Some people adapt easily to being at altitude and some people do not. Last week, I discovered that I am one of the latter.
The US Pro Challenge is renowned for being a tough race with a lot of climbing and almost all of it at an elevation above 2000m. In fact, one of the first pieces of information in the race manual is about altitude sickness.
Some teams foolishly turn up to race only a few days before the start and they struggle with the thin air and lack of oxygen. With no time to adapt, they start well and truly on the back foot.
In order to prepare for the race and acclimatise, we flew directly from the Tour of Denmark to spend 13 days in Vail, at over 2500m. Even riding into Vail was a struggle. Whilst trying to take it 'easy' my heart rate was almost maxing out while my legs were producing very little power. If I took a drink from my water bottle, I had to slow down even more just to catch my breath.
At Vail, even holding a conversation with someone can take your breathe away. Needless to say, I spent the entire time just trying to recover from the Tour if Denmark.
Stage 1 of the US Pro Challenge consisted of 100km with just over 1500m of climbing. When the group hit the climbs, it was as if the race was in slow motion as riders fought for air. I struggled the entire time and rolled in well behind the leaders.
Stage 2 was tough on paper and even worse in real life. It was 200km long starting with a 30km climb up to Independence Pass at 3600m elevation. At this level, oxygen saturation drops to around 75% and riders have a 20-25% reduction in VO2max!
The climb sucked and I was hating life the entire way. The main bunch was just ahead of me as I went over the top and I managed to regain contact on the descent. However... at 115km, when the road started going up again, I had no power and decided to call it a day.
I can honestly say that I do not like altitude and cannot understand how anyone possibly could. Colorado is a great place for a skiing or hiking holiday but its less than ideal for a bike race. At that level of altitude, everybody suffers, even food packaging. These packets of crisps are even hating altitude.