by Ken Huizenga
I signed up to do the Valley of the Sun Stage Race a few weeks ago. Three day's out of town for a Stage Race seemed a bit daunting. What was I getting myself into? Seriously, do I belong taking my mediocre talent out of town to represent IC3 and Tucson? These were the questions I was in search of answers to. My feeling was that I would now find out if racing young kids at 48 was a waste of time, or solidify my hope that I will be in a group long enough to compete and keep this race “hobby” alive.
Day one Time Trial had now arrived. After a mostly sleepless night, it was time to clamp on the TT bars and play the mental game of balancing consistent power vs. blowing up before the finish. This day turned out good for me. I found the course a good fit elevation-wise and came close to my FTP for the complete effort. This is about all I could hope for and it turned out to be good enough to place me in 18th position out of 28, 7:00 down to the leader. I was happy with my run.
Ken working hard in the time trial
Day two was a 46-mile road race in Casa Grande. This was 3 laps around a mostly flat course that had a long climb at the end of every lap. I was stoked to think this was going to be the day that I did not lose the group. I felt strong and was determined to stay with the pack. All went well till the first climb. The group thinned out and became mostly single file up the climb. I dropped slightly but worked with a small group to get back on to the leaders. I held one till the second climb and then the effort required this time around definitely burned one of my “matches” and I was left to work with only one guy that looked close to my age. The pack was ahead of us, and the two of us dropped the remaining field. We worked together most of the last lap and passed a few Cat 4 stragglers (they left 5 minutes before us) so that felt good. I thought I had saved enough energy to crush the last climb but as always, this never works out. I did finish semi-strong and was again content with my performance. An hour after the race, the adrenaline wore off and I felt totally wasted. Clearly I had given everything I had and was about to pay for not drinking or eating enough... when will I learn?
Day three was tough to get out of bed for. I had a crit left to run and my start time was 7:15.. ugh! This turned out to be the highlight of the weekend for me. I held onto the pack for half the race and had I listened to Kyle (coaching me from the sidelines), I might have stayed up front and had the best crit finish ever. The problem was they called for a prime and the field surged and I could not hold on. I am hearing that the surge is best handled if I’m up front when it happens. I hope soon to be strong enough to try this. I had four guys left to work with and we managed to not get lapped and finished with a 23 mph average speed. I ended up 18 out of 28 in the GC. I am gaining skill and confidence. Maybe I am in the right place.
The weekend can be summed up this way: my team is super supportive, and guys like Erik and Kyle from TriSports also were awesome to be around. I am very lucky to have great people to race with and that care. Thank you to all of you that took time to support me. I appreciate you all.