I am down in Silver City, NM for the Tour of the Gila. Today was the first of four stages for my category (40+, Cat 3, 4, and 5). A doozy, for sure.
Things started out well enough with me forcing myself to sit in the pack for the initial seven mile climb up to Meadow Creek. I have a compulsive desire to take off on any hill set before me regardless of the tactical sense, but managed to keep control of myself this time. Toward the top I got to the front so as not to get yo-yoed off the back on the subsequent fast section. This plan worked out well and I continued to conserve a few heartbeats here and there compared to last year on the same course.
Next up was the descent down to Sapillo Creek, a hair-raising affair with switchback after switchback. Last year this was done in the company of quite a few 20 year-olds and I just hung at the back. Being with older and wiser gents this year gave me a bit more courage and smarter wheels to follow through the curves, so not quite as horrifying. However, one of our group over-cooked one of the corners and endo-ed into the shrubbery. He was alright and got back on pretty quickly.
At the bottom of the descent things heated up mightily and I had a heck of a time catching back up with the peloton. Really did’nt want to expend that effort, but I think they must have been reeling in an escapee.
Fairly tranquilo through the valley rollers for about ten miles. Unfortunately I missed bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint by about half a wheel length. Oh well, thought I would give it a shot.
Just before hitting the Continental Divide things went a bit pear-shaped as I got side-swiped and took a tumble. I jumped back on my bike and rode like hell to catch back on, before even checking to see if I or my bike were damaged. Muy stupido, but it turned out alright. Not too much damage. Noticed that my cadence sensor was dangling close to my spokes on the left chain stay, thought about stopping to fix it but didn’t want to get dropped. It came off by itself soon after. Couple of cuts on my right knee and a couple of gnarly bruises on my tricep and forearm. Anyhow, I got pretty lucky, in spite of my bad luck. The best part was that the guy who took me out actually came over to me at the end of the race and apologized profusely. I don’t think that I would have had the guts to do that.
Back to the race: After the Divide, we hit a head wind and the group stayed together allowing one escapee to go it alone off the front. That was a mistake. His lead grew to three minutes no one went after him. I went to the front repeatedly between Mimbres and Acklin Hill to try to coordinate a chase, but no one wanted to leave the shelter of the pack before the big climb. Pretty surprising to me that none of the teams were interested in winning. Oh well.
Next up was Acklin Hill, a big climb followed by a series of four more hills that goes on for 10 miles or so. Again, I quelled my compulsions and stayed in the pack conserving as much energy as possible. Finally at about mile 55 (of 64 total), I tried attacking before the last hill. This didn’t work out so good. About a quarter mile from the top I popped, got caught by the peloton and went out the back door in a matter of a minute. Spent the last seven miles of the race trying to catch back on, lactate swelling every cell in my body. No luck, they dangled in front of me within 300 to 500 meters for the entire time. Part of this chase was with Tony, they guy who endo-ed going down into Sapillo Creek. The worst part of this little hell was that I was close enough to see that, while I was completely redlined, the guys at the back of the peloton were spending a lot of time coasting. Ugg.
Anyhow, no regrets. My main goal this year is to try to do more than just hang with the peloton. I think this group of riders is probably stronger than last year’s, quite a few Category 3 riders in the bunch whereas last year’s group was all Category 4 and 5’s. They are definitely wiser. BUT, they seem a little vulnerable to attacks if one were to try something audacious. Hmmmm. . . .
Tomorrow is the time trial stage. Hopefully no mechanical bugs like last year and I can improve my time. As of right now, I have no idea where I am at in the standings. The soloist succeded I think, by maybe four minutes. Insert headshaking now at the well-represented teams in our category as they lost the Tour of the Gila today by not chasing that dude down. I am somewhere in the middle of the standings maybe, as I think a largish group came in a few minutes behind me. I could be last though, for all I know. Anyhow, I felt strong and gave it a go a few times throughout the day, which feels good. My arm and knee, not so good but nothing I can’t ignore for the next three days. Until next time. . . .