Cory and Drew and I met up with Zach out to do Purgatory in the 3s. We got there with an unusual amount of time ahead of the race. It was a foreign sensation not having to scramble getting my number pinned on i
n time. 5 laps x 11 mi. The field was about 60 dudes.
For those of you who haven’t done the race. It’s hard. There’s a decent amount of undulation and the climb to the start/finish area is nothing to take lightly. It’s a solid 3-5 minutes of climbing before you get a chance to recover on a short downhill. If you know Sterling, it’s similar but the hill is 2x as hard and the rest of the course has a lot more ups and downs.
First lap: I was sitting comfortably near the front. There were a few(one or two?) dudes up the road. Zach took a flyer to bridge up so I did a short stint at the front to block and cover any attempts to bridge to him. It turns out that there was only one guy and once I got swarmed at the front a few other guys were able to sneak away and bridge up. Once they got organized, they had about 8-9 guys that managed to stay away for nearly the entirety of the race. It was pretty impressive. Zach definitely got a harder workout than most of the people there.
2nd lap: Peter Sullivan was stringing things out on the climb. It hurt . . . really, badly. Recovering on the downhill felt really good. A nap would have felt better. Every uphill segment was full of ache. I took that as a sign that I needed a little GU love. I was not feeling very confident that I could do that 3 more times at that pace.
3rd lap: More hurtiness. Really looking forward to the recovery segments. About 1/2 the pack was dropped. We were down to about 25 in the pack and about 8-9 up the road. I have conversations
with myself about how & why I should drop out. Mentally, I was just focused on getting my HR down as low as possible during the downhills.
4th lap: More Gu and more liquids seemed to help. The pace up the hill was slightly more manageable. The long, fast, decent is awesome. I’m pretty sure I was up over 45mph and really enjoyed it. HR was low and the stimulation factor of a fast decent was really high.
5th and final lap: the pace went ballistic. attacks, chases, hard tempo. Guys drilling it to bring back the break. Once we got them in sight everyone got even more motivated. Cory and I were floating to the back, tailgunning. Not a smart place to be so I used the Paul Sherwin’s “he’s taking all sorts of risks on this descent” approach to get better pack placement.
Final Climb: I came into the corner about 10 wheels back. Really good positioning but didn’t have the freshness in the legs to follow the faster guys. It was incredibly fast as the break was only 100m ahead. I was pretty well gassed by the crest of the hill and with no one else around me I just kept a hard tempo to the finish line. I Finished in 25th.
It was an early morning for me, since I had volunteered to work at the race (marshaling and later at the reg table) before my race (which was in the last wave). The GLV guys helped out a lot at Beanpot a year ago, and I wanted to return the favor. If you’ve not done Purgatory before, it is worthwhile. It’s an excellent venue, a great course, and everything about how the race is put together (down to how they handle, prepare and take care of their volunteers) smacks of the word “pro”.
Oh, and there was a bike race. Yes. I got myself pulled together about half an hour before the race, and didn’t know what to do with myself. I mean, warm up? Really? On such a hot day with such a long race when I was already tired? So, I did what any self-respecting bike racer does: I found my teammates and talked smack for a bit. The race is neutral for a few miles after leaving the parking lot, before emerging onto the course and then turns onto a small climb past the feed zone. I had situated myself squarely at the back and just felt my legs aching as we rode up the climb. I was fairly convinced that no one else felt this, and that I was totally screwed. While this was happening, the first break of the day went up the road with at least three riders (from what I could tell). We’d only been racing about a quarter of a mile. I kept an eye on it, and while I wanted to be patient, it looked slightly threatening, and so I worked my way up the field (I thought I’d be able to do this in a relaxed manner… oops). I finally worked my way up to the front a couple miles in, using a long fast descent, and looking around, decided it would be worth it to try to bridge to the break that was out of sight by this point. I opened up a nice gap, and when I got around the next corner in the course, I saw, to my dismay that the break was down to a single rider. With over 50 miles of racing left, this didn’t seem like a good bet. I started to sit up, but noticed that the field was not closing particularly fast (thanks Rand!), so I opted to slowly real in the lone rider (a Farm Team junior), but not to bury myself too badly this early in the race. I caught him, asked him how he felt (“Good! Strong!”), and traded a pull or two with him, then saw the small group that had detached from the field closing. I was happy to have that much company, and the “strong” junior was dropped the first time through the start/finish climb.
Much of the next several laps played out the same. The concept of a rotating paceline escaped all but about three of us in the group (“you don’t have to take a pull, but please pull through!”), so it wasn’t the most efficient break one can imagine (this will be important later). With two laps to go, one fellow (a junior I think) took off up the hill and never looked back. I didn’t try to stay with him; our group naturally splintered a bit on that hill, but we reformed around the finish line… there was still a long way to go, and I would’ve had to dig really deep to even think about staying on that wheel. Anyhow, he kept going, and that proved to be the winning move. Still, I was about the second fastest climber in the group, and I could stay with the other guy (FGX fellow from NY), so I figured I could fight it out in the sprint. The two of us were trying to keep pressure on the group; we suspected that the field might try really hard to reel us in on the last lap, and figured that there would be folks who were a lot fresher than we were. With about 3km to go (a bit before the hill), the moto came up and informed us that we had 30 seconds (we had had 2:30 a lap before!). We gave it everything we had left into the bottom of the hill, and up. My top end was fairly blunted. I dug deep to hold onto a McCormack’s wheel, and gave it everything in the sprint, finishing with that group, but certainly well off the podium I’d hoped for.
Anyhow, if I had to do it again, I’d play it no differently. Just the slightest bit more efficiency in the break would have gone long way. After two and a half hours, we’d been reeled in within about 35 seconds of the line. It was the move that almost made it, but easily could have been the one that did. It was a good race, and a hell of a workout, and it was great to see and ride with some teammates out there.
This race was no joke. Guys were out for blood. Zach rode an amazing race getting in the break early, which was quite impressive given the finishing hill. It was significantly harder than Sterling as the pitch was 13% to 12% to false flat.
First lap up was painfully ok. My strategy was to just conserve for the 1km hill each lap. There was a great descent on the back stretch where you could recover hitting 40+mph.
Second lap up – I was in the hurt locker. Off the back with a handful of guys and we bridged back on the false flat drilling the pace to grab wheels.
Third lap – Holy Eff! I am EXPLODING. In the words of Paul Sherwin “Bridge to engine room more power!!….There is none!!”
I pulled the plug with 2 laps to go. All in all it was a fun day even though things ended short. I’ll be back next year.