I finally chose to jump back into racing after the accident and went with the Tour of Tucker County in good ol' West Virginia. First off, this race was far. 300+ miles away and over 5 hours of driving. Was it worth it? Hell yea!
My fitness isn't where I would like it to be. But to put things into perspective, I was completely off the bike for 6 weeks and then on again and off again for a couple of weeks because of the back strain I suffered. So it has been 8 weeks since I've done any serious and intense training. HR is always high, power is lacking, and my ability to push hard when climbing just isn't there. The base fitness level isn't bad though. Despite all that, I decided to enter one of the hilliest races around and do my best to help my mate, Mark, with a better placing.
The race starts off over 3500ft. It's 56 miles long with just about 7000ft of climbing. We do a neutral ride down the final climb to the starting area. Good thing. The final mile of the climb is actually the toughest part. Squealing brakes, sore forearms, and one tubular rolled off the rim were part of the nerve-racking chaos on the way down. I rolled down late to play it safe and avoid the pack. Luckily no one was seriously hurt but I know at least one person's race ended before it even started.
Seven miles in, we hit the first climb. 8% for about 1.7 miles and then it eases it but continues to slog upwards for 2.9 miles total. The elastic broke and a group of three tore off with the lead. I ended up with Mark with a bunch of other stragglers that also lost contact with the chasing group. For nearly the next 10 miles I worked hard and told Mark to just stay on my wheel as I tried to bring us back to the chasing group. Lady luck was on my side and I was able to deliver Mark into the group of about 6 riders. Unfortunately I fell off because of that long effort and I found myself chasing again.
Never say die! After a sweet downhill with sweeping left and right turns, I managed to group up with 3 other riders and we bridged the gap to that chase group. Then it was just the 10 of us making our way to the final climb.
The final climb is just over 5 miles long and averages 7%. The meat of the climb is really a little over a mile in where it ramps up to an average of 12% with sections hitting 15-18%. This is where the pain really starts and where I just rode my own race without trying to keep up with the faster dudes. Luckily this only lasts for a little over a mile and then it eases up to an average of 8% until the finish.
Overall, I felt really good about the race and my 9th placing in the Cat 4/5 group. I helped Mark out and he finished better than his previous races here. I didn't completely empty the tank and just raced sensibly up the climbs. The one thing I can't get over though is that I was caught by two riders on that downhill. Yea, me, caught on a downhill. Sheesh, I must be getting slow now...