Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tour de Flatirons - Stage 4

Official Tour de Flatiron Scrambling Uniform

I've tried in the past to avoid using the word "race" in these reports... That's getting increasingly difficult for me. My biggest rivals this year are Danny, Buzz, and Willie. Each stage I've been behind but each stage I've been able to edge ahead. I feel somewhat bad about this. Danny is fitter and always gets to the rock before me. Buzz frequently scrambles faster than me and beat me to the Slab today. Willie refused to pass me on the run out from Stage 2 (I started late here, but if he put enough time on me, he might have taken me). So, how do I get in front? A lot of it is luck. Some of it is experience. Today, it might have been being overly aggressive and that isn't cool. Yet, every time, they are such good sports about it. If these were separate time trials, I'd surely lose to them. But they aren't. They are chaotic, competitive events that, to the non-Minion, would look like...a race.

Stage 4 Course
Despite the reschedule due to adverse weather/conditions on Wednesday, twenty-two scramblers toed the line at 5:15 a.m. Brian had run earlier and gave me a time to shoot for: 1h03m. Dylan had to start early as well and he'd come tearing down the trail cheering us all on as we labored up the steep approach. Angela started about ten minutes early to ensure more daylight. Still,  twenty-two is a big group and we quickly spread out. I start at the front only because I'm the starter. I then try to stay to the far right as all the big guns go by.
Nikita on the Slab
Danny passed me early, as usual, but I kept him in sight. Buzz went by earlier than usual and, almost feeling guilty, says, "You have a handicap, since you fixed the lines this morning." A nice gesture, but I went easy in the morning and felt no effects of it. I'm getting slower and lots more fast, young guys are joining the Tour, but the field is also getting broader and larger, so I'm barely hanging onto to the top half of the field. At least when it comes to the finish line. On the approach, I'm probably in the middle of the back half. We have so many Minions that can go uphill so fast... Inspiring to be in such a group.

Willie arrived just before the start, so had no warm-up. In a show of camaraderie he saved late-arriving Greg by letting him borrow a harness and a rappel device. Without that Greg probably wouldn't have broken the top ten for his first time. Adam offered an extra pair of gloves to Jason. I love seeing that.

Willie was glued to my backside once again. He could have gone by, but he specifically did not. His plan was to follow me everywhere and then hopefully run by me on the descent. Not surprisingly, I know these courses well. Duh. I create them. So this strategy isn't knew to me, at least for people close to my fitness level. I tried to gap him on the Slab and did a bit, but he closed things down on the Fiddlehead.

Lead group on the Slab
I hit the slab a bit after Buzz and Danny and closed on them. I just followed Danny's lead and all of us got a bit off track. You'd think that I wouldn't get off track, but I was redlined and it is so much easier if you can just follow someone. It indicative of how hard we're going when the course creator strays from his best route. Near the top I corrected earlier than Danny, though, and I hit the top of the Slab ahead of all my rivals. Doing so left me in considerable oxygen debt though, and I ceded the lead to a faster moving Buzz on the ridge. We'd gapped Danny and Willie.

Buzz and I caught someone unfamiliar with the downclimb and directed him to it, with us following right behind. Once on the ground it wasn't long before Buzz graciously stepped aside and I was once again in front of my rivals. In a minute or two Danny was on me and then passed me on the steep climb up to the Fiddlehead. As he went by he said, "I think today's my day, Bill." I thought so as well and said, "Right on. Be careful up there." He responded, "I'm going far." Indeed he wasn't. He was ahead, but the four of us hit the rock very close together, probably within twenty seconds. Danny then said, "This is going to be a photo finish." I couldn't respond. Danny, Buzz, and Willie all seem to have a lot more breath than I do. I'm maxed. I can't talk. My mouth is completely occupied with sucking in as much oxygen as possible.

I scrambled the lower part well and took a more efficiently line than Danny and got in front again, with Buzz on my tail, then Danny, and then Willie. I had the best line and was maxed out, but the other three all closed right behind me. Our speeds were close enough, I felt, where I didn't need to step aside. There is climbable rock on both sides of me, but I'm definitely on the easiest, fastest line. Should I have stepped aside? I don't know.

Near the top, I cut hard left on my regular route out to the ridge. There I caught up to Nikita and Jed. I found out later that Jed had started five minutes late and was actually catching all of us. I just barely slipped in front of Nikita where our routes merged. I even slipped a bit here, making this move. Was I being overly competitive? Maybe. Uppermost in my mind was to get to the top of the Fiddlehead before all of my rivals, so that I'd be first in line for the rappel lines. Getting in front of Nikita and Jed, and having them between me and my rivals effectively ended the race with these three. That was just luck, to encounter them at the exact time where this could happen. Yes, I was in front at that point, but the meeting of our group of four, Nikita and Jed, and the top of the Fiddlehead turned out perfectly for me. Unless I was rude or too aggressive to any of these other five. I've talked with most of them and they are being gracious, but if anything I did was uncool, I will penalize myself 5 minutes.
Buzz trailed by Danny on the Slab

At the top, behind me, there might have been some overly aggressive action. We have to remember where we are and that we are all friends. Being a gentleman or a lady and being kind and gracious to your fellow competitors should be more important than our finishing position. I'm calling out myself, mainly, but let's all remember this. I'm going to be very explicit about this in my directions for Stage 5.

Anyway, I hit the ropes first and, having fixed them myself, I knew the best line was the yellow rope. Thankfully it was free. Two of the three lines were free when the six of us arrived and Jed got the other one. I zipped down the line all the way to the very end, going off the end of the rope on hiking terrain, with no down scrambling to do. I sped down the slick climber's path next to the Pellaea with Jed on my tail. When he closed up tight, I stepped aside. He quickly gapped me and the gap would grow, but I kept him in sight most of the way out.

I was acutely aware of the others behind me. I knew Nikita was the next to the top and that he was the fastest runner behind me. Nikita is fitter and he beat me in stages one and two. I figured he'd come by me. I calculated that when he did, I should still have a minute gap on Danny. I ran as fast as my clumsy legs would allow, trying to get close enough to the finish so that when Nikita came by I'd have the mental toughness to endure the pain of holding off Danny.

When I got the 3-minute-to-go trail junction and a quick glance didn't reveal Nikita, I switched my goal to holding him off. I endured even more pain and when I turned off the trail for the final, steep, 90-second section I spotted Jed ahead. Still not knowing that he started 5 minutes late, I pressed, trying to close that down, thinking it was possible. Alas, it was not. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, as his total time was six minutes faster than me.

I finished in 56:22 and a minute later Nikita came. Then Danny. Then Buzz. Then Willie.

Once again Matthias crushed all and locked up his second consecutive Tour title. Congratulations, Matthias! He's also re-writing the record books. He'll take aim at Dave Mackey's Third Flatiron record next week. It would be fitting end to win all five stages and get the record at the same time.

In second was Ryan, followed closely by Stefan. These two have been stalwarts of the podium for many years and they stamped their authority on this stage by beating Will Porter. Will, though, has nearly locked up second place in the Tour. For Stefan to sneak by him, he'd have to win the last stage. Beat Matthias. Stefan is probably the most amazingly overall outdoor badass I've ever met. His range of mastery is staggering. Yet, I fear, that task before him is too great. He'll have his hands full finishing third with Ryan his chief rival. Here I'd bet on Stefan. He's never failed to make the podium.
Me on the Slab with Willie on my heels
Newcomer Greg made a strong showing, finishing solidly in the top ten. Following Scott Bennet on the way out he got a lesson on how hard you have to go to play with the big boys. Trying to pass Scott, he caught a toe and went down in a heap, sustaining abrasions on this legs and torso. He's okay, fortunately, and got a taste of the kamikaze effort put out by the sharp end of Tour.

One stage to go. One stage and the 2016 Tour de Flatirons, the 13th annual Tour, will be in the books. We are already guaranteed to end up with the most Tour finishers (at least four stages must be completed to be a Tour finisher) ever.

1 comment:

Gayla Wright said...

I can see the competition continues on. No one is giving an inch if they can help it. One stage to go. Good luck to all.