Saturday, October 07, 2017

Tour de Flatirons, Stage 4

Minions storm the Slab
Full Results

The Slab is a great scramble and there are plenty of fun rocks in Fern Canyon...but they have such a long, brutal approach. The real runners shine in this stage. 

Newcomer Jason Killgore took the stage win, though was 17 seconds slower than Cordis' previous time. He did beat Kyle's time. Officially, I've always stated that you can't win a stage unless you run with the full field. So, according to my own rules, Jason would win the stage. This is sort of a mess, as Jason had previously run with Kyle and Cordis and we all just assumed that they would be the top three. Except that Jason didn't do the full course and took a nasty fall, so he showed up today and just killed it. He really deserves to win the stage, but because of the previous understanding, we'll stay with Cordis in first place, Jason in second, and Kyle in third. It sucks that Kyle was out of town for the official stage today. The Tour takes place over five weeks and that makes it very difficult to complete and extremely difficult to win.
Jason arrives at the Slab with a comfortable lead that he'd continue to stretch all the way to the finish.
Jason went off the front early and ran alone and uncontested the entire way, which makes his time even more amazing, as he wasn't chasing anyone and wasn't being pushed by anyone. It was basically an outrageous time trial and super impressive.

There was a nice battle going on for second place, though, with Darren holding that position for most of the stage, before giving way, after a brutal battle down the trail, to a hard-charging Will Porter. Greg, the winner of the full-field stage 3, finished fourth.

Sonia took her third stage in a row in the women's division and appears to be a lock to repeat as the women's champion. She also ran mostly in time trial mode and alone for most of the stage, which sucks, but it goes that way sometimes. We need to work a bit harder to attract more women to the Tour. I'll start training Sheri...
Sonia on her way to another women's stage win.
My race was super fun and more interesting than I thought it would be. At the gun, I settled into my 45-minute pain pace. A bit after we hit the wide trail, Colin Simon, Brian Crim, and Eric Lee went by me. I was suffering, but slipping further and further back. Five or six minutes later I couldn't see Brian or Eric any longer, but Simon was coming back to me. He started walking on the steeper sections, while I continued running, albeit about 1% faster than his walk. But 1% faster was enough for me to slower close and then inch by. I had maybe ten seconds on him when we hit the Slab.

Whenever you emerge from the trees and see the first scramble, it's encouraging. All those scramblers that were out of sight are now in full view. And the distances are compressed as the rate of progress while scrambling is much slower than running. I could see Brian and Brendan above me and was determined to catch Brian, as I'd beaten him in the previous stages and figured I could do it again. Brendan, I wasn't sure about. He beat me in stage 3 on Dinosaur Mountain, which is usually my best terrain. But you never know, which is why we run the stages...

Me starting up the Slab
At first Colin seemed to be gaining on me, but then I pulled away again. He'd later say that he went out a bit too hard and paid the price. Then, on the run out, he missed the turn on the singletrack and added at least a couple of minutes to his time with that route-finding error. And I was closing, steadily on Brian.

When I pulled up next to him, I went a bit right and he went left. I worked really hard and just barely got in front of him by the ridge. Brendan fell in behind Brian and we all worked our way south along the ridge to the downclimb. I was hurting so bad, but I knew a descent was coming. A little ways before the downclimb, I gunned it, trying to get a gap on the tricky little downclimb and get out of sight. I sped down the steep wall to the tree and went through the tree fast. I liebacked down the steep wall below the final edge and once there just tossed my body over the edge and right onto the flake below. I squated down, grabbed the low hold and jumped to the ground. I was off, running scared and trying not to slip and bash myself on the mossy talus.
Ryan starting down the singletrack on his way to 5th place.

I did my best to get a gap over to the Goose Egg and then laboriously powered up to the base of the climb. Here was I surprised to find myself just 15-20 seconds behind Derek and Nikita. Nikita was going well and would pass Derek on this slab. I saw Derek look down and he saw me. I don't know if he was surprised or not. He'd been burying me in the last couple of stages. Seeing that I had caught up to him, he might have been a touch worried that his dad might beat him. At that point I didn't think he cared one whit about Nikita, but he'd do everything in his power, suffer any pain to beat the scrambler below him.

We stayed about the same distance apart on the scramble, but near the top Derek widened the gap a bit. Below me Brendan was coming hard. I was surrounded and fighting for my life. Well, my position in the field, but it felt like my life, because I became too frantic on the steep, loose descent. I was too intent on gapping Brendan and catching Derek. So much so that I endangered Nikita and Derek when I knocked a rock as big as basketball down the slope. I immediately started yelling "Rock! Rock! Rock!" Both Nikita and Derek avoided the rock and were not injured, but I apologize profusely to both of them and to the entire field. As the longest standing member of the Minions I should be the one setting a good example and I did not. I apologize to the entire group. I also called out to Derek, "That's a 1-minute penalty for me!" I knew I couldn't beat him on the run out, but I wasn't sure what he was thinking and I wanted him to know, so that I would no longer be a threat in his mind, if I ever was.
Derek finishing strong.
Not a minute later, Brendan made the same mistake that I did and two or three large rocks came down. It was my turn to be in the line of fire. I heard them coming and dodged to my right. Derek was further right. We were both weren't hit and were unharmed.

I took a more direct route down the steep slope and nearly caught Derek by the trail, but he immediately opened up a sizable gap. He now turned his attention to Nikita...

I sped down the trail, getting glimpses of Derek and even Nikita as we dip into Fern gully and back up to the base of the Slab. Nikita was still in the lead going over this hump, but Derek would soon get him. I had some thoughts that maybe I could get Nikita, but that was crazy and he stretched out his lead on me. I was much more worried about being caught by Brendan. He had a huge gap on me on the approach and I didn't think I'd be able to hold him off. I ran hard, but I was already gassed and trying not to complete explode too early. I didn't look back, but my ears were pricked up and listening intently for any sound behind me.
Angela still looking fresh at the finish.
I got the Mesa Trail junction without hearing anything. I knew it was exactly a mile from here to the finish. Cordis had run it in under five minutes. I knew I could do it under six and half. Six and a half minutes of pain. Could I hold Brendan off. I tried to stretch out my stride. I was still catching glimpses of Nikita, but he was running well. My feet were burning from the slight slide forward with every footfall.

I got the  junction with the sign and knew from many previous scrambles that it was the halfway mark from the Mesa Trail. Just over three minutes to go. But then I heard it. The smack of feet pounding the trail behind me. I despaired. I couldn't sprint this far out. I almost resigned myself to being passed, not wanting to hurt any worse. I dialed up the effort just a touch, wondering if I could take it. I did another minute like that and Brendan hadn't come by yet. Now I was close to the singletrack and now I was ready to give it everything. It's really hard to pass someone once you get to the singletrack, so I poured it on and got there first. I concentrated hard so that I wouldn't make any mistakes. I picked up my feet and moved them as quickly as I could, trying to flow down the trail.

This turned out to be enough. The extra effort increased the distance to Brendan and probably broke his will a bit, knowing that I wasn't giving up. I held him off. So fun. So painful.

The full field at the finish.
Thanks to Sheri for the photos and Bill Hanson for the awesome video. Just one stage to go!

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