Tour of the Catskills, with the impossible-to-overhype Devil's Kitchen, took place this past weekend...[...]
Tour of the Catskills, with the impossible-to-overhype Devil's Kitchen, took place this past weekend. It was harder than last year, both parcours and field, and I was hampered by having spent much of the last 3 weeks on the trainer due to a crash and some soft tissue damage mostly in my wrist. Never mind, we're bike racers, !#$@ happens... and the race goes on!
The preamble is that I've been pretty quiet this year, with many near misses... a 2nd and 3rd at Bennington (TT/GC), illness at Killington, 5th at Whiteface, 3rd at Nationals TT... I've felt like I had great fitness all year and either no race luck, no form, or both... both of which are all on me, no doubt, its just been a season of wouldacouldashoulda... unfortunately this weekend was a continuing theme, but the racing at ToC is just so damn fun, I decided to write a report despite another near miss outing.
Stage 1 was a 19k out n back TT along gently rolling and perfectly paved roads, with a slight 300m uphill finish. It was, as they say, a specialists course. While my crash had been on my TT bike, riding on the bars had no effect on my very tender wrist, neither in training or on the day. I was very happy with a 4th place, and more pleased to have been within 32 seconds of the leader, last year's winner Jonny Bold. I had been over a minute behind Bold and Fred Thomas at KSR on a course better suited to me, so kudo's to Coach Fraser for having helped me keep that kind of fitness while healing up.
Stage 2 had the Kitchen, and so much more. This was a microcosm of my season... from the gun, the attacks were flying, and I was in several short lived moves. When I wasn't in the moves, I was monitoring from the front and riding really comfortably. I tried to push a good move with Thomas and Dan Staffo over the top of the first KoM but the climb was followed with an unselective 80 kph descent... about halfway thru, we entered some flats and the gas really came off. We were 20 k from the kitchen, and everyone seemed settled on it. A bunch of the gc guys were all at the back when an innocent move went off the front, and then like a shot, Staffo went across to them... Ruh -Roh... and of course, my good pal and bizpartner Cary Moretti was in the move, so I wasn't going to chase... Bold decided to let it go, and that was it, they had near 2 mins at the bottom of the Kitchen. Descriptions vary quite a bit, but without being too specific, this climb is about 5 k in all, with the middle 3k averaging 15%, with pitches over 20. I hit the climb right on the front, and went to the steady-hard tempo I like to climb in... I felt ok, but then Bold, Thomas and Taylor started to push, and for the first time, my wrist really started to bark... I couldn't stand and push hard, and you just cant really climb the kitchen effectively without everything being 100%. I also felt like this was where my prep failed me... you cant prep for efforts like this on the trainer... and so I hung as long as possible, but the three of them went away... I wasn't riding with power, but I was at 191 bpm at 7 kph at one point when I looked down.. not numbers that generally accompany each other!
What happened was Staffo dropped the break, solo'ed in for the win, Taylor and a relative newcomer to the 40+ crowd, Erin Korf, went over the top of the rest of the break for second and third, Cary held for 4th, Bold was 5th, Thomas dragged home the break remnants in a small grou and I teamed up with a couple of stragglers to ride in in 12th , 10 seconds behind them, and 2 mins behind Staffo, having dropped from 4th to 6th on GC.
Day 3 got harder. First, this is a real stage race, unlike the 2 day/3 stage typical amateur race... long tt and two 100k'ish road races really separates the class in the field, and this was evident, and topping yesterday's 1450m of climbing would be a total of nearly 1700 m on the final day. The first 40 k was a wicked fun rollercoaster of small twisty up and down rollers, leading to the grind of the first kom, which seemed like about 10kms long. Never that steep, but relentless, I went over right in the front, and tried a few moves after that... nothing was sticking yet, but I rode very attentively, jumped on the back of anything threatening, without firing any bullets myself... we came out of that probably regrouped as about 25 riders left, and hit the second of the kom's with about 30 k to go. Brutal - not as epic as Kitchen, but a long steep ramp topping out over 18%, and when Staffo attacked at the bottom, I had no response. Taylor, Korf and Thomas were able to eventually hook up, and I just lacked that 1% more I needed on the very steep stuff. A few others passed me but once it dropped back to 10% and I could get into a rhythm without having to stand, I rode back up to them - Reglar, Bold, Franke and Cary, who had a great weekend I must say! The 5 of us chased hard and got to within 10 seconds probably 3 different times... we had more than a couple of 80 kph descents, and some good climbs as well... I felt really strong, I kept dropping the guys on the climbs. I felt I might get across solo, but if I did, I'd be done - I wasn't going to do anything GC wise as the top 4 were in the lead, so a bridge would just blow me up for the win. I had to hope we could get over as a group, but we never made it. About 5 k left and the steam had left the chase, I attacked the group at that point just for fun more or less, but Reglar and Franke caught me on the final climb 200 m from the line. I ended up 7th on the day, 6th overall. Meh.... Staffo won the stage, won the GC, won the KoM. For you MMA fans, the field tapped out.
It was one of those races where you kind of know that you aren't going to be able to be at your best, and you need to be to win a race this competitive. Still, I put some amazing racing into my legs, something I'll need for GMSR, and aside from that, its just a super thrilling, amazing place to race your bike... the tiny twisty roads, the dramatic difficulty of the climbs and the fantastic organization made it 100% worthwhile.