Battling the cloven hoofed devils in Arizona’s desert

Mar 19, 2011 by

[EDITOR's NOTE: OBRA Cat 2 Masters rider Karsten Hagen (West End Bicycles) is racing in the Tucson Bicycle Classic this week in Arizona. He sent Cycling Action this report from the stage 1 time trial.]

By Karsten Hagen
TUCSON — Starting ramps are fantastic! It made the first 10 seconds of my time trial a pure delight. Then it all changed. Clearly a cloven hoofed family of devils jumped into my lungs and began scraping at my pink, innocent alveoli with barbed hooks. I can’t think of any other explanation for the pain that exploded in my chest and throat.

Karsten Hagen filed this report from the Tucson Bicycle Classic. ©Pat Malach

I couldn’t get a full breath; my brain began to thump against my skull like a mouse-pounded piano in a Max Fleischer cartoon. The first 3 miles of this course are downhill, but you could have fooled me. I had no idea if I was putting in a good speed; I knew what the top guys did last year, but at this point, I just wanted the pain to stop.

When the first hill, a quarter mile long, 6% roller, came into view, it was almost a relief. At least now I had an excuse for going slow. I saw my 30 second and minute men near the top of the hill, which was a little encouraging. I also could not see my chasers, also encouraging.

I began having visions of the scene in Alien in which a crab like thing from outer space plants itself on some poor schmuck’s face and injects horrible things down his throat. That, paired with the Lawrence Welk theme song now flumping around my frontal lobe, were proving to be a real bummer.

The hill topped out and even though my respiratory system had other ideas, I made sure power output stayed high and I drilled down a few gears for the backside of the roller. I passed two guys on the final, steep hill and had my eyes on the red skinsuit of a third as I started the downshift.

Many scenes from old Western cowboy movies were shot in this very desert. And as the finish line with the blurred spectre of USAC blue shirts heaved into view I was reminded of the scene in an until-then forgotten Clint Eastwood (or Ernest Borgnine?) classic in which a protagonist was staked out beneath the saguaros as a two-course meal for hawks, then vultures. I got some good advice from Omer Kem and Bart Bowen about this TT. They both said, pretty much, “Stay aero as long as you can; that time trial sucks!”. And they were right!

I crossed the line and began a 10 minute coughing spasm and an instant realization that my black, long sleeved skinsuit is pretty uncomfortable in the 90 degree radiant heat of the Arizona sun. I pulled down the top, tied off the sleeves and slinked back to the start. In the 3 mile spin home I was treated to repeat doses of reality as guys who were clearly going faster than I did roared by in perfect, Cancellara fashion. There was one guy who I was sure was emitting flames from the pointy end of his helmet.

I knew I had a bad ride. It’s no coincidence that I’m making many movie references in this report. The whole thing seems like a bad movie now. As it was, I got a time of 8:05. Not great, not terrible. Just OK. I would have gotten 10th or so in cat 2, but I am in 4th overall on GC in Masters 35-44. I’m glad I’m not all alone down here with the leader’s jersey.

Saturday it’s a road race around the toxic mine waste pools outside of Green Valley!

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