Race season is here and of course, there are complications.
CiclaValley typically sticks to road races (as opposed to crits) which are few and far between in the Southern California region.
Without much opportunity, the Nine Mile Omnium came up this last weekend organized by Steve Barnes who puts together the toughest races around.
This one featured a 15.6 mile climb up Nine Mile Canyon in the morning, then a relatively flat 18 mile circuit race in the afternoon.
Two years ago, I had my first DNF at his Sherman Pass race under a good amount of heat and the climb is just an abbreviated version of the race.
The incomparable Steve Barnes
That is, if you can call climbing about a mile of vert in under two hours “short”.
The fields for all races were small even after they were condensed.
I ended racing the Cat 4/5 race with a field of eight that with half from the Valley based DNA Race Team.
This climb I wasn’t treating as a race, but more of a time trial since there were few opportunities to put it in the big ring.
From here to infinity
I was hoping to cut about 10 minutes off my previous time of 1:40.
Sounds like a lot, but I could knock three minutes off by not peeing twice and stopping for water like last time.
I also felt like I was in much better shape than before, although I slacked off the last month, at least in the eating responsibly department.
Couple that with emptying the tank and knowing the course better, the sky’s the limit (or 7,500 where the ride tops off).
Our pack started and immediately I went to the front so I could keep tempo.
Leading the charge (Photo: Allan Crawford)
I know most of these races normally start slow and case in point, we passed the 55+ race which started a minute before ours before mile two.
Pretty soon, it was just me and Andy from DNA at the front as our race started to spread apart.
Looking down at my Garmin, I was happy at my pace so far, but I wasn’t going to deviate from my effort if Andy decided to pass, especially since I thought he would be faster at the climb anyways.
Nine Mile Canyon is defined by it’s starkness, so I was hoping this lack of detail would keep me focused on staying in the zone.
Around mile 3, things started to change which set the tone for the rest of the ride.
About an hour south of my drive in, there were plenty of posted signs on the road for a high wind advisory, although they didn’t indicate how far north this area covered.
Driving in, the wind makes lots of strange cloud formations like this.
The first 15 minutes of this ride felt smooth, but I could start to feel the wind become a factor, especially when the road veered north.
At this point, the wind felt like a nuisance, but it became more menacing as the race went on.
Sure enough, when the road bended back to the south, Andy and a rider from the 55+ group pulled ahead while I just stayed at my pace.
This happened a couple more times where someone would draft in the heavier winded direction and pull away as we banked off of that.
Center Line Rule in Effect?
Like I said, this is a time trial and I stuck to keeping this ride on my terms so off they went.
The closer I got to the top of 9 Mile, the fiercer the winds got to where the ride became unenjoyable.
Being out of gears is one thing, but having to alternate getting in and out of the saddle was mentally debilitating.
Furthermore, no matter what riding position I was in, I keep my head down as far as possible to combat as much wind as I could.
Which was little.
Trust me. This was windy (Photo: Allan Crawford)
I finally hit the plateau section where I actually make it into the big ring and could open it up a little.
Still, I wasn’t connected to the beauty around since there was rarely a moment I could lift my head up.
In this mist of consciousness, I did pass someone from one of the earlier races, but our progression of pain didn’t seem to differ by much.
I passed someone suffering as much as I was….
I kept looking behind to see if anyone was gaining and it looked like there was a person or two out in the distance.
Whenever there was space enough to look behind, I would do a time check and I counted at least a minute most of the way.
As I was nearing the end of a four mile stretch that had kept a steady 4%, sure enough another rider was steadily closing the gap until he held my wheel.
Not like I could do much at this point, but as we started the final 1km which hits about 10%, I pretty much let him go once the made his move at the bottom.
I would have been great company….
It was painful making it to the peak finish as the wind reminded me what an exponential pain in the ass it could be.
Crossing the line was as unceremonious as it could be barely carrying any speed across it.
There was plenty of food and drinks just to the side and I made sure I was well nourished.
Crossing the finish with the efficiency of molasses.
The wind was still pretty heavy at the top which included a moment of me chasing some of my cold weather gear I had left in Steve’s truck as it blew away.
Jonathan, the last guy who passed me mentioned he was here the day before and the wind was actually blowing in the other direction!
I ended up finishing 5th out of 8 riders, but it essentially took me the same amount of time to climb this entire segment as it did two years ago.
If I was told this before the race, I would have been very disappointed, but under these conditions, I’m actually impressed I finished as soon as I did.
My friend “Money” finished after me and he like a couple others asked if I was ok.
I’ve felt much worse after other races, but the thought of doing a second in a few hours with the prospect of heavy winds didn’t feel appealing especially with a pre-Valentine’s Day dinner in the evening.
Abandoning a race is not something I take lightly, but I was at peace with this decision even though you can never stop asking what if.
It’s long ways down….
I took my time riding back to the start trying to take in as much as I could, but the chilliness from descending plus my lack of capabilities definitely dampened my enjoyment.
It wasn’t as windy back at the start, but I was done asking questions about racing.
Since this early departure gave me more time to get home, I decided to stop in Red Rock State Park.
It’s a bit of an anomaly along the 14 with the richness of color an amazing contrast to the starkness of the surroundings.
I had also brought with me my cyclocross bike in case I had to switch out parts or bike for the second race.
It also has 40s on it, so I thought a leisurely tour of the park would be of good use for an hour.
Unfortunately, I didn’t even make it out of the parking lot because the wind was so heavy pebbles were flying into my mouth.
On one hand, this felt disappointing having to cancel yet another ride.
At the same time, it made me feel more at peace that riding that second race wasn’t the right thing either.
Questions will always remain, but no matter what, having that next race is what drives us all.