Thursday, May 29, 2008

Snake Alley

tPod and I made the trip to Burlington on Friday night. We hooked up with aPod, Sam I Am and his wife and scored some grub at Martini’s. Burlington is a pretty unlikely kind of town for a place like Martini’s. It’s always been a kind of pricey place, but the food is really good and the view of the Mississippi River is amazing. This time around, it was still pricy, it was still really good, however they changed the menu around a little and kind of screwed things up. To give you an example, I paid $8 for an average sized pile of mashed potatoes, their cost was probably less than a $1? They were some damn good potatoes, but not $8 / pile good! With pricing like that, we’ll see if they're still around next year…

Woke up the next morning and hit a downtown coffee shop for some black gold, then drove up to Hy-Vee for my usual pre-road race breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancakes, bacon and then some more bacon. Drove back down to the race course, suited up and began my warm-up. I’ve been focusing a lot more on building a bigger base this spring and a little less on sharpening my peak. I plan to focus more on my high end towards the latter part of the season. I’ve done a lot fewer LT workouts this spring than I’ve done in years past, so I had no idea what to expect from myself today. Both the 40+ and 30+ races will last about 30 minutes each, and both are nothing but zone 5+ for the entire race.

The entrance to the pain cave


We lined up for the start at 11:30 and I did a quick scan to see who the main antagonists would be. Once I saw that Jim Cochran was there, that was all that I needed to know. He’s one of the most savvy road racers out there and if you stick to his wheel, you’ll usually finish near the front. The race started and as I typically do at the start of anything on concrete, I faded towards the back to avoid any potential altercations at the base of the Snake. I prefer to start slowly, rather than go all out to get the hole-shot. I seem to have a little more punch near the end of short races like this when I am tranquil at the start.
Throughout the first half of the race, I dangled near the back. After a couple of laps, I began to realize that I had good legs. So I upped the pace going up the Snake and gradually began to pick off racers one or two at a time. I think I finally reached the lead group at about lap 4. Cochran accelerated off the front while going up the Snake and I was about 4th or 5th wheel at the time. This was reminiscent of a couple of years ago when I was in the same scenario during the Cat 3 race. Cochran took off up the Snake, I was 4 or 5 wheels back and couldn’t respond due to the narrow, twisting nature of the Snake. He stayed away and won the race, I came in 2nd a good distance back.
We got to the top of the Snake and Cochran had a small gap on the group. We rolled through the start / finish line with Cochran still off the front. We hit the Snake again and I punched it all the way to the top and managed to reel Cochran in. We had a small gap on the remainder of the field and as we hit the bottom of the decent, I looked at Jim and asked if he wanted to make our gap stick. I don’t remember his response, but he seemed interested. We hit the Snake together and I took the lead going up. Once at the top I noticed that I had a small gap on him. We still had 6 laps to go and I wasn’t real keen on flying solo for 6 laps if I chose to give it a go. As I got to the bottom of the decent, I still had a pretty good gap, so I punched it again going up the Snake and the gap kept increasing. I ended up winning the race, not sure what the margin was and I didn’t really care. I was pretty stoked to bag a win at Snake Alley, as it’s one of the biggest bike races in Iowa!

Bringin' home the bacon

Hangin' out on the podium

I had a few hours after the 40+ race, so I inhaled a recovery drink and did nothing but ride around at an active recovery pace until the 1:40 start of the 30+ race. I did a couple of spirited efforts up the Snake to get legs back into the swing of things and lined up for the start. Once again I did a quick scan of the field and noticed that about half the field consisted of Mercy – Specialized cats. The last guy to roll up to the start was Dewey Dickey… yeah baby, this one was really going to hurt!
The race started and once again, I was at the back going up the Snake. I got stuck behind a couple of slower riders and was almost immediately gapped off of the lead group. I spent to first 6 or 7 laps chasing back on and it seemed like I was getting nowhere. I could see the lead group the entire time, but I couldn’t seem to make any progress in closing down the gap.
Shortly thereafter, the size of the lead group began to decrease and as riders dropped off the back, I picked them off one by one. Diesel Dave had situated himself about midway up the Snake in such a way the he was pretty much in my field of vision for each ascent. He did a stellar job in keeping me informed of the time gap between myself and the lead group. It seemed to hover around the 20 second mark for most of the first half of the race. As I began picking of the remnants of the lead group, the gap to the leaders began to slowly decrease. At about lap 9, I had finally caught on to the tail end of the lead group about midway up the Snake. That was also about the time that Dewey launched an attack that pretty much splintered what was left of the lead group. I was still near the end of the group and was unable to respond. I did manage to work my way up to 3rd place once I crested the top of the Snake. About halfway down the descent, the course workers were yelling ‘man down’. As I began to round a screaming fast left turn. I noticed the cat that was in 2nd was lying on the ground next to the outside curb. It didn’t look good either, hope the guy is OK…
So all of a sudden I’m in 2nd place with about 2 or 3 laps to go. I had a string of 4 or 5 others firmly attached to my wheel. I was working pretty hard in an attempt to bring Dewey back and was getting no help at all from the cats on my wheel. With about two laps to go, I pretty much turned myself inside-out going up the Snake, hoping to sever whatever it was that had the group behind me attached to my wheel. Diesel continued with the splits, 10 seconds to Dewey. I had managed to gap off the small group behind me by the time I hit the top of the Snake and continued my pursuit of Dewey.
On the last lap, as I hit the bottom of the Snake, I could see that Dewey was about halfway up. I continued up at an all out effort. It’s a good thing that I was wearing some dark glasses, because I’m pretty sure that my cross-eyed, cookie monster appearance would have scared some people, especially the kids. I hit the top, shoved it into my big ring as quickly as I could and drilled it all the way to the finish line. As I approached the finish, I could see that Dewey looked pretty secure in that had a big enough gap that he could sit up. This motivated me to continue my effort until I crossed the finish line. Dewey managed to hold me off and I ended up finishing in 2nd, a couple of seconds behind.
If I had been near the front when Dewey attacked, who knows what the outcome would have been. For all that I know he most likely had enough left in his tank, that even if I had positioned myself a little better he would have still left me in his wake… He did end up winning the P/1/2 race later that day, so I’m pretty sure that he put in just enough effort during the 30+ race to get the win and get in a good warm-up for the P/1/2 race. Despite that and all of the pain, I had an absolute blast during the race. I felt like I was racing in my hometown, with all of the people yelling and cheering me on. That was a huge motivator for me and most likely helped me push myself deeper into the pain cave than I would have otherwise. I owe a huge thanks to everyone that was pulling for me, it was truly an awesome experience!

Both races ended up lasting about 30 minutes each and my average HR for the 40+ race was 178. My average for the 30+ race was 176. So, in addition to exceeding my expectations for both races, I got two great LT workouts in!
My weapon of choice was my Orbea Orca, which was simply amazing going up the Snake. I could feel the bike almost squirting out from underneath me with every pedal stroke! It is by far, the most responsive bike that I’ve ever had the privilege to ride. When descending, cornering speeds in excess of 30 mph were not uncommon and I felt 100% comfortable every time down the descent, in or out of traffic. I felt like I could place the bike anywhere that I wanted while going through each corner. Truly an amazing bike!

A couple of shouts out to:
- Loran Storts – first ever criterium + 3rd place = stud.
- Cat 4’s (soon to be 3’s) Kelli Mente, Ana Nelson, Dee Mable, Emily Schaapveld, Kristin Gallagher, Kim Hopkins, Maria Ruhtenberg, Chris Maravelas for representing DSM well. I think there were more women from DSM at Snake Alley then men!
- Jane Reissen for a good showing in a very tough, very stacked women’s 1/2/3 field.

Next up is IMBCS #3 / Psycowpath #3 this Saturday over in Council-tucky, IA at Manawa State Park. I’m looking forward to getting back on the dirt where I belong, so stay tuned, same bat time, same bat channel!

Thanks for reading,


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