The 2004 Kinzua Classic Bike Race

Racer: Joe Kaehler
Date: August 6,2004 2:00PM
Location: Allegheny Reservoir in Warren County, Pennsylvania
Distance: 30 miles

This one caught my attention while searching the internet for bike races. The race was to be held in the area of the Allegheny Reservoir in Warren County, Pennsylvania. Since this course is only located 40 miles from my cabin in Betula, a perfect opportunity was created to do a bike race and get a trip in to the mountains all in one weekend. When I left my home in Hanover, Pennsylvania at 10:30am on Friday, August 6, 2004, my plan was to be at the camp no later than 4:00pm and drop off our gear and head to Kinzua so I could get a practice run in on the race course. My non-cycling friend, Mike Kebil, came along for the ride and I wanted to balance this trip out to make it interesting for Mike as far as seeing new sights as well as allowing me to try my legs in another race for the 2004 season.

Just like clockwork, we made it to Betula in time and took off for Kinzua. First on the agenda was a scenic stop for Mike so I had him drive up to Jakes Rocks for an awesome view of the 12,000 acre lake. It was now my turn to get to work on the bike. I gave Mike my itinerary and sent him off to two other locations to check out while I was doing a 30 mile loop. Estimating a time frame for my ride, I had Mike wait at a pre-determined place and wait for me. I was at mile 23 when I met up with Mike and I had him drive ahead of me another seven miles to meet me at the finish. On the solo practice run I did the 30 mile loop in 1 hour and forty minutes for a 17.9 average. I was pleased with this and realized riding in the peloton on Sunday those numbers would change for the better.

It was nearly 8:00pm and there wasn't but a half hour of sunset left. Our next destination was Rimrock, a breathtaking vista above the lake from atop sixty foot boulders. With camera in hand, I made the most of the sunset opportunities for this location. The following day was a rest day for my legs. Mike and I did our standard routine for a trip to the mountains and that was shooting guns. With the 12 gauge shotgun in one hand and a box of claybirds and shotgun shells in the other, up Frog Hollow we went for a three hour shooting festival. Like anything else, the more you do it, the more likely you are to get better at it, like cycling. This holds true for us in claybird shooting as there are very few claybirds that survive being in our sights.

My supper that night before the race was my typical pre-race pasta dinner of lasagna, vegetables and garlic bread. I made it a point of getting to bed early that night so I'd be rested for Sunday. At 6:00am, it was rise and shine to temperatures in the low 40's, yes low 40's in early August, imagine that! It was no leaving the cabin until I had breakfast which consisted of oatmeal, cereal and orange juice. My bike was prepared from the night before. The tires were fully inflated and I lightened the weight a tad by removing a water bottle holder and also leaving my spare tire pack off the bike. As light as these items are, every little bit helps. The clock said 6:45am and Mike and I were off to Kinzua. On our way, I realized I forgot my bottle of Gatorade/water mixture for the race. The concern diminished as Mike had an extra bottle of water and then there was some available at the race registration table. We arrived at the beach area of the Kinzua Lake to find dozens of riders arriving and preparing for the big event. The race was divided into two categories, a citizen's class and an elite class. The citizen's class of which I signed up for had to do a 30 mile single loop race while the elite class did the loop twice for a total of sixty miles.

I registered for the race and prepared all that I needed to do to start my warm-up. In forty-five minutes the citizen's class race would begin. I rode a flat stretch across the bridge on Route 59, turned around and climbed about three miles of a seven mile hill, did a u-turn and made my descent. My warm-up was about six miles total. At 9:00am, the elite class started the race and I knew we were next in fifteen minutes. The approximately 140 riders in the citizen's class gathered at the start line. I couldn't help but get excited being amongst this many riders not knowing what to expect but I was prepared to give it my best. The excitement was visible to me by way of my heart rate monitor that showed my heart was going at a rate of 100 beats per minute. Mike was at the staging area snapping pictures as I gave him an affirmation with a thumbs up. The signal was given and the race began. The first hundred yards, riders were settling in and immediately a torrid pace escalated up the seven mile climb. I hung in there the best I could but was unable to sustain the pace of the lead pack. I hooked up with the second group and we formed a nice pack that worked together to patiently close the gap on the peloton. Following our climb, we turned south on to Route 321 for a steady descent that allowed us to work together as a unit. Some fellow took the leadership role and coached us wisely on how to catch the lead pack. His advice served us well because it wasn't long we had them in our sights. A short time later we caught them and the pace was considerably high. At times I checked my odometer to see us averaging in the high 20's and low 30's.

Adding to this adrenaline rush was the thrill of being elbow to elbow, just inches off the wheel in front of me. I stayed to the left of the peloton which allowed me to advance meticulously through the pack. At one point I was in the top five and we had in our sights the pace car that was leading the way. We continued along Rt. 321 for quite some time and the cool temperatures I woke up to were still there I'm sure, I just was oblivious to them. I suppose it was sixty cyclists in the peloton as we made the turn on to Longhouse Scenic Drive to complete the final seven miles with some climbs and descents. During the turn, I missed a gear and lost some position but through some strong acceleration I was able to regroup with the peloton. Along the way, I heard some fellow comment that he never saw such a large peloton as this going to the finish. Climbing the hills was quite demanding and finally caught up to me as I couldn't hang with the lead pack on the final two climbs. My heart rate was in the 170 bpm range. A half mile from the finish I knew what was ahead and I pushed very hard to get out in front of 3 or 4 other riders who were with me at that point. I crossed the finish line in 1:23:40 hour for an average speed of 21.51mph. Out of 148 cyclists, I finished 42nd and 21st out of 52 riders in the 30-44 age group. There were no ribbons on my neck but I was pleased with my performance as I learned so much from yet another race. This race will definitely be circled on the calendar for next year!