Tour of Utah – 300 Warriors

| August 22, 2008 9:48 am

by Franz Kelsch

Last Saturday I finished, along with a limited group of 300 cyclists, stage 4 of the Tour of Utah, called the 300 Warriors. It was a great experience to ride a stage of a pro race on the same day when all the route signs were up (such as “KOM 5K”), and some of the people who had assembled early for the race cheering you on. Although the roads were not closed for us, we had a police escort for the first 15 miles.

We were the citizen riders so we started at 6 am on Saturday, 4 hours ahead of the professional riders. The 99 mile course started the 14,788 feet of climbing in Park City, Utah, traveled over to Midway, down Provo Canyon, then up over the Alpine Loop. We went down American Fork Canyon, over Suncrest to the Salt Lake Valley, took local roads over to Little Cottonwood Canyon, then the last big climb, up to Snowbird Ski Resort.

The 300 riders started in the dark. Even though it was August, it was cold, around 42 degrees. The route took us from Park City over a hilly course to Kamas then to Midway. After making one climb we had a very fast descent. It was too dark to see my speed, but when I checked my HRM later, it was 41 mph in the dark! I was hanging with the lead riders then, but the group was growing smaller with each climb. I stayed with them for about 25 miles. I was too far back in the peleton on a climb when I noticed a gap was opening up ahead of the riders in front of me. I made my way around the riders who were dropping off but I could not quite catch the leaders before they went over the crest. From that point I rode the course mostly sole, occasionally getting with one or two other riders for a few miles. After 33 miles I made it into Midway.

Ann drove SAG but I didn’t feel she needed to follow the course. After taking us to the ride start, she headed over to Midway where she was was waiting when I arrived. I made a very quick stop, just long enough to fill my water bottle and remove some of the clothes I had been wearing due to the cold temperatures at the start. Since we had been advise to not have the SAG’s try to go over the Alpine Loop, she then was able to head home for a short period then head over for the second meeting place at mile 70 on the route.

I was able to catch two other riders leaving Midway. Since we had 11 miles on highway 189, with a lot of traffic, I was hoping to ride with others to be more visible, but I eventually went ahead of the others. The ride from Midway to the start of the Alpine loop was more rollers. The climb up the Alpine loop (an ACTC Billy goat) took me 1:05. I was keeping my heart rate down to the mid 150’s, knowing we had a lot of climbing ahead. After reaching the summit, at over 8,000 feet, we had a fast descent down American Fork Canyon. We were being held up by some cars driving down and had to make our way around some of them when we had a clear view. A few miles after reaching the valley, I arrived at the second meeting place where Ann was waiting.

She filled my water bottles and handed me a PBJ sandwich, which I ate as I took off again.

I felt I had enough to finish from there and so she headed to the finish at Snowbird. I turned right up Suncrest and reached the summit in 31 minutes. It was then a steep downhill to the Salt Lake Valley. Once I reached Wasatch Blvd, it was the start of a lot of climbing as I made my way to Little Cottonwood Canyon.

From there it was a very difficult climb. The grade was a bit steeper than Metcalf, and it seemed to go forever.

Maybe it was the miles at speed on my legs, but I had to grind it out. It took me 1:15 to reach the finish.

I finished in 6:29, which was 30 minutes faster than my goal. The pro winner of the race came in at 4:15. Some other well know pros were Oscar Sevilla at 4:17, Tom Danielson at 4:19 and Tyler Hamilton at 4:27. Danny Pate, Will Frischkorn and Freddy Rodrigues did not make the time cut. I was happy I was able to complete the 98 miles and 14,778 feet of climbing under 6 and half hours.

After eating lunch, we headed back to the finish where Ann and I waited for the Pros to arrive and so we could take their photos.

One Response to “Tour of Utah – 300 Warriors”

Alison Chaiken wrote a comment on August 26, 2008

Wow, 15,000 feet in 6.5 hours: amazing! Franz, you are a source of inspiration to all of us.

Here’s a link to a podcast which offers interesting coverage of this stage of the Tour of Utah from the perspective of the Land Rover/Orbea pro development team:

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