2009 Cochise County Cycling Classic

Nearing the top of Mule Pass ... That's me at the front, what's up with that?!?

Nearing the top of Mule Pass ... That's me at the front, what's up with that?!?

This year’s 157 mile Cochise County Cycling Classic was quite a bit different than prior years!  We started at 6:20 am.  The 92 mile group would be starting right behind us at 6:30 am.  So there was a mass of 92 mile riders in the starting area when I pulled up.  There also appeared to be two or three real cycling teams participating with guys on one team sporting team radios.  Huh.

We got off about ½ minute late with the teams immediately going to the front and setting a tempo pace through town.  The teams seemed content to maintain control with a relatively high speed (22-25mph), but that allowed me to stay in a nice draft all the way to the start of the Mule Pass climb in Bisbee.  At one point one of the guys on one of the teams had to stop for a “nature” break.  One of his teammates rode up to the front to let them know a guy way taking a break.  The pace dropped way off.  When the guy rejoined the peloton, a guy rode up to the front again and we were back at a relatively high pace.  This was more like a pro race than an amateur event!

There was one fast acceleration on the turn right before Mule Pass, which is where attacks have come in the past.  This time there was still a very large group of riders for the climb.  And it was a hard pace going up!  I stayed on for a while, but realized quickly that it was taking too much effort and dropped off.  I was still making good time, just at a pace that I could sustain.  I picked up one guy I passed before the tunnel and he stuck on my wheel for the descent.

I quickly got up to speed and dropped into a tight tuck, hitting a high speed of 53 mph.  I dropped the guy who was on my wheel at the top.  BTW, special thanks to Steph Cox for loaning me her Topolino’s for the ride!  Mike found cracks in the rim and hub on my rear Topolino just days before the ride.  Topolino’s are just plain fast!  Anyway, I passed a group of four riders near the bottom of the hill including my Brevet friend Roger Peskett and Mike Barbour, a guy I met at this year’s Breathless Agony in California.  I passed them at a pretty good clip, but Mike was able to make the jump and get on my wheel.  We set a high speed going towards Tombstone working well together, but couldn’t see the lead group.

Almost over the top of Mule Pass

Almost over the top of Mule Pass

There’s another pretty good climb a few miles out of Tombstone where Annette normally hands me a bottle.  I didn’t stop and didn’t notice that Mike did.  When I looked back he wasn’t in sight, so I kept going.  It would have been better to have someone with me, but I was still making great time.  Until I hit St. David.  Then my right knee started to hurt.  It was a dull pain while seated, but more intense pain when out of the saddle.  Crap.  Annette was stopped just outside of Benson, so I told her to have Advil ready at the turn for the freeway.

I was about 75 miles into the ride in just over 3 hours, that’s moving (averaged 22.5mph) and I was on pace for a personal best time.  I stopped at the turn to take the Advil and Mike Barbour caught me there.  We headed to the freeway together.  There’s a bit of a descent just as you get on the freeway and I set a high pace for a mile or so, then dropped back.  That knee pain seemed to be getting worse, even sitting in Mike’s draft, so I pulled up next to him to let him know I was going to ride easy for a while to try to rest my knee.

At least the scenery was pretty nice!

At least the scenery was pretty nice!

There are several significant climbs along the freeway.  When I hit the first one and tried to stand, my knee pretty much gave out.  I almost fell back on my saddle … the pain was intense.  I immediately realized my race had become a ride and my goal was now to just finish.  At the top of that hill is a pretty long stretch at a 1% grade.  I was going at about 11 mph.  People started to pass me.

I started thinking about why my knee was giving me problems.  I had knee issues earlier in the year, but thought that I was pretty much over them.  But this is the first event with hills that I’ve done with more than easy effort.  I even finished Son of Death Ride without knee pain for cripes sake!  That had over 17,000 feet of climbing!  But all at an easy spin…

So what changed?  New frame, but I’m sure I dialed in my position pretty close and it didn’t give me any problems at the 150 mile MS Bay to Bay tour the prior weekend.  I also changed my worn-out cleats on my shoes.  So I looked down.  My right shoe was sitting too far back and my ankle was pointed out.  Crap!  It was TOTALLY out of position!  Support vehicles aren’t supposed to stop on the freeway, so Annette was waiting at the bottom of the Dragoon exit.  I decided to fix that cleat as soon as I got there.  Unfortunately there was another significant climb before that exit.  My knee was actually starting to feel better before I hit that hill, but it was a long, steep climb and the pain returned with a vengeance.  I found that if I put pressure on the bottom and left side of the knee, the pain would subside.  So picture me riding up a steep grade with my right hand firmly clasped on my right knee.  It wasn’t fun.

My personal photographer Danielle :-)

My personal photographer Danielle 🙂

At the bottom of the Dragoon exit, I took a couple more Advil, adjusted the cleat and let Annette know if the pain didn’t subside soon I wasn’t going to finish.  I wasn’t at the “flat” section of the course yet and had to get through some rolling hills.  I still couldn’t ride out of the saddle, although I tried a couple times.  The pain wasn’t getting any worse, but it also wasn’t improving.  I started thinking about some of the other events I want to do this year.  The knee obviously has some damage or it wouldn’t hurt like it did, but if I could limit the problem, I may still be able to save some of my other events later this year.  So at 94.4 miles I decided to throw in the towel and DNF.  It took over an hour and a half to go that last 15-20 miles.

Argh! Knee hurts!

Argh! Knee hurts!

Jeff had recommended a few Sports Medicine guys to look at my knee after the Death Ride in July.  I should have gone then, but I thought the knee was just irritated.  So I now have an appointment to have the knee checked out next Tuesday.  Hopefully it isn’t anything serious.  In the mean time, I’m probably going to take the cycling events in November off my schedule and hope that I’ll be able to do the running events I have planned for December.

Jame Carney, a former pro cyclist, Olympian and World Cup Gold Medalist for Track Cycling, won the event with a new record time of  7 hours, 24 minutes, beating the old record by about 20 minutes.  Shows what a difference having a team with you can make!

    2 comments to 2009 Cochise County Cycling Classic

    • Nancy

      Mike, sorry about that knee. Hope it isn’t serious.

      You have a cute photographer !!!

    • Dan Trued

      Yea, what’s with those pros in those PBAA events, I’ve kind of wondered about that myself. And a team to pull you through the down times, it has to help. And to not have to face the wind for the majority of the ride, that is the way to solve Cochise, I wonder why no one figured that one out before. In the 92, everyone drafts off of each other, but one time my brother and me decided to do the whole ride without any drafting. We finished last or in the bottom 10 or something like that. If I remember right it was like a 1.5 hour difference. The wind is something else out there.