By Stefan Rothe
November usually means it’s off-season and slowly getting back into shape with some basic strength training, running, and light riding after a few weeks off the bike. But there’s the Tour de Gruene, a late-season race and a Texas tradition if you’re a cyclist and like time trials. And I love time trials!
I’ve gotten 3rd place there in 2008 (a certain L.A. won ahead of then TX State TT Champ Erick Benz) and lost out to super-fast Master racer Ian Stanford from Minnesota in 2011 by less than 20 seconds. When I looked at the (yet again) new course for 2012 I definitely wanted to race it. It was only going to be 10.5 miles with quite a bit of climbing at 600ft and more than a dozen turns – that’s a lot for Texas time trial “standards.”
That being said, I needed to “activate” some time trial legs for November. After closing out the season at Track Nationals I began some structured training a few weeks before with running, core/strength, and cyclocross, and had done one cyclocross race. So I started riding my trusty P4 (courtesy of Austin Tri-Cyclist) a week before the TdG TT. I was trying to get comfortable and powerful in that position after a long time away from it.
Five days before the TT I went down to Canyon Lake and did a couple of laps on the course to get an idea what to expect. “Pretty interesting course,” I thought. “Interesting” because it required a lot of different things in order to come out on top: climbing, navigating tight turns (including a wide 180), descending at 40-45mph, and going flat-out on the few flat sections available. So compared to your normal and “boring” 40K TT, the Tour de Gruene promoter (Will Roetzler) showed some guts by picking this course, a nice loop with start/finish at the same spot – a good improvement from last year.
Race day was perfect: A “late summer” day in November, close to 80 degrees, 8mph winds and sunshine. I was there early enough to ride around for a bit, talk to some friends and athletes of mine, pin numbers and pump up a tire or two for some guys who were running out of time. After that I got on the trainer for ~30minutes and did my usual TT warm-up while trying to stay out of the sun. The start was on the top of the Canyon Lake dam so part of my final warm-up was riding up the final finish hill in my 42x25 trying to go as easy as possible and “paperboy-ing” it.
I was fortunate to have a 90second gap ahead of me and also was the last rider to go off. That adds to motivation and makes things a bit easier. If you’ve got someone around you – in this case the never-boring and always entertaining moto-official Mike Gladu – you don’t have to worry about your back. The first mile was flat-out over the dam on smooth-as-glass asphalt. I aimed to keep it right at 30mph here. Then we got into the twisty, technical part: North Park Loop. For you Austin residents reading, it was basically a bit over a mile on the Veloway at full speed, including 8 turns. You can lose a lot but also gain a lot here. After that it was back down toward HWY 306 and onto some descending rollers towards Canyon Lake. I tried to push it over the little risers and let it “roll” on the descents, trying to give my legs some recovery because the really hard part was yet to come. With the right turn on FM 2673 it was 1-2 miles flat and descending towards the dam. It’s not the Tour of the Gila TT where you spin out a 55x11 and go 50mph, but at 43 it was still fun and I was trying to stay aero and not to move my legs in order to rest as much as possible before that final left turn up to the top of the dam. “Those last 500m hurt the most,” I remembered from last year’s race, but you can lose a lot of time here by spinning. But if you like pain and keep the chain on the 54 you gain some time. I didn’t want to risk shifting under big loads and potentially dropping a chain so I rode the 54x25 (I know, mechanics tell you different) all the way to the top. It hurt but it was satisfying to finally be on top of that damn dam!
US Air Force member and fellow Texas P/1/2 racer Dan Cassidy ended up in 2nd place, while the “New Kid On The Block” Caleb Fuchs came in 3rd Overall.
Thanks to Will Roetzler for another great event out on Canyon Lake with some quicker results than last year. I wonder what chip-timing would cost the individual racer for a future event? I figure it would be so much easier and quicker than manual scoring and keeping track of times, spreadsheets, etc. Just a thought maybe for 2013.
And a big thanks to Austin Tri-Cyclist for supporting me with the best TT bike out there this season, a fast Cervelo P4. And while Wes Jerman did not race this year’s event (we won the Team TT together last year) he deserves a mention as I was riding his HED disc and Stinger 9 in this year’s TT. The P4 and HED TT gear is a winning combo anytime in my opinion. Both are available at ATC, too.
You can view the ride on Strava here
TdG ITT Men’s Overall Results:
TdG ITT Women’s Overall Results:
Complete results at the TdG Website