I LOVE Devil’s Punchbowl. It is a pure climber’s race and the first time I raced it, it was 110 degrees and harder than heck, but I wanted more, so I kept coming back. This year was great because if I won, I would overtake the SCNCA regional point cup.
We got there around 11:00, because my race started around 12:45, the hottest part of the day. While we sat around and waited for my start it was unreasonably windy. There were 40 m.p.h gusts and truth be told, I was a bit nervous about riding my guts out on a pretty steep and long decent, so I just tried not to think about it.
After the pre-race rituals of warming up, eating lunch, listening to music and all that other good stuff, I was ready to race! I rolled down to staging and it was utter chaos. The races were running about 25 minutes late and riders were still finishing. There were also cars driving on the finish line and people standing in the middle of the road.
While I was waiting, I had two pros give me tips on the course. One of them was Dotsie Bausch, who I had ridden with earlier that week. She told me to be careful on the downhill, it was more windy there than anywhere else on the course.
The other pro was Austin Carroll. I have known him for a while and I cheered for him as he crossed the finish line. Surprisingly, Austin came back to give my a couple pointers on the course. He also mentioned that it was super windy on the downhill, and that just when I thought the wind would die down, it would pick back up. Austin also mentioned that the last turn into the finish had some loose rock and gravel, as well as sand.
Finally, by the time I rolled out and got on the start line, it was about 1:00 p.m. The first stretch of the course would be neutralized until we made the first turn. The race started out uneventfully until about 1k after the first turn. As everyone was talking and working together, when one of my competitors made a daring attack. She flew up the left side of our paceline, passing everyone. Being so early in the race I was not going to let someone get away and have a possible chance of winning.
I covered her attack going a little bit harder than I wanted to, so early in the 16 mile race. I caught her, and sat on her wheel. After a little bit, I asked her if she would like to work together, because we were in a 2 person breakaway. She declined the offer and attacked me again. Once again I summoned the strength to counter her attack and I stayed with her.
eventually, when the hills were ahead of us, I asked once again if she would like to work together and possibly create a bigger gap. Again, she declined the offer and kept on riding. Soon, we hit the hills and it was tough.
One of the hills at Devil’s Punchbowl, pitches up, then flattens out, then it pitches up again and then it flattens out. This particular hill pitches up 5 times and flattens out about 4 times, and it is quite a hill. On this hill is where she pulled back and decided to work with me. I was really relieved that our breakaway now had more chance in succeeding.
After a bunch of grueling hills, it was finally time to descend. Knowing it was going to be tough in the wind I was trying to stay careful, but still push it to the limit. Just as Austin had mentioned, at times the wind was completely still and then BOOM, you came around the turn and was greeted by a giant gust of wind. Somehow I got through it safely and it seemed that we had gained even more time on the decent.
The rest of the course would be rolling hills so we created a mini paceline, sharing the work. As we made the final right hand turn, I was worried. My legs felt a bit heavy and I could feel the lactic acid setting in.
We climbed up the hill slowly, waiting for the other person to make the first move. Neither of us wanted to make the first move to early and have the other person take off.
In the end, it was her who made the first move. I dug deep and countered, sprinting to my right. Now we were side by side coming into the finish. I knew I had to go a bit faster to pass her. I went one gear down, put my head down and sprinted. As I passed the finish line, I was about two bike lengths ahead. I had won!!
Devil’s Punchbowl was a blast and I can’t wait until next year, to race it again. Check back soon to read about POLA TT #2 and State Criterium championships.
Will be blogging soon,