Huntsman World Senior Games – 2013
St. George, Utah
Hill Climb – Road Racing
I’m no climber and this climb is really hard. It’s about 3.1 miles. The first mile isn’t bad, the second mile is between 6-8%, but the last mile is between 10-12%. Ouch!
This Senior Games is different than any other Senior Games in the other 49 states. Every other state holds a 5k and 10k Time Trial and a 20k and a 40k Road Race. Here, there are four different events: Hill Climb, 40k Time Trial, Criterium and a Road Race. They assign points to the first through sixth places. The rider with the most points wins the Yellow Jersey (Overall Winner). If two riders tie in points, the winner of the road race on the last day wins the overall jersey.
It’s a picture perfect day. Probably 75-80 degrees and clear blue skies. We race the hill climb up Snow Canyon. It’s lined with beautiful red rock formations. You feel like you’re in a John Wayne movie. I get there early and warm up. I always bring two bikes: the bike I’m going to race on and the bike I’m going to warm up with on my stationary trainer. This way, if at the last minute something goes wrong I’ve got a back up bike. I put my lightest wheels (Zipp 202’s) and pumped them to 140 psi. I hydrate, take my electrolytes, spray Kool N’ Fit over my legs. I did everything right.
5-4-3-2-1…. I started in my small chain ring. I pushed so hard I popped a wheelie out of the gate. First mile felt pretty good. I actually thought it was going to be a fast time….then the second mile hit. By the time I got to 2.54 miles on my Garmin I was seriously considering taking up another sport like softball. At 2.88 miles, I thought I might have to get off my bike and walk. As I crossed the line and stopped, I could barely stand. I couldn’t lift my head and could barely open my eyes for a good two or three minutes. Charlie Palmer (no relation to Mark Palmer from the Nevada games) started two minutes behind me caught me at the line! So much for winning the gold. I end up with the silver medal. I hate second!
40k Time Trial
I arrive two hours before my start time. I get situated and start to warm up. They’ve changed the course from the previous two times I’ve raced here so I have no idea what to expect. It’s out and back – twice. As I warm up I’m thinking “What a perfect day for a time trial. It’s much cooler, cloudy and absolutely no wind.” I spoke too soon. As I’m being held at the start, a gust of wind comes up. The news said we were going to get rain tonight which could be a problem for tomorrows Criterium. The official says “here comes the wind.” He wasn’t kidding. The course was up and down with a bad cross wind. It was so windy that on the descents I couldn’t stay on the arrow bars. It was a real fight on the way out. On the way back I was hitting 40-42 mph, but the cross winds were unnerving. I was in my 53×11 (my biggest gear) spinning at 111-112 rpm’s. Charlie Palmer once again passed me at the turn around for the second half. This guy is so strong. Now it’s really windy. I can only muster 16-19 mph in some sections. I’m in my big chain ring, but in my largest cog on the back. Once again, I fly on the way back but the wind is often so erratic it’s too precarious to take my hands off my handle bars to change gears. Jeez, I hate 40k time trials.
I end up second with another silver medal to Charlie Palmer. He beat me by almost three minutes! I have to beat him tomorrow or the overall jersey is lost.
Woke up to drizzle and it was cold. My race was at 2:15pm, which was the last race of the day. I was hoping the weather would clear up by the time we had to race. I got there an hour and fifteen minutes early to warm up and get ready. I found Mark Palmer and gave him my plan. Charlie is much stronger than me, but I believe I’m quicker. The only way he can beat me is if he attacks hard from a good distance and gets a gap on me. I told Mark that I would do everything I could to not lose his wheel and then come around him. “Find my wheel on the last lap and you’ll be able to come around us. I need you to beat Charlie today, because I need him to finish two places behind me.”
It was very windy. I chose my lowest profile wheel for the front and an American Classic 58 for the rear wheel. Luckily, the rain had stopped and the sun started poking through! The course was an oval on an airstrip of an old airport at the top of a bluff. The crosswind was so strong that on one side of the course you had to ride sideways. Because of the looming clouds and strong winds, the official gave us an option to decrease the duration of the race from 45 minutes to 30 minutes, but it had to be unanimously agreed upon by all the racers. Lorin Ronnow and Charlie Palmer voted no, so, 45 minutes it was. The lap was a little over 1.2 miles around. On lap two, a younger racer attacks. There’s too much time left to go and he wasn’t in my category so I didn’t chase. I had to win today. No one else went so he got a nice gap. The race was fairly uneventful, with Charlie and I doing most of the work. We got close to the leader a few times, but Charlie wants to win to secure his victory for the overall winner and I needed to win otherwise the overall was lost. With two laps to go, I found Mark and pointed at my back wheel. Last lap and I’m right where I need to be—on Charlie’s wheel. With about 500 to 600 meters to go, Charlie goes….and he goes so hard I can barely hold his wheel…..I have to close the gap! I have to get the wheel. Lorin goes hard on the right. He looks like he’s gaining on Charlie. They’re in a drag to the finish. I made it to Charlie’s wheel, recovered for a split second, shifted down and gunned it hard. All the track racing paid off. Afterburners kicked in and I say goodbye to them both to win by a few bike lengths for the gold!
Whew….Charlie gets second for the silver medal which means he has 27 points and I have 24 points. Unless Charlie doesn’t finish the race tomorrow or he somehow finishes two places down from me, my only hope for the overall is to win the race. If he wins the silver; the tie breaker is the best place finisher in the road race.
Last night I went to dinner with Steve Moss, Lorin and Bev Ronnow at Buca di Beppo for some carb loading. It’s now 7:30 am and 44 degrees outside; brisk to say the least. It’s a picture perfect day; sunny with not a cloud in the sky. Lorin comes by and discusses the race. “I think its best we keep this younger racer from getting away (he won the crit the day before) the wall, so if we get dropped, any leader won’t have him to work with.” I totally agreed. The “wall” is a very steep climb about 15 miles into the race where the attacks always come. It’s still quite a distance to the finish, but that’s where the breakaways form. I was very concerned about the wall; I got dropped there the last time I competed in 2010 and didn’t medal. Whoever gets to the top of that wall usually wins.
Our race starts at 9 am. Its 64 degrees now. Perfect weather… I’ve got arm warmers on. Off we go. The course has about six or seven short steep climbs and three of four cattle guards before the wall. The younger racer is strong. He attacks on almost every steep hill. Each time he gets a gap, but each time we bring him back. On one particularly longer hill only Lorin can stay with him but eventually, he gets dropped. I can see the wall approaching to the right, cutting into the mountain. The leader has about 20 seconds on us as we make that right hand turn to the wall. No one attacks but they lift the pace. I’m trying……. but I come unglued. Shoot! The overall award is riding away from me! I don’t panic. I just keep my pace. I’m going as hard as I can go. Not only is Charlie and Lorin dropping me but there’s four or five racers dropping me as well! When I crest the wall I can see the young racer, Charlie and Lorin a ways ahead but there were still four racers pretty close. I bridge up to them and say “let’s work together.” We do, but after a few pulls its evident they aren’t recovered so I’m doing most of the pulling. I can see the three leaders down the road but we’re not getting any closer. It’s rollers for a while and the distance remains the same between us and the leaders. We come to a long hill. It seems longer than the wall but not as steep. The leaders come sharper into focus. We must be getting closer! Nah…it’s just them slowing to get over the hill. As we get to the hill, I feel like this is my chance. I lift the pace but no one can match me so I’m on my own. The leaders are still on the hill so I give it everything I can muster to bridge up to them. If they get over that hill without me I’ll be in no man’s land. That’s exactly what happens. I don’t make it. They’re screaming down the hill and I’m alone. I’m not giving up…… I do my best but they’re getting further away. To my good fortune, Steve Moss bridges up to me. We began a two-man time trial. He’s pulling hard on the down hills and I’m pulling hard on the uphills. At one point, I’m so anaerobic that I overlap his back wheel and almost eat it! Jeesh, better wake up! Up ahead we can see them. At some points we seem to be getting closer and then other times they seem to be getting further away. The course is rollers until we make a right hand turn down Snow Canyon (the hill we climbed three days before). We had to get to them before that right turn! As we approached the right turn the leaders were nowhere in sight. Bummer…… Luckily for me, Steve is a mountain biker and is fearless on the descents. We careen down Snow Canyon. He would gun it and I would tuck until he lost momentum. — I would gun it until I lost momentum and then he would go. There was a little bit of headwind, so without another guy I wouldn’t have been able to keep up the speed. At the bottom of the canyon there is another right hand turn which is a straight drag to the finish line. I can’t believe it, I can see the leaders. We catch them about 20 meters from the corner! Unbelievable!
There’s five of us now. I’ve got to win this race. Closer and closer we get to the finish. Four of us are in the same category. All the young guy has to do is finish and he wins the gold. But, he’s a bike racer and bike racers like to race. He’s the first to attack on the left of me. I pick it up, but he’s not important to me. Only Charlie is important to me. Charlie lifts his speed but he’s smart, he’s not concerned with him either. Lorin attacks hard up the right which lights Charlie up. Lorin gets a gap. He looks like he might be able to take the win! Charlie lifts his speed and starts to close the gap. I’m right where I need to be—on Charlie’s wheel. The line is coming up fast. I click down and surge as hard as I can. I win by a second! I can hear Charlie behind me yell out something. He was pissed. He beat Lorin but just lost the overall jersey. That’s racing.
It’s been three years since I’ve been here. I’ve always wanted to win the overall and just like that—I had won it. I thanked Steve for all of his help. If it wasn’t for him I would’ve never bridged to the leaders. You can never give up.
Mountain Biking – Hill Climb
It’s been three years since I’ve competed here. In 2010, I had the fastest time of the day in the hill climb for the gold and won a silver medal in the downhill. All I had to do was win the cross country and I was the overall winner. I was 15 minutes ahead of the closest racer to flat twice and then crash from the third flat, forcing me to have to walk to the finish and DNF! (Did Not Finish).
I was determined to not let this happen again. I had changed my tires to “tubeless,” which means that if I were to flat, the tire has a sealant that will automatically seal the hole.
I had problems sleeping on Friday. I couldn’t believe I had won the overall. By the time I got to the course to practice on Saturday, it was 2pm. I only wanted to ride about an hour. I thought I could remember the course, but after an hour and a half of riding a bunch of steep hills I decided it would be best to go back to where I started. I finally found the cross country course. I guess the signs with the arrows were a dead give-away! I rode the course once. I was getting tired. I have no idea where the hill climb would be, but I know it’s up hill. For some reason my gears weren’t working correctly. I couldn’t get out of my big chain-ring. I had get that fixed, because the climbs were too steep for the big chain ring. Got to a bike shop and magically it was shifting correctly…………..Cycling…. so much can go wrong.
Took Sunday completely off. Got a massage and rested.
Monday, the day of the race, I got to the course early. It was crisp. Brought my road bike to warm up. We got our pre-race meeting and off I went. 2.1 mile climb. Mountain biking is so hard that at 1.6 miles I was considering getting off of my bike. I was dying. Then it gets steeper! You’re just praying to see someone on the top of the hill at the finish. Finally it’s over. 14:50 and I have the fastest time of the day for the gold medal. Robert Stumpus finishes only .09 seconds behind.
Mountain Biking – Downhill
After the uphill, we all wait until everyone finishes and then race downhill. I like racing downhill a little less then I like racing uphill. The course is gnarly. There are a few spots that any normal person would not even want to hike down, let alone ride a bike fast down, but……it’s a race. St. George is very dry. It’s a desert. The ground is made up of loose dirt, rocks and shale. You have to be really careful in the corners to not lose your front wheel. You can slide the back wheel, but on a two-wheeler, if you lose the front, you’re pretty much going down.
I do my best. In the really steep sections you can just manage your slide. It’s so steep you can’t really ride it and there’s no way you can stop—you just have to manage the slide. The last half mile is fairly straight – I cooked it there. Sharp left hand turn and then a left hand bender. I get out of the saddle and sprint the last 40 meters. Lost the gold by 17 seconds but saved the silver medal by only .02 seconds! I’ll take that. It just goes to show that you can never let up. I’m in luck. Rick Morris won the gold medal but only got the bronze in the hill climb which means even if Robert who won silver in both races wins tomorrow he still wouldn’t win the overall.
Mountain Biking – Cross Country
The day of reckoning…….. I’ve been here before. It’s my race to lose. I get there early and warm up. I’ve got all my armor on. Knee brace for the left knee, ankle brace for my left ankle, shin guards for both shins, elbow pads, shoulder pads and a thumb support for the left thumb. I’m an orthopedic mess.
The course is a seven mile loop (more or less). It starts out on a fire road for about ¾ of a mile and then makes a left into single track. You don’t want to race directly behind someone on a single track. For one, you can’t see where you’re going. You have no idea what line to pick and if the guy in front of you is picking the right line. You also end up eating a lot of dust and in St. George, getting hit by rocks. Plus, it’s really difficult to pass someone on a single track. I had to get to that left hand turn first! I did. He was right on me though. He kept breathing down my neck until we had a fairly sustained climb….then I got a gap. Completed the first lap in less than 30 minutes. Hit the second lap alone. On the climb, I look back and here comes Robert. This guy is coming up fast. I can’t let up. My legs are hurting, so I start thinking “I will not give in.” After a steep downhill, there is an immediate right hand turn into a rock, river bed. It is steep, rocky and very technical. You’re flying so fast downhill that you have no time to change gears from that turn; you have to shift before the turn. If my shifting doesn’t work, I’ll be in some deep trouble. It works! I’m going up these steps of rocks. In some places it’s best to bunny hop them. I’m redlining…. But, “I will not give in.” The second lap I complete in 32 minutes. One more lap to go. As I head out from the start/finish I can hear Robert’s daughter yelling “C’mon Daddy!” He must be close. He’s persistent. I have only one more lap. I’m going as hard as I can go. Once again, after a sustained climb I look back and there he is again! He’s coming. I careen downhill to make the right-hander into the river bed and there’s an older racer walking right in my way. There’s nowhere for me to go. I yell “on your left,” he doesn’t hear me and actually goes left. I have to go into him or ride over him. I grab him as I ride by with my right hand and I don’t fall. Whew! I’m giving it everything I’ve got now. I’m lapping more riders. Once out of the river bed I’ve got some climbing to do, then some more single track, the downhill from the downhill course and I’m home free. I’m climbing…..my legs are tired. It’s my 11th race in 10 days. As I get to the top of the climb I look back and guess who’s coming? Robert Stumpus! This guy is starting to piss me off. I can’t make any mistakes. I’ve got to do some single track now. I can see a tall rider climbing in front of me. It looks like he’ll get to the single track before me. That’s not good. I’m right behind him as we enter the single track and I yell out “let me come by.” He ignores me and now I’m stuck behind him. I’m right on his back tire. He can feel my impatience as we navigate the trail. He’s slowing me down! I’ve got Robert on my tail and I can’t go! We get to a little wider spot in the trail and he lets me pass. Yeah! I make it to the downhill and I’m flying! No mistakes now. I stay within my ability and control my last slide down the gnarly section. I navigate the rocks, get to the straight-away, look back and there’s no one in sight!!!! Yeah…. Take it easy around the corners and cruise over the finish for the win!
I did it. Overall winner in both Mountain Biking and Road Racing. Not too soon either.
Robert finished just .50 seconds behind. It was a hard race. My average heart rate for 1:34:35 was 93% of my maximum heart rate.