Saturday, June 12th
Tour of Mt. Nebo Cat 4/5 Road Race
After a nice 2 week break from racing I kitted up again in mid-June to take on the Tour of Mt. Nebo. I had heard stories, rumors, about how this race was supposed to be "pretty hilly". Ha!
Tour of Mt. Nebo was by far the hardest road cycling race I had ever done.
IT didn't help that the night before the race I had rare bout of insomnia and rolled out to race on 2 hours of sleep. While I was feeling awake enough I was not set up for a great race.
The race itself was a meager 27M, 3 times around a 9M loop. But the course contained 600 ft of climbing per lap including a 100m section at 18% grade. It was over 90 degrees. And while 70 of the 84 starters finished nothing could give a more deceiving impression of what this race was like.
I have never seen a race hemorrhage riders like this before. The race is just a long series of climbs and descents leaving the "peloton" a long splintered line of riders. At the 1/2 way point I was one of maybe 25 remaining riders.
We had dropped over 50 riders 14M.
At was at the 1/2 point we came into a small descent and I knew I was in the red and breathing as hard as I could. We finished the descent and I was still panting. We then started climbing the 18% grade section.
So for the first time this year I watched the peloton roll away from me as I cracked, slowed to a crawl and got dropped.
But cracked or not I was on an 18% grade and whether or not I was hyperventilating I had to keep going to finish the lap - even if it was just to get home. So I slowly, slowly, agonizingly turned the cranks. For the 1st time in my life, even including my first horribly unprepared cycling trip I took to the mountains of North Carolina, I wanted to walk up a hill. I wanted to stop and walk more than anything. But if I stopped I didn't think I would be able to start riding on this grade again and more importantly I wasn't going to walk. I looked down at my computer.
I was going 3 mph.
And I was passing people.
Finally I inched over the top of the climb and proceeded to ride as slow as possible until my heart rate came back down. I felt much better now that I could breath and was able to pick things up to a moderate pace. I met up with another rider I knew and we were working our way up a small climb when we heard a crash behind us.
I turn around to see a bike, riderless, skidding though a T intersection. The rider was a few meters behind it in full slip'n'slide mode - on his back, feet first, arms over his head and bounce/sliding over the pavement.
We were maybe in the top 40 at this point and strung out with no one around us. The guy I was riding with and I looked at each other and shook our heads.
I finally limped my way to the top of the final climb of the 2nd lap with encouragement of the spectators. I pulled over at the start finish and watched the long ragged line of riders limp in.
All the races had started in waves within 15 min of each other and had shared similarly devastating fates as ours. At this point it was impossible to tell who was in what race as everything was pretty much one continuous 9M line of suffering riders with 3 small bunches of leaders in their respective races.
The phrase "death march" leaped immediately to mind.
I decided I didn't need this. There were no upgrade points at the race and I was way outside of any money there was to win. I had accomplished enough this season that I didn't need to finish this race to prove anything to myself. Lastly, I was completely exhausted and any further riding was just going to wipe me out for the rest of the week and keep me from getting quality workouts in.
So I rolled by the start/finish line and made the "cut me off" motion to the race director.
I rolled to the car and sat down.
And it felt fantastic.