Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trip to snowy Utah

What do you think of when you hear Utah? Great Salt Lake? Mormonism? Olympics? Rocky Mountains? Park City? Sure, all those things came to my mind when me and the wife were heading up North to visit friends in Sandy, UT and race the 2-day, 3-stage Tour of the Depot Stage Race in the greater Salt Lake City area. One thing I was not really thinking of – well, at least not in April - was snow, LOTS of snow. More to that a bit later, though.

Upon arrival to SLC we were treated to some “balmy” 50˚F and we had some spotty sunshine. Later that day, though the winter came back and we were reminded that we are indeed in the Rocky Mountains and snow is always a possibility – even in mid-April. So it was trainer time for 2days. Riding in the basement I felt like I was back home in Germany. We made the best of it, though and headed up to 7000ft. to Park City and checked out the snowboarders & skiers enjoy the fresh white stuff.

ready to race?

Friday night before the race we’re waiting to see if the race get’s canceled or not. It was in the mid-30’s and still snowing strong. A race in those conditions probably would have been called in any other state, but not in Utah! Our race was shortened by 20miles, though - eliminating a snowed in mountain pass in return. Between Sheri, Paul (our host), and I we probably had at least a dozen layers of clothing to stay warm and dry for what was coming up. So I lined up at 9:30am for a 70mile P12 Road Race with about 40 other guys. It was a bit above freezing and still snowing lightly. The local Team Canyon Bicycles had about 10 guys in the race, and Team Exergy from Idaho brought 3 guys down. I followed wheels and tried to ignore the facts that a) I was racing at 5000ft b) it was snowing/sleeting and c) we got 70miles to go. After 15miles a break of 3 was 30seconds up the road and besides a few random deer and cattle crossing the road not much excitement was observed. The Exergy boys finally made a move to bridge to the break and I jumped on with it to make a break of 6 complete. Everyone worked, and we quickly established a one-minute lead. I was happy to actually “race” and stay warm instead of pedaling along in the peloton and getting cold feet. While up in the break, I noticed some more weather characteristics: Snow from the left and right. Water from below. Snow pellets in your face. Even some random sunshine. And back to snow-shower. Eventually, 3 guys got dropped from our move and it was down to one Exergy rider, a Canyon Bicycles guy, and me. I was barely holding on, the two of them drove it. The altitude and cold made my legs hurt pretty badly like I haven’t felt for a while. HR was at 180bpm now for the last 20 or 30minutes. But getting dropped out of the winning break was not an option. 42-year old Dave Harward (Canyon-Bicycles) schooled us at the finish but I held on for 3rd, 17 seconds down. Good for the TT later that day. Sheri finished the 50mile Road Race in 8th place, and was on same time with 5th in GC. She didn’t like the snow at all and I have no idea how she survived that race but very proud that she did. I raced in the rain & wind of New Zealand, at close to 100% humidity in South East Asia, and some pretty rough & chilly rain in Western Europe….but 3hrs in the snow just above freezing tops that all for sure. Thanks to whoever invented surgical latex-free gloves which were like a second layer on my hands.

Road Race finish line view...

BMC all frozen after RR finish

Well, turns out the afternoon TT was canceled, the officials thought time trialing in the snow with some turns and possible ice is not a good idea. Good call! Even so, I was hoping to race the TT since I got Paul to bring up my TT rig from Texas. It (the bike) got so see some mountains, though at least!

Sunday’s final Circuit Race was held in much better conditions. We actually got to see the mountains this time, and the lost sun was back – making it a nice 50˚F again for the 5mile circuit, to be raced 8 times. 250 ft. of elevation per lap wasn’t bad at all. With the time bonuses etc., I was down 26 seconds to first and 10 seconds or so to 2nd GC. With my handmade clue sheet taped to my stem, I was ready for 90minutes of tactics to be played. Attack after attack went and finally Pinkham of Bissell got away with a Canyon-Bicycles rider (they still had 8 guys in the race) while 1st and 2nd GC looked after and at each other. Perfect. 5 laps in, I thought if I wanted to win that thing, I’d better be start doing something. So after a bonus-second sprint with 3 to go (which 1st and 2nd GC went for at 100%) I upped it up a bit and took another Canyon-Bicycles guy (7th GC) with me. Nobody reacted really so I put my head down and kept going. 2 laps to go and we’re about to catch up to the break of two which been out front most of the stage. After sitting on for 1 ½ laps my “armchair-ride” companion decided to attack and tried to bridge solo to the break. Well, that didn’t sit well with me so I digged a bit deeper and after 5minutes I catch him just as he caught the break. The Bissell guy (Pinkham) was still riding well and the two Canyon guys were sitting on, hoping that their GC man would come up eventually. So it was my turn again, pulling for most of the remaining 1 ½ laps and telling Pinkham that he should go for the win since I’m just looking for the GC. He finally made his move with 2 K to go, won, and I crossed the line 10seconds back in 3rd. No reason to celebrate yet, as I had no idea how far back 1st and 2nd GC guys were. They didn’t cross line for another 1:30 minutes so it was finally in the bag.

snow had to be in the podium picture

Thanks to the following people: Paul & Tanna for being a great host in Utah; Jeremy Smith for putting on a great event and despite the conditions keeping his head clear and delivering a fine race weekend; ROL Wheels for giving me a comfortable ride both days on the Carbon 38mm Tubulars.