Lets kick off this story with a little small talk before we get into the heart of the matter that is the Independence Invitational. How about that weather? The weeks leading up to the 4th of July were brutal, both in terms of the amount of sun rays absorbed by our tender Pacific Northwest skin and the amount of lite beer we all had to drink to stay properly hydrated. Lite beer, because health. All those hot weather records set decades ago no longer stand because June came through and burnt up all the paper they were penned on. Luckily we still have enough water to do a couple quick leg shaves. Who knows, maybe by the time this is published we will be a dried out husk like California.
Photo by Randall Fransen
The ability to survive the heat was going to make or break some riders. Worries of exposure and dehydration were shared by many. Thankfully Team Wooly Mammoth riders have all been treated to resist sunburns and instead turn a pleasing cocoa brown when fully cooked. A bit more than GBD (Golden Brown and Delicious) for those of you who working the culinary arts. The 6:30am start time quickly became the smartest idea of the day since temperatures were supposed to hover in the high 90’s. Riders shivering at the start only had to endure for a little while because a quick scan of the muscle that was pinned up and ready to roll hinted that they would be sweating even before the neutral roll-out ended.
Race strategy started early with racers flying up to the Leif Erikson gate in hopes of getting past the bottleneck of riders all hoping to squeeze through the gate into Forest Park. From there who knows what happened in that lead pack, I sure don’t because those who made it were long gone by the time I made it through. We might have to do a catch-up with Clint Culpepper as he was the only Wooly Mammoth rider to sneak his way into the front group. The rest of us Woolys gathered and rode a swift pace through the park to get off the dirt and hit smooth tarmac. Pacing oneself for the rest of the day was not a solo decision.
The route featured a lot of familiar roads but some were traveled in the opposite direction than what was usual. Tough climbs became hair-raising descents. I would personally like to endorse Shimano Dura-Ace brakes because I still have skin on my ass after racing down those Newberry switchbacks. The descents on the course eventually all turned bittersweet. Instead of enjoying the reprieve that they gave from the continuous incline they became a reminder that more climbing was on it’s way.
Riding riding riding pedal pedal pedal…
Days prior to the Independence Invitational Team Wooly Mammoth was scheming up what we could do to make our mark on the event. The Wooly Mammoth RenegAID Reggae Rest Stop was concocted. We envisioned a lush tropical oasis complete with a feast of sun ripened fruits, coconut oil rub downs, and sweet reggae tunes. Mission accomplished.
After the hot bouncy ride up the washboard known as Dixie Mountain road anything with a splash of water and a melody would have made a great aid station. Luckily Dan, Pennelikethepasta, Penner, Coach Nate and a lovely lady named Tara were there to make our dream oasis a reality. With cold water of normal and coconut variety, watermelon, pineapple, and coconut oil leg massages the RenegAID Reggae Rest Stop brought a smile to the faces of the crushed. They say that hunger makes the best sauce, they were not wrong. I don’t think anyone would disagree that that was the best tasting piece of fruit they had in a really long time.
Only two more climbs to go. Logie Trail and Old Germantown. You got this. With bellies full of sweet fruit and the sun beating down on us the vision of being a suckling pig with an apple in its mouth came all too easy. The sun had been taking it’s toll and slowly cooked us throughout the day. Logie Trail seemed to fly by and us Woolys kept rolling at the top in order to keep the legs loose. If we stopped our legs would have cramped and twisted up like a kid trying to do a gang sign. A quick dash across some flat areas and we were facing the start of the final climb, Old Germantown. The paperboy method of climbing is not only good for making climbs seem easier but also for jumping from one shaded spot to the next. Our legs were hurting but the thought of a finish line was enough for us to grind it out to the top.
Photo by Randall Fransen
The Independence Invitational encapsulated the 4th of July experience in new ways. Like most other #4J celebrations we got to be in the company of good friends and drink a couple brews, albeit the hangout session was a five and a half hour grueling ride and the beer was a PBR used primarily to cool the back of sunburnt necks. Instead of glorious displays of rockets exploding in the night we saw more exploding from the people crawling up Dixie Mountain Road. Will we be there next year? Probably.
Photo by Randall Fransen