By now you know how your winter training has progressed. In the rear view mirror is the Hincapie Sportswear Spring Training series. Over three weekends in February and early March, there were five road races and one criterium. The challenging courses and competitive fields were a thorough test to see how your form was going into the season.
In front of us is the Paris Mountain Time Trial. The time trial is called the race of truth for one reason – it lays bare how fast a rider can can pedal a bike. The time trial pushes you to dig deeper than you normally would. The legs sear with lactic acid, the lungs heave in and out trying desperately to supply the body with more oxygen. There is no hiding in the pack and waiting for the last moment to burst forth towards victory. When the last rider has crossed the finish line the time tells the truth of who was the fastest.
Tomorrow’s Paris Mountain time trial is a unique event. Riders’ speeds will be between nine and twelve miles per hour for most the the ascent, so aerodynamics are not a key factor. For the 2.2 mile climb a bike stripped of any superfluous equipment coupled with the lightest wheels possible will be the weapon of choice.
As important as the equipment choices are, the steely resolve a rider has to bring to the race is just as critical. The pain from the effort will be immediate so a racer must be prepared with a strategy. To launch off the starting line like a greyhound will only pitch the rider into an anaerobic hell from which there will be no recovery. The best time trialists roll off the starting line and gradually build momentum. The slower start will pay dividends toward the end when the rider hits “The Wall” in the closing meters of the climb.
The course starts off at a moderate gradient, but within minutes increases as you pass huge round tanks behind a fence on the right side of the road. After passing the tanks the road turns right and the pitch lessens, but still ascends. Approximately halfway up the climb there is a brief respite in a false flat. That is just momentary as the road gently curves left and the gradient increases again. Take solace that you are halfway to the summit. Now is the time to “reach into the suitcase of courage” and dig deeper. The final 150 meter kick to the summit, aka “The Wall,” is a gut check. There is no more holding back and the rider must go into the red zone and kick over the pedals with anything remaining in the tank. If the body burned too many matches earlier on the climb, this is where time will be lost by the handfuls. Crossing the finish line the body will be wracked with pain, the legs burning like a red hot poker and the lungs coughing to desperately try to catch up with the effort put forth in the last minute of the ride.
Once it is all done and back at the car, you now have a tangible record of what you are capable of riding. And don’t worry if you weren’t pleased with your time, there’s another Paris Mountain time trial May 8th.
George Hincapie time up Paris Mountain: 8:45
Distance from bottom to top: 2.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 748 feet
Paris Mountain is actually a monadnock
The last stretch of the climb is an 18% gradient