Local rider Will Routley may not have liked the way the USA Pro Challenge ended.
But he displayed plenty of strength at the start of the week-long race, which ran from Aug. 17 to 23 in Colorado.
In Stage 2, Routley captured two of the three mini-stages to take the day's King of the Mountain (KOM) title. The Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies racer then retained the overall KOM the next day before seeing it slip away on the fourth day.
However, in the five stages in which he participated, Routley placed no better than tied for 63rd before being unable to finish the sixth stage.
Despite heading to Colorado two weeks in advance of the race to help himself acclimate to the conditions, things didn't go as planned. With the lowest elevation of the tour being roughly 1,500 metres, Routley battled altitude sickness for much of the tour before ultimately bowing out.
"The majority of the time, we were up in the eight-to-nine(-thousand-foot range or 2,400-2,700-metres)," he said, noting the race took competitors through Independence Pass, at 3,600 metres, twice. "Most nights, we're sleeping at nearly 10(-thousand feet or 3,000 metres). That was, for me, by far the biggest challenge. I have pretty good fitness, but when you're sleeping at that height, it's hard to recover."
Routley said it was disappointing not to cross the finish line, but after pushing himself to his limits, he was left with no other option than to bow out.
"It's not very often that I don't finish a tour," he said. "Generally, endurance is my good thing. But with the altitude, I was pretty ill. I was empty. I kept racing the next few days, but when you're already dehydrated and exhausted and not really getting any sleep... it's just hard to recover. That's the name of the game for stage racing — how you can get up the next day and put an effort in if you're declining each day."
Even playing to his strengths in the mountainous sections wasn't enough to keep Routley going, as his inability to recover did him in there as well.
"I have a pretty good sprint. I can sprint just as good after spending an hour climbing the mountain as I can if you just go and sprint for 10 seconds on the road," he said. "My max power doesn't really decline. I'm made for sprinting for those KOMs.
"The difference was at the top of the pass, it took me literally 15 minutes to catch my breath. The recovery is so ridiculously slow. That was why I wasn't able to just keep going into breaks everyday and just keep going all the way to the end like I had hoped."
Australian Rohan Dennis ultimately took the win with a time of 23 hours, 53:44 minutes (23:53:44), edging Brent Bookwalter by 40 seconds. Canadian Rob Britton, a Victoria resident, placed third, 1:31 back.
Next up for Routley is the Tour of Alberta from Sept. 2 to 7. He'll try to build off the early success he experienced in Colorado.
"It's a long season and we were expecting that I'd have some decent form later, around this time. I think it's there. The training I did in Colorado went well, so I'm looking forward to Alberta," he said.
Routley noted the route will take riders more into the mountains than it has in past years, something he's eager to tackle. As well, with the World Championships on the continent, Routley expects the field to include more riders who made the trip for that event.
"I'm looking forward to it, for sure," he said.
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