I finally found the perfect hill for repeats in preparation for what is sure to be three days of excitement for area cyclists, the Tour of Austin (ToA)! Why do I need to sharpen my hill attacks? Day 1 of ToA takes place at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), which, as you can see from the 3-D map, has the steepest incline in F1 history! With up to a 14 percent grade, I am already bracing for the pain. ToA runs from August 31 through September 2 and is put on by Holland Racing.
Founded in 2008 by husband and wife Andrew Willis and Holly Ammerman, Holland Racing is one of the top bike racing organizations in the United States, known especially for the legendary Driveway Series. With three grueling days of racing, ToA Day 1 will take place at the COTA racetrack, whereas Days 2 and 3 will be at the Driveway. On Sunday at the Driveway, we will race the Grand Prix loop counter-clockwise, which is 1.7 miles with nine turns for anywhere from 30 to 75 minutes, depending on racing category. Monday will be harder since it is the Championship Loop, running clockwise in a .9-mile course with ten turns. However, most of the excitement surrounding the Tour centers around Saturday's race. With restricted access, only a select few from the city's racing community pre-rode the course. My ATC Racing teammate, Sammi Runnels, was one of those lucky people.
"Saturday's race will be hard because the track is exposed to all the elements." Runnels explained. "The pavement gets hot and there is no protection from wind. The course will favor climbers because that hill is big enough to fatigue racers who are not prepared."
I was getting nervous about that hill, so I rode out the track last Sunday with teammates Marla Briley, Missy Ruthven, and Kent Snead to gaze upon the beast in person. Even from the outside, we saw that the vantage point from the start line appeared to be a straightaway into the incline. Looking straight ahead to a big hill can be mentally tough, because they appear bigger from far away. Racers might feel the need to hold back and save energy for the climb or charge down the straightaway too hard. Either way, the good thing about a circuit is you learn how to handle the course better with every lap.
I should probably head out now to my practice hill, and yes, I am keeping its location under wraps! Heads up, Austin Tricyclist's (ATC) Kent Snead and I will be racing with a GoPro camera so you can catch all the action from the handlebars. Look for the link on the AFM website. Also, check out this video following my ATC co-worker/787's Tristan Uhl, Rothe Training's Stephan Rothe, Pedalhard's Brant Speed, ATC Racing's Sammi Runnels, and too many awesome racers to list as they pre-ride the COTA. Want to ride the course but not as a racer? This link will also take you to registration for the ride that will start at 8 a.m. August 31st—you get a "Rode the Americas" tee-shirt!
See you on the road!