By Mark Edwards 5/25/08
“So, how’d Hamilton go for ya?” I’ve been asked several times since last Sunday. In a word…rough. I expected it to be hard, the starting field was a veritable who’s who of the 45+ super climbers, but my recent good luck had boosted my confidence.
The Mt. Hamilton road race opens with 19 miles of climbing 4,200’. Survive this and you’ll be rewarded with 43 miles of rolling (another 2,000’ of climbing), desolate, windy terrain.
We began our ascent at what seemed a moderate pace. That was until I started watching the pavement roll past my tires. Actually we we’re flying. I felt okay, but that was 5 minutes into an 80 minute climb. Soon our starting field was down to 13 and my confidence was slipping. One of the riders would slip off the back, and then fight his way back on. It was impressive to watch. On his last time to catch the field he pulled in ahead of me, then allowed a gap to open. I needed to cross that gap, but with 5 miles left to the summit, I knew that if I made it, I’d pop very soon afterwards. So I let the group slide away. I’d thought I’d be working with the #13 rider, but he blew dramatically. So it was solo for me the rest of the climb.
Earlier 3 riders had attacked and stayed off the front until the top. At which point a very impressive rider, up from So. Cal., rode away from Kevin Susco and Rick Martyn to take the KOM. Jon Ornstil had attacked the chase group and split them apart. I was too far back to see the 3 leaders, but had a front row seat to watch Jon’s total destruction of the chasers. The last of the chase group went over the summit about a minute ahead of me.
The descent, while beautiful, was dangerous. I’d been forewarned, and shortly after going over the top came across emergency crews tending to a fallen rider. I slowed way down. I was already out of contention, so why risk it? About half way down Ted Thomas had somehow fought his way back. He’d been dropped fairly early, but he’s not one to give up, he screamed down the descent to catch me.
Ted and I worked for probably about 15 miles before we caught two riders. We attempted to get the four of us working together, but it wasn’t to be. After a very frustratingly slow half hour, I attacked on the second small climb. Two riders tried to chase me down, but I went over the top with 500 meters on them.
I wasn’t sure how much farther I had to go, but it turned out to be a long way. I’m guessing it was somewhere between 12 and 15 miles.
I knew going into this race I was too heavy to compete with the best climbers, at 8.5 lbs over my ideal climbing weight. But, that same weight would benefit me now on my solo time trial to the finish. I dropped into my most aero position, shifted into a big gear, and cranked it up to around 300 watts (no power meter, but I’m pretty familiar with this power output from repeats on Branciforte). Initially I just didn’t want my former 3 ride partners to catch me, but as I finally got into a grove, I was just enjoying flying along faster than I’d thought possible.
I was reeling in riders from other categories every few minutes, rocketing around them a good 5 to 10 mph faster than they were going. It seemed the farther I went, the faster I could go. It was a blast!
I rolled across the finish in 10th place, receiving a high five from Jon Ornstil. My former partners crossed the line nearly 10 minutes after me. All that work may not have improved my placing, but I finished feeling I’d left everything on the course. I would have rather been able to hang with the climbers, but my strong finish after a very tough race was a nice consolation.
Someone please remind me next year that 8.5 lbs is worth about 1:58 on that climb...