Paul Plourde almost had the right formula last year. Almost.
But when it came time to strap in for the final leg of the Pronghorn Classic cycling stage race, Plourde’s gas tank was empty.
Despite posting third-place finishes in the road race and criterium (in category 4), the wheels came off for Plourde during the final leg — the time trial — which knocked the Gillette cyclist out of the top three in his division.
But Plourde will get a second chance. The Pronghorn Classic three-stage race will take place Saturday and Sunday in the Gillette area. It opens Saturday with a road race (75 miles for professional cyclists and 55 miles for amateurs).
Lessons learned from last year’s race have helped Plourde — who trains with Team Tumbleweeds, Gillette’s cycling club — prepare for round two. More than anything, Plourde said, it’s a race that favors balance and consistency.
“It comes down to training and preparing yourself. You have to be an all-arounder, which is good at everything,” the 26-year-old said. “It’s tricky because you have to recover pretty easy. You can’t just go into the road race, post a good time, finish and blow up the next day. You can lose focus pretty easy.”
Plourde’s burnout last summer was the result of a series of oversights. For one, the Gillette cyclist expended too much energy in the first two races. He also didn’t know exactly what he was training for.
This year’s different.
The Gillette cyclist knows what to expect and has a better grasp on how to prepare for the course, which is a series of rolling hills.
The biggest challenge may be the mental side of the race.
“You have to play the mental game too,” he said. “You have to realize you’re competing in multiple days in multiple events. You have to keep up that psychology.”
A two-day affair
Nothing’s different in the race from last year, at least from a structural standpoint.
Saturday’s Spotted Horse Road Race, which starts at Rawhide Elementary School, will follow the same path as a year ago. There will be a series of steep ups and downs for cyclists along the path, which is a loop for cyclists on Highway 14/16 and also ends back at the Rawhide school. The race ends with a hilltop finish.
The second stage, a criterium race on a 1/2-mile loop path around the Campbell County Recreation Center, is regarded as the most spectator-friendly race.
“That’s going to be an exciting race,” said Chris Kozlowski, who helped organize the event second annual event. “Criteriums usually come down to a sprint finish, so that’s fun to watch.”
The three-stage event concludes with a 10-mile time trial on Bishop Road just outside Rozet. It’s mostly uphill during the first half and downhill on the way back.
Kozlowski estimates there will be about 20 cyclists competing in the races.