The 2013 East Canyon Road Race was one of the funnest races I have done in recent memory, at least now that it is over. This is the third year that I have done this race, the first year (on the newer course) was the third race I had done as a licensed rider. It was about the time I upgraded from Cat 5 to Cat 4, but the 4 race was all filled up so that left me to register in the Masters B race. That was a great year for me, and that race I had a podium finish (3rd place). Last year I was really feeling good about the race and pushed the pace the whole race, but in the final leadup to the finish, I blew a spoke and my wheel jammed up leaving me with a DNF less than a mile to go.
I was really excited for this years race, but again, the weather didn’t look very good during the week just like the week before. This race, without Ira being there, I made a point to be a bit more conservative and watch where I would spend my energy. I was curious if there would be a split on the short steep climb, but in the previous years it wasn’t enough to break things up significantly. I reviewed different strategies in my head and knew I would be riding with some great competition in this race. I got everything ready for my race the evening before and got to bed at a reasonable time.
When I woke up in the morning, it was pouring outside here in Salt Lake City. It was pretty cold, in the 40′s but according to the weather reports the chance of rain was small so I was hoping it wouldn’t be bad but brought extra rain gear just in case. As I drove up the canyon, it didn’t get any better and I could see snow on all of the mountain tops as I drove up there. As i got closer to the race, the sun started to peak out and the temp warmed up. When I got to the parking area, it felt great outside. I took my bike and gear out of my car, set up my trainer and started warming up. It felt warm enough for me to take off one of my layers of clothing.
The second I got off the trainer and out on to the road to ride to the start, I could feel that it was much cooler than on my trainer, but figured I would warm up as soon as we got going. At 10:15, the Masters A group was off and we started calmly riding up the Hogsback north side. The pace was calm, but then an attack by Mark Shaefer kicked things off as my teammate Dave Swensen followed, then the entire pack caught on and the attack was neutralized. Of course I just hung onto the back for the time being, letting things feel out and letting my legs warm up. As we got over the top of the climb the rain started pouring down, and i was a bit nervous about the descent because the previous year I hit 55 mph coming down and didn’t want to be doing those speeds in the rain.
Coming down the descent the rain turned to hail and pelted our skin causing some stinging, but the good thing is the pace wasn’t out of control on the descent. By the time we reached the bottom of the descent, the rain and hail was pouring down and water was splashing up on us. We rode from the bottom of the descent all the way to East Canyon resort and back in a full on downpour. I was miserable, thinking of the Infinite Team camp when we had a similar downpour that resulted in me having to stay inside a gas station warming up for a half hour. It wasn’t quite that bad, just as wet but a few degrees warmer, but I have to admit that I was thinking if it stayed like this I would have to quit the race on the way back. But then I started thinking how badly I hate quitting and wouldn’t be able to live with it, also what my competition would think. I knew if I made it back past the start location, I could at least go further than that and hopefully warm up.
Before the turnaround, the first big attack went off the front and at the turnaround the pace snapped up to full speed along the return of East Canyon reservoir. We were getting closer and closer to the Hogsback short & steep climb where I thought I would be able to move to the front. The pace picked up incredibly hard before the climb, almost to the point where I was feeling like I was on the ropes, but as I looked at my heart rate monitor I was still in the 160′s. I knew it was probably my body feeling very cold and sluggish, so I just tried to hang on and bear with it, but my mind was wondering why it was so hard so early in the climb.
I worked my way to the front of the group, but by that time there were two riders going off the front and catching up with the rider that had broke away earlier. For how I was feeling from a few seconds earlier, I started to pick up the pace and gap the rest of the field, but it was painful and I knew that it might be hard to bridge up to the front, so I let up a little bit and allowed myself to get absorbed by the 4 riders in the chase group. By the time we crested the summit, I was with Mark Shaefer, his teammate Donald Armstrong, a gentleman from FFKR and Jeff Clawson of Canyon, then three riders up the road about 15 seconds. I hoped on back of the train and stayed there for a few minutes before I was ready to fire again and help get us up to the front.
We took turns hammering our way down the 2nd descent of the race, and the rain had stopped an the heat from the expenditure on the climb had helped me to warm up. By the time we reached Henefer, the front group was now made up of 8 people and we had a mere 30 seconds over the remainder of the field. From here on we acted almost as a team time trial and kept the pace pretty high all the way out to the turnaround. After the turnaround I could see the rest of the pack very close by, seemed like just a few seconds and I expected things to regroup at that point. An attack went off the front and we slowly closed in. Once that attack was neutralized another would go off the front. This repeated attacking seemed to go on and on, but I enjoyed it. Our group lost one rider so now it was down to seven, which I liked because I enjoy a ‘divide and conquer’ type of race.
I was excited to get to the last climb, ready for the game to get on. The weather, which was nice for quite a while, had become cold and rainy again on the climb, not to mention a big headwind. I took pulls at the front just to get my heart rate up. The pace was modest for a while and it wasn’t until the first sustained steeper section that an attack came by Cris Williams, and it wen’t unanswered as he rode off and got a decent gap. I finally took up the chase and alternated with Mark Shaefer to try and close the gap. The pace picked up enough until it became just three of us, including the Mark Zimblemann. I was in some good company, two riders that I have such high respect for and who have a pretty legendary status in Utah.
A few more attacks went off, leaving me slightly behind but it slowed down to the point where I could get back on. The first time up the climb I noticed a cabin in the distance that helped me to see how close we were to the finish. This time I made note of it and as I saw it I prepared myself for a sprint. Finally I could see some flashing lights, but I didn’t want to jump just yet because I didn’t want to get to that location and realize I still had further to go, but at the same time, as I have done in previous races, I didn’t want to underestimate the finish either. I finally saw some cones and the finish trailer, I didn’t jump, but calmly shifted down a couple gears in the big ring and started hammering away. I could hear one rider behind me, but didn’t turn around, instead I kept pushing it and as I came up to the finish I just got back in the saddle and kept the torque on. I heard someone cheering my name which felt great, but head down I pushed on until I crossed the finish line in 2nd place, my best yet race as a Cat 3.
The weather was horrible at the top and cold, so it wasn’t long until I started descending the climb to go back to the car. It was cold, but fun, thinking about how the race unfolded and the bad weather. By the time I got to the bottom I was absolutely freezing and could hardly move my hands, but I was done and that was all that mattered. I got inside my car and talked with some teammates for a minute but it took me quite a while to get warmed up. I was happy with a good result and excited to ride with such great riders with so much experience!