Yesterday I competed in my second road race, the Tour of Catskills and it was awesome! I chose a one day race option over the 3-day stage and of the two possible days picked the Assault on Devil’s Kitchen which turned out to be the hardest climb I’ve ever tried.
My race was a mixed class 4/5 65 mile road race and as you can see from the results, only 36 of the 47 registered riders competed. I placed 7th which I’m quite pleased with knowing I trained well and raced hard. We left from Tannersville, NY which is on Hunter Mountain and raced through some gorgeous roads in the Catskills. There were a few climbs in the early stages of the race, but the Devil’s Kitchen climb at the end would clearly define how things resolved in the end.
From the prior race I had entered I knew I wanted to be up front early to avoid any chaos or potential crashing and while I did not start right in the front, I quickly found a hole on the side of the peloton and moved right up the line. I guess everyone thought I was crazy, since no one followed and I was easily off the pack and riding alone which was quite exciting even if it was only the first few miles. Unfortunately my chain dropped after a quick descent as we turned onto Scribner Hollow road and into the first small climb. It took two tries to get the chain looped back and by that time the group had passed me again. It took a bit more effort than I would have liked to catch back up, but I managed to reconnect with the bigger group and recovered from my adrenaline burst of nerves. I fought back some cotton mouth as well and soon enough settled back into the general pace.
Throughout the race I found myself either with the lead group or in the chase group which was generally right behind a small gap. I was taking note of the guys around as we rode and it seemed there was some aggressive posturing going on with a few guys mainly on the flatter portions but those guys quickly gave way as we hit each of the climbs along the way. I knew I was in a good position within this group as I felt I was one of the stronger climbers – not really knowing what was in store towards the end of course. There were a few really nice descents including one amazingly long smooth and ridiculously fast run down where I hit a new top speed (55mph!). During the descents I was generally careful and more cautious than if I’d been by myself allowing guys to float by and to make sure that I had enough space around me. I don’t generally ride with too many other people and felt it would be best to be safe here. During that major descent, I think down County Rt 20, I was able to bridge a big gap which was a pretty exciting moment in the race for me both from the adrenaline pumping at that speed, but also as an achievement to ensure my position.
Over the next 20 or so miles the ride got a bit windy and the group really started to thin out. We dropped a bunch of guys including 3 in a crash which I think happened when a rider lost his chain and was a standing target for guys coming around the corner. There was a small break of 2 and then 4 guys and they stayed about 30-45 seconds ahead of us for a few miles, but leading up to Devil’s Kitchen we finally caught two of the guys. We had a really pace line going and I did a pretty long pull to ensure I did some hard work. The line up chase group leading to the climb was four guys including myself and then … well then Devil’s Kitchen arrived. Platte Clove Road is a 5K Cat 2 climb that goes up about 1400ft and appears to be mainly straight up. There are a few slight steps and a few mild curves … it’s absolutely brutal. Of the four guys, in my group two escaped and I fought on with another rider until we frankly had to dismount. I was pretty unhappy that it got to that point, but after about 2.5K of climbing I wasn’t sure I could turn the pedals around fast enough to stay on my bike. I ended up walking much of the rest of the way to the top – though even when I eventually pedaled across the KOM line, the damn hill kept on going! Amazingly the guys behind and those I passed on the way up from other groups never caught any time on me and for the next six miles I went into time trial mode, pedaling as hard as I could over the rolling terrain. As the signs starting counting down the final 5K, I could feel the excitement of finishing my first road race and cornering into the crowded town of Tannersville I fired away my last bit of energy to sprint in. I heard the announcer call me the Man in Black as I crossed the line and I felt great bringing it all to a close. Full details on Strava …
The event was awesome — well organized, guys were great – competitive, but friendly and I look forward to competing again soon. I’m hoping to do the Tour of the Adirondacks in mid September which is also put on by the same organization. I pre-rode the main loop a few weeks ago near Lake George and it’s a beautiful run as well.