Viva La Tour!
It's July and my schedule is tight. Having slayed the dragon that is my house, I'm able to be what it is I want to be. Mr. Cycle jock, racer boy/man.
I think I've talked about traditions in the past, how they merge with rituals and obligations and maybe I touched on how they are different.
Le Tour De Burg is a tradition that makes a person want to come back. For six days a group of cycling legionaries gather to explore, race and bond over 305 miles and many thousand feet of climbing on gravel roads, groomed trails and unkempt forgotten paths through the woods, resulting in exhaustion, chaos, bike explosions and body lacerations. The TDB is as close to perfection as it gets. Like the early days of a band, when the moment always seems right, the shows are tight and there is a communal experience, the TDB embodies those moments, but on a bike.
A shining star in the world of unsanctioned cycling events, TDB is the supreme example of an event you want everyone to experience but know that growth might kill it's intimacy. Fortunately the difficulty of the 6 days trims the number of people able to participate. And though it's not technically "invite only", if someone showed up and didn't know anyone they might feel a bit on the outside. The traditional format consists of a MTB prologue hill climb with a decent lasting about 30min. Then the next five full days start with 7 or so hours on the mountain bike, a 90mile road stage with lots of gravel, another 5-8hrs on the MTB, another gravel road stage of equal length and a final mountain bike stage about the same as the others.
Like it's little brother the Tour De France, there is a leader's Yellow Jersey, sprinter's Red jersey, king of mountain Green jersey and a DFL jersey.
It's exhaustion to an euphoric state.
I love this event and encourage everyone out there to create something in their world that gives them as much pleasure.
The 6 days can be a great training block and would have set me up to peak for the the National Championships, but I also had two other factors to consider. The Downieville Classic in CA the next week and money. Recovery from the Tour in a week is pretty difficult and the trip out west was coming out of my pocket, so I decided to do three days of Le Tour, Tues-Thurs, then drive up to PA for the Marysville stage race for the rest of the weekend with local gal Michelle. In essence I'd be racing for 6 days still but the last three days would be a much lighter load than the full pull of the Tour, plus there was green to be won in PA.
Tuesday Pete and I drove down for the 6pm prologue start at Massanutten mountain. After the usual greetings of old pals and a little pre-riding warm up tour director Carpong's wife and daughter sent us off in 30sec intervals. Due to some suspicious "lost" paperwork. I was signed up at the last minute which saw me taking an almost last position on the line. Sam Korber got out of his car right before I took off, and since he was probably going to be my challenger #1 the playing field was a little more level. To give you an idea of the course, my overall time was 29min, and 17 of that was climbing, which meant the other 12 minutes was mostly going downhill.
Now if you take those 30 minutes multiply it by three, and do that two more times every day with bookend and sandwich sections of sweet group riding, you get an idea of what the rest of the days are like. Group ride, race an hour+, group ride, race, sprint line, group ride.
Wednesday we were on the mountain bikes for about 7hours. In the first timed section Sam took almost 3minutes out of my 5 minute lead on him from the day before. It's all right I told myself, the 1hour climb was perfect training for the Downieville classic. Then on section two we both were running way to low of tire pressure, and crawled on the first downhill section to avoid ruining our wheels. In the end I managed to cross the line about 9sec's up, which meant I was able to hold onto the Yellow jersey another day.
On the pre-ride the course was proving to be a dangerous little weasel. Wet roots in the corners, technical climbs and high speed turns were going to only be conquered by a smart controlled ride. No matter how many times you preride a course like that, it never compares to race pace panic. I made a few mistakes, passed a few of the riders who went off in front of me and blew one corner. I didn't expect to have a great time, so I was surprised when the times were posted to have a top finish at just under 19 and a half minutes. Crazy I thought to myself. The tired legs sort of disappear when racing starts.
Well the next day was going to be a greater test of tired legs with a full 21miles of cross country racing.
The short of it was me trying to do as little work as possible to start but holding a controlling position. I tried to stay in the front and watch Ryan Leech, who was second the night before. After some accelerations from Kyle and such Ryan and I started to pull away. The first time I came around the front we were cruising through some log jumps and my pedal unclipped sending me over the bars to a pretty solid crash. I got up quick, pulled back to Ryan and the second time I came around him I started pulling away. In the end I had a 3 minute gap and another win for the weekend.
After the XC race, we ate, listened to some live music on the farm and threw lighted frisbee's into the darkness at people you couldn't see. It was fun and dangerous, which is probably why it was fun.
Day 6 of racing had an early 9am start to a 3mile hill climb. We mass started, lead by four wheelers, rolled through the Oesterling farm, past another turkey farm and started climbing up a loose jeep road to the top of the ridge. I hadn't pre-rode and wasn't sure where the top was. Again my legs came to life and after about 10 minutes I started to pull way. Kyle kept a good pace, but I was able to get about 12sec on him at the end for my third win of the weekend. It was huge surprise to me. All the people I was racing are people that had beaten me before and not in the distant pass. Ryan was definitely riding strong, but at this point my fitness must be good, which is a good sign after a slow start to the season.
After the hill climb we all went back to the farm to try and get rested and ready for the short track. Definitely my weakest event. As a matter of fact I'd only done one other short track in my life, and the VisitPA team was full of short track specialist and cyclo-cross rock stars. I figured they would all be trying to mark me and try to get Ryan a good finish. The short track was a perfect place for team strategy, and since I was alone I had to plan my defense and wait till just the righ moment to make a move. I was half considering just sitting in, saving the legs, and just taking a comfortable finish to guarantee the overall win.
I had to toss that idea when my sister and nephew decided to show up and stay to watch. With family there I felt the need to go for it, so I marked every move, sat second wheel, and when Ryan came from behind to attack with 5 laps to go I went with him. We got away with 4 laps to go but Aaron Snyder was creeping up. I came around Ryan with 2 laps to go and when I came around for the bell lap I pinned it for the whole 2minute lap to take the win by 6 seconds.
I have to admit it felt great.
I'm sad I had to leave the Tour but the Marysville weekend was a great event which helped me forget what was going on down south. Oh and the prize money was pretty good, so now I can pay my dentist and have some spending money for the Downieville trip.
Wondering what I gottour director Carpong
I hope to one day be able to quaff ice cream like my heroes.
Official 08 tour slogan.
Just three of the 166 bloodied appendages after flying through an overgrown brier section of trail on the Elliot Knob Downhill. We were going so fast, but the section was so long that it felt like someone ripping bandaids off your hairy arms for 2 minutes straight.