Death Valley Road Stage Race
Death Valley Road Stage race, cat 4 3rd of 10
DVRSR is billed as the most climbing per mile of any two day race in North America. It goes though some spectacular scenery in the Death Valley National Park and eastern Sierras. I’ve done it twice and not been happy with either ride, so I had to come back and try it again.
This is a 45 mile race with two big climbs- 3800′ and 4400′. It’s all climbing or descending. It goes from Big Pine east into Death Valley National Park (but not into Death Valley itself- that’s another valley over). The second climb is quite steep in the lower section and eases up about halfway up.
The race started out mellower than in the past and slowly ramped up as we got up the climb and it got steeper. Not long into the race Jon Budinoff started attacking. We’d cover it and he’d back off then try it again a couple minutes later. After six or eight of these the group was down to six guys. Then five, then four. I hung in for a while but noticed that I was breathing harder than the others. Eventually it was my turn. I soloed the second half of the big climb (into the wind), the gradual descent on the other side, and the steep descent (max speed 46.5). Nearing the turnaround I spotted the lead group, now down to two, with one not far behind.
On the next climb I could see third place (Michael Kerrigan) up the road. I timed the gap by watching when he passed a rock or bush. In the desert you can see a long ways. Three minutes, then 2:15, then 1:45, then 1 minute. I caught him in the middle of the steep climb and he didn’t even try to get on my wheel. The second half of the climb is less steep than the first half, but into a head wind. I was miserable by this point. My whole body hurt, especially my triceps. It must have been from the descent but it was bothering me on the climb. I just couldn’t get comfortable. The last mile kicks up again and my legs started cramping. It turns out that I can ride through cramps if I grit my teeth hard enough. I finished third, about 20 minutes behind Budinoff and about 7 behind Maksim Gusev. Kerrigan was only 1:25 behind, with 5th (Michael Piccirilli) 10 minutes back.
Looking at the data, my power really dropped off on the second half of the last climb. I’d have been faster had I not gone quite as hard trying to match Budinoff’s attacks and saved more for the second climb.
This day is 13 miles but has 5200′ of climbing. It goes up Onion Valley which has the steepest 10 miles in North America according to the Climb By Bike book. I couldn’t let Kerrigan (4th place) get too far up the road if I wanted to stay on the podium.
We started gradually and Kerrigan ramped up the pace on the less steep early couple of miles. About 2.5 miles in Budinoff attacked hard. I didn’t have the legs to follow but the other three of the top five guys did. I could see that other than Budinoff and eventally Gusev, they wern’t continuing to put time into me. I caught Kerrigan after a mile or so but Piccirilli was up the road. I stuck about a minute behind him for half an hour. I could see he was feeling over geared and starting to struggle after miles of 10%. (I don’t understand why guys don’t run low enough gearing for this event, but he wasn’t the only one). I started feeling better and ramped up my pace to catch him. I finished in 3rd in just over 1:30, about three minutes down on Gusev. Budinoff was another two minutes ahead.
It hurt but it wasn’t as bad as the day before. This time I used power and HR readings to pace myself. I was close to my target average power even though power output fell off as we got to altitude (the finish is at 9200′). Two 3rd place finishes put me in 3rd for the GC.
Unfortunately someone stole the garmin 500 off my bike while I was waiting around for the results.