The Sandia Crest Road Race is one of the hardest races in the US. It sports 7800 feet of climbing over a 57 mile course, finishing at 10,500 ft. Check your TDF info and you’ll see that that Mont Ventoux is 6,300 ft, and the Alp de Huez is 6,100 ft. This race starts at 5500 ft.
I was glad to once again have Mike Pease helping me out with the details. It doesn’t hurt that he lives less than two miles from the start line. We tooled over to the race start prepared for the usual day of sweltering heat and sun. It was supposed to be cooler and cloudy, but we didn’t believe that and packed four bottles–instead of maybe packing a rain jacket for the trip back down the mountain, or something….
The 3’s race started out just like last year, rocketing off out of the parking lot. A psycho kid was passing our lead car before we even turned the corner out of the Albertson’s. After about a mile, the pack started to chase, and it was strung out for a good five miles before the Sports Solutions kids decided to bag the chase until later. That was good, because I was sitting on lower 190 BPM on my heart rate for a few miles, and was wondering if maybe I should turn back and see if they would let me in the Masters race (which does half the course).
The breaks kept coming, but were mostly short lived until we got to the Mailbox climb. Then, the Sport Solution kids put down a hellish pace. I was worried at first. We were hammering really fast in the big ring on most of the climb. I didn’t know how much I could take. I knew I had to match the efforts or I’d be done. But we were flying, and it hurt. But, gradually, I felt better. I went from not trying to get dropped to making sure I wasn’t behind people who were popping. I was hanging, and I wasn’t the weakest guy in the group. I was moving up as the climb went on.
Then, I saw Pease. He was done. He didn’t feel well that morning, and had some kind of a stomach thing. Pease was heading back down from Mailbox, resplendent in his Big Shark kit, giving me a thumbs up which seemed to mean in equal parts: (1) good job, (2) I’ll meet you at the top with the car, and (3) I’m going to puke, again.
The kids put in another hellish surge as we neared the top of Mailbox, but I was fine. I’d done it. Getting over that first climb without being dropped was my main goal. There was no way in hell I could be dropped again until Heartbreak Hill, and by that time I’d be in some sort of a chase group.
Then I dropped my chain on a small riser c0ming into Triangle. I couldn’t pull it out. I had to stop. Fortunately, it was a pretty significant climb, and the pack had backed off–which is why I was shifting into the small ring…But, I’d have a tough chase. It was starting to rain, but mostly I had a tailwind, and I hammered fuckless over through Triangle and down the long descent of Hwy 14.
Then the rain started to come down in buckets, and the temperature dropped 15 degrees, and the wind picked up to a swirling gale. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t hold the white line, but I had no follow car on a major tourist highway. I was going 43mph on a long downgrade with a 30-35mph tailwind, and my wheels were slipping on the flooded pavement. I was cold. But, I was hammering. Then the crosswinds nearly blew my front wheel out. I thought “gee, surely there will be a crash in the pack and I’ll pick up some people.” I slowed down. I was freezing, and I knew there was no way in hell I could climb Sandia.
About the time I should have been crossing the line, Pease and I were sitting at a really nice italian brew pub at the base of Sandia. Even there, 4500 ft below the Crest, it was 60 degrees and spitting rain. I’m fairly certain that if I had not dropped my chain, I would have continued, and I may have wound up in the hospital. Ah well….it was fun to hang for a while.
Congrats to the Mo Chumps!!! Kurt Russell!! Not a surprise in the 40+, the man can climb. The problem with ST. Gen is that Dave Hixson’s grandkids live within spitting distance of the start line. That makes the 50+ race rather difficult….But I guess he’s not from Mo….