2 June 2014

One down, two to go… Yesterday was the Oregon Gran Fondo, the first of the Triple Crown events for 2014. And I guess I can say I’m consistent – for the third year running I won the hillclimb, and for the third year running I once again came up short in the sprint to get second overall. Ah well, I guess I’ll just have to try again next year….

A difference this year was several of us local Eugene riders getting together to form a composite team, wearing Rolf Prima jerseys for the day. This added a nice element of fun and teamwork to the day. An additional difference to the event was the swap from a timed hillclimb segment to a ‘first to the top’ designation for the KOM.

Although the weather was supposed to be 70s and sunny, in reality that didn’t happen until very late in the day, so I was glad I started with knee warmers on; I never needed to take them off. But actually a nice temperature for riding. The roll out was fairly mellow, and it wasn’t until the second hill of the day that a small group got away on the descent. Fortunately they never got more than a minute, so I wasn’t overly worried before the KOM. Once we got onto the climb proper, first me, then my Rolf teammate Billy upped the pace and strung the field out. With an additional acceleration on one of the hairpins, the elastic snapped and Billy and I rode away. With a decent gap we were able to take the effort down just a notch, deciding to split the prize money, and I was first over the top. On the descent a fairly large front group came together, with five team Rolf in attendance (the team prize is based on the fourth finisher). The group was moving along pretty well, trying to keep safe on the potholed sections – all very nicely marked with bright pink spray paint.

At the second rest stop at 50 miles, we collectively made a rapid stop for food and water, then got going again. The next selection was on the climb of Oxbow, where Billy did the bulk of the work to line things out, with Larry (team Rolf) and I helping out over the top. After the fast and technical descent I was somewhat surprised that the group was still about twenty strong. Our fourth guy, Mikey, made life easy for us by attacking solo – we could sit in for the next several miles before he was brought back. Then with there being a lack of cohesive work in the group, Billy rolled off by himself. Now, I know how well Billy has been riding this year, so with little effort being put in to chase, I figured he might well be able to ride the 25 miles to the finish solo. And he was still out of sight when we got to the final climb of the day. There were a couple of accelerations which failed to split the group, so I countered and got away by myself. Once around the corner I could just see Billy ahead and set about trying to catch him before the top. Meanwhile Larry had attacked behind me and also got away without company – he got across to me just before we caught Billy and we started the descent with three Rolf jerseys out front. After 20 miles in the wind by himself, Billy was pretty spent, so Larry and I traded off turns the remaining seven miles to the finish. We maybe got a little complacent with the pace (or were getting tired!), as in the last two miles the chasers behind were suddenly very close. But we made it into town – I pulled alongside Larry, we looked at each other and started the sprint, and he was faster. Last year I beat him when four of us came in together, but he had the better legs this time around. Great to finish with the three of us together – Mikey was close behind in 7th, so we scored the podium plus the team prize.

I decided it would be a good idea to ride home too; 117 miles not being enough for one day…. Getting back over the hill was okay, but then the 15 miles back into the headwind was quite the slog. Still, satisfying to ride 150 miles.

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