Tour de Rock – Week 8 – Mountaintop – Talledega

Mountaintop finish meant lots of climbing. The course kinda looked like rollers, if you glanced at the profile. But really, the rollers were climbs (5-6% grades) and the big climbs were huge climbs (9-10%). I was feeling mentally and physically psyched for the race. I got to Bill’s house early to warm up. Just before went started at 6:15pm sharp, I heard my tire making lumpy uneven noises! I was just about to blow a flat. I had to jump off and change the tire as everyone was taking off. Thanks, Bill for the loaner tire! I left the start line 7 minutes late. I rode strong and did my best. Tyler, Peter led. Scott, Kirk, Jeff were in the next pack. Bob trailed them, then Trevor and me. I started 2+ miles behind Trevor and kept creeping up on him. On the last climb, I got within 900 feet. But, it flattened out just enough for him to pull away. It was a tough ride. Gregg, our team captain, had texted me to hang on to the pack as long as possible, but that didn’t work out. Bill’s reports below

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Bill’s Course Preview

OK folks, here it is.  This course is exactly 20 miles long with 1598 ft. of total climbing.  There are three KOMs; a Cat 2 at Mile 9.64 (the first significant climb); and Cat 1s at Mile 14.35 (high point of the course) and the finish line.  The climbs are moderately steep, with long drags at 9-10%. It’s a climber’s course, but one which will allow most riders to stay on through a large part of the ride, thereby placing a premium on climbing speed. Let the games begin! Bill

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Bill’s Report – A Group

It was inspiring – again.  It’s really uplifting to see folks turn themselves inside out while achieving more than they thought they could do.  Tonight was the “A” race of the Cannibals vs. the Merchants of Speed.  The Cannibals were Kirk, Scott, Jeff and Joe, while riding for the Merchants were Peter, Tyler, Bob & Trevor.  The Merchants came into this stage having dropped 20 minutes or more the night before, and were wondering if they could make some of that back up.

Well, as has come to be a pattern, Tyler and Peter put in an early attack, breaking away within the first mile.  Unfortunately, Joe discovered that his rear tire was coming apart just before the start, and had to change it while the rest of the groups roared away.  By the time he got back on, he was 7 minutes behind the pack(s).  Tyler & Peter’s heavy pace up the first small climb caused the remaining riders to string out, with Trevor, then Bob dropping off the back of the group.  This left a Merchant’s lead group of Tyler & Peter, with a Cannibal’s chase group of Kirk, Jeff and Scott; with Bob, then Trevor, each in their own private no-man’s-land behind them, and Joe well off the back.

Having established this pattern, the lead group started about the serious business of seeing how much time they could put into the Cannibals, while the Cannibal’s chase group worked like hell to limit their losses.  By the time the riders got to the Mile 4 marker, there was a gap of about 1/3 mile between the leaders and the chase group, while Bob was about 1/4 mile further back, and Trevor another half-mile behind him.

The chasers were putting in some hard pulls to try to keep the pace and see if they could reel in the leaders.  While none of the chasers was individually as strong as Peter and Tyler, there were three of them and only two of the leaders, and they tried to push this advantage by swapping rapid and hard pulls among themselves.  As a result, the gap didn’t change too much over the opening miles.  Even so, it did open, bit by bit as the miles wore on, and by the base of KOM 1, the gap had opened up to about .65 miles.  Bob was showing great form and holding the same pace as the chase group even though by himself, while Trevor had drifted back to about 9/10 mile behind Bob.

Going up the first KOM, Bob saw a chance to pull back to the chase group, and put in a long hard effort to pull them back.  He got to within a few hundred feet on that climb, but perhaps burnt too many matches in the process and the chase group was able to crest a bit before him, rapidly opening the gap on the descent.  Bob dropped back to 1/3 mile behind, then 2/3 mile before he was able to recover form and stabilize the gap.

Cresting the first KOM, Tyler attacked for the points, but Peter was able to come around him and nip him at the line.  In the chase group, Kirk, after sitting in the pack for most of the climb, surged over the last 2/10 mile and was able to grab the 3rd place points.  As these groups crested that climb at Mile 10, the gap between the chasers and the leaders had opened up to about 3/4 mile.

The effort of that first KOM had apparently taken something out of the chase group, and the intensity of their chase softened just a bit starting at about Mile 12, which allowed the gap to start opening up faster.  By Mile 13, they were about a mile behind the leaders, while Bob continued about 2/3 mile behind them, and Trevor was starting to lose time on the long steep climbs, drifting back to 1 1/2 miles behind Bob.

At Mile 13.9, Tyler tried a savage attack on Peter on the climb up to KOM 2, but Peter was able to respond and hold his wheel.  This proved significant, because heading for the points at KOM 2, Tyler attacked again, opening up to about 650 watts on the run up to the line for close to 30 seconds.  Peter was able to hold the wheel on that attack too, and as Tyler started to weaken just a bit before the line, Peter came around him and took top points again.  Behind them, Jeff had been doing most of the work to haul the chase group up the mountain, but a similar scenario played out on KOM 2 as had been the case on KOM 1; Kirk was able to surge near the line and snatch the final KOM points.  Meanwhile, Joe had been holding a sturdy pace though off the back and by himself, and was slowly starting to close the gap on Trevor on the big climbs.

On the long descent off KOM 2, the lead group went downhill like bats out of hell, touching and exceeding 40 mph before they backed off the pace.  The chasers also descended quickly, but could not match that raw speed, maxxing out at about 36 mph.  Even so, the chase group got strung out, and Jeff eventually was unable to hold the pace and dropped off the chase group.  As a result of this demonstration of raw speed, the gap opened up to 2 miles by the time the riders hit the bottom of the final long, hard climb.  By this time, the chasers were down to just Kirk and Scott, with Jeff trailing about 1/4 mile back.  Bob was gradually drifting back from the chasers, being about 1 1/4 miles behind them at the base of KOM 3, with Trevor about 3 1/4 miles behind him. Joe was able to not only climb well, but also pushed his pace on the descents, and was continuing to eat into Trevor’s lead.

Up the final long, hard KOM, most riders held their pace and held station.  The only exceptions were Joe & Trevor.  Trevor saw that Joe had closed to within about 1/4 mile by the base of KOM 3, and decided that he was not going to let Joe catch him.  Joe made a decision which was just about the opposite, and battle was joined.  These two warriors repeatedly hit each other with surges, with Joe throwing more punches than Trevor, but Trevor was able to hold a power level which looked to be about 10-15% above FTP for almost the entire climb.  Once Joe got to within 2/10s, the gap stabilized until the last half mile.  Another couple of surges got him to within 900 feet, but Trevor responded on the small flat before the final uphill push and was able to hold off Joe’s charge.

Closer to the front, Tyler once again went for the final KOM with about 2/10 to go, opening up an surge of about 650 watts, and once again, Peter was able to hold his wheel, then come over him and pull away a bit at the line.  Kirk came around Scott at the end of their climb, and took 3rd, while Jeff was able to stay fairly close to these two for 5th. Bob was next in 6th, while Trevor was able to hold off Joe for 7th. The final finishing times were: Peter 1:01:40; Tyler 1:01:41; Kirk 1:07:28; Scott 1:07:29; Jeff 1:08:58; Bob 1:11:31; Trevor 1:22:24 and Joe 1:23:21.  The officials awarded aggressive rider points for outstanding performances as follows:  Jeff for his work for his team pulling them up the first two KOMs, 5 points; Joe for almost erasing the 7 minute deficit he started with, 5 points; and Trevor for turning himself inside out on the final KOM to hold off Joe, 5 points.

The Merchants were able to pull back 10 minutes this night, leaving the Cannibal’s overall lead at almost exactly 10 minutes.  In the KOM competition with one climbing day left, the leaderboard is as follows:

Peter
140
Tyler
84
Bryan
59
Gregg
46
Jeff Ku
23
Kirk
22
Deanna
21
Steve
14
Phil
14
Jeff Block
12
Amy
8
Joe
5
Trevor
5
Scott
3

The individual leaderboard looks like this with 8 of 10 stages complete:

Place
Name
Total Time
Gap
1
Tyler
7:36:55
0:00:00
2
Peter
7:39:18
0:02:23
3
Kirk
8:17:01
0:40:06
4
Jeff
8:21:31
0:44:36
5
Scott
8:26:19
0:49:24
6
Gregg
8:30:33
0:53:38
7
Bob
8:37:11
1:00:16
8
Bryan
8:39:58
1:03:03
9
Steve
8:42:50
1:05:55
10
Amy
8:53:37
1:16:42
11
Deanna
8:55:29
1:18:34
12
Trevor
9:22:58
1:46:03
13
Tiffany
9:29:40
1:52:45
14
Joe
9:31:33
1:54:38
15
Rudy
9:33:06
1:56:11
16
Phil
9:33:46
1:56:51
17
Mike Bowdish
9:45:40
2:08:45
18
Sue
9:45:42
2:08:47
19
Allen
9:46:43
2:09:48
20
Mike Wade
10:02:08
2:25:13
21
Lynda
10:02:08
2:25:13

Next week is a sprint stage, with the final week being more climbs. Will the Cannibals be able to cling to their lead, or will the Merchants surge past them when the chips are on the table?

Bill’s Report – B Group

Tonight, I was inspired.  The Cannibals, who presented Bryan, Gregg, Deanna & Tiffany put some significant time, on a tough stage, into the Merchants who were represented by Phil, Steve, Amy & Rudy.

The major move of the night occurred before the start when Rudy showed up too late to get properly warmed up before the start and had to stop and calibrate about a minute in.  He fell about 165 feet back on the first rise, and was not able to make it back.  He rapidly dropped off and pulled the plug after about a mile, finishing well behind all the others.

The others put in a tough race, with no quarter given and none asked.  Bryan went off the front of the group at about Mile 1, but wasn’t able to open too much of a gap.  For several miles, his gap wavered between 250 and 450 feet, but then he started to pull away, opening up a gap of about 1,000 feet by Mile 6.

The other six riders stayed together as a group all the way to the bottom of, and partially up KOM 1.  Steve put in a surge at Mile 7.8, but all the others were able to respond and pull him back.   However, more hard climbing saw Gregg off the front of the chase group at Mile 9.1, while Steve dropped off the back at Mile 9.4 and Tiffany at Mile 9.6.  Gregg then continued to turn himself inside out to catch Bryan on this climb, and was able to hook up with him, forming a front group that was not to be challenged all day. At the top of the first KOM, the order over the top was Bryan, Gregg, and Amy who made a surge to nip Deanna for the final points.  

On the descent off KOM 1, the chase group came back together by Mile 10.  Continuing downhill, Steve made an attack at Mile 11.35, and was able to get away.  The next move belonged to Phil at Mile 11.7, who was able to chase after Steve, dropping Tiffany immediately and Deanna at Mile 12.2.  Amy was able to chase away from Tiffany and Deanna during this action, and a new chase group formed made up of Steve, Phil and Amy.   Meanwhile, Bryan was setting a blistering pace at the front, causing Gregg to continue to have to turn himself inside out to hold the pace.  However, thanks to some help from Bryan, he was able to hold on and the two of them steadily pulled away from all other riders.

As everyone got into KOM 2, Tiffany started to climb strong, and was able to catch Deanna at Mile 12.5.  They settled into a pace, while ahead of them, Phil was also pushing the pace.  In fact, he was pushing the pace so much that he dropped him teammates, with Steve going first, followed shortly by Amy, both around Mile 13.5.  Amy was having a hard time on this climb, and Steve held back so she could catch his wheel, which she was able to do.  However, in doing this, they allowed the team of Tiffany & Deanna to close the gap on them, and eventually catch them by the top of KOM 2.  Over the top of KOM 2, the order was Bryan, Gregg and Phil.

On the long, fast descent off KOM 2, Tiffany was able to gap Deanna and Amy, while a while later at Mile 15.75 Steve and Phil motored away from the ladies and opened a nice gap.

After this action, all that was left was to make the final long climb up KOM 3.  Bryan and Gregg stayed together at the front, well ahead of the pack.  Steve and Phil were working together behind them., and setting a nice pace. About 650 feet back, Tiffany was again strong, and did a lot of the work to pull Deanna and Amy up the hill, keeping pace with the guys.  All looked set for an “orderly” finish, when Bryan dropped his chain at Mile 19.3, allowed Gregg to open a gap of about 600 feet on the uphill finish.  Gregg was struggling by this point and Bryan closed strong, but Gregg was able to hold on for his first stage will by about 25 feet over Bryan at 1:07:26 and 1:07:30, respectively.  Coming in behind them were Phil and Steve at 1:10:30 and 1:10:35.  About a minute later, the ladies’ group crossed with Deanna putting in a big attack at the end to nip Amy, with their times being 1:11:36 and 1:11:37, with Tiffany at 1:11:42.  Finally, last across the line was Rudy at 1:28:30.  Thanks to his herculean effort in catching Bryan on a tough climb, hanging with him to the end, and then winning the stage, Greg has been awarded 10 points for aggressive riding.

In the overall, the Cannibals’ total time was 4:37:43, a gap of about 23 1/2 minutes over the Merchants at 5:01:07. This puts the Cannibals back in the overall lead by about 20 minutes after tonight.  Will the “A” team close that back down tomorrow?

Bill

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