Tuesday, May 31, 2016
2016 Tour of Tucker County Road Race
Each year for the past five or six years, I start the Memorial Day weekend with a drive to Tucker County, WV for the Tour of Tucker road race. Each year, I look forward to the challenge, and yet dread the agony of this race. And each year, I struggle to finish in the top 15 of the Masters 40+ class.
A seven mile long climb up Limestone road is a difficult but manageable start to the 56 mile race. Then, a ride across a rolling mountain ridge eventually drops to Route 50 in Aurora which puts racers into one of the fastest three mile switchback road descents in WV....quite possibly the only real opportunity to rest the legs. From there, Rt. 50 to Rt. 72 offer some "relatively" flat riding with two steep climbs back to Saint Thomas. Finally, the true test of the legs and lungs begins at mile 48 with the steep 1900ft climb up Sugarland road to the giant windmills at 3500ft elevation on top of the mountain.
Every year in the past, I've gone out too hard from the start, only to fight wind alone on the ridge, and eventually suffer leg cramps on the Sugarland climb. This year, however, I managed to hang on to a small chase group of Masters 40 and 50+ racers to the top of Limestone Road. At that point, the group dwindled to just myself and a racer in the 50+ category. We traded pulls, picking up and dropping other racers along the way until we reached Saint Thomas. From that point on, he pulled ahead in his own race with other 50+ guys, leaving me alone to tackle the final climb that I know from past experiences will cause leg cramps, overheating, and doubt that I would ever come back and race again.
During the final climb, I was passed by another 40+ male. Struggling to stay within 30 yards of him, I contemplated lying in the creek adjacent to the road to lower my core temperature. For miles, there seemed to be a power threshold that muscle cramps in both legs. As the competitor reached the steepest grade next to the cemetery, I noticed he was beginning the fight with cramping muscles as well. My last gulp of water was enough to get me past him with only a mile to go. Then, after the final surge to the top I rolled across the finish line for a 5th place spot on the podium