Preston to Montpilier
Distance: 43.0 miles
Ride Time: 2:21
Average Watts: 196 watts
Average Heart Rate: 149 bpm
Average Speed: 18.2 mph
This is the section where the race really begins. You start the section with a climb up Strawberry Pass, which from the corner in Preston to the summit is 22.0 miles. There is 2,745 feet of climbing in that section, which means it is just a grinder. I worked really hard on my climbing this summer, so I was excited to test myself and see how long I could stay with the lead group. Remember I was racing with Cat 1-4’s, so this particular test would be tougher than in previous years. I knew a lot of the guys I was racing with and I knew even the ones I liked could ride me off their wheel whenever they wanted. But I was determined to stay with the group as long as possible.
A couple of miles into the climb my buddy Jon Rose – who was a real threat to win the group – called out “PEE BREAK!” I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear that. Last year I was able to get the amount of time with my foot on the ground down to under a minute for the entire race. When you aren’t moving forward you are killing your total time, so jumping off your bike at aid stations to even pee can end up wasting a ton of time. This is a race you know – all stop time matters if you have goals you want to hit.
I thought everyone would stop because it was Jon who was calling for the break. Jon is super fast and rides for the Adobe Race Team. But as the majority of the group slowed to stop, a group of about 20 riders went off the front obviously intent on not stopping. Of course my friends Brent, Brandon, and Matt all went with the group that kept on rolling. I made the call to stop and relieved myself of the gallons of liquid I had loaded up on before the race started. It felt fantastic. For you purists, I have tried peeing off the bike and it just doesn’t work for me.
I was worried about the guys going off the front, but I knew Jon and the rest of the Adobe Team would not let those guys stay away. I don’t know if the lead group was trying to stay away, but Adobe tool control of the front and hammered until we caught the lead group about 20 minutes later. The section wasn’t any tougher than some of the great group rides I did with Infinite Racing this summer, but it did take a toll. We dropped about half of our group in the process and when we caught the breakaway, our group was down to about 30 riders.
And then the climbing began. The pace the group was maintaining at the start of the climb was tough by manageable. I thought I could definitely keep up with the lead pack if they held that pace all the way to the top. Because we caught the lead group, I was back together with Brent, Brandon, and Matt. Having your teammates with you throughout the race really helps your attitude. Sometimes in a race it is the little things that make you happy.
But as the road turned up, the top riders in our group started to turn up the pace and the heat. I knew, unfortunately, that this was where I was going to have to call it. If I kept up with them to the summit I knew they would drop me up to the summit of Salt River Pass and all I would have to show for it was a pair of really, really tired legs. At this same point, Matt started dropping back and made basically the same point so we started to fall off the back together. Brandon tried to encourage us to stay with the lead pack. Of course he is one of the best climbers I know and spent a ton of time with me this season trying to help me improve my climbing. But dropping off was for the best so Matt and I let the group go.
Getting to the summit from there was now a little easier since we could pick our pace. We pushed it – we still had goals to meet. If I remember correctly, we started picking up riders who had also fell off the main group because of the uptick in effort. We didn’t slouch up this section, but we were caught by the Cat 3/4 group shortly before the top. We got to see some of our friends, including Billy Rappely, which was a pick-me up. But they were also racing and we ended up getting dropped off this group as well.
We finally hit the neutral aid station near the summit and grabbed a hand-up water bottle and chugged the contents. I have used this strategy now for two years and I have to say it works really well at keeping me hydrated throughout the day. You don’t stop, put a foot down, or take a nap. But, you do take a hand-up and keep rolling.
Somewhere on the mountain we picked up my friend Phillip Boyak. About four weeks before the race he had a mountain bike accident and broke his collar bone. He broke it so bad that he required surgery to repair the thing. I got to ride with Phil several times this summer and he helped drag my sorry carcass on a couple of rides – he was in great shape this year. I now think he is one of the toughest guys I know. I have always admired his tenacity, but racing so quickly after his injury really takes his toughness to another level.
Once we hit the summit, there was a sweet 10 mile descent that where you drop about 1,500 feet. It is fast and it is fun. To give you some perspective I averaged 29.2 mph and only 139 watts on this section. Most of the time I tried to tuck in behind Matt because if there is someone who can descend faster than I can, it is Matt. We ended up catching a ton of people for the flat 8.5 mile section into the town of Montpilier Idaho. We had quite the motley crew going into Montpilier; we even had a tandem bike that was trying to hold onto the group on the rollers and would fly by us on the small downhills. Everyone in the group did make the commitment to stay together and ride the next section together. Would you like to guess how that went?
Montpilier is the first town that you see your support crew. Because we were worried about our support crews meeting us in Montpilier and then being able to make it to Afton, Matt, Brent, and I combined our support crews and had planned it so that one crew would be responsible for all three riders in each of the towns. Brent’s wife Beth would support Brent and I in Montpilier and my wife Karen and son Josh would support Brent and I in Afton. Matt had his wife ride with Beth to support him in Montpilier and his parents would support him in Afton. Everyone would sprint to Alpine to make sure they saw us there.
Beth was a champ and you could tell she had been Brent’s support crew through dozens of bike races and triathlons. We pulled into the Montpilier aid station and she had my bottles of Infinit, Fig Newtons, lunch meat, and boiled potatoes ready to go. I had my foot on the ground for less than one minute in Montpilier. That is well within the parameters I had set before the race. I had all the food and drink I needed for the next section to the summit of Salt River Pass. I did ask her how long it had been since Brent had come through and she was really nice and lied and said it hadn’t been too long. You have to appreciate small favors like that during a race. I knew the next section that climbs both Geneva and Salt River Passes was in my opinion one of the toughest tests during the race, but I felt up to the task. I checked and our total time was 3:48 so far. In the 2013 LOTOJA version of the race, I had gotten to Montpilier in 3:43, so we were slower than we needed to be. To hit my goal of a 9:30, I had projected that we needed to arrive in Montpilier in 3:40. Even though we were 8:00 behind schedule, that time could easily be made up in the next section.
But would I have what it took mentally? The next two climbs are where you can lose the chance to hit your race goals because of mental errors. Could I avoid those errors this year? In races earlier in the year like UVU, Bike4Kids, and the Porcupine Hill Climb I had made mental errors that had cost me the opportunity to hit my goals. Had the hundreds of intervals I had done to prepare for LOTOJA help me ignore the pain and pedal on?