Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tour de Flatirons Kicks Off!

After an aborted first stage last week, due to torrential rain and lightning, the 2016 Tour de Flatirons officially started tonight and oh what a start it was! A full field (20+ is huge for the Tour) started from NCAR and headed out to link the Stairway to Heaven to Buckets on the Ameboid to the East Face South Side Route on the Fifth Flatiron.
The course: Stairway to Heaven to the Ameboid to the Fifth Flatiron
Start and finish at NCAR
At the start, speedster and Tour neophyte (he has competed in a few stages before) Galen Burrell went straight to the front. His dad, Buzz, one of the pioneers of speed scrambling, went straight to the back. I know from experience that I should be behind Buzz, as he'll eventually catch and pass me. A few years ago, he catch me, pass me, bury me, so I tried to always stay behind him at the start. Here, though I was a bit ahead of him. We're a lot closer in speed these days. I did notice as I labored up the water tank hill that only Brian, Sonja, Sara, and Buzz were behind me. A number of scramblers took off early, including Angela, Greg, and Adam, but I was definitely close to being the Lantern Rouge.

At the front was Galen and defending champion Matthias and they ran together to the base of Stairway to Heaven. At that point, Matthias dropped the hammer, went off the front, and absolutely annihilated the field. He made a very strong statement that he plans to repeat this year. The usual podium was broken by Will, so finish second and then Stefan took third. Stefan hasn't finished below second overall in the Tour in about a decade.
Defending champion Matthias Messner
Back at the tailend of the pack, I labored up Stairway, trying to keep Danny close. Behind me were Sonja and Brian, but I'd continue to put more space between me and them. Near the top of Stairway I could see Buzz closing on me, but some other scrambler was coming fast. Who could that be? It was Kyle, who started about five minutes later. He topped out right behind Danny and I. I led the way down the new, steep descent and Kyle did his descent further to the west. I think Danny balked on my way and went down the usual slab.

My fast descent and nailing the bushwhack to the Ameboid, with Kyle right on my heels, allowed me to leapfrog past a number of scramblers, including our sponsor the Imperial Grand Poobah of Sportiva, Jonathan Lantz. I nearly caught up to Jon Sargent and David Glennon. Jon saw and cried out, "Ack! Here comes Satan!" Not for long, I was so gassed. Going up Ameboid, I was passed by Kyle and maybe another scrambler, but the gap I got was rapidly closing.

I scrambled down the ground and nailed the bushwhack over to the Fifth. On my way over I heard cries of "Rock, Rock!" Apparently a scrambler (Matthias?) had trundled a large rock while descending the Fifth Flatiron. In the past we've given a 1-minute penalty to anyone that knocks off a rock that descends down the course. Stefan did this while scrambling Atalanta and assessed himself a 1-minute penalty. I didn't say this before the start, so no penalty this time (and it wouldn't have changed the order), but that's the rule going forward, so take note.
Trying to stay ahead of Buzz and Sonja on Stairway to Heaven
I got the base of the Fifth and there were a bunch of scramblers there. I started paddling up the face, taking my usual route on the far left. Many scramblers were to my right. I was really sucking wind here and Danny passed me, Buzz passed me, I think a few others too, including Nikita and Jonathan if they weren't already by me. I topped out right behind everyone, though. It was crowded on that final ridge with climbers going up and down, but everyone was cool and there were no problems.

I descended the Fifth rather quickly passing everyone near me, including Jon Sargent, who was ahead of me, but missed the south-side descent ramp. I too went too low, but only lost maybe 15 seconds. Jon lost at least 30 seconds. I reversed and took the ledge with Buzz about five feet behind me. I cruised the descent, hit the ground and descended the fastest I've done in years. Usually, with our historically smaller fields, I wasn't in the midst of so many scramblers near my speed. I had made great strides descending the Fifth and I wondered how long I could hold off these fitter, faster runners.

I nailed the descent all the way down the Mesa Trail, blasting past Galen Burrell (first time I've ever wrote that line! Probably the last time too). I didn't know that he had DNFed by skipping the Fifth, but I was coming down a lot faster. I touched down a couple of times, but did no damage. I was able to maintain my lead all the way down to the Mesa Trail, but just after I reached it, David Glennon comes cruising on by, complimenting my descending skills, while running about twice as fast as me. He quickly disappeared. Next to come by was Nikita, running strong. I was hurting bad here and barely caught and passed a couple of chicks out for a casual run with their dog. Ugh.

I then passed Joe Grant, limping badly and under the watchful eye of Jason Wells, who gets the award for most compassionate scrambler. Joe had hurt his foot and I hope he's okay and will be able to continue with the Tour. I dropped into Skunk Canyon and had to power hike out of it. Here Jon Sargent came running by me, complaining about the lack of aid stations. I sure could have used one.

I was running scared now. I'd lost three places since hitting the Mesa Trail. I got over the Water Tank Hill and ran down the other side, but looking over my shoulder saw Buzz just a little ways back! Ack! I thought Buzz didn't run downhill fast anymore. I just did my fastest descent in years and here's Buzz right on me. Dang it. I know he's a threat to me on the ascent, but thought he'd just take it easy on the descent. Wrong. I ran as hard as I dared, trying not to hurl, over to the last hill up to the NCAR Mesa and then power hiked up it, looking over my shoulder constantly. I got to the top just as Buzz started up the last steep section, only 20 seconds back or so. He had the class and the breath to call up, "Nice job, Bill!" I barely eked out a "You too", but I had no breath to spare and not sure it was even loud enough to be heard. I ran scared the last 90 seconds, prepared to sprint if necessary, but held Buzz off by 22 seconds.

I finished in 1:05:47, which really surprised me. I figured I'd do 1:20 to 1:30, but having so many scramblers around me for almost the entire stage was motivating and I pushed into the pain zone way more that I would on a solo time trial.

What a fun, painful time! Loved it!


Ryan O said...
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Gayla Wright said...

What a motley crew!!! Good luck thoughout this entire event. Love the line, "Had a great painful time"."