The week of June 1st to June 6th I was headed down to Hood River, Oregon to partake in a prologue and a four stage-stage race. This was the longest duration of stage racing I have competed in for consecutive days that included road races.
I have to play a bit of catch-up on my blogging. The past week I arrived home from Oregon, worked two ten hour days, studied for an exam that I wrote Friday in kinesiology, and then I was headed back down to Vancouver (next blog post).
Mt Hood was the most difficult racing I have endured in- yes, even tougher than Europe racing. It was a totally different style racing then Europe however, so difficult to compare. Where our races were situated in Oregon, was right in the midst of desert like mountains. We were lucky enough to stay in a wonderful home in The Dalles, Oregon with a wonderful host family. They baked delicious carrot cake too! The Dalles is just outside of the city, Hood River, where most of the races took place. Both towns are built directly on the edge of the famous Columbia Gorge, which separates Washington state and Oregon State. I knew that having five
races racing up, and through the Cascade Mountains was going to take a harsh affect to my legs, but this is just what I needed. It was going to be an amazing fitness enhancing and training weekend, getting me on track for the climbing I will be faced with at N
ationals in two weeks.
First race up on Thursday evening was Panorama Point Prologue. This was described as a flat, 3 mile leg killer through the orchards and farmland of Hood River. It was defiantly not flat haha! I learnt that what people from the mountains call flat, is not the same as "prarie people flat". I couldn't be dissapointed however, as the tougher the course, the stronger I get and the more prepared I get for nationals, the rest of racing this year, and the rest of racing of my cycling career. It was a steep uphill start, and then rolled into false flat for about 3km. The end kicked up very steep, and I was stuck grinding a huge gear as my front shifter was really stiff. I'm glad I like to usually push a big gear instead of spin, as it was still really tough to turn over the gear.
It was a very short prologue, but I felt I road my best. It was a windy course, and I powered through everything as much as I could. I knew although that I couldn't destroy myself, as I had four more races to go.
Thursday was Stage 1, Columbia Hills Road Race. This consisted of climbing, climbing, more climbing, some switch back descents where we reached 80km/hr, and then more climbing. The climbs started right from the gun, about 6km into the race. It was a steep, switch back climb, for 6 miles. I was able to keep my mental game focused, and keep my tempo matched to the strong riders upfront; such as Kristin Armstrong and Clara Huges. (A photo of a section of the climb below)
A major descent followed that first climb, and then another very difficult climb. This climb was really steep at the beginning, and flattened off to a windy, false flat. We completed a loop, climbing back up the descent and then descending down the switchbacks we first climbed up. I had maxed out my heart rate at almost 200 various times in the race, but I was slowly fading on the climbs. I still felt good, still felt strong though. Through the feed zone at the beginning of the famous "7 mile hill climb" I hit bottles in the feed zone and skidded off the road into people feeding. I had lost a lot of ground and I chased to get back on as hard as I could, but at this point, Peanut Butter and Co were drilling it up the climb and I had no such luck joining back on. The peleton shattered from there on out, and looking way up the switch backs I could see loan riders everywhere. To add to the intensity of the race, we also encountered plus 34 degree weather. I road the rest of the way individually, but was able to hold off a large group of riders behind me. I was pretty destroyed at the end of the race, but I was happy with the way I climbed at the beginning of the race, and I knew how much Mt Hood classic was going to help me become stronger and fitter so it made it easier.
Stage two, on Saturday morning was Trout Lake Time Trail. It was a scenic time trial on rolling hills at the base of Mt. Adams Volcano with strong winds from the Columbia Gorge. I felt good today, and I felt that I recovered as best as I could from the previous two days. I was able to borrow a disk wheel and some aero equipment, which gave me even more motivation for my race. I started out really fast, just like I always do, and was hammering into the wind. I looked down briefly within the first minute and saw my heart rate at 183. I had been having troubles getting my heart rate up in past time trials, so I was happy it was higher today. I was rocketting through the front stretch, shifted down to take a corner fast. I shifted again, one harder gear, had my head down out of the corner and gunned it as fast as I could to get my speed up, to only look up ahead and see a monster Llama standing right in my line on the pavement.
I couldn't believe it! Its googly eyes and funny looking face was staring right at me. It's leash
(I dont know why a llama was on a leash) was dragging on the ground. I rode right past it, and it just turned and watched me pass. I had a quick laugh, and then got my head back in the game. I caught one girl fairly quickly, and I cold see my minute man just up the road. I continued onto the course, my legs burning, and my lungs panting hard. I hit a bump, and my chain skipped and got caught. I didn't have time to look down, so I gave my cranks a good hard push, only to rip my derailler right off my bike, snap my derailler hanger, and put a hole right through a disk wheel. I had to walk about 3km to find a camera man to use his phone. I sat on the side of the road, shading myself with the disk wheel from like +35 degree weather. I got a ride back to the start line, and I begged the head commissare to let me continue on to the next stage. I was lucky, and
I was able to get last place time, plus 10 seconds. I know I wasn't here for GC at this point, and I was here for training and gaining fitness, so I was excited.
Later Saturday, back into the heat, we had a crit. It was the most technical crit course I have ever ridden, which suits me well. It was a very challenging crit course that threw everything at all the riders. There was 60ft of climbing per lap, and we did 45 laps of the course. The finish line was situated on a uphill. The front stretch continued on 100m past the start line into a 90 degree right hand, steep downhill descnet turn. It followed into a downhill 180 hairpin turn, a slight downhill, and then we started climbing back up. A right hand, uphill turn followed, then about 50m stretch, another right hand, uphill turn, a right hand, downhill turn, a left hand downhill turn and then back to climbing onto the finishing stretch climb. I managed to stay at the front of the pack the entire race. A small breakaway got away, and I felt good all crit. I was able to get into the Peanut Butter and Co lead out train at the end, and I finished right behind Clara Huges and then Kristin Armstrong in the finishing pack sprint. It was a fast paced, high intensity, max heart rate race, but I really enjoyed it!
Sunday was the last and final day of the Mt Hood cycling classic Stage race. I knew it was going to be the most physically demanding race I have ever raced. They saved the most challenging for last, Three Summits Road Race. It was a 120km race, that climbed over 8200ft!! and up three summits, hence the name. The race started off with a wonderful 35 minute, fast speed descent. I was just a little scared, as what goes down must go back up! The race shortly started climbing up the first summit climb. It climbed more than 2000ft uphill on narrow logging roads. It was probably a 15-20km climb that shook my legs up from the get-go. I was hurting today. The last few days had been tough and had taken it's toll. I just wanted to hang in my best, and push myself over my limits. Its the only way I will achieve better results and progress and develop as young rider. The roads we were climbing on where shortly into snow on the sides of
the roads. I couldn't believe it, but there were 10 foot high snow banks on each side of the road. There were branches on the pavement, and moss growing the entire length of the road in the
middle. I had made it with the pack till the first KOM. The feed zone was located at the top, on a grueling false uphill flat. I got popped off the back of the peleton at this point. I had a long race ahead of me, and my legs were starting to quit turning over on the pedals. I pushed my way through the rest of the race. The 20-30km climb to the second KOM destroyed my legs. I rode the rest of the race as hard as I could, which was not very fast. I had never felt this type of pain in my legs. The aching was overwhelming, and I could barely apply any force to my pedals.
This was a long day in the saddle. I now know how hard I can push myself. I was wrong before for knowing my limits, as I definitely pushed myself harder than I have ever before. I couldn't even walk after my last race, and putting sweat pants on hurt my muscles at the end of the day. My arms ached, and I couldn't get my shampoo bottle open that evening. I am extremely glad I was able to race at Mt. Hood. It gave me such an opporunity to push myself, climb harder and longer than I have ever, and ride against some really amazing racers.
We were able to see some amazing mountains and volacnoes, as well as we took a scenic drive to see Mt. St. Helens!
That was a long week/weekend in the saddle, and a long blog, but I promise I did try to make it as short as I could. There is so much that happens in each and every race, and so much that I learn, it's hard to write shorter!
Read the next blog for Westside Classic results!