Well, this last weekends race was one I have been looking forward to all season. I was doing the 517 mile Race Across Oregon on the 4 man relay team, Koenig's Kronies.
We were a mix of Ultra Rider Chris Ragsdale, Bike Racer Mick Walsh, Randonneur Brian Ohlemeir and Recreational Cyclist Ian Luttrell. Our crew were guys from SIR randonneurs, Eric Vigoren,Mike McHale, Ian's friend Miles Matsen and the Legend we were named after....Urs.
A lot of organising and planning went into several pre-race meetings and enjoyable dinners getting to know each other, until the day finally arrived and we all made our way to Hood River for the start.
Our goals for the race were to have fun and ride hard first, then try to win the 4 man team division, and we knew if we won we would have a course record, as race organisers George Thomas and Terri Gooch designed a new course for 2009.
Friday afternoon at the host hotel, the Best Western Hood River Inn was a hive of activity, everyone rushing around setting up cars, vans and the 4 Tandem team with their custom built tandem rack built in the back of a pick-up. Bikes had to be readied too, making sure we had the right lights and reflective tape in the correct place. We managed to pass vehicle and bike inspections, so the Urs and Miles made the trip to Safeway to buy supplies for Riders and crew, we were going to be out there for at least 24 hrs, and there were 8 of us to be feed, not to mention gallons of water to drink in the expected hot temperatures .
After a hearty dinner we were off to bed and try to get some sleep, solos left at 5am but we didn't start until 9, so we had a relaxing morning before heading off on out adventure.
The race starts out with a parade led by George Thomas, up a stinkin' hill in the spirit of RAO! After 9 miles George pulls off and away you go! Chris was doing our first leg, so the rest of us had more time to drive to the first exchange, Brian was next, then Ian and finally me. We expected Chris to be first to us at 17 miles, but I knew a couple of racers could stay close to him. We were pleasantly surprised when there was no one in sight when he arrived, he must had had about 1 1/2 minutes on the next guy!!! From the Grundel Bruisers 4 man Team. Brian was looking good on roads I'm familiar with from the Mount Hood Cycling Classic, so I knew his tempo was smooth on an never ending climb. My first pull was after the Cooper Spur turn off, my legs hurt from all the standing around yesterday, but I'll have plenty of opportunities to feel better later :-)
Our vans were set up great, just hand off your bike after your pull, hop in the van and take off the shoes, there was an always stocked dispensing cooler of ice cold water, and I had my Heed and Perpetuem right there, along with Enduralytes and Anti-Fatigue capsules. Also had some Gluten Free snacks and Hammer Bars on hand. We were never short on food or drinks and our van crew Mike and Eric were persistent in asking if we needed anything. How could you not ride as fast as you could?
We took 15-20 min pulls each, and that was plenty of time for recovery, with 4 guys. At the first time station, 70 odd miles in, we were ahead by 14 mins, and it continued to grow throughout the race, so we just had to focus on maintaining our pace, hope nobody got sick and try to catch the oh so impressive Kenneth Philbrick who was ripping it up in the solo division.
I hope to one day do this race solo, but when we were passing the first of the solo's after about 200 miles, I was thinking , that does not look like fun at all, riding 10mph in 90 deg temps, with 300 miles to go...amazing some of them, especially Sandy Earl rallied and made the official finish before 5am Monday.
Night riding was fun with the car headlight making visibility safe. We saw many deer, some elk, a bat, owls and I met a young Coyote that didn't seem to know what to do! Luckily all the wildlife kept their distance and we survived the night.
I think I got two or three 10-15 min naps, and sometimes I was hardly able to keep my eyes open right before I was due to ride, but once on the bike I was fine.
We eventually caught Mr Philbrick on the 10 mile climb between Service Creek and Fossil, and, though going a lot slower than we were, he looked to be in control and riding smoothly. It took us about 375 miles to catch 4 hrs, that's one tough solo rider!
It was great to see Martha as I finished my pull into Maupin, and she leapfrogged us as we went up FR44 near the finish, then Ian's parents showed up.
I got to take the last pull up to the Cooper Spur Resort (Thanks guys!) it didn't seem so bad, maybe I just am used to being under pressure when racing up there. We all rode together for the last mile or so up to the ski lifts and the finish, which was nice.
George and Terri (and Amelia) were there to give us our finishers medals, and Martha had some drinks and snacks for us.
Our finishing time was 26 hrs and 27 mins, all in all a great experience with a great bunch of guys, I suggest you try it sometime, if you're in reasonable shape it is not sooo hard on a 4 person team, yet still challenging and fun. I was super impressed with Kenneth, of course, but Chad Swanson had a great ride in his first Ultra event. The Tandem Team, Yes 4 tandem team!! Impressed me too, I must say I worried that they had bitten off more than they could handle, some had only started riding last fall!! They finished in 34 hrs.
Official results are here http://www.raceacrossoregon.com/race_results
And if you want to try ultra racing on a smaller scale to start try the Ring of Fire 6/12/24 hr TT in Maupin in Sept http://www.raceacrossoregon.com/roftt
Now for Cascade Classic!!
Cheers and have a great Summer :-)