yesterday in the Hill Climb. That one mistake may have cost me the overall. Based on the standings, I have to make sure that racer #391 or #392 not only don’t win, but I have to try and get racer #397 and/or #398 to beat them so they take their overall points, and of course, I have to win!
After two days of rain, we had a beautiful sunny day. I warmed up properly and got to the line. The course was the same as every year; a three-corner crit. On lap four some guy threw his water bottle and wasn’t looking where he was going. He wove into my back wheel and knocked himself down! Jeez… Racer #391 didn’t show up, so I kept my eye on #390. I had a fourth position coming into the last corner which was perfect. This guy was too strong. He led it out from the corner. I over-shifted by one gear and ran out of road again! Shoot! First, second and third all had the same time. I ended up with the Bronze medal.
Another beautiful day! I got essentially, no warm-up. I showed up a little late. The sun was shining but it was cool. The pack was about 40 guys. The course is rolling hills with two or three steep short hills, a longer climb, rolling hills, a screaming downhill and then about two miles flat to the finish.
Within 15 miles the pack was cut in half to about 20 racers. The real race would start at what they call “the wall,” which is ¾ of a mile and you climb 400 ft which is an average of 9% with the summit topping out at 11%! I fought my way up to the front at the start of the climb. So far so good. I had been drafting this freak who posted a 54:07 in the 40k time trial. He was tall, really thin and his legs looked like an anatomy chart. The freaky thing is that he is 60 years old! The times in the time trial for everyone were about five minutes slower because of the extreme wind, which means this guy could have posted a 49:07 40k time trial! On that course, that is just freaky.
They attacked on the climb which was to be expected and I got dropped. Remember, it’s 11% at the top. I fought my way back and eventually ended up with a group of 12. Only four of us seemed to want to work hard, so within about five miles, it had whittled down to four. Right before the downhill (which was the hill-climb from the first race) I attacked them hard. We eliminated one guy and the three of us dropped like stones at 50mph. We made the right had turn and it was a mile and a half to the finish. We dropped one guy and I out-sprinted the last of the Mohicans for sixth place.
What a difference two days of rest can make! I was feeling a deep fatigue in my legs from all the racing, so I didn’t touch my bike on Saturday (other than riding with Mufasa). Sunday, I rode the cross-country course twice and I’m glad I did. There are some very technical sections. A few times I had to retrace my steps four or five times to practice my lines so I wouldn’t have to come out of the pedals. There was a section called the “keyhole” which looked like it should be in an Indiana Jones movie. It had sharp rocks jutting out towards your head while you rode in a 10-12 inch rocky river bed. If you fell, you’d fall directly into the jutting rocks and there would be no way to pass a rider once you were in this section.
The course had steep rutty, climbs (16 – 18%), sections of very technical single track, then a screaming, rocky down-hill, another technical river bed where you had to steadily climb over steps of rock that were 6-12 inches high where in practice, I thought “I’m supposed to ride a bike up this,” another long steep climb into an even steeper trickier down-hill, to a short sandy S-turn climb, followed by a mile of fast downhill in loose gravel into a sharp left hander to the finish.
I didn’t cycle hard in practice so I would be fairly fresh for Monday. I also flatted my bike tire while practicing, so I went to Red Rock Cycling shop to get some advice. They recommended I get different tubes so I could stick this goop called “Stan’s” in the tube which would prevent flats. I paid about $50 and got it done.
I arrived at the course a little late so I didn’t get much of a warm-up; only about two miles.
The hill is about 2 miles up, an average of 7% with the steepest sections at 18%. There are very steep sections that are extremely rocky, especially after the rains we had last week. As usual, the course gets steeper at the top.
I was the first racer to start which meant I had no rabbit to chase. I locked-out my front shock and went as hard as I could go. That last kick was a tough one. My time was 2:35 seconds faster than last year! I couldn’t believe it. What a difference a good bike makes. My Gary Fisher-Super Fly-Carbon-29 incher is probably 10 pounds lighter than my Mongoose from last year.
My first gold medal of the games! Finally…
Following the hill climb I had to wait at the top for an hour and 45 minutes until everyone finished and once again, I was the first racer. I got off to a good start but screwed up one line going into an S-turn. I thought I was cutting the corner but instead, ended up going directly into three small boulders. I had to really slow down to maneuver around them but I kicked it and got going again. About ¾’s of the way down I thought I saw a little single track that seemed like it would allow me to go straight between another slight S-curve so I went for it.
You see, curves slow you down. The more you can descend in a straight line, the faster you will go. Unfortunately, this single track led me right off the course. Yikes! Now I had to slow down, make my way through a bunch of tumble weeds and back to the course. Damn…
I still ended up beating my time from last year by about nine seconds, however, in the grand scheme of things I think I lost about 20-30 seconds in those two mistakes. The upside was I still got a silver medal. I was now tied with another racer; we both had one gold and one silver.
I was pretty confident I could win this race. I had beaten the guy I was tied with, by three minutes in the hill climb. That is an eternity in racing. If I could win this race, I would have the overall jersey and the trophy.
Within two minutes of the race I knew this was going to be a two-man competition. It would not be between my second place rival, but instead, it was between me and the leader of the next age-category.
Whenever we went up a steep hill I passed him, whenever we went through a technical section or downhill he passed me. We must have passed each other about five times in the first two miles.
He beat me to the “keyhole section” but I was right on his back tire breathing down his neck. Once we emerged from the keyhole it was a climb, I passed him again and made it first to the tricky section where I had practiced my lines about five times on Sunday. I was so anaerobic I missed my line and clipped out of my pedal and he passed me again! This guy was ticking me off. I felt like I was in that movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where they keep saying “who is that guy?’
I passed him on the next climb and since it was fairly long, I got a gap on him. At the summit I looked back and I had a good .45 seconds on him. But he was coming hard. He was really annoying…Who is this guy?
Flew downhill, made the right hand turn into the river bed and wrestled my bike forward. That’s what it feels like. The rocks and the uphill terrain keep throwing you around so you feel like you’re fighting your bike just to keep it going straight.
Coming out of this section was the long, main climb. It’s really steep (16-18%) in two sections. I still had nice big gap and off I went; flying down the mountain as fast as I could.
I couldn’t believe it. He caught me at the bottom! Now I’m pissed. “Who is this guy?”I hammer up the S-turn in the sandy part, click it in a bigger gear and hammer the last downhill section where we passed another racer like he was strolling in the park. He’s right there with me though. I get him at the left turn to the start-finish and step on it. I’ve got two-bike lengths on him as we start our second lap. The announcer says “30 minute lap.” This was a going to be a course-record pace!
I need to get away from this guy because he’s technically a better rider. I’m not a mountain biker. I only do three races a year and this was my third.
I stomp on the pedals on the first 12% hill and get a gap. I fly into the single track and this time I’m not slowing down. I enter the keyhole first and keep the pedal to the metal. Up the first long climb……turned around to look and……..nothing……..nobody to be seen. Yeah! I scream down the first downhill section into the technical riverbed and now I’m pouring it on. I need to get time……
I crest the long, steep, main climb and turn around……nobody…….I’m gone!
As I fly down the last major descent, I start bouncing around. Is there something wrong? Noooo…..I have a flat. Even though I wasn’t supposed to get flats I had brought one spare tube and tools as a safety precaution. I jumped off the bike, got the wheel off, yanked the tube out, checked the tire for thorns…..nothing…. got the other tube and wham!…….. my nemisis passes me again! Damn! “Who is this guy?”
I get the tire back on and I figure he’s got a minute…….maybe a minute and a half on me. I haul ass. Within about 45 seconds I see him standing on the side of the trail. He got a flat!!!! Woooooh, hooooh! I couldn’t believe my luck. My luck was turning around…. Or so I thought……
As I went by him I said “tough course.”
30 seconds later, pssssssssssssst, my back tire flats again!!! Now I’m in trouble. I have no tube and remember I’m going downhill. I have no choice but to ride the flat, back tire.
I’m basically skiing down this steep, rutted, rocky, gravelly 18% grade with a flat back tire; onto a section of hard bedrock, down a single track, up the sandy S-turn, down a mile gravelly road to the left turn to the start-finish. Remember, I can’t really put any power into the back wheel because I just slide around.
At the start/finish I drop my bike and yell “I have to go get a tube from my van!” I run to my van, get the tube and pump (Mufasa looks at me like I’m a nut) run back and start to change my tire. Just then a racer goes by. Amazingly enough, I had about 10-12 minutes on the third place racer in just two laps! I had flatted, changed the tire, flatted again, ridden about two miles on the flat, ran to my van and back and finally, the guy passed me! I could’ve showered, made breakfast, eaten and cleaned up before he got there… Hah! Two additional racers passed me while I was changing my tire, and I was off. As I got going, my friend Rebecca who was standing at the start-finish said “you can still win.” Damn straight I’m going to win…… or so I thought……
Just as I get up to speed, my nemesis surprisingly pulls alongside me and says “Did you get another flat?” “Yep”, I replied. “Bad luck, we’re really behind now” he said. “Yeah but they can flat too.” “Good point,” he agreed.
Later at the awards I found out who he was and what had happened to him. When he flatted, he had slit his tire. He had to cut up the bad tube to line the wall of the tire. However, it wouldn’t hold the new, inflated inner tube which kept bubbling out of the tire. He then walked until he found a volunteer who happened to have duck tape which he used it to tape his tire.
His name was Craig and he had beaten me last year while setting a course record. He was from St. George (a hometown boy) and knew the course, which is why he kept passing me on the technical side. This was turning out to be an epic day. The two strongest guys were back together and on the hunt, for the last lap to glory.
It’s now or never, all or nothing. I give it everything I got and drop him very quickly. Within about two minutes he’s gone. I never see him again. I find out later he flatted again and since he was close to the finish he decided to just retrace the course.
`Slowly I start picking off the three racers that passed me. First one, then another. Finally on the last climb, I pass the third guy. I’m swallowing air, tongue hanging out, back starting to hurt, but I don’t care. I’m going to win this race after all and I’m going to get the Overall win, the trophy and the jersey.
The last downhill section…….I’m flying and I feel something strange. Is it my back tire again? Nope, it’s my front tire. Anyone who rides a motorcycle or bicycle knows that once you’re front end goes, you go…
I fly over the handlebars into a bunch of loose gravel. Thank goodness it wasn’t boulders. I land pretty well though; forearm, shoulder then hip. I basically tumble. I immediately get back up and without thinking, tried to ride the bike. It was like being on ice. Fell again. Now I’m really screwed. In order to win the overall you have to finish all three races. I’m not sure where the number two guy is or whether he crashed or finished, so I start walking….and walking…….and walking. One by one, the three racers passed me again. About 20 minutes into my walk (which was hurting my knee by the way) I realized my $150 computer had flown off my bike in the crash. Great, now I have a choice….walk back the 20 minutes and hopefully find the computer or keep going? I figure, screw the computer. If I go back, there might not be anyone at the finish to get my time, so…. I keep going. About a half mile away I can see the racing compound below and I hear the announcer say over the microphone “where’s Platero?” I thought “ if you look through some binoculars, you’ll see me walking.”
The end result was, I went from the fastest guy to the last finisher. I flatted three times, lost the race, lost the overall, lost my computer and crashed.
In the parking lot another racer pointed out that the bike shop had put the front tire with the threads going in the wrong direction. I decided to return to the shop. Here’s what I said, “I know there are no guarantees, but I spent $50 here on Sunday for gear to prevent flats and two days later I got three flats, crashed, lost my race, lost the overall win and lost my computer, plus you put the tire on backwards! Is there something you can do for me?” The kid said “let me see.” He comes back and says “We can put the tire on correctly and won’t charge you labor.” That’s it? I was pissed. “ Look, now I have no tubes and my front tire is still flat, can you at least sell me some tubes at cost?” His reply was “nope, can’t do that.” I said “Don’t touch my bike, just give it back to me. I can change the tire in 30 seconds. I’ll never shop here again.” So much for St. George’s Premier Bike shop. I don’t recommend Red Rock Bicycle Company. They suck!”
The good thing is, I improved my time in the Hill Climb by 2:35 and had improved my lap times in the cross-country course by five minutes! Craig was pushing me so hard, I think I could’ve broken the course record. But, hey that’s racing. Next year, I’m going to pulverize them all!