I like steep. Lomas Contadas, LKHC#7, was a short sweet treat with a 1.3 10.5% grade aperitif followed by a 0.4 miles flat intermission and a grand finale a bit shy of 1 mile at about 15% grade. In the words of the only other bike-tripper at the race, my buddy Eddie, it sounded a bit like Bonny Doon. And if there's one climb we all know, love and respect is good ole Bonny.
This week's climb was not really on my list, as there existed a clear risk of divorce in asking my wife to deal with our 1- and 3-year old boyz again for a very very long morning after Patterson Pass last week. With the additional bonus of the 1-year old one just starting walking and very much enjoying practicing. BUT, the stars lined up right, and my wife being an astronomer and all, I was given green light.
The GC big dogs were all lined up at the start line, and it was again Carl Nielson leading the way from the very beginning, at a seriously insane pace up the first steep bits and through the flats. A smart strategy, I thought, given the shortness of the course and the fact that he had been out-sprinted last week at the end. At the beginning of the interesting last third of the race, the 15% fun part, GC #3 Bill Laddish put forward a serious attack, to which I responded jumping on his wheel and passing Carl.
A new solid contender, Hans Detlefsen, then jumped again shortly thereafter, and again yours truly decided to go with the attacker. This second attack was actually rather short, and just keeping a steady pace (so to speak) I found myself in the lead. After a few minutes Hans jumped again, but at that point I had spotted the landmark I knew corresponded to about 0.2-0.3 miles to the finish line. I upped the pace and "time trialed" (as much as one can time trial a 15% grade), and entered that sweet state where the hard breathing of your competitors starts to fade with the shadows of their bikes.
I crossed the line 6" ahead of Dave Collet, GC#2, who had stayed with the lead group all the way and saved it for a very strong finish, ahead of Hans (8" back), GC#3 Bill (15" back) and Carl (26" back).
Hard to say when fellow competitors and good riders respect you. But I was surely quite happy when Strava notified me that Carl Nielson was now "following" me…
Saturday I felt like the words of climber great Richard Virenque made a lot of sense: "You can say that climbers suffer the same as the other riders, but they suffer in a different way. You feel the pain, but you're glad to be there."