As a heavy and slightly dense individual, I am not a natural hill climber. But I came back from my Tour Divide attempt–I prefer the term “absolute and complete failure” but Tina says I am being too negative–with an itch to get my power back after spending many months working primarily on building endurance and resiliency.
So, I put together a three week plan of getting me ready for essentially a gravel sprint race. Those 20 Chapman laps I did my first weekend back? A brutish attempt to get my brain switched over from handling a 50lbs Tour Divide to handling a lightweight gravel bike again. And I did a Zwift race every single week to get my system primed for the level of effort and time that I expected the race to take.
Race day thankfully had lovely weather. Another system of thunderstorms hit Colorado the night before and the forecast suggested we might be riding though another storm, but we were fairly lucky: except for a bit of light mud, loose grit, and manageable ruts the course was in good riding condition. My warmup made me mildly concerned as my body and legs felt sluggish and stressed. A 4:30am wake up time and no coffee probably did not help with that. Foolish mortal.
However, once the race started, I moved quickly to the front of the group and powered hard up the first climb. My overall plan was to do threshold on the major climbs, recover in tempo/AP when I could, and not crash on the descents. As you can tell, I am a sophisticated racer with a well-researched and thought out plan.
I kept on expecting another racer, lighter and faster up climbs than me, to appear and catch up, but they never did. For the first time in my life I was off the front of a race all by myself. Who was I supposed to tell jokes to and discuss German philosophers with? Myself? Booooring…
Anyhow, I got to the turn around point and the sheriff directing traffic shouted that I was going the wrong way as it seemed no one expected the Silver racers so soon. Even the aid station at the split was not set up when I passed by.
Halfway down the long gravel descent, I hit a deep rut that was hidden in the early morning shade and was astounded I did not crash. The Lauf fork probably saved me there. The final major climb was a bit brutal. It was steeper and looser, and I was feeling my previous hard efforts. Then the double track was sandy and a bit loose as well. I was doing 260W and only going 11 miles an hour. Nutty. The final descent was in great shape though; I took it fast but still controlled as the road was open and I saw three vehicles going uphill during my descent.
And then into Nederland. The route crosses the Boulder Canyon highway and the flaggers were still walking to the junction, so I paused for a hot second and then zoomed across towards the finish. When I crossed the timing mat, I noticed the finishing arch was not even inflated yet...but I had won! What a crazy weird feeling to be the very first finisher at NedGravel.
I waited for our friend Laurel to finish (3rd!) and then I went to clean up and get food + coffee from Salto Coffee while I waited for Tina to finish the longer, more rugged Tungsten course. A good and fun race. Given there was price money for those that podiumed, this technically means I am a pro? And now I am reconsidering all of my other races for the rest of this year and wondering if maybe I should stop focusing on 100+ mile ultra distances and focus on shorter efforts.