I have now raced the 24 Hours of Sebring 3 times. I use it as a motivational tool to keep myself in shape over the winter months. I never have great endurance at it, since its just too damn cold in IL to get meaningful long rides that early in the year and my sanity only allows so many 12 hour computrainer sessions. Yes, I really ride a computrainer for 12 hours at a stretch.
An exhausted crew and rider
This year I decided to switch it up and return to my RAAM training grounds in the Hill Country of Texas for a new(ish) race, The Hill Country 600. I have great memories of spending a winter in Austin TX to prepare for RAAM in 2006. It was a concentrated period where all I did was ride my bike, hit the gym, eat, and sleep.
There was a small field registered, but it was a strong one. Marko Baloh, Chris Ragsdale, Kurt Searvogel, Thomas Lavallee, and Valerio Zamboni all in, many using this race as prep for RAAM or starting busy race schedules around the world. It was gonna be competitive.
The race started easy with parade start out of town. A brief bio break than the race began with Kurt jumping out front with quite a pace. There were numerous position changes over the next few miles, until Marko and Chris sailed away on the other side of a red light from Kurt and I. I never saw them again until the awards.
Kurt and I went back and forth over the course of maybe 70-80 miles, before he pulled away from me on a climb. I checked with my power meter at this point thinking maybe I just didn’t have it today, but the numbers were high. Later at 11 hours in I was averaging 20 mph. I was happy with that on this hilly course. However I needed a bit more with this field. I was squarely in fourth at that point.
In these long races it is very much a mental test to keep pushing, especially when the race is pretty well settled. As recent as last year, I was able to catch a race leader after a very long day thinking he was too strong and had too great a lead. I think it is one of the defining characteristics of ultracycling. The races are so long that major changes of fortune are possible.
Unfortunately that was not the case in this one, though I did have Thomas Lavallee breathing down my neck when I became complacent for a moment.
In the end 23 hours to race 375 miles. Off my goal time of 20 hours, but still a great race for the early season. Big thanks to Shifra and Carmichael for taking care of me, couldn’t do it without the support of a great crew. I loved the course and hope to do it again.