Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ore To Shore....And Back Again!

I'm reposting my Ore To Shore race report, which I originally put up last week the Twin Six site:

Last week we loaded up the truck and pointed it North for the seven hour drive to Marquette, Michigan for this year’s running of the Ore To Shore. I hadn’t competed at Ore to Shore for four years. The last two times to Marquette I did hand-ups and support for my wife and sister-in-law. This time I was back in the mix.

Unfortunately for me, my three top 25 finishes were old news for the promoter. Since I’d been away so long I wasn’t awarded a preferred start. “Come on,” I argued at Friday’s registration, “I used to be fast!” But the promoter wasn’t having any of it.

Race day arrived, cool and wet. Grey skys covered the area following overnight rain. We arrived at the line one and a half hours early, only to find that the start area in Negaunee was already filling up with bikes. I wedged mine between the dozens of others and attempted to keep warm, while my wife enjoyed the fruits of being a legit pro with a preferred start. She got to warm up on her bike, her preferred start was secure.

The 600+ rider mass start came soon enough. Time flies when you’re standing around with hundreds of other damp cyclists on a cold U.P. morning. The flat, paved roll-out of Negaunee instantly became a big ring sprint. Memories of Ore To Shores past flittered through my mind as I sprinted and elbowed my way through the throng of riders. Time was running out, though. A mile and a half later the course turned to the dirt and soon after we were hitting the big grassy toboggan hill where the real race selection is made. Get to the top with the leaders and you’re in the game. Miss that selection and you’ll be chasing the next 46 miles downhill to Marquette. At the top of the massive hill a spectator was counting riders outloud. “54!” I heard him shout as I rode by.

A few miles later I was chasing the leaders. I hit a stretch of pavement rolling through Ishpeming. Up ahead I could see a large group of three or four dozen people. That was as close as I’d get to the front of the race.

The rest of the 2009 Ore To Shore became what felt like a long long time trial. Now and then I’d catch lone riders who’d been shelled off the back of that original lead pack. Near the midpoint at Missery Hill I shouldered my bike and put a huge gap on a large group of riders who’d been on my wheel. 6 miles later an infamous stretch of pavement they scooped me back up. 12 on the road roll a lot faster than one. I took a breather in that group, then hit the gas again when we reached the dirt for the last 18 or so miles.

The last third of the race was a blur. Head down and spinning away, I managed to hold off everyone behind me exept one. I blew past a few lonely straglers as I neared the finish line. When it was all over I’d crossed the line in 28th place overall (2:42), only a minute out of the money. It was my worst finish at Ore To Shore, but since this has been a rebuilding year for me (after 3 years of injury and rehab) I had to be happy with the result. My legs actually felt really good.

My wife came in not far behind for 3rd overall. Once we’d both caught our breath we made our way out to route 41 and spun our bikes for another hour for the ride back to Negaunee to pick up our car from the start line. Ore To Shore 2009 was history. Bring on 2010!

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