by Ken Huizenga
This race was a must do for me as I really enjoyed it in 2015 and wanted another chance to mark some improvement in my Cycling. I had my Training Peaks Calendar fully filled out for January to be in the best form ever for this race. VOS was to put this to the test.
The best laid plans do not always work out. I fought a month long cold for much of January and my lungs took a while to heal from it. I did try to force the body to train, but all I did forcing the issue was set myself back. Not being one to quit, I still did sign up the race and gave it a shot.
The weather could not be more perfect. No wind, sunny and 65 degrees. I started off shooting for FTP and focused on steady power. I wanted to be careful to not blow up on the uphill first section. I was 1:10 ahead of last year at the half way point. I made the turn and mentally was ready to empty the tank. My speed increased and I felt ready to push hard to the line. I miscalculated my effort and when I hit the 3km to go sign I had about emptied the tank. I struggle a few more remaining minutes and crossed the line empty.
I was :22 faster than last year and sat 22nd out of 27. Not great and definitely not as well as I had hoped. All I could take from this effort is that I had improved over last year, but again proved that a few weeks missing from my planned training had hurt this effort a ton.
The starting line was the first time I saw the group of guys in the Cat 5 group. My first impression was that there was a lot of youth this year. My racing age is 50 this year and the one thing I lack is twenty year old energy. I sensed that I was in trouble.
After a longer than normal neutral start, we were off. I was happy to have stayed attached to the group at the end of the first climb. Upon the start of lap two, they turned it up a notch. I stayed within eyesight of the peloton but slowly started to fall back. I was hoping to have a few guys to work with but seemed I was in the middle of two groups, kind of flying solo. I knew at some point this was going to be a mental game so I settled into a manageable power range and just keep a strong tempo. I finished strong with a guy from the 50+ masters and was happy with my effort. All in all I had some personal bests and enjoyed the race.
I was in the first group and racing was to begin at 7:15 am. Many of us were out warming up on the course even before the sun came up. Today I felt strong and confident. The race started and I saw 230 Watts pretty constantly for the first few laps. I faded to the back third of the pack. It was comfortable there. The GC Leader was back there beside me most of the race as he had an 8 minute lead and wanted to stay out of trouble. I encouraged him to get in front of me as I did not want to in anyway interfere with in carrying out his plan. He said he was comfortable with me and to carry on, so with this off my mind I continued to work. About 20 minutes in, the group was pushing 240 watts and things were picking up. I began to think for the first time about what I was going to to on the last lap. This was a different mental place to be for me because i’m usually a little off pace by now. Was I actual going to contend for the final sprint?
The last lap bell rang and I was hanging on the main pack. We were down to the last 4 turns. I felt the pack begin to slip as they put on a surge and off they went. They put about 20 yards on me with a 325 watt burst. I did not have that in my tank at this point. I fell back about 30 seconds and finished strong as I could. This day I was close but the kids did me in. Oh to be young again. I felt good about my effort and the progress I had made. Overall it was a great trip and three awesome days of racing. Thanks to my teammates for their continuing encouragement and congratulations to Coul for grabbing a leaders jersey. Thank You Collene for all the great photos including the one below!