Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tour of California 2008 - Palomar Mountaintop Finish

Tour of CA announced that the race will finish its last stage at the top of Palomar Mountain.

Now we'll have a real race for the overall. It's a bit unfortunate there will be no "parade" stage for the overall winner to cycle around in an all yellow outfit, a crit in San Diego or something, but perhaps in 2010.

Not that I hold it against them. I have a slight clue as to how hard it is to organize a top level pro race in the US, and to get such a mountaintop for a day or two is incredible news. Logistically it'll be very challenging, with only two roads up, limited space at the top, and no real facilities (hotels, showers, etc). This is not like the Wintergreen resort in the Tour de Trump slash Tour du Pont. I don't envy those working the ToCA Palomar race, that's for sure.

I am looking forward to one thing though - I get to see exactly how slow I go up the mountain compared to the pros. I haven't seen pros climb a road I've done in training, not in a race. The couple times there was a Tour of CT I never saw footage and I didn't see any of the climbs, so I can't compare myself on those roads. Now, granted, I know I'm no climber, but I still have this morbid curiosity to see the delta between me and the pros. Of course it doesn't help my climbing case when "regular" riders ask me if I'm having mechanicals on a climb (I wasn't, it was just my legs).

If I was 25% lighter, I'm sure I'd be able to climb faster. It's like not having to carry a few bikes on my back while doing the climb. Granted I could lose perhaps a pound off my bike, but that's not really significant. Other than losing 40 or 50 pounds I don't know what to do to increase my climbing speed.

Let's see. Blood. My hematocrit varies from about 46% to just a touch under 50% - no room for improvement there. I'm carrying as much oxygen in my blood as possible.

(Incidentally I notice my cholesterol goes up when my hematocrit does, and vice versa - can that be related?).

Muscles. Power-wise I'm severely lacking. I know I can sustain 200-230 watts for a while, 200 watts long enough to get to the top of the long climb up Palomar. That wattage translates to something like 5 mph, 9 kph, dependent on the exact spot of course, but nonetheless a sloth-like pace in the world of pro cycling.

The pros sustain 300-400 watts on climbs. Apparently the "laughing group", i.e. the group of non-climbers intent simply on finishing inside the time limit, will climb at 320-330 watts.


I do that for a minute at a time, here and there, but for big long climbs? Forget it.

It's during these big pro races where you can see racer's wattage and heart rates that I get reminded, in a jackhammer way, that I'm not a pro. I know I'm not a pro, I don't have a pro license, but the information flowing from the websites just reinforce how far away I am from being a pro.

Now to go out and train and see if I can pretend to be a pro more than a couple hundred yards at a time.

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