The second half of the season started with a trip to beautiful Oregon. I thought that shipping my bike in advance will avoid any last minute scramble with the equipment; unfortunately it was not the case. When I picked up my bike at the local shop, I noticed that the rear wheel was cracked… After a scramble at the different bike shops in Bend, I was all set and ready to see why so many cyclists consider the High Cascades to be one of the most fun 100 miles race.
I heard that the lava rocks can be quite sharp so my bike was equipped with the reliable Fast Trak Control casing tires. All my direct competitors were riding lighter and less reliable tires, however it is me who experienced a flat just minutes after entering the single track. It is a mystery how the tire got side cut when riding on a dirt trail with zero rocks???
Nonetheless, it was so early in the race, I had plenty time to reach back to the lead group. My first tire repair was not sufficient so I stopped again at aid #1. The next hour was spent passing my racers first on jeep roads and then on single track. Most trails for the High Cascades are very gradual going up and down. So going down 600ft will take 30 minutes just because the trail is twisty; it is a lot of fun!
I was riding at good speed and after 2 hours into the race, I was by completely myself. However, it was easy to keep motivated and keep the tempo up; not only because of the desire to reel back racers but mainly out of curiosity and discover what will be next up the trail.
With the fatigue hitting me after 4 hours, I was less hopeful to reach back to the lead group. Fortunately, I started to spot Chris Peariso and never really far from the lead. I was really enjoying myself on the beautiful trails and I also liked when we had to cross some snow patches in the shadows of Mount Bachelor. Good stuff.
At the Lava Lakes, I knew that there was a big climb (it also was the Strava challenge) and my goal was to use that trail to accelerate my return to the lead group. It was a good plan but the legs were not there. Even on my granny gear, the pain in the legs was intense and I lost most of my hope gaining any time back on that portion. As my time shows on Strava.com, I was not that slow after all and by aid #5 I did rally back to the Drew Edsall; shortly after I passed Ben Melt Swanepoel.
The last long downhill to the finish is incredible: well maintained trails going on and on and… you got the idea; just big smile to the finish line….
My fifth place was better than I expected with the stacked field and the mechanical problems encountered. The race organization and the super fun trails were well worth my trip to Oregon. If I have another opportunity to race the High Cascades, I will accept in a heartbeat.
Normally I wait until the large climb after aid #2 to increase the tempo but we arrived at aid #1 as a large peloton. It kind of force my hand and I started to ride tempo up the climb. The lead group was pretty small arriving at aid #2 and my legs were feeling good prior to the large effort on the main climb after that.
I held the same pace as on the smaller climbs and only Jeremiah Bishop, Justin Lindin and Jonathan Schottler were following me. In the following single track downhill, Jeremiah gapped us by 30s. Justin and Jonathan were much stronger than me on the flats leading to the next climb… It required a large effort to keep them in sight; Jeremiah was by himself, 40 yards in front of Justin and Jonathan and I was suffering big time 40 yards behind them.
In the large climb (it starts pretty steep), I was really suffering but my effort were rewarded; at the top as I was back with Justin and Jonathan. However I should have known better as they dropped me shortly after the top but this time I was exhausted. In addition, I bounced on every single rock on the rough single track and even my super comfortable and efficient Epic 29 could not entirely compensate for my poor riding.
Despite my extreme fatigue I managed not to fall but I was not in condition of chasing anybody… After a long time (1 hour, 2 hours, I have no idea) I started to pick up the pieces and my speed went up a tiny bit. In my mind I made a descent effort on the last climb before the finish. However before and after that climb, there are quite a bit of flat roads.
Kevin Carter used his power to reach back to me with 2 miles to go; when he sprinted 0.5 mile from the finish I knew there was no point; my legs were killing me and the flat road was not in my favor.
That fifth place was my best effort; so I was really satisfied with my position. The competition has upped their level; I hope I can do the same.
Both my rides are on Strava.com; next NUE race for me will be the New Hampshire 100