Leaving Waconia, I had a 2.5 mile drive to Wynona (and I got lost a couple of times). When I got here, it was hectic. I had to check in for the Time Trial and the Triathlon (separate locations), change, and get lined up to start. Just barely made it in time.
The weather was better. Rain had stopped. Mercury was into the low 70’s. It was still overcast, and rain was coming later.
I had never done a timed bike race before. This would be a short and painful one. It was only a 5k. All but a mile was flat. Then comes the hill. “The Battle For The Bluff”. There is a 500 foot climb in one mile. I have had Half-Ironman triathlons with less of a climb in 56 miles. It is ranked as one of the toughest 100 climbs in North America.
Here is what the Winona tourism website has to say about this route:
For the experienced cyclist who desires a training challenge, the Garvin Heights climb is tough to beat. Tour de France winner Greg La Monde trained on this road which climbs 540 feet in 1.15 miles with a grade of 9.2%. The road is narrow with sharp curves and high traffic during commuting hours, and the surface can be sandy and rough. The road demands extreme caution both climbing and descending. A complete stop must be made at the bottom of the hill to avoid cross traffic.
And my legs were tired from the Half Marathon. What was I thinking?
It was a time trial start. One cyclist every 30 seconds. As I was looking around, most were these really intense cyclists. I, on the other hand, had just learned to use clipless pedals.
I line up towards the back. Unfortunately, all the best cyclists like to go last. So, I am with the elite. Wonderful.
My turn hits. Two volunteers hold my bike as I clip in. I get a 3 second countdown. Then I am off.
First 1.5 miles is easy. Almost pancake flat. I see the turn coming, and I get as much momentum as I can, and drop it into granny gear. The momentum does not last long. I am in full grind mode within a hundred yards. My 22 mph speed drops to 7 mph. If I slow down much more, I won’t be able to stay upright. If I get off, I won’t be able to start again.
I keep grinding. I have to stand I at times to get a little momentum. But I keep going.
It is a winding road, and after every turn, there is more…up. I look down at my odometer. Not even halfway. Legs are already screaming. Speed slips into the 6 mph range. I stand to get a little more velocity. I see it creep up to 8 mph…briefly.
I was the second hardest mile of my racing career (the Racine swim will forever top that list). Finally, I get to the top.
Finish Time 14:17.80
Overall Position 43/60
Average Speed 14.7 mph
There is beer and pizza at the finish. I get my finishers shirt (no medal). Soon enough, the temperature is dropping, the wind is picking up, and the clouds are building. It is time to head back.
Back DOWN that hill.
Steep climbs hurt. Steep descents are terrifying. I ride the brakes the whole way down, feeling barely in control. I could not stop if I wanted. I was committed…like it or not.
Once down safely, I bike the 1.5 miles to the start and to my hotel. I need some sleep. Tomorrow will be another long day.