VQ is done and I'm alive to tell the tale. The race wasn't too bad but the bozo driving near 80 mph to the race's finish, losing control, knocking a full-size pickup into mid-air for 3 rolls and then careening directly into us made it a full on epic day. But you're here for the race details...
What can I say. Racing SS is freaking hard! To those that say it is not a disadvantage, I say you haven't raced gears in a long time. At the end of the day, all I could think was WOW the effort that Dicky and Tim put down last year at BCBR to get top 10 overall riding SS was huge.
The goal for this one was knowledge - and school was in session. The on board electronics rivaled that of the space shuttle - power tap, garmin GPS, light, MP3 player. Simple doesn't play into SS for me ;)
The race started early - 5:30 am. Since we were geared for the climbs, we decided to start at the back. We'd be spun out for a bit, right? Big mistake #1. We had to wait for all riders to scoot through the initial bottleneck, then the first climb was not very wide and full of ruts, and Lynda had no light. We worked together on the first climb, using my light...and didn't really start going until about 15 minutes in when the grade steepened. Then it was one bursty pass after another.
All the while visibility was poor - yes it was dark, but shrouded in mist too. Vision Quest took on a whole new meaning. Up on the main divide, the steep rollers had my legs saying ugh a couple of times. Up to this point my gearing didn't seem too bad (32.19 on a 26er), but those rollers kicked my booty. Damn, had to pull on the boxing gloves...
At one point moving through the field on that first climb a guy looks at my gear and exclaims "wow! SS, what gear?" My response gets some sort of grunt about too much gear...then he saw Lynda also pedalling a SS and that got an excited "you dating anyone??" Evidently LW was asked that several times during the race. I so understand that question and it took me back to Trans Rockies stage 1 when I first saw LW really kicking booty :)
Somewhere along the way it stopped feeling like a race and more like a spirited ride. Lots of things slowed us both, like the dark start, starting at the back...and the descents! Rim brakes on the PT, a new bike that I'd never ridden singletrack on, and a 4 year old flimsy SID worldcup made for some sketchy handling on the downs. The course was unmarked, which to a local is no biggie but to someone not familiar with the area was cause for a lot of stopping and asking which way as there are a lot of intersections. Hikers on trails, dangerous 2 way traffic on the most fun singletrack descent towards the end...I had to stop and ask a few times if I was going the right way!
The weather was nutty. Cool, damp misty at low elevations, sunny over 4k'. It was as if we were in an airplane. This pic of Erik lifted from
So, thoughts on the differences between racing SS and gears:
Sometimes the gear is perfect. Sometimes it forces you out of the saddle for extended periods and that is simply more fatiguing. There was a long rubbly steep section that I really needed to be out of the saddle to maintain power, but had to remain seated to maintain traction. Major disadvantage in that section. The 30 minute "hike a bike" was really quite rideable in sections - if you had gears. 2 gearies pulled away from me for good there and 2 more got close. The flat road at the end, about 4 miles of it - was comedy. Full of cars, big watery muddy holes, and my chain kept falling off. I couldn't help but laugh that if I had a derailur on the bike there'd be plenty of chain tension to keep it on track. And it felt as though I was standing still at 19mph spunnered out. Jeesh.
The advantages: well, not having to shift of course. I gave up the weight advantage when I chose to go fully instrumented, and no regrets there cause I have some great files. 4w/kg pnorm for 4+ hours leading to the hike a bike just might be a PB. More analysis to come, including a look at power and GPS data simultaneously.
Finishing stats: well not sure how I finished. I think it was 10th although they have me in 12th in prelim results. They've got me 2 sec behind Monique Sawicki although I finished a few minutes in front of her. I think my time was 6:09 but I'm not real sure. Neither are the race folks ;) 2nd SS. John Fuzzy Milne put down an incredible ride and set a new SS course record by a minute or two. Lynda set a new SS womens record, not bad for her first long SS race.
And thus the VQ obsession has come to a close.
At the end of the weekend, what stands out most in my mind is how little the VQ does...