Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Everest Challenge Stage Race - Stefano; Stage One: First, Stage Two: First. GC - well...

Climbing up South Lake
Feeling cheerful enough to do the surfer's salute to the photographer...

What a great weekend of climbing @EverestChallenge! Overall, conditions were a bit unusual: overcast, temperatures from the low 30's to the high 50's, rain, even a snowstorm at the top of the South lake climb at the end of stage 1. Definitely not the heat of past years that we were expecting...

Day one started with a brisk pace up South lake (17.2 miles, 5.4%, 4,924 ft), with 24 riders in the 35+ contingent. About 15 riders turned around as a pack at the top, indicating a strong and motivated group. Up the second climb, Pine Creek (7.8 miles, 6.2%, 2,537 ft), the group had shrunk down to about 7-8 by the turnaround. We worked in a fast paceline heading back to South Lake, and that's were the action started. I forced the pace a couple of miles into the last climb, and, acceleration after acceleration there were 5, then 4, then 3 riders left. With about 10 miles left to go, I attacked quite hard again, and only fellow NorCal Scott Penzarella (owner and founder of Studio Velo) was on my wheel. What followed was probably the most intense and fun bike race I have experienced. I kept turning around, looking at him, and attacking, over and over... and Scott would just not leave my wheel, head down, responding to every single attack. Psyco war was also ongoing, with Scott continually reminding me that there was a second day, that we were killing ourselves, that the second day was going to be a lot harder than the first etc etc.

In the final 2 km a snowstorm had started... We also spotted the guy in third, Aaron Wise, from LA (former GC winner), who had led the pack over the first two climbs, and who was actually coming back to us. With one km to go, Scott for the first time took a pull. The end of South Lake is rather steep, with several ramps well in the two digits grade. With about 500m to go, snow and wind getting more and more intense, Scott started weaving left and right, as the grade got steeper and steeper. We had seen the climb before, and I knew this was the time to go. I attacked one last time, heard Scott groan, and I pushed as hard as I could to gain some time. Aaron, the guy in third, had cracked a bit again. In the end, I had a lead of 17" on Scott, and of 47" on Aaron. The guy in 4th came in more than 12 minutes after us. The GC had shaped likely in its final form…

Chevy Spark with a dead battery (and much more)
Day two started with a mechanical failure to our rental car, followed by panic and by us waking up the hostel owner, giving him $100 to drive us to the start in his truck... pretty stressful to get to the line with 5 minutes to spare not knowing where to put the extra stuff we quickly packed during those hectic moments... but we were under way.

The leader's jersey to be defended on day 2
The pace felt really easy up Glacier Lodge (9.7 miles, 7.1%, 3,576 ft), with an LA crit specialist (30' back in the GC) who had taken off and sprinted down the wet descent at 60+ mph... I was stuck to Scott's wheel, with an eye also on Aaron. Going into the second climb of the day, Waucoba Canyon Road (11 miles, 5.5%, 3,329 ft), the group of 10 riders that had come down together from the first climb started to shrink: for unknown to me reasons Scott got really nervous about the LA crit guy out front, and put out a brisk pace to try to catch him. This pretty much down-selected a small group consisting of Scott, me, Aaron and a guy from New Mexico, Chris. I refused to work, despite insults from Scott, and as we turned around at the end of the climb I clocked a 5' gap to the LA crit guy.

After a fast descent, Chris, Aaron, Scott and me started the final White Mountain climb (20 miles, 5.6%, 5,724 ft). Two miles into the climb the pace felt really quite easy, and I tested my competitors legs with one acceleration. I saw nobody responding, so I put the head down and went for it, even though this was not nearly the original plan... After a few minutes the three guys were nowhere in sight, and I quickly reeled in the LA crit guy. I settled in a good tempo and tried to just focus on getting to the finish line. White Mountain, while being a big climb, has numerous rollers, and I knew the three would work together, which indeed they did... Plus, Scott had a support vehicle that was going back and forth taking the time gap to me. With 5 km to go the climb gets really painful - steep, at altitude etc. At that point, Scott's support vehicle came next to me, and the British driver yelled to me that the chasers were 2.5 minutes back and closing on me... You can imagine how I felt! But I kept going and just watched the 0.01 miles go by on my GPS... Got to the finish line quite happy, just to see that in fact Scott was more than 6 minutes back, with the other two riders even further back... Here's the final GC:

BIB Category First Name Last Name Sex Category Group License Stage 1 Stage 2 GC time place
267 Men 35+ Stefano Profumo M 405412 05:19:57 05:28:12 10:48:09 1
269 Men 35+ Scott Penzarella M 268482 05:20:14 05:34:40 10:54:54 2
263 Men 35+ Aaron Wise M 259188 05:20:44 05:36:26 10:57:10 3
299 Men 35+ Chris Abbott M 1019 05:33:47 05:45:54 11:19:41 4
279 Men 35+ Adam Pacal M 203516 05:32:49 05:59:04 11:31:53 5
266 Men 35+ David Rous M 189872 05:44:10 05:56:57 11:41:07 6
291 Men 35+ adam hensley M 264830 05:47:16 05:56:58 11:44:14 7
265 Men 35+ Shawn Vangassen M 156086 05:51:29 05:57:33 11:49:02 8
268 Men 35+ Richard Picarelli M 48303 05:47:15 06:29:24 12:16:39 9
262 Men 35+ Atilla Fruttus M 374774 06:08:13 06:12:01 12:20:14 10
278 Men 35+ Richard Pego M 41144 06:36:04 06:21:27 12:57:31 11
283 Men 35+ Craig Latimer M 238121 06:25:15 06:37:20 13:02:35 12
282 Men 35+ ian lockley M ONE DAY 06:25:15 06:38:20 13:03:35 13
295 Men 35+ Miko Espanol M 365846 06:34:58 06:50:48 13:25:46 14
264 Men 35+ Brian Wasson M ONE DAY 07:01:31 06:37:46 13:39:17 15
297 Men 35+ Thomas Baker M INTL 07:02:15 07:20:48 14:23:03 16
281 Men 35+ Chad Lucius M 367182 07:35:20 07:12:30 14:47:50 17
298 Men 35+ Arjuna Hutchins M 333096 07:23:05 08:23:53 15:46:58 18
280 Men 35+ Matthew Muehlbauer M ONE DAY 06:24:47 19:00:01 01:24:48 19

At the finish, enjoying hot food and warm clothes

Descending White Mountain
This was a great experience. I was happy to have devoted a lot of attention to fueling strategies (which I think I nailed, but that took a lot of focus, especially to keep eating in the midst of intense climbing) and to studying very carefully each climb (among other things, I had a detailed cheat-sheet taped to my bike which was really helpful to know exactly where aid stations were, how long and steep the climbs were etc). I thought I mentally raced quite well also: the attacks at the end of stage one were a bit crazy, but I thought it was the right thing to do to attack as early as possible on the final climb, to try to put some time into my competitors. I think Scott paid dearly having responded to that frenzy. And it just was the most epic and fun race I've ever experienced!

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