Weather for race day was forecasted for rain rain and more rain. The predictions were correct in the temps starting at 4C. I went over my gear choices several times deciding on the best options for staying warm (but not too warm) on a rainy 120-km road ride day. Finally, even moments before racing I ended up with:
- longsleeve winter base layer with thick fleece for the front side (Louis Garneau product too small for Diana - thx!), colourful neon orange Jeantex jersey (huge, they ran out of small), arm warmers, a Jeantex windjacket and a clear plastic rainjacket (quickly patched with clear tape on a critical area I ripped that morning)
- I didn't bring anything but shorts and knee warmers... so I used my SKINS compression tights as my base layer with shorts and knee warmers on top. I wanted to save my compression tights for post muscle recovery but wow, they were awesome to wear during an event. Bummer they had to be subjected to the harsh road elements as their lifespan isn't great. I wore them underneath as they are super tight and my shorts have pockets on the sides excellent for easy access to food stored. Set-up was comfy with no chafing.
- long wool socks, old shoes (had to go with what I was used to in harsh conditions), Pearl Izumi tight plastic wind covers, and at the last minute bulky MEC rain booties
- lightweight Helly Hansen toque underneath my helmet, Adidas Supernova eyewear with clear/cloud lense for full visibility
- very cool Louis Garneau warm gloves with nanu-type covers for the fingers to shield from wind.
- Camelbak with sports drink; easy access to water.
With such a small group of racers (around 300) it was a very relaxed group with no anxiety in the starting corrals. As we hung out waiting for the start, we all chatted and gave each other support in how we would brave this day and get thru the elements. Leah Goldstein, an awesome Olympic calibre racer from Canada (with Israeli dual citizenship) and I hung out at the start.
We had a 15-km neutral start to get us to the first climb of the day. Fastest neutral start I've ever had at TA which helped keep me warm except for the water spray from bikes ahead. I was just starting to get cold the last few km before we were let loose. I welcomed the climb until, boom, I hit the 16% grade... my least fav grade. Riders started passing me and I saw Leah make her way forth. The climb went on at that grade and I found my rear tire slipping while I was stand-climbing. I did not get any distant views for scenery though did pass by many cute houses and villages.
Fortunately, it was a consistent light rain the whole time and no downpours. The first descent was challenging with the visibility only 20 metres ahead on twisty corners (like Costa Rica descent from the Volcano). I purposely stayed behind a rider to follow his lead as corners came unknowingly quick. I might have gone too fast if I went on my own. I could sense my brake pads diminishing already. At the bottom I grouped up with a couple guys on the flat sections, each pulling through to the front leading. We then dispersed up the next climb to the eventual crest.
I followed a good descender only to lose him to wait for his partner. The next long while I rode on my own until they caught back up to me. It was an effort to get food from my shorts pockets to eat with my nanu-type finger gloves on. I made the effort and ate all my food and had most of my drink. The only thing I missed out on was replenishing salt as it was not possible to grab those tablets while riding (and I needed them later!).
Finally, the last long climb of the day, I took my pace like I was on a relaxed solo road ride. Cresting the top I had a fun fast descent taking as much speed as I could see the road ahead - sometimes I felt like I was on my cross-bike. Many corners had a man with flag warning us of the curve. With my speedy descent, I had to brake harder just before the corner to take the corner safely. Not once did I feel my wheels skid out (put on new Vittoria Evo Pros). The descending was nowhere as difficult as I had experienced at TA 2006 on the rainy descents in Italy.
At the end of the last huge descent, one team I had been with sporadically finally caught up and gave a huge draft to follow in the last flat 8-km. An unexpected crossing up and over a steep bike bridge caught my legs by surprise and I got that inevitable cramp in my left adductor. I was caught between quickly relaxing my leg to release the cramp and not wanting to lose my draft. Doh, I had to drop my pace and relax my leg. I didn't want to straggle in alone in the wind not knowing when the next team would come from behind. I was stubborn and stood on my pedals and kept my leg straight as I hammered forward. The cramp released. They were just ahead. I counted 20 pedal strokes, and again and again, and grinned and beared it and finally caught them. Yay as we coasted into the finish. Ended up with only 25% of my brand new brake pads left!
I stayed at a cute private zimmer near the centre, close to the race massage. The woman at the zimmer had us hang our wet clothes in the warm furnace room for drying. The pasta dinner was at a hall up the gondola at 2250 metres. Once the gondola reached the top, the rain from below turned to snow (photo Joerg & Marg).
When I left the pasta dinner a couple hours later, the ground and trees were laden snow. Photo from gondola entrance as it was too dark for a good pic.
Tomorrow's race was cancelled as the passes Großglockner and Iselsberg would not be passable. The race organization was providing busses to transport us and our bikes to Lienz. I would have welcomed the challenge to ride up the pass but definitely not down.
In the end, I'm content with the extra recovery day. My sleep has been super light since the first good night sleep I had after arriving by plane. Keeping aware of any past symptoms reoccuring preventing my recovery as my throat is abit sore. Leah was still keen to get a road ride in later today and have me join her.
Off to catch Day 2 race bus!