From lovely and warm St. George, Utah. As opposed to windy and cold Houston the previous weekend.
But first we have to get to St. George. Should we drive? I had just gotten my car back from its three-week to put in a six-speed transmission, and would have been quite happy to drive it, but I could not find one companion to travel with me. I did finally convince Peter and his fiance Kim to go, but as three people and two bike would have exceeded the carrying capacity of my car (at least without the hated bike racks) it was time to move up the transportation ladder. Way up, to his dad's full-size conversion van. Which, I must admit, handled the two bikes, three people and stuff, plus the two medium sized dogs and kennels on the way out of town, quite well.
But first we had to get out of town. There was a deadline in the form of an 11pm closing of packet pickup at the race headquarters hotel. Estimated driving time was 7 hours, if the traffic through Salt Lake would be nice and light. I was ready to go at noon, putting my stuff in the van. Peter was not. In addition to working on some very important financial figures at work, he was also negotiating on a house purchase. By one I was ready to just go by myself, seven hours alone in the car or not. We agreed that I would go alone and he might or might not follow later. Put my stuff back in my car. As I was fiddling with all my toys trying to get them plugged in the right way before driving off, he ran out and said he had made them agree to let him leave work at two. Put my stuff back in the van. We were out the door at work by two. Then we drove over to his house and loaded the van, played with the dogs, loaded the van with the dogs, left the house. Went to the store for road food. Went to the realtor to sign some papers. Went to drop off the dogs. Hit the road out of town at four. Four plus seven is, um, eleven. And the seven hours was based on averaging 75, which I knew my car would do, but what about the van?
Nothing to do but drive, and drive Peter did. He drove like the wind. Then we stopped for gas, and he drove like the wind again.Then we stopped for sandwiches, and I got to drive like the wind. We pulled into the Ramada parking lot at 11:15, and ran inside to find the race promoters just packing up. Woo hoo, we get t-shirts after all!
Saturday morning, the road race. First start at 8:30, from the Gunlock Reservoir Recreation Area 45 minutes from town. 40 miles per lap, 1700' climb per lap. Only the 1-2s had to do two laps. We arrived in good time, to find the early morning chill required (for me) arm warmers. I picked up my new EDC/Breugger's jersey from Chuck the team DS - he said he was riding with the 2s so the masters wouldn't kick his butt. Hey, this jersey has a 15" zipper. I could be almost as cool as Chris Davidson hanging out of his Z full-zip jersey. Maybe. As I was putting the front wheel on my bike, Dad flew over with his brother on the way to the St. George airport from Las Vegas. He would find a rental car and drive out to the race.
After a limited warmup, I pick a spot to sit on my bike and wait for the 1-2s and 3s to take off. They do, and they do. It's our turn for the number check and pep talk. There appear to be 60 in our field. Off we go, rather quickly I must say. I am content to bring up something resembling the rear, this being my first outdoor road ride of the year other than Beer-Bike. Allan Butler, now my teammate, already has 2000 miles and went to Callie for the Wine Country Classic, 33rd out of 37 finishers/120 starters. But he's a 2. I'm still only a 4, and if I try to race my way into shape without training between races I will be a very bad 4 for a long time indeed.
Yet I manage to hang on for the first climb, which is steep but rather brief. The second climb, which is quite a lot longer, dumps me but good. Peter, who had been behind me at the start of the hill, goes zipping by. After a bit I catch three other fellows, and we work together a bit on the flats. The next gentle climb somewhat disrupts our rhythm, but we join up again. Just before the next turn a pack of masters blasts by, and the road descends with some fun turns. One of my companions makes a break, so I follow him and end up at the bottom of the descent with only one (different) companion remaining. We are still close behind the masters, who seem to be sitting up. They catch another straggling 4-5, and when he joins us he says we should try to get ahead of the masters. This seems like a really good idea since they are going so slow, and we do. Immediately upon reaching the next climb, however, they all start attacking each other and blow by us again.
I'm now riding with two guys from Salt Lake (one on an older Merckx, woo hoo) and one from Arizona who says he's done several races already this year. He sure is tan, anyway. We take the final change-of-road turn, less than ten miles from the finish. I spot my dad and uncle and Kim waving and taking pictures. As we then work along up the rollers, they drive by and stop and take pictures a couple of times. Another group of masters zooms by. Finally we are in sight of the finish line, and the two Utah boys take off leaving me to lead Mr. Arizona across the line. It turns out that the bright yellow jersey I had spotted up ahead was indeed Peter, who got dropped after a while longer than I lasted. So I finished in about 1:45, 20 seconds down on Peter and around 10 minutes down on GC. Well, that was fun.
At least it was warm now, and we drove back to town with Dad and Uncle Jeff in tow. After meandering through town without finding any place to eat, we ended up at my hotel and decided to concentrate our intellectual powers and corporeal bodies in one vehicle to solve the lunch problem decisively for the day. Then we tried to find a buffet restaurant Uncle Jeff remembered but that had closed over a year ago. So we were unsuccessful, and wound up at a JB's having salads and pasta.
It was starting to resemble hot outside, an unfamiliar concept to be sure. Back to the dispersal point at the hotel, Dad and Uncle Jeff took off to hang out at the time trial start, equipped with one of our surplus race maps, Kim took off to go shopping, and Peter and I took off our shoes and attempted to take a nap for an hour before it was time to go to the TT. But we ended up just lying down and watching TV. It's not like I can do that at home.
The TT start was in Hurricane, about 20 miles from St. George in a different direction than Gunlock and the site (Hurricane) of the one and only Chums factory. Which I somehow missed, it must not have had a big enough sign. Parking in the high school lot and throwing on the aero bars, I made my way to the start line and start order list to find out our start times. They looked to be only a little behind the intended first-rider time of 3pm, so I took this news back to the van with my plus-39 start and Peter's plus-59 time. Rode around a little, and then it was time for my start. On this occasion I did not torque my rear wheel out of the dropouts, meaning I got to ride the whole thing. And what a treat that was, mostly sort of flat for three miles and then a climb for two miles. I put a little time on my 30-second man on the sort-of-flat, but lost it all and then some on the climb as two guys passed me in the first mile of uphill. But nobody else caught me, I finished in 17'10", turned around for the ride back down, and saw Peter when I got back to the flats. His time was 17'20", making the gap between us only ten seconds after two stages. Oh, the intense competition. Meanwhile a teammate of mine, another 2, had the best TT time with 12'47". Ouch.
Finished with racing for the day, and it was pushing 85 degrees. Hot, hot, hot. Being that we were already halfway to Zion National Park from St. George, we headed over that way to look at some big pretty rocks. They were still there, and after taking a couple little hikes to check on other pretty rocks we were on the way back for dinner at a Chili's. Which seemed to share a floorplan and indeed assorted decor details with many other Chili's. Kind of like a Mormon church that way. (Not that they are like Chili's, but the churches are like one another.)
In the morning, the crit was only two miles up I-15 in the Red Cliffs Mall parking lot. At least it was flat. 45 minutes, advertised as 0.7 miles, about eight turns of varying angularity, only a couple "technical" ones. It would have been a fun course if it weren't for the way the pack took off a the start. I did my customary how-do-I-clip-my-foot-to-the-pedal thing, and ended up at the back really fast, but managed to ahng on for about ten minutes. Then my lack of training manifested itself and I started to drift back even further. Off. The. Back. Lapped-riders-will-be-pulled. I hung on for fifteen minutes more, and even gathered together three or four other droppees, before the lead motor passed me to signify that I was done. Then I got to join Peter and Kim the infield/middle of the parking lot and watch the rest of the race. There were apparently only 47 of our original 60 in attendance at the start of the 4-5s crit, of which almost 30 got pulled, leaving 20 to fight it out for pack time and no time primes.
My non-finishing time was prorated to pack time, mysteriously enough, leaving only about five people without pack time. Peter was unfortunately (for him, in the context of our private competition which was about the only competition that I was engaged in for the whole race weekend) one of these so I officially finished ahead of him in 37th place, still over 10 minutes down on GC of course. I believe he ended up with about 42nd, but we only briefly examined the results after visiting the hotel pool and before blowing town.
We all took turns driving on the way back, and after dinner in Salt Lake rolled back into a chilly Idaho Falls around 11. Not a particularly auspicious beginning to the racing season, but importantly there were no crashes and a good time was had by all.