Arguably one of the hardest days on a bike in Colorado – the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race. Lanier and Rachel competed with 4 other women from Austin to New York on the Panache Cycle Wear team on the gnarly dirt roads at altitude. Read more about the epic day on the bike.
When Rachel Scott sent a message about the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race, I was intrigued. 100+ miles, most on dirt roads with 35% grades in certain spots – fun! Well, maybe not everyone’s definition of fun but I love a good challenge. We were a 6-person team racing for Panache. Becca put the team together. Laura and Caroline of Austin TX and Abby of NYC arrived in Boulder on Thursday. We got our kits together and arrived at the start line.
When the route came out the week prior, it showed 107 miles with 13,000+ feet of climbing. The time would be taken on the last person of the team to cross the finish line, so we needed to work together to ensure that all finished. The decision was on which bike to ride, and after some emails from Becca, I opted for my Seven ti frame with 28 tire. We made our way up Superflag, Rachel and Becca leading the way. We then wound our way along lots of hard-packed dirt roads after Gross Reservoir. Although the grades on the ascents remained very steep, often 13-15%, the scenery was spectacular. I have grown accustomed to the scenery after living in Colorado so long. Seeing it through Abby, Caroline and Laura’s eyes took my mind off the hard climbing and reminded me how lucky we all were to be riding our bikes with great people in a gorgeous place!
I ran into technical trouble descending a few miles of loose rocky road, and was the last one down. Then we needed to push the pace to get to the cutoff. We were back on hard packed dirt, and several of us were tiring fast. I focused on eating more, but my legs began cramping. Fortunately, Rachel had salt tablets which kept me riding. When we turned on Switzerland trail, I found myself on terrain that I would have struggled with on my CX bike with fresh legs – very loose dirt with bigger rocks than before. My legs began cramping again, and I slid out several times.
So I began walking, feeling 2” high because I knew I was keeping the team from making the cutoff. Rachel came back to check on me, and quickly realized I had mentally given up but that I could still ride. She said it was time for tough love, that the last part of the trail was easier and that I had to get on the bike and to follow her line. For the 2nd time in my life, I cried on a ride. I usually love riding no matter how much I’m hurting, but I did not believe I could ride another mile. But Rachel broke it down into simple commands and after a couple of attempts, I was able to stay upright, clip in and follow her. She talked me through the last 1.5 miles, and by the end I even found a small bit of confidence handling the bike, even if my legs were shaky and weak. It rained a bit, which cooled everything off and made the terrain easier. When we were almost done, I was happy again to be riding. To my eternal gratitude, Rachel helped me finish Switzerland Trail upright!
We shortened the ride afterwards, giving me a chance to chat on one of the descents with our super climber teammate Jamie, who had a great day riding with the Davis Phinney team.
My personal takeaways include making sure that I am fully prepared physically, mentally and skill-wise before signing up for a team effort in the future. But overall, it was a fantastic day riding some incredibly difficult but incredibly beautiful terrain with a great group of women. Many thanks to Rapha for putting the race on, and to our sponsor Panache and Becca for sponsoring a women’s team!