715am and I walk out to the kitchen, massive dark skies to the east. “Curious.” The breakfast begins. I’m an omelet guy. Red pepper, onion, spinach, egg and avocado if it’s on sale. Amante beans in the grinder, stove top espresso in my mouth. “Hey kids, park in the back so we can load up easier” – the text goes out before my carpool posse arrives. It’s starting to mist outside at about 48/50 degrees in the bubble. “Interesting.” Grab my rain jacket, toss leg warmers in the bag and pick out a scuzzy towel for the post race cleanup.
Here is a video of the first lap of the Cat 4 race taken by @Jasper9.
On time, even a few minutes early, the cars start to arrive. Amy Dombroski of Luna Pro Team, Grant Holicky of Vic’s Espresso, and Joe “Jose Supersteinez” Saperstein of the Trek Store Boulder. The bikes on the four Rocky Mounts racks on the top of the car aren’t an issue, but the multiples of wheel sets, like a high maintenance girlfriend’s shoes, are mounting up quickly on the side of the Subaru. File treads, mud clinchers that live on the bike for training, spares, Dugast typhoons, good lord we can’t take any more. Load this thing up so we can get Amy to her start on time. Wait, I forgot something…pull over on Mapleton. Gloves? Ya, they’re in here. WHEW. Onwards to the Pikes Peak Velo Supercross in Colorado Springs.
Rolling up nice and early, Amy jumps into action to register and get a course pre-ride in early to figure out the best combination of P’s, S’s, and I’s for the day. Registration is a breeze, and it looks like we’re here ahead of most of the men’s field – I’m number 5 for the second weekend in a row. Back to the car for some pre-race bike work – this time I actually planned on it though. Remove glue from the sidewalls of my rims with sweet sweet acetone, toss in some carbon swiss stop pads in the Avid Shorty Ultimate’s – standard issue on the Boulder Cycle Sport Ridley X-Fire. There are so many of these black carbon workhorse/missiles rolling around that Joe Sap has started calling them the bike of Boulder. Can’t blame people for owning them, killer machines.
Amy is wrapping up, suffering in the heat as she referred to the 82 degrees and clear sun in the springs. Coming in behind Kelli Emmett, she’s wiped out from a long week of training; motorpacing with Frank at Fascat coaching, some kind of awful trainer workout mid-week, and a 23rd birthday in the mix. Rest before Cross Vegas is on the agenda now.
Mountain Moon Photography
This course is challenging. Race promoters so far this season (meaning two races) haven’t taken it easy on us. There are more off-camber, loose gravel turns in this course than I’ve done all pre-season. Throw in a long headwind straight, elevation changes, and this brutal double-”s”, ‘no wake zone’-speed thing (picture the slowest speed you can maintain, then halve it) that was the biggest mental challenge I’ve seen in a while and you have the Pikes Peak course. Fairly long and they even had full size barriers (that we’re being bunny hopped believe it or not on the uphill – remember folks, it’s about speed not what’s coolest! Props to the hoppers though, I wouldn’t have come even close).
We get to the line with a men’s open field of 15 riders. The race in Golden on Sunday is probably deterring some of the racers from coming down to the springs, but we still have a solid group. Some of the KCCX riders, a handful of Clif Bar boys including Brady Kappius, and a few of the Pro Cycling guys. Call-ups, staging, 1 minute of tension and the whistle. Up a pavement hill into the first right-hander onto dirt, I put myself in 2nd going into the rough 180 left into a barrier. Smooth over the rough grass/dirt/rock section, I go past the Clif Bar rider on the remount. All is well around the course, feeling good on the front, until we get close to finishing the last lap. On the remount in a bumpy stretch, I manage to mount right as my bike hits a bump and I get ejected off the other side of the machine. Whoa! Actually kind of funny, laugh it off and get back to work now that I’ve done myself no favors by moving back to 5th.
Soon I notice that I’m not holding any of my gears, the rear brake seems tight, what’s going on…stay calm. Jump off and check to see if the rear wheel got caddywampus in the dropouts. Nope. Jump back on…still bad. Hmm, I wonder if my shift lever slid down on the bars during all this bumpy stuff. Jump off, check derailleur alignment – off. Make adjustments to derailleur tension and a quick adjustment to the precious avid shorty ultimate rear brake (the tension adjustment is wicked awesome as Amy would say). Alright, working good enough for now! Back to business in about 9th place I think.
Cyclocross has another great aspect – you can see where your competitors are as the course usually loops back on itself a couple times. Eye on the prize: Brady Kappius and step-teammate Mitch Hoke working together at the front. Patience Allen son. Slowly I catch up with a couple of people, Brad Cole and Joe Sap both riding strong. A little reprieve on the long straight gravel stretch into the wind on Brad’s wheel gives the legs a break. Then Joe on the uphill paved stretch to the start finish, going strong but I need to push harder if I’m going to make up this lost time on those two at the front. Back to solo mission for a few laps.
Every lap there is opportunity. Opportunity to do it just a little faster, a little smoother, a bit more efficient. I’m not talking about pedaling faster and harder – that’s obvious. I’m talking about the running log of notes you take on every corner, every obstacle and every interaction with your machine. Something along the way has put your shifting off in the second easiest cog, check it off the list of still-usable options. Find a better gear to be in after the remount on that uphill fun. A smoother apex around that loose left sweeper. Really hammer on this uphill because there is a slow technical section to follow where you can recover. Slower around that off-camber turn and hold that line, sometimes slower is faster. Now try a little more speed around this right hand loose off camber turn….DAMN! Too much. Hit the brakes and try to bring the rig to a stop before the bushes, jump off, running mount back in the right direction. Just lost all the ground I was making up on that lap. Back to work, 5 laps to go.
I’m about 25 seconds down on Brady and Mitch but the chase will never die. Maybe a mistake will be made, a bobble like my own, an equipment failure, mental lapse…I bring the gap down to 15 seconds, closing in on the kill. Brady shouts out “Nice work Allen” during that evil “s” section as we play cat and mouse around the course. Seems like Brady and Mitch see me coming on and start to punch it a bit more. Through the line with two laps to go, I come around to the double “s” and don’t see Brady anymore. Did he gap off Mitch? Look back on the course and see him coming again. Mechanical. Now to hold him off for 1.5 laps and try to real in Mitch. No dice on Mitch, he held it to the line. Brady’s flat moved him back to 3rd and I moved into 2nd on the day. Another battle in the books.
Thanks to Pikes Peak Velo for the challenging course and the ACA officials for hanging out in the sun all day!