Triple the fun

Triple the fun

The last few years I have mostly lost interest in road racing – having to drive a ways to then ride around in circles seems less appealing than just going on a nice ride. But I do still enjoy competing, and so have found myself gravitating more towards gravel and fondo type events. Fortunately here in Oregon we have a terrific three race series – the Oregon Triple Crown – which had the additional bonus that I was able to do the to/from by bike for half of it.

1. The Oregon Coast Gravel Epic: I first rode this in the inaugural year in 2013. Various things prevented me from returning until this year, but I had unfinished business! I also had the state team time trial championships the next day, which possibly helped me by making me ride a bit more tactically than I might usually. My plan was to stay with the lead group, and then try to ride away on the final climb (5 miles, with a further 5 miles or so mostly downhill to the finish). The course is 60 miles long, half on gravel, with 6677ft of climbing. I had put a 32T cassette on the bike so that I could spin easy up the climbs. Well, I guess easy is relative because those roads are steep! But I was at least able to keep my head up and take in the beautiful scenery of the coastal backroads. Things didn’t start great when my third bottle ejected two miles in…. In two years of riding that hadn’t happened; 3.5hrs on two bottles it would be then.

The front group slowly whittled down, with the selection being made on the descents as well as the climbs.; we ended up with a good group of six, all working well together on the paved sections. I stuck to the plan, and at mile 47 upped the pace and rode away solo. I managed to hold off the cramps on the climb, but cramping thighs was a bit of a problem on the downhill! The chase was closing on me at the end, but I made it to the line to take the win.

2. The Sasquatch Duro: At last year’s event (on a different course), I was leading on the way back when I flatted the front wheel; was hoping for better luck this time with the new course starting in Oakridge. I got a nice warm-up the day before with a steady 50 mile ride out there, then the morning brought beautiful sunshine for the race. This time around we had 45 miles, 4200ft of climbing and 70% gravel. Looking at the course profile, it was clear the race would mostly come down to the initial six mile sustained climb. So I went to the front there and settled in to see what would happen. By the top I was alone, but with Cody Peterson not far behind and closing – when he caught me we agreed to ride together and not to push it too much on the downhills; I was grateful to have the company. After the rolling sections on the top (where I tried to take in the incredible views; at bit tricky with technical riding!) we got down the big descent safely, to be left with eleven miles of road to the finish. With the headwind it was really good to have another rider to share the work with, and I had enough to just get around in the sprint to win. Good food laid on afterwards, then a nice ride home.

3. The Oregon Gran Fondo: Ah, my nemesis! I have ridden this awesome 117 mile loop five times, with one fourth place and four second place finishes…. I have tried a long solo break, a long two-man break….. still no win. This year the plan was to ride smart and save it for the last climb that comes with about ten miles to go. Over the first two climbs I was comfortably with the front group, then mostly kept out of the wind to the feed at 52 miles where (I thought…) we all stopped to refuel. We got rolling again, but a while later someone told me that two guys had attacked at the aid station – which would explain why we didn’t have the lead moto anymore. Well, I thought, that is a bit rude, but they should come back. The pace of the group kind of stalled for a while, so I ended up going to the front to try and get folk rolling through. A bit frustrating, but on the Oxbow climb I took the pace up to where I thought I could split a smaller group off that would then be willing to work together. There were six over the top; after the descent two more bridged, but then on the next small climb we popped three out the back, leaving a strong, cohesive group of five working well together.

When we got to the final climb, I could not see the leaders ahead, which didn’t bode well… but I stuck with the plan and attacked. One rider got across to my wheel and I couldn’t shake him, and we went over the top together. I tucked down on the descent, and when it started to flatten out I noticed there was a bit of a gap between us – that was all I needed to put my head down and punch it; I can still ride a decent TT for five miles! I soloed to the line, happy with the effort, but assuming I had missed it again and finished third. But…. it turns out that there had been sabotage on the course – we had seen the arrow pointing the wrong way soon after the feed, but enough in our group knew the route to stay on course. Unfortunately whoever messed with the arrow did cause trouble – the lead moto and the two attacking riders went off course. A real shame for them, and a bit of a shame for me that I didn’t get to really enjoy my moment of crossing the line, but happy to take the win! Tasty food and drink served as part of the event once again, then a slightly challenging 28 mile ride home into a headwind….

Many thanks to Mike and his team at Mudslinger events for putting these great events together. And to the OBRA officials and all the volunteers who allow us to play at racing bikes in the beautiful Oregon countryside.

 

One Comment

  1. Great report, it’s fun to hear how the race played out for those of us making up the pack fodder. I agree, it was a bit rude to attack the aid station, but hey karma;). Congratulations on three well earned victories.

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