SoMo TT 2009
Here is a lesson…never judge a race by its title. For some thirty years I’ve been driving by that big brown pile of rock just south of Pumpkinville (also known as Phoenix) and never gave it a second glance. Most of you who know me also now of my disdain for the eastern most suburb of Los Angeles that is the Phoenix area. My normal routine is to travel through the valley before dawn, hence avoiding the blight altogether. I’ve lived in L.A.. No thanks. I’ll take the dusty cow town of Tucson any day. Although Phonecians’ think of Tucson as just a collection of stash houses, I need real mountains, and a lot fewer people! So, when the South Mountain TT rolled around, and since it is one of the few races in Arizona I haven’t covered, I thought I’d hold my nose and go see what it was all about. Well, I was in store for a very pleasant surprise. Great course, great scenery and a great race put on by a dedicated club, Team Vitesse. First class all the way!
The course climbs some 1000 feet out of the valley to the top of South Mountain. It’s short, only 5 and a half miles, and sits within the South Mountain Preserve/Park. The whole setting is very similar to the Tucson Mountains which border the western edge of The Old Pueblo (so much nicer sounding then Pumpkinville, eh?). The Tucson Mountains were formed by volcanic and metamorphic forces during the late Jurassic to early Tertiary period, 60 to 150 million years ago (didn’t know I was a geology buff did ya). South Mountain is a mix of much older Proterozoic deposits to the west (some 1.6 billion years old) and relatively young 5-30 million year old Granitic rocks to the east where the TT course lies. Both mountain ranges offer the same type of terrain and vegetation. Both climbs HURT when you climb them and with SoMo, you get to climb for a little longer and a little higher!
I am glad Mike Dale (Team Vitesse) reminded me about the race. A record number of riders had signed up and with the desert in bloom I was looking forward to photographing the riders on the mountain. Covering the race proved to be a challenge. Since the park had closed the course there was no traffic allowed up during the event. That meant I needed to start at the top of the course and work my way down, stopping along the way to get shots. This is totally opposite of the normal way I cover a time-trial. I’m use to catching a few riders at the start line, driving up to my next spot and getting the next bunch of riders, moving up again….and again….and again. Using this method I can usually get a shot of almost all riders, and even multiple shots of the same rider at different locations. But when you come down that is not the case. When driving down to a new location I seemed to pass many riders going up, without an opportunity to get a shot. That was a problem as far a coverage goes, but I was really after scenic images for a future project. Good for me, bad for riders looking for pictures.
The Vitesse team was everywhere! They really had their act together and the race went off without a hitch. It was encouraging to see so many Cat IV & V’s, male and female, deciding to participate. The course had excellent pavement the whole way up the narrow roadway. The route seems to have a split personality. For the first half it’s a steady grade where you can get a steady rhythm and settle in to the climb. Once past the half way point the thing morphs into a winding, up and down rollercoaster (but steadily UP) where you can not settle into that rhythmical, karmic state of mind (Mt. Lemmon anyone?). If you recover on the short false flats or dips you are going to lose time. If you don’t attack the short but steep rises in the pavement you are going to lose time. If you think too much you are going to lose time! It’s time-trialing at its best… at its most basic. Push to your limits and stay there or slip off the podium and down in the final results.
This year’s edition saw Pro-I-II Stevie Cullinan (Team Waste Management) set a new course record of 18:10 followed by Master 40-44 rider Doug Terell (Unattached) in at 19:26. Bryce Cook (Bicycle Haus) took the Cat IV’s with a time of 20:03. Best junior rider of the day was 15-16 Stephen Marcucci (Team DNA) who blazed up the climb in 21:11.
On the women’s side of the results, it was Cat II Megan French (Metro Phx Bank/Lifelock/Tribe Racing) putting the hurt on the competition with a time of 22:26, followed by team mate Cat IV Ashley Koch (Metro Phx Bank/Lifelock/Tribe Racing) only 4 seconds back.
Overall it was a great day to find your limits on this wonderful chunk of rock known as South Mountain. And a great day for me to discover a great race on a challenging course.
You can check out the results and view pictures from the day by following the links below.