Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tour de Bozeman-my foray into the racing world

Travis warming up his son Jameson and nephews Derek and Darren for the kid's races

My Shazam! socks didn't help me in the sprint

My brother Travis and his family were here for vacation from Savannah, Georgia and Travis took his bike with him so we decided to sign up for the first ever edition of the local bike race called the Tour de Bozeman.

To get ready for the race, I participated in two time trials and a road race with the Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club within the month prior. To say I'm inexperienced at racing would be an understatement.

The time trial on Saturday morning went pretty well. I was way down in the standings, and Travis passed me like a freight train, but I completed the route a minute and a half faster than my only other time trial on this route a few weeks ago.

The sprints were a neat event. They blocked off all of downtown Bozeman so we had Main Street to ourselves. A nice crowd lined both sidewalks to watch and despite a rain storm rolling through most everyone stayed around. My heat consisted of Thor Hushovd and his two brothers (two other riders were no-shows) so I was quickly left in the spray of their back wheels and eliminated. Travis did a little better-getting out of his first heat and finishing a close fourth (top three advanced) in his second heat. Despite my quick elimination it was fun to warm up riding around downtown and it was fun to have lots of family there watching.

My nephews Derek, Darren, and Jameson participated in the kids race before we grown-ups did our sprints. All three of them beat more people than Travis or I-so maybe there's some future cycling glory for our family? In any case, the kids loved it-a great idea from the event organizers.

The final stage of the event was the road race on Sunday morning. Travis and I participated in the Category 4/5 field-which was by far the biggest field in the event. Our race started at Bridger Bowl, went over Battle Ridge Pass and almost to Wilsall before turning around and going back over Battle Ridge and finishing in the Ross Peak Subdivision near Bohart Ranch (about 41 miles). This is a brutally tough course with a hill right out of the chute, and a mountain pass about three miles into it. I got washed off the back of the pack at the foot of the Battle Ridge climb due to inexperience and fear of riding fast in a big group and kind of blew myself up trying catch back up instead of riding within myself. Out of breath, I watched helplessly as the rest of the field including Travis disappeared over the hill ahead of me. For most of the rest of the ride I drafted with Al from Manhattan who was also riding his first big race (or first race in a long while anyways). We cruised along and chatted and really had a pleasant time. I had met Al earlier in the season at the Tour de Spud (a local touring ride-not a race) where ironically we were way in front of field most of the way.

Despite my later arrival, there was nice crowd at the finish line to cheer me in, including my parents, wife Brenda, daughter Stephanie, sister-in-law Deborah, and a host of fellow racers and race volunteers. Getting that ovation (which every finishing rider got) was really special-I didn't feel like I sucked quite so bad.

At the end of it all I really enjoyed my racing experience, but I also realize that racing really isn't for me. I'll stick to my longer and slower randonneuring rides and continue to help out with our bike club's more sedate touring group. However, Travis has already indicated that he wants to come back. He feels like he has some unfinished business with this race and now that he knows what to expect with the competition, altitude, and weather among other things he wants to give it another try. If Travis does come back I will probably ride too, but only the Tour de Bozeman and no other big race (sort of like Lance always did with the Tour de France). If Travis can't make it back maybe I'll be a volunteer instead-since I know what the riders go through I think I'd be good at cheering them in at the finish line.

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