Early Season Racing In The North-West

Right now it’s early racing season here in the North-Western US. I just finished my first month of racing in which I was able to do four races: Frozen Flatlands in Cheney, WA. Ronde Van Palouse in Spangle, WA. The Tour of Walla Walla in Walla Walla, WA and the Cherry Blossom Classic in The Dalles, OR.

Frozen Flatlands:

The Frozen Flatlands race in Cheney, WA is run in omnium format with a Time Trial and longer Road Race on Saturday and a shorter Road Race on Sunday. The Time Trial course is a rolling 12.5 mile out and back race with about 250 vertical feet of climbing. The race lived up to its name, the temperature was at 35 degrees farenheit with the wind at about 18 mph with wind chill standing still this works out to about 12 degrees.  I rode my red magnesium Zinn with clip-on aerobars and a borrowed tri-spoke. My time was just over 32 minutes and I placed 7th out of 20 riders.

By the time the first road race came that afternoon it hadn’t warmed up much about 39 degrees with the wind still blowing around 20 mph. This Road Race was a 54 mile rolling course that went through the numerous wheatlands of northern Washington. The road race did not go quite as well as the Time Trial. The race started with a neutral roll out through town, this part was uneventful, once the race started everything was going smoothly until about mile 18 some dark coulds rolled in from the west and it started hailing. Hail, wind, and cold make for a not to comfortable race with the hail pelting down on the peloton we battled the crosswinds and kept on moving. Unfortunatly, because of the extreme and somewhat dangerous weather conditions I was unable to eat and bonked. I was able to hold on to the pack until 15 miles from the finish where I came off the back and had to finish alone about 18th out of 23. Sundays Road Race went much better it was a 25 mile rolling course not quite as cold, about 42 degrees, half as much wind and it was dry. The race started out along the beginning of the Time Trial course then turned off through more wheatlands. The pack stayed together for the first few miles then at around mile 7 I was able to get off the front alone. I got as much as 1 minute ahead before some of the teams decided I needed to come back, I stayed off for a total of 6 miles before being caught. The race ended in a sprint finish in which I nearly crashed after being cut off by some one swerving in front of me but I was able to recover somewhat and finsihed 16th out of 23. In the overall omnium standings I placed 12th.

Ronde Van Palouse:

Set in Spangle, WA Ronde Van Palouse is one of the more difficult early season races. My group of categrorys 1-3 did a hilly 24 mile loop 3 times. Each loop contained a 4 mile gravel section. The race started out well, in the hills I was riding with the surges fairly easily and felt very good. Just before the gravel section my rear tire went flat. There was neutral wheel support and my wheel was changed out quickly and started chasing the group. 3/4 of the way through the gravel section I flatted again this time from the wheel change change being improperly filled with air and pinching the tube. I was not allowed to get another rear wheel change so I chaged the tube out with the spare I had brought. The process took about 2.5 minutes and I was chasing the pack once more.  Iwas not able to catch back on but I decided to finish anyway and placed 4th out of 5.

Walla Walla:

The Tour of Walla Walla is four stages over three days: a Road Race Friday, a Time Trial and Criterium Saturday, and another Road Race Sunday. The first Road Race was a rolling 18 mile circuit done three times with two significant hills of  about 400 feet each lap. I rode with the pack and was once more staying with them very nicely in through the hills. Others were not so lucky out of 100 starters the first group in was only 30 people with other smaller groups trailing with the closest 5 minutes back. The race ended in a sprint finish in which I was locked in and unable to get around anyone so I finished 18th. Saturday morning’s Time Trial was 9.8 miles on a gently rolling course with a short 250 foot tall hill towards the middle of the course. I placed 38th on my Zinn road bike with aerobars and a tri-spoke 2 minutes behind the winner, a disc would have helped. Saturday evenings Criterium was 45 minutes on a 1.1 mile 9 turn course. I was not able to stay with the constant accelerations, was dropped and finished just over 2 minutes behind the winner. Sundays Road Race was a 28 mile rolling course done 3 times with one 2 mile hill with a 6% grade on each lap. The pack stayed together though there were near constant attacks and on the last lap I was riding towards the front coming into the hill to the finish when I received a fla tire courtesy of the only sharp object laying in the road. I had to wait 2.5  minutes for the wheel truck to come up to me and by the time the wheel was switched out I was 3.5 minutes back. I chased the pack up the hill and finished 52nd out the 85 remaining riders 2:34 seconds behind the leader. Being as close to the front as I was I very likely have won the stage if it was not for the flat tire. I have since switched to more flat resistant tires.

Cherry Blossom Classic:

The Cherry Blossom Classic is set in the Columbia River Gorge in a town know as The Dalles. The Gorge is well know for its consistent wind. There is so much wind that the are turbines all around the Gorge to harness the power of the consistently strong wind. This race was 4 stages over 3 days. A Road Race each on Friday and Satuday with a Time Trial and Criterium Sunday. The first Road Race was a 17 mile Circuit done 3 times with one significant hill that was about 500 feet tall. I was having a more difficualt time staying with pack during this race and I finished 47th about 3 minutes behind the winner. The next race was a figure 8 circuit of with 2  short loops at 7 miles each and 3 long loops near 18 miles. This race was very hilly with around 6500 vertical feet of climbing in the entire race. I was feeling pretty bad again and finished 60th out of 87. That night I was very sick and I was forced to drop out of the race. Very likely my weakness Friday and Saturday was caused by catching some sort of virus that did not come on in full strength till Saturday evening.

Even though I was plagued with flats during the races that I did I am still stronger than I ever have been. In my now resumed training I have consistently rode in the low 21 minute range up a climb that used to take me well over 23 minutes before I started riding on my Zinn bike with long cranks. Hopefully I will have better results in the coming races and the more puncture resistant tires will keep me from getting flats while I am racing.

Thanks for reading,

Jacob Ashton

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