Race number two of 2018 is in the books. The Pony Xpress 160k was the second race of the two race Colorado Gravel Grinder Championship series. Due to the the location of the race (Trinidad, CO – 3 hours south of Denver) the field wasn’t as big but there were still plenty of fast dudes to battle with and an extremely challenging, and amazing, course. James O. and I drove down Friday afternoon through plenty of traffic but were rewarded with a rad pizza spot right by our hotel. Saturday morning it was the typical early wake up, an awesome hotel provided breakfast (fresh waffles), and then time to get to suffering.
I decided to race with my full Dirty Kanza set up to work out any kinks. For tires I rode the IRC Boken with a 40c on the front and 36c on the rear. I had the revelate designs mountain feedbag on my bars/stem and wore my camelbak chase pack. All a bit of overkill for a course that had 3 aid stations over the 98+ miles but having my gear dialed and tested is super important to me as I don’t want any questions about what I’m going to do in less than 8 days at DK.
The race started with a handful of miles on a paved road and it was kind of cold. I went to front just warm up a bit and open up the legs. Right away I knew my legs weren’t great but that early in a race you just gotta fake it and hope they come around. About a half hour in I already had to pee (too much coffee before) and luckily Josh, who won the last race, had to do the same. We powered ahead of the group after telling them we were going to stop, then stopped, took care of business as the group passed, and then worked to get back to them.
My legs were warming up a bit so I put in some moves to break up the group of 15-20 guys. it worked and we were quickly away with with 6 guys two of which were doing the the shorter race. Things quickly came back together when a guy on the front took a wrong turn and lead us off course. We realized this quickly but it was enough that a group had caught up to us and we were now rolling 10 deep. I threw in a few digs to try to break things but still didn’t have the legs so my efforts were short lived and weren’t doing much. So I decided to sit in an eat.
We rolled through the mile 25 aid station as a group and I wasn’t feeling good. I felt like I was working too hard to just sit in. James rolled back to me and we started talking strategy and I told him how I was feeling…. not good. I took in some more cals and started to slowly come around. We hit a solid climb from mile 27-34 and a few of us were trading off at the front lifting up the pace. I could tell a few of the guys in your 10 man group were on the verge of falling back so my next time on the front i didn’t throw a full on attack I just stayed seated and started to turn the screws. I took a longer than normal pull and when I looked back 4 of us were off the front. With more climbing to go we worked well together, well at least 3 of us did, to drive the pace and stay away.
As we approached the mile 45 aid station one of the guys in the break asked if we were all going to stop and refill. James and I both decided to race with packs so we would not have to stop. The other two in the break needed to stop as they were getting low on water. Since we were all working together James and I decided to not attack but not stop either. We rolled at a comfortable pace while they refilled and after a few minutes we were all back together. Sure… we could have attacked and that could have been a difference maker in the race but I didn’t want to attack through an aid station and possibly win like that. Others may have done something differently but that’s what we chose to do.
The next 20 miles would be the crux of the race. A 20 mile climb from mile 45 to 65 over some rough terrain. The climb was steady with some punchy, steep sections mixed throughout. At this point I still wasn’t feeling great and somehow I was running out of food. I don’t know how I didn’t bring enough cals…. rookie mistake. I was trying to get a bar down before a steeper section of the climb and I dropped it. I couldn’t afford to lose those calories so I turned around to go get it and then had to spend the next 5 minutes chasing back on. Watching the group ahead of me I could see the bigger guy in our group (seriously huge… 6’5+) was suffering and getting gapped a bit on the pitchy bits of the climb.
Just past mile 50 I was sitting fourth wheel as we approached another kicker. As the big dude started to get gapped I went around and attacked. James and Josh came with me and after another hard effort were now down to 3. With the way my legs were feeling this was my goal. I wanted to get away and be in a podium position and then just let the rest of the race play out. Unfortunately for James and myself, Josh had other ideas. Around mile 55 on some really rough, rocky terrain Josh started to pouring it on. I remember saying to James… “damn, he’s putting a power move on us” as he started to gap us. I hammered to get back to his wheel and we slowly pulled away from James. I was barely hanging on as he was riding super strong. I was just telling myself to just stay on the wheel and he’d eventually ease up… and he did but not for quite some time. I was on the rivet and hurting.
Right before we topped out over the climb at mile 65 he attacked again and I couldn’t respond right away. I was still trying to get my shit together and recover from his last attack. He quickly got a gap and extended it on the 3 mile descent over some rough mountain roads. I probably could have chased harder on the descent but with only being two weeks out from DK I didn’t want to take too many chances with body or bike.
The final 30+ miles were rolling with some sections of gnarly washboard roads… and into a solid headwind. I kept chasing, eating, and drinking. I stopped at the aid station at mile 77 for some cold water and sugar. I kept the hammer down and at times could see josh ahead. In the end I couldn’t bring him back. I crossed the line in 2nd just about 2 minutes back. James O had a crash on the descent that resulted in a flat tire and dinged rim… he rallied back for 4th. Solid outing for The Adrenalin Project. I can’t wait to toe the line in Kansas with two additional teammates on 6/2.
The race was rad and a super solid deposit for DK. When it got hard and I was suffering the final 30 miles into that wind I just kept thinking that’s likely what I’ll be facing at DK so I just did my best to embrace it. It’s hard to say why I was so flat on the day. My guess it’s because how easy I took the days leading up to the race. I did a workout (3×16′ @ 300w) on the Tuesday before and this just did easy riding leading up to the race. For you data nerds out there my TSB/Form was +17 the morning of the race. It’s nuts how much better my legs were 3 weeks prior at the Encierro Velo race coming off a huge week. That week I did some big gear work on the trainer tuesday, VO2 max intervals wedndesday, anaerobic threshold intervals Thursday, and a 100 mile ride with Maggie the day before. My TSB/Form the morning of that race was -15. Cody and I discussed all of this and have come up with a plan to hopefully have my feeling spry and ready to rip on 6/2
only 8 days to go. So stoked. Hoping to put out a couple more posts before the race. One on training & race goals and another on my gear.