Thursday, April 3, 2014

If It Hurts It's Probably Good For You

Gorge Roubaix, Day One checking out my bike before the race.

As any competitive athlete knows, there are three ways you can practice your sport: you’re either taking it easy, training or you’re training. So far this season I have been, for the most part, training. Just training. I’ll go out and ride up some steep stuff if I feel like it. Maybe I’ll ride around Sauvie Island as fast as I can or hit up a fast cat group ride. Or maybe I’ll just go for a ride with my Dad and ride the Tour de Thai Food carts at a nice Zone 1-2 pace. This kind of training is nice, and at my first two races of the season – Dirty Circles, where I easily claimed fourth, and Cherry Pie, where an eighth place finish also didn’t require much sweat – it seemed to be working fine. And then, I raced The Gorge Roubaix.

The first day of the race tasked the 4/5 field with a stage barely more than 30 miles long. There was a pretty steep gravel climb and a gravel descent, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I think of this as the type of course that suits me well and I was feeling optimistic about my results. The peloton rolled out fairly mellow, with no one wanting to do too much work into the headwind. Lower category races tend to be cursed by heavy individualism; rarely are racers working for anyone other than themselves and so no one wants to grit it out into the wind alone and risk making the race interesting. But once the road turned up, that all changed. Two riders from Washington immediately attacked off the front and the field jumped in responses. I worked hard to stay with the front group, digging deep and feeling my heart rate hit the roof. But no matter how bad I wanted it, a lack of training left my legs without the stuff to stick with these crazy Washington sandbaggers.

I fell off the front group and was soon riding in the sad limbo between breakaway and chase. I wasn’t ready to give up just yet though, and a Rukus Test Team rider up the road provided just the carrot I needed to keep digging the rest of the way up the climb. With no small effort, I managed to reel him in just before we started the long gravel descent. This would prove to be a key moment, because as I would later find out this hairy legged cat 4 was also an old hand on the dirt. We bombed downhill faster than I would have alone, sliding through corners and pedaling the whole way. Following his line motivated me to rail it way faster than I otherwise would have, and we even caught my housemate Hayes Kenny, normally a much faster dirt rider than I am, at the bottom of the hill. He had gotten spit out of the front group shortly after me, but now reunited again we were ready to do some work towards the finish. 

The Dalles provided a gorgeous venue for racing. Photo by Adam Lapierre.

In the long, flat, windy final ten miles or so that proceeded the gravel section we caught some more rejects from the break and soon had a group of six pacelining together smoothly. We kept up a solid clip until one of our members jumped with 1km to go. Hayes was pretty toasted, but I still felt like I had a solid sprint left in my legs. So as we neared the line Hayes “The Daze” Kenny gave one last solid effort to bridge me up to the rider up the road. I grabbed onto his wheel with 200m left to go as the road shot up towards the uphill finish. Sucking his wind until the last moment, I slungshot myself past and crossed the line first of our small group for a decent result of eight place.

I was satisfied with the effort, but was disappointed I hadn’t been able to stick with the climbers off the front, a group I like to consider myself apart of. But this race has left me excited for the season to come and motivated to put in more hard efforts, to get down to some serious training, so that I can be the wheel people are grinding their molars to hold on to.

Check back in the coming weeks for more adventures and to find out how the rest of my season goes!

Until then, Ride On.
Kyle McCall

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