EC is a two day stage race with 29,035 feet of climbing. It's held in the eastern Sierras near Bishop. I raced the M45+ category. EC brings out the top climbing freaks in the western US. My field included a former domestic pro and national champion and two guys who have won the 35+ and 45+ at EC many times. I'm just a cat 4 who likes climbing and this race in particular.
84.2 miles 14,000' (by Garmin 500)
The official route was shortened, cutting off 5 miles and 1000' of climbing. But we still had to ride that as a neutral section, then stop and wait for the official start. Once started we were already on the first climb. So only 17 miles and 5000' of climbing up South Lake remained. Most of South Lake is not steep, just relentless, but there's a steep section of three miles in the middle, and very steep ramps at the end.
(start. It looks cold)
I followed my plan to ride at my own pace. Drafting can help a bit on the descents and of course on the flat sections, but only 20 miles of the first day is flat. There's about 45 miles of climbing. Most of the field rode away from me. I gradually caught guys for the rest of the climb. As we approached the 10000' summit of it got colder. At the turnaround I stopped to put on a vest.
(climbing south lake, I'm about to pass these guys)
Even with long finger gloves my hands got very cold. My eyes got so cold that they would not change focus. This is not the best thing at 50 mph but the descent is not technical. Just tuck in and watch the scenery go by.
I maintained a good pace across the first 10 mile flat transit to Pine Creek. I expected some guys from my field to catch me but was only caught in the last mile by a couple strong 35+ racers from EBVC and one other guy.
(pine creek. Race support van in foreground)
On Pine Creek (a small 3000' climb, even grade of about 7%) I kept my pace and motored along. I didn't catch anyone from my field and the guys catching me were from other fields, so no worry. This climb was not so cold, in fact I'd traded my full finger gloves for regular summer gloves at the bottom. The descent was another fast one with only a few turns that require braking.
Another flat transit back to South Lake, this time trading pulls with a guy from my field who I caught at the bottom... and those EBVC 35+ guys caught us. We're repeat that both days of the race- they were faster than me but took longer at stops. I was getting feeds from my wife. Since she was handing up two bottles and some food (and clothes) each time I'd stop, but the stops were short.
I lost all those guys at the start when they stopped to pick up food. South Lake climb begins only a couple miles away. Halfway up the 20 mile climb the EBVC 35s pair caught me again about the same time I spotted a EBVC up ahead. It was Ken, in my field, who I've raced with at EC and other races. He's a good guy but I wanted to beat him just the same.
The 35s went up to him and slowed, trying to tow him at his pace. But I was still catching. I went by and said hi but Ken didn't give much response. We'd gotten to where there's about 3 miles of 8-10%. Part way up I discovered that my quads would cramp when I stood. So I rode the whole thing seated.
(south lake after passing Ken and teamates)
The EBVC 35s caught me near the top and told me that Ken had pulled out. I caught and dropped some more guys in my field on a small descent. Even with the cramping and over 12,000 feet of climbing I was feeling positive.
(south lake last feed zone before the summit. Intermittent snow)
The last section has some gradual climbing and rollers before the final steep 3 miles, with a bunch of 12-15% ramps in the last mile. I rode all of those seated, turning about 50 rpm on the steeper ones. On the very last extra hard ramp I figured out I could stand if I went really easy. I felt that I'd done well and wanted to save a little for the second day so I did not go hard. If I'd seen the 10th place guy who finished just a minute ahead I'd have put in a little more effort.
At the finish I grabbed my summit bag, put on warm clothes and ate some food. It started to snow so I rode down to the feed zone where Laura was parked with the van.
Official time (not counting neutral section) 6:15 Placing: 11th
Photos: Kim Weixel, Laura Lemay