Desert Classic Duathlon
2.24.2008 – Fountain Hills, AZ
As it was last season (and the season before), the Desert Classic Duathlon was my first race of the season. The previous two years, it has come after training in Flagstaff; this year, it was the precursor to a five week training camp up at altitude. Every year I’ve done this race, it’s been on a new bike and new wheels, and this year was no exception. This was my first chance to really test out my new rig – a Felt DA with Zipp 999 clinchers and Zipp Vuka aerobars. I was hoping to retain the “fastest bike split” title and hopefully improve on my 2nd place finish from last year. It would be a lot tougher this year with David Thompson and several other fast cyclists in the field. I was coming off a great two and a half weeks in SoCal, splitting training time between the Slowtwitch Ranch and Glendale. I felt like everything was really going well, and that I was ready to have a good race.
The first run started out fast, as it always does, though I managed to stay closer to the front group than in the past. A group of about seven athletes managed to make a small gap of about 30 seconds or so, but I held pretty steady behind them with David Thompson and another athlete. The three of us came into transition together; David was out first, looking like the rest of the ITU guys in terms of speed. I’ve been making changes to my cleats and shoes, so I’m riding my road shoes with the ratchet strap as opposed to velcro, so I was a bit slower out of T1. But as soon I was out on the bike, I got right down into the aero position and started to give’r.
I passed a couple athletes on the long five mile downhill stretch leading out of the park. After that, it was a hard left hand turn that I took a bit on the cautious side since I don’t have too many miles on the DA yet. David Thompson leapfrogged back in front of me here, but then I passed him for good on the rolling section on the way out to the turnaround. At the turnaround, I was in third place, quickly closing in on second. Still need to work on my handling on the new bike, as my U-turn was not stellar. Once into second place, I could see the leader – Paul Tichelaar of our training group – up ahead, about 1/8 of a mile or so up the road. I tried to bump the power up, but the course is really tough with a lot of rollers and sections of bumpy pavement, and Paul was also riding very well. I came into T2 about 30 seconds down, and after a much better transition, I was off onto the run.
I know, after spending a month with him in Tucson, that Paul is a faster runner than I am. But I hoped that in staying away on the bike, maybe he’d burned a few too many matches. I also hoped that I had not burned too many in pushing away from David Thompson, who was about 45 seconds behind me. I could see Paul up ahead, but he wasn’t getting any closer. Paul is a very strong runner, and the second run on this course suits his powerful style. I tried to keep my turnover going quickly, as during my fast training runs turnover had been the key when I ran well. I ended up hanging onto to second place, which was a great way to start out the season.
My new chariot served me very well, carrying to me to what will hopefully be the first of many fastest-bike-splits this season. Coach Joel’s training plan for my time in California was awesome, and set me up very well for what will hopefully be the first of many podium-finishes this season.