2017 National Hill Climb Championships – Pikes Peak





One of the things that I really wanted to do this year was to break the hour record AND win the national hill climb championship AND then win a world track championship. I think that it’s a fair bet that nobody else attending track worlds will have competed at Pikes Peak.

A couple of things conspired against me. First, for the whole lead up to the hour I focused on the demands of that event and didn’t get too worked up about being a few pounds over my normal race weight. Once I got through the hour I tried to lose some weight in the month leading up to Pikes Peak but wasn’t all that successful. Last year the morning I flew to Colorado I weighed 69.5kg. This year I was 71.3kg. I felt good though and was riding well based on power output and times up climbs compared to last year so I was optimistic. Also, with the hour being my absolute focus for most of the last year I wasn’t going to beat myself up about not being as light as I’d like for this secondary, if important goal. It is what it is…

On the other hand there was one other difference between this year and last. Michael Carter was entered. If you’re not familiar with him it was a pro in the late 80’s, early 90’s for both Motorola and Coors Light. He actually rode in the 1991 Tour de France. He is a pure climber, probably about 5’8″, 130 pounds. On one hand I was optimistic. Looking at how much he won Mt. Evans by (not much) against guys who I beat by a fair amount last year at Pikes Peak told me that I had a shot. Also, what somebody did in the past doesn’t necessarily translate into current performance. Everybody’s lifestyles change so you never know how they will do now. The fact that he was a much better climber than me back then, wouldn’t necessarily mean he was better than me now based on his current lifestyle. On the other hand, he didn’t get called to do the Tour de France because Jim Ochowitz couldn’t get a hold of me in 1991. 🙂

Some friends of mine from Colorado clued me in on how he would ride. In a big gear and then he would attack until he could ride away alone. I was leery of that because coming from sea level I could get into a lot of trouble trying to follow a hard attack. My plan was to follow the attacks but more smoothly. i.e. don’t make the vicious effort to stay right on his wheel, but do an easier acceleration after him and then slowly close the gap without going fully into the red.

This year’s race started out faster than last year, but the group stayed relatively large until about Glen Cove which is in the high 11,000′ range. Carter attacked and I followed him as planned and latched on. He eased so I went though and kept the pressure on as he had split the group and it was just the two of us. Unfortunately for me he pretty quickly attacked again and I couldn’t follow. Maybe I should have just sat on him, but I doubt it would have made much difference. I was okay for steady hard, but if it was going to be moderate punctuated by hard attacks I was going to get dropped anyway. I hoped that if we worked together for a while I’d be better off. Anyway, I held him relatively close at around 20-25 seconds until we got through the flat section at 13,000′ and then from there it opened up to something like 55-57 seconds at the end. And he did ride in a big gear like I was told. Once away from me he seemed to always be standing. From experience that isn’t uncommon for small riders, but still a bit surprising in such thin air. Every time I stood there was a cost to it so I stayed in the saddle about 99.9% of the time. I also used my 34×32 more than last year.

On a comical note, it can be a bit confusing in this race because of all the gran fondo people who start in front of you. When you pass them you can see that they have a yellow frame number, where the USAC people just have white numbers on their backs. But once you pass them it occasionally gets confusing as you’ve got a lot going on and you look back and sometimes can’t tell if it is a competitor chasing you or a gran fondo person you passed. Passing through 13,000′ for the final 2 miles of 10% I kept seeing a person behind me with a kit that looked familiar from my race group. He was pretty close and I thought it might be 3rd place and I was worried. I spent a lot of that section worrying about getting passed, but after I finished I later found out that 3rd place was something like 3 minutes behind me. A lot of stress for nothing!

My self analysis of why I got beat boils down to I think 2 things.
1. Mike Carter is a really, really good climber.
2. It would have been nice to be 4 pounds lighter like last year.

If I was as light as last year, would I have beat him? I don’t know. I think it might have been possible, but as I mentioned above. He’s just a really good climber who lives in Denver. That’s a pretty tough combination to beat. It surely would have been closer.

Also, like last year the weather the day before was iffy with rain, but it cleared overnight and was beautiful (if cool) on race day. Even though it was cold, it was not as cold as last year so all in all about as good as you can expect starting a race before 7am at 9,000′ up in the mountains.

NorCal had a good day as Todd Markelz won the 30-39 race, Jonathan Baker won the 40-40 race, my friend Steve Archer won the 60-69 race, I got 2nd in 50-59, Josh Dapice was 3rd in 40-49 and Liz Beneshin was 2nd in women 60-69.

Also, Phil Gaimon won the elite race. I asked him at awards if he had gotten the KOM (no, missed by about 30 seconds) and if it was his first national championship. It was. That was kind of funny in that he had to retire to win his first national championship. Afterwards, Steve and I packed up our bikes for shipping (Bikeflights.com rocks), had an awesome bacon cheeseburger with fries in Colorado Springs and then drove to Denver to fly home.

I just raced my bike up Pikes Peak. I'm having a cheeseburger! And fries…

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No Super Epic ride this year which I was sad about, but it was good to get home in a more timely fashion.

Next up, a couple of weeks of just riding around for fun (with a few races, but no “specific training”) and then full on preparation for geezer track worlds in LA this October. Scratch race, Points race, pursuit and team pursuit will be my events. Tomorrow night I’ll do my first mass start track race since the 2008 master’s track nationals. Should be interesting! 🙂

My power data compared to last year was interested. Last year I averaged 269 watts start to finish with a time of 1:20:15. This year I averaged 287 watts for a time of 1:21:03. Almost 20 watts more and almost a minute slower. Even the watts per kg didn’t make sense. 3.87 average last year vs. 4.02 this year. The story was the same even when you only compared sections at the end where I was alone and full gas both years. Based on the power you’d think I would have gone as fast or faster. My best guess is the the zero offset or calibration is slightly different between the two years. I did a zero offset this year minutes before the start and am pretty sure I did the same last year. Same power meter, same rings BTW.

This year: https://www.strava.com/activities/1129812638
Last year: https://www.strava.com/activities/674850903

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