Pic of me in the TT day 1.
The long, hot, Heavy Roads of southern New Mexico.
The last day of the Gila is a killer road race. featuring 102 miles of wind and 9000 feet of climbing. The last 15 miles are brutal. featuring a nasty climb of 8 miles or so that plateaus, rolls, false flats and pretty much goes on forever on twisty narrow, wooded terrain. I was pretty motivated to make something happen today. the early break had made it every day so far this race. would today be the same? or would today be the day that everyone came out to race? the course is long and heavy with loads of climbing and a very hard finishing 15 miles. A perfect course for me. I was tired and timid in the early morning cold. but as soon as the race started I wanted blood. I wanted to make everyone pay for my flat the other day. attacking a few times in the early miles trying to get across to a break that was just up the road lead to a fast 6 miles. that break came back and we turned onto the first climb of the day. I launched. after a minute the pack was single file on my wheel. I shifted up again and pushed more. snap! they gave up on my pace, for now, and I was off. I pushed real hard for 2 minutes and then notched it back to a more reasonably pace. As the climb went on my solo break grew to 6 or so, a nice break away number and our gap on the pack grew even more. we smoked down the first decent. "smoked" stands for 50+ mph, sitting on the top tube rotating by the sling shot draft effect you have at those speeds. On to the big climb of the day up to Emery pass. a long grinding beast of a climb, things started to go… not our way. We were told that pack had taken a wrong turn and we were to be naturalized until the pack got back to where they were before they tock the detour. 1:30’ what! 1:30 minutes?! I sad we had 4+ at the top of the first climb?!?! And you don’t take back 3+ minutes on a 50+ mph straight decent. but what ever… so they slowed us down. We tinkled and got on with it. This slow down, I believe, caused us to go to hard in the last 4 miles or so of the climb. In doing so we dropped half of the break. Having only 4 of us and then 3 after the long windy false flats going over the continental divide the pack was firing on all cylinders . our almost 4’ lead went down to 1:45. Then 3 new riders bridged that gap. If we had kept all 6 of us. We would have been able to push that gap out to 6+ minutes and it would have been easier.
The finishing climbs were upon us. I hung tough for a while. Sticking with the new, fresher riders. But then I just couldn’t hold them after some alone time the lead group of riders from the peloton came up, race leader and 9 others in tow. I hung with them long enough to think I would make it over the hump and onto the decent before the shorter finishing cat 4 climb. hanging onto this group would be good, the other lead group was just up the road and we would all surly come together. I could feel my back and right IT band tightening. I should have stretched more last night… I put it out of my mind I buried myself to stay with the leaders. Then an attack I couldn’t respond. 80+ miles in the wind at the front of the race had taken any snap I may have had out of my legs. Losing the draft I slowed. Loosing hope I slowed more, having my lower back tighten more slowed me, yes, even more. I kept on with it and some smaller groups passed me. Every time I was caught by someone it was on a small rise and they just went by. Not even a chance for me to get on. I felt like the Gila was just watching a laughing at my attempt to take him by the tail or what ever they have? A long gradual decent had me going slow into a head wind and thinking how fast one could go in a group, even a small one.
The last section kicked up and a some kids and parents camped out on the side of the road watching the wreckage of the day come by gave me the biggest applause of the week. It reminded me of why I do this to begin with. I finished strong but not strong enough. Today I could have played things safe. Finished well on the day and been in the top 20 or better over all. Taking home some money and upgrade points. But I figured I would rather go for it than play it safe. I would rather have loved and lost then never loved at all, Its easy to not make the hard decisions and “go with the flow” but what great people do you know did that?