Is it a ride, a rally, or a race?! Well, the Old Man Winter Bike Rally is a bit of all three. This is the third year of this event, and until now only the 100km course was timed (with generous equal payouts to the top 5 of each gender). This year they also timed and placed the 50km course participants. So you can show up on whatever bike you choose (there’s a mix of everything… road, cross, fat, mountain, tandems, etc), and decide what you want Old Man Winter to be on it’s awesome gravel, paved, and single track course.
Pearl Izumi, one of my AMAZING 2017 sponsors, was kind enough to extend an invitation for me to attend, and I gladly signed up for the 50km course. I had tried the 100km event during the inaugural 2015 event, but pulled out after 25 miles because my 2x geared cross bike had a horrid lack of climbing gears and my knees hurt, and it was super windy. I knew the 50km course was a lot flatter, which much of it coming from a road race course I have ridden before. The weather was looking sunny, not too windy, and highs in the mid 40s, which is quite nice for it being winter in Colorado! I once again chose my 2x Specialized Crux, as rain/snow was predicted for the night before, and I figure if it would be muddy at all I’d rather muck up that bike.
I really had no game plan, as I’ve been very much in a limbo this off season/base training season and haven’t been riding a bike very much at all. And the big factor: this would be my first mass start road “race” since the crash last June. I was very nervous to say the least. I met up with a few teammates before the race and tried to get close to the front at the start. Of course at the start some chick next to me decides to ride diagonally across everyone, so I concentrated on getting as far away from her as possible. Then the pace truck… oh goodness, that person could not hold a constant speed during the several mile long “neutral” rollout, and alternated between 10-15mph and slowing to a near stop, which caused everyone in the peloton to panic brake and swear out loud. Luckily we all stayed upright and out of trouble, but it was just flat out stupid (the start is on a false downhill flat and the first year I did this event we rolled out at 20+mph which would’ve been much more appropriate than trying to hold us at 10mph).
Finally we turned onto the gravel and instantly a switch flipped and I went into competitive road racer mode and took off and passed a hefty amount of people. It hurt, but felt oh so good to put those high watts through my legs. I love riding and racing on dirt and gravel roads with skinny tires, and instantly knew I could’ve rode my road bike with no issue since it was hard pack and FAST! But I would make due with Hank Sr. There were a lot of fast looking girls on the start line, so I tried to pick them off as best I could, but really had no idea how many were in front of me.
Soon I found myself pretty much riding along as the fields spread out. I didn’t quite have the legs to hang onto most of the guys’ wheels, and the only other girl I had seen, Christen (a fellow PI Amabador), had sped off. So I just settled into hammering and enjoying the sun on my face. It’s actually a very pretty course in Boulder County, but I was busy concentrating on going fast, with an occasional glance at the scenery.
They added in a fun little loop at the Reeb Ranch that was part of the 2015 Blue Sky Cup cyclocross race. This was the only time I saw riding a road bike being a disadvantage on the 50km course, as it was, well, cyclocross-y. I really enjoyed this stretch, and playfully opened it up. I would repass Christen, who had to walk her road bike on parts, but she quickly passed me back once we were back on the roads and sped off. I settled in again, and tried to keep up with drinking my “naked” flavored Tailwind. I came through an intersection, and a course marshal yelled at me “You’re the second woman through!”
Dammit dammit dammit
This might seem weird, but I hate when people tell me how I’m doing. Mostly because it tends to be wrong information (like when I was told I was 4th during the Laramie Enduro when I was really 6th). I yelled back, “What, really?!” I reasoned with myself that the guy had probably just missed some women who maybe didn’t stick out with “girly” kit colors or something. But it lit a fire under my ass. What if I really was in 2nd? Shoot, podium?! What? Time to hammer harder and ignore the pain!
The long paved drag into Hygiene was hard with a headwind and the resistance of knobby tires. Turning and heading north was even harder because it’s the slightest uphill. I got stopped at the red light at the intersection to take you back to Lyons, and I was super nervous that another girl would catch me (they enforced red lights since it wasn’t really a “race.”). Luckily it changed fairly quickly, and for a few miles I was able to pace line with a few guys that also got caught a light. Lee Waldman peeled off and gave me a good push, which made me laugh and I took to trying to stick with the other two guys. I would peel off the back a few miles before Lyons, but still tried to keep the power up. I ended up sprinting across the line as I didn’t want a guy behind me catching me (I don’t care who you are when it comes down to the finish line, male or female).
Luckily this was chip timed and I ran quickly over to the Race Rite table to print my results.
1:42:08.08 and 2nd place!!!
OK, that was super awesome!!
Only regret was not racing a road bike, as I think that would’ve been more appropriate for the course conditions, but hey, it was fun to get out and hammer on a bicycle that I never otherwise ride like that – not to mention my ’12 Crux is just a comfy bike. A power meter would’ve been nice as well. Strava did do an estimated 204 watt average, which seems right, with a decent amount in the 220-240 range, which I agree is correct, as I’m familiar with how that power range feels. Most of this race felt like a solo time trial effort, and my heart rate certainly showed that!
Old Man Winter is just such a fun event. You get awesome socks with your entry, and beer and a meal afterwards. I also find it great to see friends, teammates, and the photographers in the off season and get caught up on the happenings!