Greetings from Steamboat Springs. A large and expensive ski town lying at nearly 7000 ft in NW Colorado.
Steamboat Springs Stage Race (www.bikesteamboat.com)
Drinking gallons of water and peeing like a racehorse every hour on the hour to avoid the threat of dehydration.
Day 1: Cycling through Glue
Friday was a 3 hour drive to Steamboat, then a rush to register and get bike together for the prologue TT. No TT rig but I managed to bring along an aero helmet and skinsuit, mounted clipons to the bars and dropped the stem as low as it would go.
Seems like a waste to have people take a day off for a 13-15 minute race, plus forcing people to bring along two bikes - discouraging carpooling. Might be better to run another competition as well, e.g. Street Sprints for time bonuses, and to do the TT Eddy Merckx style.
10k course. 8k Undulating out and back followed by a 2k 5% uphill.
Just couldn't get warmed up. I'm already breathing underwater after about 100 yards. Feels like I'm cycling through glue, have to drop down two gears below where I need to be.
Hit the turnaround at halfway and have made up no time on my 30 second man. Manage to recover slightly with a slight tailwind and get into something resembling a groove (although still in a stage of controlled hypoxia). Make up maybe 5 seconds as we hit the base of the climb. Keep shifting gears trying to find my happy place and alternating between bars, hooks and drops, I start to make up some time. 500 meters to go and I dump the chain down 3 gears, get in the aerobars and hammer as hard as I can. The finish catches me by surprise but I catch and pass my rabbit with a couple of yards to spare.
Not very happy with this effort - I know I can do a lot better. Well down on GC.
Hacked up half a lung afterwards.
Brett and Greg are going to laugh - I flatted a latex tube just after crossing the finish line
Day 2: Whooping cough at 7000 ft
Brett and Greg are going to laugh again. Bust the last of my latex tubes pumping it up before the start. Got there in good time so no problem changing it out.
Saturday was a 29 mile circuit race on an unbuilt housing development. Nice closed course, nothing there but several miles of immaculate private road. One steep climb, one mile long followed by a helter skelter careening descent, a little bit of flat, a few more hills, another fast winding descent, followed by a long false flat in a cross wind to the base of the hill. 6.5 laps of a a 4.5 mile course, 500 ft of climbing per lap. Yes, that's 500 ft per lap.
Each lap I'm surprised that they don't call EMT everytime I crest the hill. I sound like a whooping cough victim. Might be contagious.
First time down the descent and I get gapped badly and have to pin it just to catch. Not fun. Manage to figure it out for the next laps. Drop it into the 53*11 and pedal hard whenever you get the chance, close any gaps immediately. My new Giant frame railed the downhills at close to 50 mph and 45 degree angles on the turns. What a rush.
First 3 times up the hill and I'm suffering. Barely hanging on - using the descent for recovery. Then the legs start to open up and I feel progressively better. Front group is opening a gap on the field each time. 4 laps to go I crest 12th, then 8th, then 6th. Bell lap - I'm in 4th and 6 of us have a gap of several seconds over what remains of the decimated field. Two fast descenders catch us on the downhill and we hit the flat as a group of 8 on each of the last two laps - including 3 riders from the local team. All that has to happen is that we drill it for 2 minutes and the GC for the race is decided. Instead the 3 local riders go to the front and set an easy tempo - 10 riders catch on before we hit the hill again.
This was a big mistake and it cost that team. They were obsessed with racing for places - it's a stage race, places don't matter, time does.
Last lap and we scream down the descent. One guy gets gapped off the front and goes for it, nobody chases. I take one strong pull but nobody comes around. Not up to a flatlander to do all the work. We give the win to the OTF guy - fair play to him for giving it a go - wouldn't happen in Illinois.
Ten more guys catch on before the final hill. Yes, they will be dropped, but will only lose 20-30 seconds instead of the several minutes they would have if we had tried to drill it earlier.
Halfway up the hill and the pace reaches frantic level. Ten of us left. 3 guys jump away, I try to follow them but simply can't take in enough oxygen and my legs seize up. Nothing I can do. I still have a lock on 5th place though. 400 m to go and my gears start spontaneously shifting. I upshift, downshift - nothing works. Have to drop it into the 39*15 before the chains stays steady. Lose about 15 seconds and 3 places. Jump into top 10 on GC.
Final climb - desperately trying to find a stable gear and losing places
pic by fitzgerald photography
Day 3: Going hypoxic in 45 mph crosswinds
50 mile road race, Horseshoe shaped course. 27 miles out, 22 miles back. A mere 3500 ft of climbing.
Afternoon winds got up to over 30 mph with gusts over 45 mph. Developed death wobbles several times in crosswinds on hairy descents. Had to hang at back for safety's sake. Outward leg was mostly head and crosswind, pack kept together. Lots of competition for a good draft. One crash when competition for the white line got a bit too competitive.
About 3 miles into race I jump off the front to test the legs. Get a gap but start to hyperventilate. 1 other guy (Casper Wheelmen) jumps onto my wheel. Conversation as follows:
Me - "Pull through! (gasp)"
Casper guy - "I can't"
Me "Why not? (gasp)"
Casper: "You're Carlos, right? I'm working for my teammate, Can't risk you getting away. I'm just going to sit on your wheel."
Me: "That's the end of (gasp) that then" ...And I sit up.
Apart from the time Dan Hill nicknamed me "Ekimov", this is the highest cycling compliment anyone has ever paid me. It's official - I am now a GC threat!
Took me 30 minutes to recover from that effort.
About 5 miles before the turnaround the field gets gapped on a vicious crosswind descent. Only myself and another guy catch on. The field is now down to 25 riders. One huge TT guy goes OTF and and out of sight. We know he's extremely powerful but not a good climber. He stays out there for nearly 20 miles.
Hit the turnaround and feed zone and it's more uphill than downhill on the home stretch - but still all crosswind. I take care to find a good draft and stay in the first echelon.
3 miles out, 20 to go, I find myself gapped off the front. I punch it a bit to see what would happen. This initiates 20 miles of eyeballs out, punch and counter-punch, no-respite aggressive racing. Fun times.
My attack gets dragged back quickly, another guy counters, noone responds and he takes off to bridge to the solo guy. In a magnificent effort he catches him, they work together for 10 miles, he drops him and soloes home the final few miles for an amazing win, securing the GC overall in the process.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we're attacking each other like crazy, really booking it at speeds of up to 50 mph in tailwind and 5 mph downhill in a headwind. Gaps are forming and being closed down. I look behind and the group is down to 14. A few more miles and we're down to 10.
The GC leader attacks to save his lead, we reel him in after a couple of miles. Hitting the first of a series of hills we catch the first OTF guy and feel it's only a matter of time before we reel in the other guy. He's got a lead of about a minute. Hit another hill and the group detonates. Down to 8. Get gapped in a crosswind, fight back on, hit another hill, and the man with the hypoxic hammer strikes. The legs lock up. I'm only two seconds behind a group of 4 but it might as well be two hours. No way can I close it and they ride away from me.
The last hill I expected to be a couple of miles long. The other riders are only about 30 seconds ahead. I settle in, find my happy place and wait for the guys in front to blow up. Round the first corner there's a line of cars, someone shouts 200 meters, the line is right there. Race over. No signage, no nothing. All a bit sudden.
Field totally detonated. They straggle in over the next 30 minutes. I vault over 3 guys but 3 others vault over me. Retain same place in GC.
Only hack up a 1/4 lung this time.
Yet another mechanical - loose front hub causing death wobble.
Day 4: Breaking wind is hard to do.
Downtown crit. 40 minutes. Classic rectangular Midwest-style crit. Easy to pedal corners. Kicker hill plus false flat into strong headwind to finish line.
First 10 minutes were among my hardest 10 minutes on a bike. Going hypoxic each time up the kicker. Hanging on for dear life at the back. Finish with the pack and I keep my GC place - get gapped and I'm out of the money.
After ten minutes things slow down. GC is already decided. Everyone knackered. Gentleman's agreement not to attack except to sprint for primes. That's ok by me.
I recover. 3.5 laps to go and I sneak off the front. Noone reacts. I punch it into the headwind and 500 m finishing straight. Get a big gap ~ 15 seconds. Noone chases. Now's my chance for everlasting glory - just keep this gap for 3 quick laps and the win is mine. I punch it up the hill ... and start to black out. It was the definition of the CBDHS (Crash & Burn Dan Hill-style). Can't finish when you're lying in the ditch. I sit up, let them catch me and finish the race mid-pack.
If I was living at 6000 ft instead of 600 the story might be different.
Final result: Top 5 in GC. Ok for a flatlander. I'll take it.