by Ken Huizenga
I had spent about two months hearing all the stories about the Bike The Bluff Road Race. Most of them were relating to altitude and climbing struggles. As an older rider, this did not make me want to sign up early. I had to think about training and how to prepare myself mentally for this challenge back in April. With the time I had, there was now way to get all the training in I know Coach would of wanted. With one week to go, it was time to stop making excuses and sign up.
It was perfect weather, about 70 degrees at start time and light winds.
Having a three mile neutral start was going to be a nice warmup, or so I thought. The pack on this day was nervous. There was a lot of braking and bumping was taking place simply following the pace car. When the car did pull off it did not get any better. Riders were braking going down sweeping hills, very odd. Things settled down and the pace was good for me. I enjoyed the speeds and stayed tucked. I was going to stay aero today no matter what. As advertised, the climbing started about 13 miles in. Yes, there were rollers but today was about the climbs. at mile 17 my heart rate started to get the best of me. I usually climb at about 162 BPM and I looked down and was at 177, almost anaerobic. The pack began to pull away, ugh!…already?
As the group strung out, I was passing riders one by one. Not quickly but my constant tempo and power was helping me make gains. The big problem here was the pack was doing half of the work I was. I settled in with a group of about five and we started to work together. I felt good and was happy to share the work with these guys. Mile 22 was upon us and finally a cool descent. The view was great, I had help, and absolutely love 40+ mph speed! Our group took turns pulling and we flew through the next 15 miles.
Miles 43-55 were all going to be uphill. This is the stretch all the stories of struggle were about. Our little group tried to work together for a bit but we all climbed at different paces. I saw guy’s ripping it at low cadence while other like me were spinning at 100rpm. I settled in tapping away to some tune in my head and took my place about 4th in my group. We were together but each of us had about 50 yards between us.
This was a Tucson group of guys. I recognized them from our Shootout here on Saturdays. We have been here before. It was comforting to know that I could trust these riders and that we had worked together for a large part of the day. I had taken a few minutes during the climb and pain to be thankful for this day and for God allowing me to stay in good health to ride. I also was thankful for him providing me with this small Tucson group of riders. Whatever we accomplish on this day, was going to be because we worked together. Maybe this is what I love abut this sport. Knowing that respect and love of our brothers is what makes us all better, not just in cycling, but in all we do.
The last 8 miles just plain hurt. Even in this high elevation it was approaching 90 degrees and my legs were screaming for more oxygen. Cramping wanted to set in but I was NOT going to allow that. I stood and climbed, then rested, constantly repeating. I passed a couple of guys in our group and then saw the final turn. I had the mindset that the last 150 meters was going to be my Cavendish sprint. The pro’s make this look so easy, I was going to finish strong. I stood to get at least 850 watts out of my first few strokes and my right leg cramped like vice. I quickly faded to a high cadence 175 watt spin and limped over the line. On this day I had given all my aging body would allow. The wanted my timing chip but I could not bend to remove it. Luckily they treat those chips like gold and took it off my leg. Greg nicely found me some cold water and I recovered for a few minutes. Wow were my lungs mad at me. I was too hot and irritated to eat the pancakes they provided for the riders. As I recovered I was thankful to of had a safe race but really started lamenting about again losing the pack. This would of been so much easier if I had been just slightly better prepared. Fifteen minutes back was nothing to be proud of on this day. A new bar is now set. Back to the Training Peaks drawing board.
Thanks to the Bike The Bluff crew for putting on an absolutely awesome event. Thanks to my Teammates for there never ending support and to the riders I worked with out on the road. You guy’s made this day great! Eric, so proud of you for finishing this race up. You Rock!