If you’re a cycling fan, an event that has professionals racing just a couple miles from your house is a pretty big deal. The Tour of Utah is a 6 stage bike race that brings international professionals to our home state. These are some of the same guys from the Tour de France, riding right past the pub that sponsors my team. Pretty cool.
Like a lot of cycling fans, I am also a cyclist myself. My riding buddy, Steve convinced me to sign up for the Tour of Utah’s “Ultimate Challenge”. This is an event that runs on the same day, on the same course, for the same distance as the professionals ride. This year, the course was 113 miles, with two killer climbs at the end – the final one rated an HC climb.
If you didn’t know this, climbs in cycling are graded on how difficult they are, from 4th category to 1st category. And then harder than that still you have HC, which comes from the French “Holy Crap”*. This is the cycling equivalent to a 95mph fastball. Or, in my case, taking that fastball in the groin. You see, Steve likes to climb. Me, not so much.
*It’s actually “Hors Categorie”, meaning, “beyond classification”. But whatever, it’s just stupid hard.
Well, a week before the ultimate challenge, Steve got into an accident in a race (he’s OK now). This left me to ride the Ultimate Challenge by myself. I considered not going, but the thought of riding through fans (who would be lined up to cheer the pros), and finishing through the same big-screen finish line as the pros was too much for me to pass up. Big mistake.
The day started at 6:30, at a ski resort about an hour from home. Stef, amazingly and without complaint, left with me at 5:00am to drop me off and bring the car back. My plan, if you can call it that, was to just ride well within my limits and try to save energy for the final climbs. After about 4 hours, I had gone about 80 miles. This was more or less on target, and there were just the two major climbs left.
At about this time, the pros started behind me – if they caught up with me, I’d be pulled from the road in disgrace.
The first climb took me about 1 hour and 45 minutes to go just 8 miles (and about 3000 feet up). The second climb to the finish was another nearly two hours of agony. The misery was punctuated by people dumping water on me and offering me hot dogs and beer. (You see people do this on the Tour de France, and if you’re riding up the mountain that same day, they’ll do it for you too.)
I finished the ride just minutes before they closed the roads down to let the pros finish. This made things really exciting for Stef, Tyler, Anna, and Baby, who had gone up to the finish to await my arrival. They didn’t know if I was going to make it or not. I finished to a packed house (which was kinda cool). Thereafter, I promptly sat down in a tent and didn’t move for two hours.
So what can I conclude from this?
- The pros finished in four and a half hours. It took me about 9.
The pros did it again the next day. I just today finally got out of bed.
The pros gave interviews and took pictures after the race. I grunted, drooled, and scared children.
The pros got paid to do it. I had to pay for the privilege.
Conclusion: I am not a pro cyclist.