The course at Afton Ski Area is arguably one of the toughest courses in the Midwest. It reminds me of stage 15 of the 2002 Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain), the stage that contained the mammoth Alto de la Angliru, an 8.5 mile epic climb that kicks up to over 23% at one point. This was also the same stage that Britain’s most famous doper David Millar stopped a half a meter short of the finish line, removed his number from his back, and laid it on the ground in protest calling the race conditions that day “inhuman”. What a puss…
With a lot of spotty training the past few weeks, I wasn’t sure what to expect today. I wanted to do a big regional race this season to see where I might stack up against some of the pros and semi-pros.
I arrived at the venue about one hour before the start. I usually like to get to races at least two hours before the start so that I don’t have to run around like a chicken with its head chopped off trying to get ready. I got registered, suited up in my sweet new Rassy’s team kit and began my warm-up. During the warm-up I ran into the Venable’s, Paul and Jeremy. WWJ also made the trek from Sewer City. As I was tooling around I noticed that there were several pros and semi-pros. Racing against guys like that can be a very humbling experience when I’m used to finishing at the front of most of our local races.
I did this race three years ago and finished around 20th, so at the very least, my goal was to top my best finish. The race started, and as is typical with a race of this caliber, everybody took off like a bat out of hell. I found myself sitting in about 30th place (out of 50+\-) riders going into the singletrack. I hate starts like that, I’m old and it takes a little while to get the engine into full song.
During the first lap (of four laps) I felt like a bull in a china shop. I was braking way too much due to a lack of familiarity with the course. I didn’t get a chance to pre-ride the course and I was paying for it. The second lap went a little better and I started passing a few riders. Near the end of the second lap, Todd McFadden passed me on a singlespeed.
Todd and I have a lot of history. I spent my first four years of racing up in Wisconsin doing the entire WORS series. Todd and I had a lot of epic battles in the 35+ age group. He usually got the best of me, but I had a lot of fun racing against him.
I pretty much had the course dialed in by the third lap and really started picking the pace up. By the end of the third lap I was sitting somewhere near 18th place and I was able to keep Todd in sight. During the fourth lap I began to loose sight of Todd, but I was still picking off riders and ended up finishing in 13th place overall and 3rd in the 35+ group. I felt OK about the result. I didn’t feel great, but I also didn’t feel crappy. My legs definitely did not have the snap that I would have expected at this time of the year.
Afton is an ass kicker of a course. WWJ said that his computer registered about 3500 feet of climbing, ouch! I thought that I had improved in climbing, but I didn’t feel that strong on the climbs today. The cat that won the race, Jesse Rients, did the first Psycowpath race this year. At the Psycowpath race, I finished about 30 seconds behind him. At this race I finished about 13 minutes behind him. What the ‘F’? It just goes to show what a difference course knowledge makes. He is from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, as is most of the other riders that were in the field, and has ridden the Afton course a lot. So when I think of my result with that in mind, I feel a little better about it.
Next up is IMBCS #5 at Sockum Ridge Park.
See you there,