Pomme de Toure. 108 miles. 58+ miles solo w/nasty headwinds…. 6:12 ride time, 17.4mph avg. A painfully awesome day/way to take my first win of the season.
Since it’s my first win of the year, here’s my first race report of the year. Only read it if you’re interested in endurance racing… as it is long, cause well, the races are long, you’ve been warned, it’s the #the108.
Small races are great opportunities to practice the flaws in your game. So on Saturday it was time for me to go to school, take what I’ve learned in earlier @$$-whoppings & tighten it up on race day! (My inner-monologue post LandRun100, DK200 & Gravel Worlds.)
The Pomme de Toure is a 108 mile gravel course with 7.5k in elevation, roughly 13 climbs according to Garmin & 4 mandatory check-points this year at miles: 22, 47, 65 & 87. So the plan was to study the route, know the predicted winds, bring more supplies than needed, read the field… & be aggressive, but smart’er, more patient that usual… I kinda followed this plan.
So a side note here, mass starts with 2 race distances and no differences in number plates causes an interesting scenario with not knowing who exactly you are racing, so more on that later.
So we roll out with a field of 30-40 riders I’m guessing & immediately two guys roll off the front at like mile .25…, odd flex I thought, but I don’t know anyone here & with tailwinds for the first 20-ish miles I think to myself, is that a dumb move…, maybe but it could be a smart move if they knew the winds, I wanna be a part of that dumb move. So I decide I’ll bridge to it… & quickly realize I’m being marked as I just brought 8-10 guys with me…I’m dumb. So here we are 1 mile in & we basically already know if you’re racing, you’re in this group or you’re gonna have to use matches to get here.
MEET & GREET
Fast fwd & we have a small group of 4-6 of us setting the pace & quickly we cut this original group in half & we are now a 6 man dance with 2 bros yo-yo-ing. Then we are only 4 fellas by the time we hit rest stop 1 at mile 22, Joe West, Peter Krause, Paul Erickson & myself. I top off my bottle since all 4 wanna stop, give our race numbers to the volunteers & we bounce. So I’m now carrying a 70oz pack & two 33oz bottles full of Skratch Labs Lemon + Lime sports hydration, it’s not light, but I know I can now get to the final check point where I’ll only need to refill one bottle for the final push… this will make for a quick pit 2 & 3 where I’ll only need to give my number… potentially saving minutes.
Now comes the study the field part, we basically have a solid cross/tail wind for the first half of the race & then it’s a battle back with 12+mph cross/head winds for most of the way. I have aero-bars, I feel semi-fresh after an easy week since the RollFast Fondo & I have enough hydration to make it to pit 4. When should I go?
Now as a friendly group of 4, the get to know you part of the date is happening & come to find out both Peter & Joe are doing the 65 mile race so they are basically racing each other…, so that leaves Paul from the Move-Up Off-Road squad & me for the 108. Paul has 2 regular size bottles, no pack, no aero-bars & from what I can tell is easily 10-20lbs less body-weight than me & is matching my every acceleration so far, so I really don’t want to take him with me & roll the dice on the back half of the course with several climbs still left to go, plus I’ve carried this effin pack 50 miles, I’d be an idiot to wait for my only competition to roll out together with a cash prize on the line. So I decided right there that at mile 47 I’m gonna as the kids say it…, “send it”.
TIME TO GO?
Another thing I’ve learned after my whoopings at Gravel Worlds, be first as as close to first into the pit & be out as fast as you can, you hesitate, you lose, & often polite = off the back jack chasing wishing you were more aggressive.
I rolled to the pit first, I yell 4-6-1, and bounced, Fader says don’t look back when you attack, go all in or just don’t go…, I hate that, I always wanna know if I’m wasting my matches, but worst case scenario he catches me & we cat & mouse the rest of the way…, so I go for a few minutes all out, I get to the top of the next big hill, I peek, he’s still in sight, another riser & he’s still there, is he closing on me? Gahhhh. How long can he chase all out? The wind is picking up, I’m as aero as I can be…, 10 miles go by…, now I can’t see him…, around every corner I just wanna get out of site, over every hill.., then I hit the 3rd pit, I scare the poor volunteer who’s sitting there & hasn’t seen a person all day, hey…, 4-6-1 & I’m out…, I just wanna be out of site. Miles crawl by & then fly by, then I hit the final pit, fill one bottle & bounce. Trying to keep the pace upper tempo & push it anytime I can.
It’s been a lonely 40 miles & then a moto rolls up along side me…, all I can think was please don’t be a road-rager about to yell at me for being in the middle of a lonely country gravel road…, I put my hand up & say “my bad” as I move over…, he looks right at me & says “you’re crushing it man”…, 2nd place is like 5 miles back…, thank goodness I say…, I’m dying right now & was starting to hit the wall big time…, I look down & I’m at mile 90. Time to throttle it back to a lower tempo pace & just ride in smart…, avoid large rocks & play it safer through turns & descents. Then I start re-playing it in my head, did he said 5 miles or 5 minutes…, it wasn’t clear with his full face helmet on…, gahhhh let’s just goooooooo.
The final nut kicker, last 5-10 miles was soft pea sized gravel which felt like quicksand & had me begging for tarmac…, then I hit the road & I knew I was close…, then across the damn & down the entrance to the park. I rolled into the lot & crossed the spray painted finish-line(thanks for painting that Peter)…, & Chase Crawford the race director walks up & asks you a “108 rider”? Yup…., “You win!” well hot dayuuum I did.
Special thanks to all the volunteers out there today, 4 pits takes a lot of people & 108 mile race means it’s a long day for all…, so thank you…, I appreciate your time & look forward to coming back next year.