By Shane Buysse, SoCalCycling.com Elite Team
The first day was a 4 mile prologue at Portland International Raceway. I got there about 4 hours early because I didn’t know where to go, and exactly when my start time was. It was drizzling the whole time and the course was wet. I was able to pre ride the course and check out the two turns that would give me trouble. I found out I was starting at 8:30 pm and planned my warm up accordingly. A prologue is like losing your virginity – scary as hell and over before you know it. The two laps went quickly and I had to take a bad line or two because of a rider in front of me (who was on his 2nd lap). I kept the rubber side down and ended up averaging about 30 mph on course that was good for 28th out of 150 riders.
Following the prologue was a Circuit Race at Mt Tabor Park. It was a very hilly course with 150 feet of climbing per lap and some technical turns (especially on the rain soaked course). I was at the start line with about 100 psi in each tire and decided to drop it down some. I think I went too low in the front because the wheel was definitely squishy on the uphill sections. I started near the back-and finished there as well. The course started on the flats then headed up hill for about 30 seconds before a long sweeping descent. There were a few crashes on the opening laps and I wanted to ride very cautious, as I was using this race as prep for Nationals. Just after 30 minutes into the 90 minute race, I got pulled along with 4 or 5 other riders. I was glad it was over as I was having a bear of time and burning a lot of matches trying not to get lapped. I ended up getting a prorated time of 9 minutes behind leaders, essentially wiping out my GC chances for the remainder of the 6 day race.
The next day was the Mt. Adams Road Race course. It was essentially two 50 mile laps with two long climbs and two long descents. I thought the course would be perfect for my riding style, until about 5 miles in. I got caught behind a crash with some other riders and had to come to a near standstill on the uphill trying to get my chain into the small ring. Being careful not to drop the chain I had to big ring sprint up to the group, with the assistance of one of the Comm cars. Just after getting back on, the peloton picked up the pace for the next uphill section and I popped. I basically ended up riding tempo for the next 100 miles with 6-10 other riders throughout the day. The course was beautiful with great views of Mt. Adams, waterfalls and streams. There were snow sections at the top of the course with 2-3 foot high snowpack on either side. I definitely did not have the top end fitness (5-8 minute) efforts that I needed to maintain contact with the pack. Hopefully this will come back to me very soon! This race was 106 miles, 7,200 feet of climbing, Average speed 21 mph, 290 TSS-a monster of a stage!!! We ended up about 40 minutes behind the leaders.
The Time Trial. I was excited to TT but not very motivated considering my spot on GC. The course was super scenic, right along the Colombia River Gorge, through tunnels and up a cat 3 climb. It was wet out again, but not raining while on course. I got in a solid warm up and took off without my aero wheel set. I paced the beginning very easy as the first few miles were flat to downhill before a 2.5 mile 6-8% climb. The time trial was 18 miles, with 2,000 feet of climbing. I just wanted to get in some solid LT work as prep for nationals and did not take any risks on the descents. I managed to catch three riders in front of me, but was also passed by one rider. The TT course was one of the most unique and beautiful I have raced. I managed to drop my chain (on the outside ring) in the last 2k uphill section, which was not such a big deal. I finished about 60th out of 150 guys.
The Queen Stage of the Mt. Hood Classic. The race was 92 miles, with 10,000 feet of climbing with the final 3k averaging 10% and stretches at 12%. There was a beautiful cat 1 climb followed by a cat 2 climb, with the last 30 miles uphill made for a beast of a day. Lacking the top end fitness resulted in getting dropped on the first climb again! I ended up working with 6 or so other riders and we bridged up to a group of 15 guys. We were all working together for some time and came within a minute of the peloton, about halfway through the stage. The other riders either got tired, or did not want to pull through and we dropped back. From there it was just steady tempo for another few hours. I wanted to push the last 20k which was similar in grade to Sunrise Highway (steeper at the top of course) and climbed up to 5 or 6 thousand feet elevation. Another rider came with me and we worked hard up the last section of the course. Race Stats: 21.5 mph average, 315 TSS for 4 hours and 20 minutes. Definitely some calories were burned today. I got a nice veggie burger and chips at the top of the ski resort and managed to not pass out or fall off my bike. Even though I finished twenty plus minute back on leaders I was proud to have not quit the stage!
The last day ended with a Crit. It was supposed to be 90 minutes and run clockwise. They ended up reversing directions for safety, which made the course safer-but harder. We ended up racing for only 60 minutes. I struggled to maintain pace at the back of the group but stayed upright which was more than a handful of others could say. I got a flat about half way through and got a welcome reprieve in the wheel pit for a lap. I have been enjoying crits a bit more lately-the energy is great and the racing can be fun even if I won’t be sprinting out of the field anytime soon. On my walk home (bike still had the flat tire) a local lady offered me a choice of local Full Sail beer, which I slowly enjoyed on the steps of my host families porch. I reflected a bit on the race and was happy to finish, happy to ride safe and glad to get in some great training. I raced 315 miles on the week with 1090 TSS, which left me very tired these last two days. I can’t wait to benefit from the hard work!