WASCO Wild West 75 mile recumbent race, May 10th 2008
Last year was my first Wasco, and I was sorely disappointed when the freewheel on Hachi seized up halfway around; when I was 20 minutes up on the rest of the field.... So this year was meant to be my shot at actually claiming the victory - but things don't always work out....
In 2007 I was training for an hour record attempt and had a Bacchetta on loan as a training bike; thus I headed into Wasco with a decent amount of recumbent training in my legs. This year was somewhat different - winter training marred by illness (more of that in a moment) and terrible weather meant that I was undertrained anyway, and with only Hachi to train on, which I don't especially like riding on the open road, and definitely not in the wet, meant barely any recumbent riding (can you tell I am getting the excuses in already? Can you guess the race result?!) in the preceding weeks to the event. Now, I would just have done some indoor training, but for most of April I found myself exhausted all the time and unable to do much more than ride to work and back. This reached a climax when I had a week of feverish nights and swollen glands in my neck. Reluctantly I took my third visit of the year to the doctors - and after a blood test was diagnosed with mono - or glandular fever as we know it in the UK.
Being a virus the only remedy is rest. This was the week before Wasco, and I spent my final preparation doing nothing more than the minimum at work and napping when I could. Between the feverish nights and an upset stomach, I really wasn't sure if I should even be thinking about racing. But the thing this year was that: a)Clay had a sponsor for the race putting $1000 up for the Pro Men, and b)Hans Wessel was coming over from Holland to compete. I wanted to give Hans a bit of local opposition, and the attraction of the money didn't hurt.... So, feeling a little better by the end of the week, I threw caution to the wind and Misha and I drove up to The Dalles on Friday night.
I actually slept pretty good, and although breakfast sat a little uncomfortably, we headed into the brightening morning to see what would happen. Hans was riding his Razz-Fazz, with a single chainring - but his 9spd cassette was noticeably wider than the 7 gears on Hachi. This I knew; Hachi was designed and built as a circuit racer, at which it excels - doing a hilly roadrace was something I had kind of shoehorned it into by changing the bars and hoping for the best with the gears.... At the start line, Clay fired the starter's gun and Hans took off like a shot after the lead motorcycle. I was a little slow starting and so had to pass through the field and work my way up to his wheel, where I sat for a bit to settle in and see what the pace was like. After eight minutes or so there was a small rise, so I went through and had a little dig and surprisingly rode away from Hans. He was soon out of view of my mirror and so I started to settle in, thinking maybe this would work out after all. But when I turned onto the big climb on the course I could see a figure behind me, and he closed me down as we went up. This is where my gearing was a little tall, the speed went down to 11mph as I ground my way up. But we were together over the top, and despite my running out of gears on the way down, we were still together at the end of the first lap - 43 minutes and thus on schedule for a sub three hour ride (Wasco is 75 miles over four laps).
On lap two I took a small turn on the front, but it was mostly Hans setting the pace whilst I was content to follow and see how my legs went. Second time up the hill was fine, and once again we were together at the line, with the clock at 1:27, so a minute slower. It was at the end of the second lap that I started to get twinges of cramp - something I very rarely suffer from when racing, and especially not after only 90 minutes. I can only put it down to the lack of training and being sick, clearly my body just wasn't working as normal. I knew this was likely to be a problem when we got to the hill, but just tried to keep drinking and spinning the pedals in the hope that I could work through it. Nope - we hit the hill and my legs locked and there was nothing I could do except watch Hans and $1000 ride up the road. I actually, for the first time ever in a road event, had to get off the bike and walk for a bit! It's not like you can get out the saddle on a recumbent and stretch it out.... I was able to get started again, and was surprised to find that I could ride Hachi at 7mph without falling over! The walking had done enough to relieve the muscles so that I could ride to the top of the hill, and I went through the end of the lap with the clock showing 2:19, so dropping to a 52 minute lap. Then it was just a case of trundling round the last lap to at least finish - with the vague unsporting hope that Hans might puncture or have some other problem.... I crawled up the hill, only doing 6mph at times, before enjoying the downhill and the final stretch to finish in 3:13, so a 54 minute final lap. Hans had buried himself the last time round, but it wasn't quite enough - he stopped the clock at 3:00:56!
So a bit disappointing, but the better man won on the day. If I'd been healthy I think the time would have been pretty damn quick if I'd been contributing to the pace all the way round. Next time..... Incidentally that was also the longest time I have ever spent riding Hachi; it worked well and was comfortable, can't ask much more than that.