Kim and I have had quite the adventure so far getting to Silver City, New Mexico for the 26th Annual Tour of the Gila big girl race, aka pro race with the likes of Kristin Armstrong and Alison Powers to name a few. Though I don’t quite deserve to be here since cycling is my hobby, and I most certainly don’t get paid (nor could I) to do this as my day job, it’s fun to challenge yourself. Like my friend Alli told me, “even if you don’t have a great race, it’s the cheapest and most effective climbing camp you’ll ever do!”
I’ll do my best to summarize the start of our saga; however, I’m quite exhausted after racing and thumbing for a ride following the point-to-point race.
Sunday-Spun on my rollers for 45 min before swinging by Kim’s to load up the car. The day before, we spent the entire afternoon taking off our generously provided Thule rack on our generously provided team car by Prestige Imports, and outfitting it with longer bars, 5 roof racks, and two wheel mounts (stolen from Kimberley’s car). Before we knew it, our journey began. We drove nearly straight through to Albuquerque. A howling bloodhound on the loose in Trinidad held us up at the gas station. We did what we could to find the owner, but gave him to a panhandling man for safe keeping. Then dinner stop in ABQ at Farina Pizza and Wine bar for dinner, before driving to Socorro, NM for the night.
Monday-Kim and I are great at GSD (Getting Stuff Done)! We both woke up, and got an easy spin in from our hotel room. We both showered, packed back up, loaded all the bikes on the car and were out the door within 25 min. of our ride. Now that’s fast! We arrived early in Silver City, after both of us got car sick from the weaving drive into town through the Gila National Forest. Since we are both about GSD, we drove the sketchy descent everyone has warned us about on stage 2, and confirmed our fears. It’s a doosey. Then went to the grocery, stocked up on plenty o’calories and p’haps a lil’ wine. Unloaded everything at our A-MAZING hosts’ house. Denise and Steve are great folks and we couldn’t have picked better hosts, and a better pad to relax between races. If I get the nerve to do this race again, I’d love to come back here. We have yet to see Javelinas, but make up for it in hummingbirds on their amazing porch with a picturesque view.
Tuesday-Eat and pre-rode the TT course. This will be ridiculously tough. 1500 feet of climbing, yet mostly doable on a TT bike. No one said it would be easy though. And if anything, this is my cheap climbing camp I’ve always wanted to go to:)
Wednesday-Eat and Race. Stage #1, 73.1 miles and too much climbing (4500 ft though my Garmin says more). Our field consisted of 60+ super strong women, mostly comprised of pro’s. After the 2 mile neutral start rolling through town, the gas was on full blast. Several small attacks occurred one after the other, with one sticking through the end of the race. And these aren’t those attacks that I attempt to throw out at a race-this was the real deal. Aaaand if you got dropped on these rollers, you’d kiss your chances of finishing anywhere near the time cut goodbye. On one of the rollers, a girl attacked so hard, I think she wiped herself out. That’s what appeared to happen as I narrowly missed it, running right up on her tire while trying not to dart out of the way causing another crash. Unfortunately, she wiped out some teeth too in her crash. I hope she has a speedy recovery!
Most of the race for me was trying to find a good place to hide and stay out of the wind. Kim did a great job at this. At about our half way point, the entire field agreed to a pee break, since our mechanics don’t allow for us to go from the bike itself. Because the lead group was led to take a wrong turn, this was the prime opp to get her done. So after relieving ourselves, we were neutralized until the lead group could get their time back from the break, and then allowed to go. All very new and very interesting to me.
All was great for me with the exception of my normal leg cramps I can never seem to shake. I’ve learned I can push through them and sometimes if I’m lucky they will go away. They came and went in this race starting at mile 40. Other than the cramps, I felt great…until we got to the last feed zone before the climb. I tried to grab a water but the rider in front of me got it and the volunteer only had 1 bottle. Then I rode very slowly to grab another one from a volunteer reloading….and then it happened. Kaboom-I couldn’t go anymore as the group was pulling away. I chased and chased but alas, I couldn’t do more without walking on the last climb. I kept the group in my sights for the next mile until the climb. Lost a lot of time and should have never stopped at the feed zone.
In starting the climb, I worked with a couple other dropped riders, but was too worked from chasing by myself. They finished a couple minutes in front of me on the 6.7 mile climb (that averaged 11%!). I honestly contemplated walking my bike because it would have been faster than I was riding. I did see a couple other male riders doing this. As I crossed the finish, my only hope was that I made the time cut off (and didn’t get last, but at that point I was just glad to be done!).
Besides the last climb, the hardest part was attempting to hitch a ride back after riding 80 miles and climbing nearly 4,600 ft! It was a point-to-point race with the end being about an hour’s drive from town. And us not being that pro and all, had to beg for a ride because the shuttles that they promised were no where in sight. Awesome. Luckily, Kim hitched a ride with Tibco since they had one spot, and I gave my spot in another vehicle to John Klish. I then hunted with Cat Johnson (who took 9th!) and Amy Charity for a spot and asked the UnitedHealthcare pro team to take us back. We had to wait till they finished, but fortunately and unfortunately they won the stage which means they had to stay for interviews and podium! So we had to wait another hour after the hour we spent searching for a ride before Rory Sutherland got back and then his teammate who took 6th. We finished at noon and didn’t get back home until 4 pm. But thank you to Alex, the United’s amazing soigneur who gave us chocolate, water and chairs to sit in while we waited.
Poor Kim had to wait 2 hours for us to get back in a random guys hot RV because I had the car keys! So much for recovery! We’ll see how this will affect the rest of our race:)
Time to shove more food in my face!