Welcome back to the 4th annual series of Lotoja race reports. This year’s race was great fun and mostly uneventful. One Podium spot (another sacrificed in order to stay with the team). One crash. One broken spoke. One flat. The weather was perfect and all 11 riders riding for team Norda’s finished the race. Congratulations to all.
This annual event has proven to be the only training program I have been able to stick with for a long period of time so I’ll be re-setting my odometer on my bike to zero on my return to Irvine and start training for Lotoja 2007 next week.
Eleven riders was the largest group yet and it sounds like most are already making plans to return next year. Registration filled up in late July in 2005 and early May in 2006. We all need to pay attention and monitor the website so that when registration opens next year we all get in early. No doubt this race is headed toward a lottery entrance soon.
This year’s race prep and strategy changed in early July when Mark Facer crashed on Newport Coast and broke his upper arm in a couple of places which knocked him out of the race and out as my long time and faithful early morning training partner. My plan to sit on his wheel for 200 miles was out. Lotoja would not refund his entry fee and they would not allow a transfer to another ‘team’ (I use the term loosely) member. They would only offer a $40 discount on 2007 – not as flexible as they once were.
Clark Wardle was knocked out of the race with an appendectomy a couple of weeks before the race so that left two paid entrance fees open. Tait’s brother Trent was eager to get in the race and took one of the spots and Mark Nebeker took the second spot.
After an early dinner on a rainy Friday night at the Olive Garden, many of the first timer’s went to the mandatory informational meeting and then back to mom and dad’s for some peach ice cream, final bike prep, food prep and getting our race numbers fixed to our bikes.
John, Bob, Trent, Brian, Paul, Eric, Mark
Saturday morning. Start temp was in the mid 50’s. Perfect. Most had arm/knee warmers and vests or jackets for the start. Along the way I noticed a few in full on winter leg warmers, booties and ear warmers. The trauma of last year still had an impact on a few. John and I left our vests with Casey and by the time we hit Preston the temp was comfortable enough that all cool weather gear could be left behind for the rest of the day with the exception of arm warmer which were handy on the descent into Bear Lake Valley.
Riz, Steve and Tait were first off, followed by the old guys 9 minutes later. Trent started with the old guys because he was wearing Clark’s number, as did Brian, who started 9 minutes ahead of his assigned start time. At the start time Brian waited nervously with his head down, legs straddling his start number and tucked in tight between Eric and me while the race official checked out the group to make sure all were in the correct group. No one noticed and he was off with the 1700 pack.
A little past half way to Preston our group caught the other half of our age group, the 1600’s. Most of us pulled through stayed near the front. Mark took some of the strongest pulls. I took 3 or 4 and Eric, Paul and Corte all moved threw and took some time at the front. Brian found himself back in the pack as the two groups merged into one and raised more than a few eye brows when he decided he didn’t like the yo-yo effect back in the pack and made a move up to the front with the rest of us by passing 20-30 riders who were more than a little surprised to see a 1900 number moving by them so fast.
In Preston we caught Tait, Steve and Riz as they were leaving the feed zone and John caught us from his start 3 minutes behind us. John was looking for a podium spot so he grabbed his mussette bag from Casey and kept rolling. We grabbed our water and moved out to catch Riz and Steve for the first nature break just past Riverdale (for the record this is the first year I didn’t have to stop before Preston. Tait and Trent were close behind as we left Preston.
John was the last to start and the first one out of Preston. He was in first position on the road when rider number 1836 pulled up along side and asked if any others in their group were up the road. John replied that he didn’t think so and then the guy took off. John followed, got dropped and then caught him again on the descent into Riverdale and tried to hang with him through Mink Creek but had to give it up near the Diamond R ranch. The guy was too strong. It turns out the guy was Nate Pack who turned out to be the overall surprise winner - beating Kirk Eck, a CAT I rider who has won the race in the past (2002) and thought he had it won this year until this guy beat him by a minute and a half – all while riding mostly on his own while Kirk, based on the finish times, most likely had the benefit of riding with a pack of 8-10 Cat I and II’s.
We stayed together as a group of 8 for the first half of the climb up Strawberry then settled into our own comfortable pace as the grade increased with Mark and Paul off the front and Brian and I within sight behind them. Riz, Corte, Eric and Steve rode at a slower pace. Brian and I hooked up with Mark and Paul at the false summit and continued on up to the top where Brian and I followed Paul over the top while Mark lingered to check on the others. The three of us hooked up with a couple of riders and chased down another pretty fast group in Starbuck’s jerseys so we arrived in Montpelier ahead of schedule at 11:30.
We found out that Casey had missed John with his 2nd mussette bag because he had waited a little too long in Preston to help the other support crews with directions to Soda Springs and then was stopped for speeding along the way. John lost a couple of minutes looking for Casey then finally getting water and energy drinks at the neutral support.
In Montpelier, Brian, Paul and I posed for a few photos then grabbed our food and drink and started an easy climb up Geneva thinking the others might catch us. Brian and I stopped for a nature break and Paul went on ahead with a group of about 7 riders. Brian and I caught the group we had left Montpelier with but Paul was powering on ahead on his own. On the descent we hooked up with Vernon Plott, from Kimberly (Twin Falls), ID. Vern rode most of the race and finished with John and I two years ago. He was wearing the same ‘White Lighting’ jersey and riding with his friend Dave Emerson. We hooked up with them and soon had Paul in our sights out on his own in the wind. We eased up as we passed Paul and he jumped on for the run up to Salt River.
Behind us Mark was on his own in no mans land between the two climbs and I understand Eric was also alone having climbed Geneva ahead of Corte, Riz and Steve. I believe they were together as a group of 5 before Corte pulled away on the Salt River climb.
I had thoughts of waiting on the top of Salt River but Paul, like a horse heading to the barn, went over the top and kept going so Brian and I followed with Vern and Dave. The five of us sat on a group of 15+ that came buy us all the way to Afton. We never did pull through. Vern lobbied hard for us to ride on with him and Dave but we decided to wait for the rest of the crew. Corte rolled in about 25 minutes later and Mark, Riz, Steve and Eric about 15 minutes later.
After a little over an hour break, Paul, Brian, Corte and I were eager to roll so we picked up our bikes and started to ride. Eric, Steve and Riz looked ready to go but after an easy spin for a couple of miles it was apparent they weren’t following. It turns out they waited for Mark to finish his sandwich then talked to Trent who had rolled in right after we left. Trent reported that Tait was back waiting for a replacement wheel because he had broken a rear spoke.
Just outside of Afton, I flatted. I forgot to check my tires in Afton knowing that I had ridden though some glass on the way into town. Paul and Corte helped with a quick repair but we missed a couple of strong groups that passed us. With each group we were surprised that Mark/Eric/Steve/Riz weren’t with them. About a third of the way to Alpine, Kathe drove by and yelled that the other four were right behind us so we sat up and waited. Now back to eight strong the ride into the wind was a little easier.
At Alpine, we picked up our last food, checked out the porta-potties then made the turn into Snake River canyon where the promised tail wind was waiting for us. We spent much of the middle third of the canyon working in a counter clockwise double pace line like we had practiced on our last century training ride two weeks earlier. A lone girl in a pink jersey riding as part of a relay hooked up with us and had a great time riding with us. She said it was her first time riding in a large group. Mark did a fine job coaching her how to ride in a pace line. Toward the end of the canyon, a few of the group were on the rivet and didn’t have enough left in the tank to pull through (double metaphor alert).
We stopped at the neutral feed zone for some water and were ready to roll. Our lady friend in pink was waiting for the porta-potty and saw that we were ready to go without her so she got out of line (she was next) so she wouldn’t be left behind but we told her we would wait for her. On the run into Jackson her family was off the side of the road screaming support for her and she yelled back, “Look at my team!!”
Meanwhile, about an hour behind us, Tait and Trent were back together. Tait had a replacement wheel and a ton of determination. Trent was ready to quit but Tait wouldn’t let him so they rolled on.
We made the turn toward Teton Village. 11 miles to go. Brian and I were ready to finish this race and get off the bike so we took some long pulls along with Mark. Steve was also feeling strong and took his turns at the front. At this point, Paul, Riz, Corte and Eric were content to sit on and pray for the end. At 5 km from the finish the pace was too strong for some so we backed it off. At 3km, someone yelled “back one” but I figured everyone could make the last 3km so Brian and I powered on. Just after 3km I went to the front to spell Brian and told him to sit on my wheel and he would win. At 200 meters I was toast from my weak lead out and Brian sprinted around me to take the group “sprint” (I was impressed that Brian had enough left to sprint). Corte, Steve and Eric were still on my wheel and pulled up to let me roll in second. John, along with many of the support crew, was at the finish to cheer us on.
A few seconds behind, Mark had Riz and Paul on his wheel. He sat up for a second to check behind him and Riz touched his wheel and went down pretty hard – with the finish line in sight. Riz climbed back on his bike and finished - minus some skin on his left arm and a helmet that will have to be retired.
John, shown here descending Strawberry, had a podium spot his sights
At the finish John filled me in on his day. As it turned out two riders got in front of him in Montpelier while he was looking for Casey so he rode the whole race thinking he was in second place. His time of 10:09 is super impressive when you factor in that he was not riding with leaders of his group. He did get some help along the way but felt he may have been able to hang with the two guys who finished ahead of him in less than 10 hours if he had stayed on the course and not stopped in Montpelier. He definitely takes the award for strongest performance. I’m glad he finally had a chance to race unlike past years where he’s either had me, Corte, or Mark Facer behind him yelling, “back one” “easy” “slow down” “hold on” “what’s the hurry?”, etc., for most of the 200 miles.
Most impressive performance has to go to Tait (with a nod to Trent) who would not quit and would not let Trent quit. All you have to do is look at the results and see how many quit. In some of the citizen groups almost half of the starters failed to finish.
There were a lot of rookies in this years ride and all did great. Paul started strong and held on – along the way he showed off his newfound descending skills. Riz did his fair share, looked strong all day but at the end he said he thought he would be stronger. Eric, the elder statesman, put in a strong performance and had no trouble with the big climbs. Mark did more work at the front than anyone, which allowed the rest of us some valuable recovery time. Tait and Trent certainly showed some grit by staying on their bikes in the dark to finish just under (or perhaps slightly past) the official cut off.
That said, I’m handing my rookie of the year award to my son Brian. He’s been off the bike for two years. He has hardly had time to train this summer and had lost weight working as a valet so he had no reserves (unlike Steve and me). As the ride progressed he did more and more work and was strong all the way to the finish.
John, Brian, Casey and I showed up late to the awards ceremony on Sunday morning. Outside we talked to Ben Kofoed, a friend from Logan who has worked at Norda’s. Ben finished 4th in a friendly 2 man sprint in one of the CAT 5 groups where the Logan Race Club took the first 4 spots. He told John that if the group had more than 25 riders they were giving prizes to the top 5. John rushed in but missed his chance for the podium photo but did get his bag of swag (nice full fingered gloves, water bottle and some other stuff).
Brian was a little disappointed when we looked at the results at Jackson Hole High School after the awards ceremony. Had he, Paul and I stayed with Vern and Dave in Afton he would have most likely finished one hour faster and 3rd in his age group.
A special thanks to all of the great support team this year: Annie and Beth Emmett, Megan Mortensen, Casey Robles, Kim Badger, Kathe Espinili, Cheri Haggard and Angela Eyre. Annie has suggested that we do a little better planning next year and try to have two support members in each vehicle, which makes the day more enjoyable and a little less hectic. We really couldn’t do this ride without support. It is a long and stressful day for those driving cars with the other crazy support drivers and sometimes with cyclists on the road. It was fun to have all off you on the trip.
A very special thanks to mom and dad. They opened up their home for all of our race prep. Every spare bed (total of six) in the house and one couch was used on Friday night. They even made the drive over to Montpelier to support the team. Once again, the peach ice cream was a hit. Dad (with mom’s help peeling the peaches) put in extra time this year and made two batches and we were lucky they did. Sorry about the mess and all the laundry left behind.
This race is special to me because of the family connection, my home town and the fun I have sharing this long weekend with such good friends and family. Now you all know how to order a sandwich at the Italian Place, “John, I’ll have a Four Seasons on wheat and don’t burn the eggs.” He loves it when you talk nice to him.
Thanks to Pam and Gary for opening up their place at Teton Village to all for the post-race pizza feast and to Gary for making the drive into Jackson to pick up the pizza at Mile High.
See you all next year. Let’s plan to register as CAT 5’s so we can at least all start together. In 2007 let's all use “Norda’s” as our team name (no other teams are named after my mom). She did a bunch of cleaning and along with dad has been a great support the past four years and Tom's new Norda's Park City shop could use the publicity when one of us wins! I'm planning on a new kit for 2007 to replace the Quiksilver kits we've worn the past two years. More on that later.
1. John Emmett 10:09:26 4th Cit 27-34
2. Brian Emmett 12:15:33 7th Cit 18-26
3. Bob Emmett 12:15:47 26th Cit 46-54
4. Corte Haggard 12:15:47 27th Cit 46-54
5. Eric Mortensen 12:15:52 28th Cit 46-54
6. Paul Badger 12:17:22 29th Cit 46-54
7. Mark Nebeker 12:17:35 30th Cit 46-54 (Facer #1754)
8. Steve Turner 12:24:45 11th Cit 35-45
9. Riz Espinili 12:26:33 12th Cit 35-45
10. Trent Eyre 13:08:10 38th Cit 46-54 (Wardle #1751)
11. Tait Eyre 13:17:12 25th Cit 35-45