Race Report – Vicious Series #1, Ephrata

Still feeling good after parking lot circuit
Out in close to the middle of nowhere in the canyon lands of Eastern Washington lies a small town called Ephrata. Our heroines, Jamie and Lo traveled there this past weekend to compete in the first stage of the Vicious Cycle Series – an 84 mile, 3500 feet elevation gain gravel/dirt/sand/pavement ride with 198 other brave souls. How’d they fare? Read on and see…

OK, psych, we have to back track first and talk about tires, because that’s the most important thing for this race. Both of us chose to use our cross bikes, but we did see some road bikes (?!?!) and full suspension mountain bikes (?!?! Seriously, what kind of race is this?) out there. Tire choice was crux. Jamie chose wiselywith 31-ish slicks with a light file tread (I think I said that right) and Lo chose moderately wisely considering her abilities and her lack of tire choices (it was the 25 mm armadillos or the 32 clements mud tires) and ended up with her 32 mud tires. Since you hit pavement, sand, dirt, gravel, water, random holes, etc. there was always some point of weakness. For example, Jamie struggled a bit with the uphills and couldn’t get out of the saddle as frequently as she’d like, and Lo left part of her soul on the paved roads (that’s 40 miles of soul smearing).

We have very different top tube lengths

The race opened at 9 with 20 miles of pavement. Jamie came off on fire and immediately jumped on a great paceline cooking at 19-20 mph. Lo, on the other hand, came off like a dying troll and could feel the watts disintegrating as she lamented her tire choice for 20 miles of desperately trying to find a paceline that didn’t totally cook her for the rest of the race. Jamie kept trying her best to keep Lo going (go on without me Jamie!), but nothing can save a girl with mud tires on pavement. In many ways, this was my strategy – I never tried to push myself beyond what I was comfortable with. Sure, I’d do a quick sprint to snag a good wheel, but I never tried to keep a pace above ‘tiring’.

From there, we transitioned (blessedly) into dirt and, soon to follow, the first real climb up a canyon. Jamie did her typical smoking up a hill routine, and Lo finally woke up and kept a pace somewhat above death march. Despite the “go on without me, I’m still warming up”’s from Lo, Jamie stopped and waited at the top (!!!! Critical mistake Jamie!!!). The view at the top was stunning – snowcapped mountains all around and a nice, long gravel descendent to bask in all the beauty around us (and the men who went flying down after we had passed them on the way up…).

At the bottom of the descent, we had this cool flooded tunnel feature where you couldn’t see the pot holes in the tunnel because there was 3 inches of water everywhere and it was dark. There was also a ‘flat’ party outside the tunnel of the people who went to fast in the tunnel … ! We also hit some sand pits that Jamie cruised through like a pro while Lo screamed in her head “I thought I left the sand behind in Michigan!!”

After that, we had a pretty long stretch of pavement with an aggressive pace line led by Jamie, with some effort by Lo to keep up (gah! Pavement!!), along with contributions from all the people we picked up along the way, some better at pacelines than others. At mile 41, there was a pit stop with food, bathrooms, water, and moral support. We took a pretty quick break, and then came the race defining moment for Jamie – “Hey Lo, I’m going to go to the bathroom”. “That’s cool Jamie, I’m going to slow roll out because I’m getting cold”. Big mistake Jamie! Never use the bathroom!!

(cliff hanger, right?)

Unfortunately for Jamie, Christmas came early for Lo in the form of a paceline line going 20 mph through a canyon with the men taking 5 minute pulls. So when Jamie finished her bathroom break, Lo was basically to the Pacific Ocean. Jamie relentlessly pursued the far off pink dot in the distance, but after expending an enormous energy to chase said pink dot, realized it was a man wearing an orange jacket.  She then continued on the canyon trek alone, searching for a pink dot that was no where to be found.

Lo, on the other hand, eventually ditched her pace line (hey! I’m finally warmed up!), tried to gather together others for a pace line (moderately successful) and then ditched them all at the start of the second hill climb (see ya!). The second climb was largely dirt and was pretty punchy at times, so Lo confesses that the mud tires were fantastic here because she was able to get enough grip to get out of saddle on the climbs. Now warmed up, Lo started picking people off and taking names, occasionally hopping on conveniently placed pace lines on the false flats. Meanwhile, Jamie did the climb alone… still searching for the pink dot (“was she actually wearing a pink jacket? I can’t remember… it was so long ago…”)

The Ibii ! 
The second hill climb was LONG and pretty brutal overall. Somewhere around mile 78, you get to start going down AND it switches to pavement. At this point, Lo made a friend who had her same bike (an Ibis? What?!) and they pacelined down and he led her into the final sprint out of pure kindness (make friends? I guess?). Jamie’s hill climb was similar – she gave up hope on the pink dot and instead focused on beating man with white and green stripe kit (he was fierce!). She came off the descent strong and beat him in the final sprint. Go Jamie!

We then ate a lot of peanut M&M’s, lasagna, and lived happily ever after.

Overall Lo finished in at 5:33 and Jamie at 5:48 with 96thand 122nd finishes respectively. That’s seriously legit considering there were less than 20 women out of a group of 200. List of finishers here: http://rideviciouscycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2017-GFE-Results.pdf

So moral of the story from Ephrata:
-       Don’t wait for your friends who warm up slow
-       Never take bathroom breaks
-       Find pacelines and make friends
-       For an 85 mile race, make it your race. Don’t try to ‘keep’ up for 85 miles
-       Tire choice matters. Pick the tire best for your skill and needs based on conditions. What works for someone may be terrible for you.
-       Come with friends J

We had amazing time!! Can't wait to do more races like this one :D 

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