Hills All Around! Tyler at the Tour of the Catskills

While a bunch of you were tearing it up at Page Valley and elsewhere, Ellen and I headed to upstate New York to ride some hills. For the second year in a row, I raced the Tour of the Catskills – where last year in Cat 5 I came 2nd overall and 2nd in the KOM. This year, in Cat 4, I faced a much faster, larger field (82 racers!), so I had no such ambitions – but I wanted to see how the hills would look a second time around. Here’s my race report:

Stage 1

Time Trial (map)

Only masochists do TTs (here’s looking at you, Chuck). These are not my strong suit, so I did as well as I could on a road bike and regular helmet. ‘Nuff said.

Stage 2

55 miles, + 5805 ft elevation (profile)

Despite some shake-ups in the field (did I mention there were 82 racers?), some mechanicals and sketchiness, I held with the pack to the bottom of the first KOM (a beast), when some twit fell over an an open road… into another rider, who fell into me, sending me into the ditch. I rode in and out (thanks mountain-biking) and then huffed after the rest of the field, hoping to follow Riblon’s example.

No such luck – I was dying. I thought that it was the adrenaline burning me out after the crash, but after riding 20 miles on what felt like a lead sled, I checked my rear wheel – out of alignment, couldn’t even free-wheel a quarter-rotation. With that re-mounted in the drops, I was moving twice as fast with half the effort, overtaking 15 riders whose wheels I could barely hold before (even blitzing 10 of them on the 2nd KOM) and finishing 25 minutes back from the leaders. It happens….

Stage 3

61.3 mi, + 5090ft elevation (profile)

I was ready for a beating, given the “bonus resistance” I’d given my legs on Stage 3. The first KOM was poorly signed, and I only realized that we were near it when I saw the “500m” paint on the road. I sprinted uphill from 40-something-th place to 8th, but no points for me. Super-long downhill and some breaks in the pack, but nothing out of this world. And then, after a picture-perfect bottle handoff from Ellen (yeah baby!) the rain started. Soaked through, but at least it was on the flat part (of which this race only had about 10 miles).

The rain stopped before we hit Devil’s Kitchen (a 5-mile beast – videos from a spectatorrider doing 10% of it, and the full climb), when the rain returned, along with headwinds and hail. Yeah, seriously. I silently cursed the (120-pound) junior chatting about his gearing on the way up, but passed 5 or so Cat 3s and even a Cat 2 (who started 20 minutes ahead of us!), so that I crested about 15th in my race, then forming a grupetto of 12 for the last 5 miles. Which was all good, until the 90-degree left turn before the 100-meter spring to the finish.

You can guess what happens next:

  • The guy behinds me can’t corner, and hits me from behind – he goes down but I stay up, luckily.
  • Two guys in front of me go down – one on his face and another into the ditch.
  • I swerve around both and crawl to the finish line, 4:38 behind the leaders. Then, looking for Ellen in the parking lot, I fall over onto my butt.

Luckily nothing injured but my pride. Had some pizza, was glad to have escaped hell, and drove off to chill out with the in-laws. At least relaxation started at 2pm.

Want to see some of the agony first hand? Check out this video: