Race Around Lake Tahoe: A lesson in no-person’s land
At the last minute (less than 12 hours before the race), I received a phone call from a friend who had an extra entry. After thinking about the classic Tahoe event for 3 minutes, I decided to go for it. After all, it would at least provide motivation for a nice early morning ride around the lake.
It was still slightly dark and slightly chilly as the race director encouraged everyone to roll to the start line just outside Zephyr Cove Lodge. He called out how many minutes remained until the shotgun start by gesturing with his shotgun. A white-haired man waiving around a shotgun before 7am? This should have been my first sign as I bobbed and weaved to protect myself behind other cyclists.
The shotgun went off and I warmed up during the first 10 miles through town. When I woke up and started looking around the pack, I noticed that there were a fair number of people on triathlon bikes. Tri bikes are great – for triathlons where drafting is prohibited. They are no good for riding in a group. I noticed people braking and not being able to get to their shifters quickly but I didn’t realize how unsafe and out of the ordinary this whole scene was until really thinking about it later. A classic Tahoe junk show indeed.
On the climb up to Emerald Bay, I was too far back in the pack (story of my life?) and so I lost the first group of people (pace pushed by a few Marc Pro Strava locals). The climb felt good, but my legs were a little sore already. After the descent and a few rollers, I found myself in no person’s land between big groups. I was working too hard and not getting anywhere – the dilemma of no person’s land.
Finally, I wound up with about 5 guys who were incapable of executing a pace-line. Excellent. After an experiment in moto-pacing, I was by myself in no person’s land. Almost halfway around the Lake, I decided to just go at a pace that I thought I could hold for the remaining 40 miles. And then I made probably the best decision of the day: I ate a power bar. It’s entirely too easy to forget to eat/drink during a long/fast ride.
After some time by myself, a second big group caught up to me. It looked really disorganized, but I welcomed the opportunity to catch on and sit in. I was looking forward to resting up and then going all out on the Spooner climb. Unfortunately, I made a simple gear shift error and dropped my chain for the first time this year. Impeccable timing. Were my components mad at me for replacing my chain but keeping them in service? Whatever the reason, I had to stop to put the chain back on, and I lost the group.
I kept motoring along trying to enjoy the scenery and focusing on catching a few people on the climb. The Lake is incredibly beautiful, calm, and flat in the mornings. Through Incline Village, I got some cyclocross practice as the course wound through a narrow bike path and then through some dirt/straw. Coming out of the detour, the straw path was barely wide enough for one cyclist yet I had to contend with runners coming from the opposite direction. I clipped out and put a foot down, but didn’t dismount. I can only imagine what a cluster it must have been for the big group at the front to go through this detour.
I passed a few people, enjoyed the climb, and time-trialled it back to the finish line all in no-person’s land. While it was not an ideal race-or one that will ever be sanctioned by any respectable organization- I was psyched to have gotten a good workout and to have finished a scenic 72 mile ride before 10:45am!