My last post described the not-so-impressive training strategy I used to prepare for the Silicon Valley Time Trial Charity Challenge/Tour of California Stage 6 ride. The event was last Friday, here’s a recap of how things went down. WARNING it’s pretty long…
My kitchen stock was low that morning, so I needed to grab something to eat on the way down to South San Jose. The plan was to quickly grab a soy latte and a cup of steel-cut oats from Peet’s Coffee. After waiting five minutes in a long line that was moving, I decided to abort mission and look for something at Safeway. I decided on my trusty combination of bananas and peanut butter and hit the road. 20 minutes later, I pulled in to the VIP parking lot near the race start.
I immediately spotted my friend, Kathy, as I was parking and ran over to greet her. She signed up to volunteer at registration, but they didn’t need her help so she morphed into my race sherpa for the day. There were 2.5 hours to kill before my wave started, so I began fueling with banana number one (after a brief photo shoot with said banana). Then I headed to registration to sign my life away, pick up my bib, and drop off my backpack for transport to the finish. I was hoping for a chance to meet Dave Zabriskie after the race, so I packed my DZ nuts tshirt and a Garmin team jersey in my backpack for him to sign.
After inflating my tires and donning my aero helmet, we walked over to the start line/festival area. Apparently, a chick decked out in hot pink with a TT bike and aero helmet attracts a lot of attention because I was receiving a lot of it (much more than I deserved). While wandering aimlessly about the tents, a TV reporter stopped me for an interview. Being an awkward engineer, my first instinct was to quickly decline and run away. But I obliged and answered a few questions. Check out my 10 seconds of fame in this video. A few minutes later, some guy asked to take a picture with me and my bike so he could show it to his daughter (I really hope that was the truth). While I was waiting in the corral before the race, another reported asked to interview me. Frankly, it was embarrassing to get so much attention when I knew I would be one of the slower riders of the day. I guess I’m the Kim Kardashian of cycling… Too much media coverage, not much talent 🙂
In the start corral, I performed a last-minute check of my gear. I discovered that my front tire was flat and the cleat on my left shoe was very loose. There wasn’t time to change my tube, so I inflated my tire with a CO2 cartridge and hoped for the best. I didn’t have much confidence that my cleat would hold on through the race so I started asking people around me if they had a multi-tool I could use. Of course no one did and I started to panic. Then I thought to pull my car key out of my bento box and see if that could be used to tighten the screws on my cleat. Fortunately, it worked and I started working on my cleats. Soon, I heard a voice behind me say, “darling, do you need a screwdriver?” I turned around to see an angel clad in white spandex handing me a mutl-tool, which I graciously accepted. A few minutes later, my wave was ready to start.
The course starts on a short climb up Bailey, which I rode conservatively to save my legs for the big climb at the end. There were a few miles of rolling hills on the way down to Morgan Hill. On this section of the course, I was playing leapfrog with another rider. I wondered why she wasn’t down in her aerobars since she was on a TT bike with a disk wheel and was also wearing an aero helmet. I became even more confused when she turned around just before the climb up Willow Springs. All would become clear later on… I hate the descent down Willow Springs because it’s very technical and gusty crosswinds throw my bike around. I descended very slowly and was passed by a couple riders. At the bottom of the hill, the course heads up Santa Teresa for five very windy miles. During this section, I focused on keeping my cadence high and being as aero as possible. A few guys tried to draft off me (this event was draft-legal), but fell off pretty quickly. I was starting to feel like a rockstar! That feeling quickly died as I started working my way up Metcalf Rd. Race day presented a few extra challenges on the big climb. Spectators, other riders, and team cars driving by left little room for me to ride. Also, cramps that started in my left foot were quickly spreading up my leg. I had no idea why I was cramping, but decided it was safest to dismount my bike for a while and try to walk it off. It was my walk of shame. I finally mounted my bike again when I found a section of road that wasn’t super steep and rode across the same finish line that the pros would cross a couple hours later. My official time was 1:32:46, landing me in 5th place out of 6 in my division. Hooray for not being DFL!
After a quick lunch, I grabbed an excellent spot along the the finishing chute to watch the pros come in. A big screen was set up outside for us to watch the live coverage streaming from other parts of the course. The pro women raced first and I soon realized that the girl I rode with earlier was time trial champion, Amber Neben, warming up before her race. Excitement soon turned to horror as we watched her terrible crash on the Willow Springs descent. It was later reported that she broke her hip and a few ribs. After replaying the crash too many times on the screen, the race coverage changed to show the rest of the women working their way through the course. I was really excited when I saw triathlete, Julie Dibens, come through the finish.
Finally, it was time for the main event, the pro mens race. Earlier in the day, I joked about switching bikes at the bottom of Metcalf, ditching my TT bike and using a road bike for the climb. As it turns out, that’s exactly what some of the professional riders did! One of the most amusing moments of the day was watching a rider hand his TT bike to a woman on the side of the road who was also holding her baby. You can see a picture of it here. I kept waiting to see DZ ride by, but sadly we learned that he crashed during his warmup ride and broke his collarbone. I was bummed to hear that he was hurt, but it seems that’s part of being a professional cyclist. I watched the rest of the men finish the race and managed to take a few decent photos with my phone, including this one of winner Tejan van Garderen!
Before riding back to my car after the race, I noticed that my front tire was completely flat again. I repaired it properly before starting the sketchy descent down Metcalf Rd. Later, I discover that my left cleat slid back almost an inch from where it should be positioned. I suspect that was the reason my foot started to cramp during the race. You never know what surprises are in store for you on race day!