Chat, Ashley Doane, Ceci, Kevin M, Will C, and I all went up for the Tour of the Catskills stage race this weekend, with Brett Kielick also riding up to hang out and get in some more miles.
Ceci and Will did ridiculously well, Will winning the Cat M4 GC and CC just missing the W1/2/3 GC podium. Kevin and Ashley also did really well, with Ashley in particular grabbing 10th/76 in Saturday’s brutal road race (M3s).
I myself have nothing to report. The end of July I spent very sick with something picked up traveling and this was much too hard an event for jumping on a bike for the first time in three weeks. It was all I could do to just finish Saturday, make the cut, and start Sunday.
I did though manage to drive my Prius out of gas on the Palisades Parkway on the way up, one of the worst possible places to do so. No one died pushing the fully laden hybrid (they’re heavy!) up a steep hill and over the grass berm to get off the no-shoulder road before getting slammed by people coming around the curve behind, but Chat did mumble all weekend about his tennis career being ruined by all that strain the pushing put on his shoulder. I’m putting this down as a successful and obviously intentional team building exercise…
I have just a few comments of possible use for newer racers:
- If you’re in a big field, can’t really see the road ahead, and need to know if there’s more climbing or a descent coming up, watch the treeline. If the trees keep going up, chances are you are as well. If you only see green or rock, chances are you’re going up a lot. Open sky means you better start prepping for a descent. This isn’t always conclusive, but it’s generally a pretty big hint.
- Applying that prediction, usually hearing everyone shift is a good indicator you should be shifting as well. But if you’re rollercoasting from a big climb to a big descent, be mindful to not shift into the big ring until you yourself are actually on the crest and your leg speed is back up, lest you jam or throw your chain.
- Similarly, normally I’m against herd mentality, but if you don’t know what’s coming up on the course but everyone else is eating, you should be thinking about it as well. Many of them probably have some idea about the course, and you don’t want to be caught out as the only one trying to eat later on a technical section or climb.
- On a steep climb, especially early on before the field diminishes, you need to ride defensively and create space for yourself. A combination of going slow and a bit of panic cause the group to bunch up tightly. Combine that with some early weaving by weaker riders, bad shifts, etc., and conditions are ripe for a big pile up like we had in the opening miles of the cat 3 race on Saturday.
- For a typical super hot summer road race, packing any less than the equivalent of at least seven bottles of liquid is a huge mistake, and the more the merrier. That may sound excessive, but at minimum you’re looking at two bottles for getting to the race and getting ready (particularly for mid-day starts), at least three to start the race with (I was super glad to start with four on Saturday), and two more to drink right afterward. Team sharing’s great and all, but I was stone-cold prepared to drive away and leave at the race anybody who’d finished my reserve nalgenes.
Beyond that, I encourage anyone with any interest in climbing to do this event. It’s a touch expensive, but has a solid time trial and two brutal road races. Combine devastating heat with what I think could be the hardest climbs in this region that you could have a mass-start race on—and I ride a lot in Vermont and New Hampshire—and it’s game on. It also seemed well organized. Marshaling, signage, and caravan coverage seemed spot on, and check-in was butter smooth. This could obviously change, but this year my buddies John Frey and Alan Atwood were doing results and chief refereeing, so placings, GC, stage communiques, etc., were all posted online ridiculously quickly.
More importantly, it’s a fun weekend. We rented a huge house nearby for pretty cheap and had a great time making dinner, getting ice cream in a sweet little Main St kind of town nearby, and hanging out. Don’t miss out next year!