9 AM Sunday April 14 saw my buddy Greg B and I sitting at the back of a pack of 91 riders for the long route (there is a medium route group departing an hour later) listening to the final directives from event organizer Jake Maedke. As always, there were a few butterflies, neither of us had ridden this event and didn’t really know what to expect. What we did know was that it was 90 miles and around 5,500 of climbing. What I didn’t realize was that the ride was in the middle of a wind farm, and that would prove to have a huge effect.
At 9am, we rolled out and let the pack disappear into the distance at about mile 2, and that will continue to be our tactical decision as we like breathing room, but it meant that we were already in the bottom 10, no problem. The funny thing about Greg is that he takes a little while to warm up but then turns into the Terminator and I have trouble holding his wheel late in the ride.
The ride was going great, I haven’t spent much time around Goldendale and it’s really beautiful, oak trees everywhere and quiet roads and endless vistas up on the plateau. Winds were quite favorable for the first 30 miles, mainly tail but plenty of side wind so you had to be pretty careful on the downhills. At the first food stop, everything was cool, we were pretty far behind but there were still some riders around and hopes were high.
After that, we headed toward the top of the bluff overlooking the river and stopped for pics, then there was a little rough road section and a little climb back up, then back down the same side we came from, but then at about mile 32, we entered the pain cave for almost 20 miles straight. It was a full-on block headwind that was at least 25, probably more. I saw a lot of 8-10 mph’s on my computer so we were out there for a long time. Greg and I were taking turns pulling but it was pretty brutal. I felt fine for quite a while but my knee started screaming by the end of that stretch and I had to stop and adjust my seat and regroup. The next part down to the river at Lyle was fast and a chance to rest but that wind knocked the starch out of my legs and my knee was a big concern to me considering we were only 55 miles in and still had the steep climb to go at mile 72.
I stuffed my face at the food stop, nutted up and we got back into it. The next stretch was pretty cool along the Klickitat River but Greg was killing it and started dropping me. Man, 1 mph slower and I would have been ok, but the last thing you want to tell your partner is to slow down.
We finally got to the Horseshoe Bend Road where Greg flatted on a thorn. The climb on gravel which was over 3 miles and mostly 10%, this certainly isn’t the hardest climb we do, but after 72 miles, and all that wind, it was pretty tough. Greg rode up it like he was shot out of a cannon somehow, both legs were starting to cramp up but I just hiked up my skirt and pressed on. The only thing that saved me was that as I started up the hill, the cramps went away and me knee was pretty quiet (raising my seat made that possible).
I finally got up to the top, put my wind gear back on and we went into time-trial mode and tried to stay ahead of the broom wagon back into Goldendale where we snagged our hard-won finisher patches.
You find my name at the bottom of the finishers list, but considering everything, I can live with that.
Jake and his family and crew are so nice, organized and supportive, they really deserve good things to happen for them.
The long drive home was fine but the pass was snowing, foggy and dark, getting home to Snoqualmie and Malinda was mighty welcome.
Two for two so far, there’s a spot open on the board for Ellensburg…
I have to miss the next event in Leavenworth but we’re going to do the newest event in Ellensburg for the first time, it looks even tougher, so it’s back to work on the trainer and I need to get riding long in the gravel again. Maybe it’s stop snowing back there for 2 seconds and we can get some work done…