Friday, June 08, 2007

Race to Sun Valley

The Lyle Pearson 200 started as a crazy idea and ended as one of the best days on the bike, ever. I've got to hand it to Mike Cooley and George's Cycles: They put on a hell of an event.

Starting in Boise at 6am on Saturday, 4-person teams took off every few minutes for a team relay time trial out of Boise, up Hwy 21 through Idaho City and Lowman all the way to Stanley, where we would turn right on Hwy 75 and cross over Galena Summit to a finish line in Ketchum. All in all about 190 miles of riding.

The route was broken down into 10 stages, each about an hour's ride, give or take 15 minutes. There were 3 major climbs and quite a few not so major climbs, all along a route that rarely went downhill.

Here's how it broke down.

Shea Anderson and David Varner started the day off, riding over Hilltop to Robie Creek. This involved a decent climb, and unfortunately Shea got to start the day with a flat before even getting out of town.

At Robie Creek, I joined David for the ride to Idaho City while Shea hopped in the truck. (We borrowed Joy and John's Suburban, which turned out to be the perfect support vehicle. Shwank digs.) This was a nice steady pull up the valley of Mores Creek against a slight but steady headwind. We made good time, David spelling me long enough to keep the energy high.

At the Idaho City exchange, Tim Maguire took over for a solo ride to Mores Creek Summit. This is a bitch of a climb, and Tim held his position among the other racers very well.

There, Shea took over for a solo ride down from the summit, up to Beaver Creek Summit, and then down again to Lowman. This stage must have been a blast, a couple short tough climbs punctuated with a dazzlingly swervy and speedy descent.

In Lowman, Tim and I teamed up for the stretch to Grandjean, another long gradual climb up a river valley.

David went solo from Grandjean up to the top of Banner Summit, blazing up the steep climb and passing the climber for our nemesis team along the way.

All day, since the very start line in fact, we'd been racing along against the team of Mike Trowbridge, a guy I work with, who was also riding with a guy who writes for Shea (Waj). We traded leads a number of times throughout the day, three of which were on the final stage. It made the day much more interesting.

At Banner, me, Shea, and Tim worked together down the other side and across the rolling valley floor into Stanley. This was a beautiful ride, the Sawtooth range looming off to our right most of the way, a short descent followed by rolling terrain of the valley floor, perfect Idaho landscape.

In Stanley, Shea pulled off while David joined Tim and I for the pull up from Stanley to Frenchman's Creek (not Smiley Creek, as the race bible said, but a point a couple few painful miles further up the road). This one about killed me. And Tim, too. Coming toward Stanley I felt like a million bucks, taking long hard pulls and keeping the speed high--a little too high, at times. But not 5 miles outside of Stanley my legs collapsed on themselves. I ate, I drank, but still I had nothing. The grade must have been just upward enough to severely limit any accelerations or hard efforts. But then, this was mile 70 to 90 or so, so it makes sense I was getting tired. But Varner kept us rolling, letting Tim and I spell him only briefly before getting back on the front.

At that point Shea took the last solo leg of the day, going up and over Galena Summit and down the other side to Galena Lodge, where the rest of us would join him for the 24 mile race for the finish line. He aced the climb, and more importantly, killed the descent on a wet and slippery road in rain and hail, passing Mike's teammate, who'd blazed by us between Stanley and Frenchman's Creek.

All 4 of us rode the last leg, and by then we were all feeling pretty good. We worked well together, taking short hard pulls and keeping the speed way up. We saw a wolf along the way, a huge charcoal gray guy along the side of the road near a dead elk. My first wolf and I couldn't even pause to enjoy it.

We crossed the line in under 10 hours, beating the goal we set for ourselves, just about 2 minutes ahead of Mike's team. With our time bonus we ended up with a total of 9:27:05.

Cathy and her mom had driven out to see us finish, but unfortunately for them I gave bad directions to the finish line and no one in town, it seems, knew anything about where the race was finishing. But it was still good to see them about a half a minute after crossing the line.

It was a hell of a day. Long hard miles amid amazingly gorgeous scenery. The event was pretty laid back, most of the transitions left to the honor system. Everyone was friendly and supportive. Can't wait til next year.

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