Sorry for the bad news but today was disappointing. I’d hoped for a good sprint finish but I was out of contention before I had the chance.
There’s not a lot of today I feel like writing about, as most of it’s negative. The stage was pretty tame, aside from my time spent holding onto the car at 50 miles an hour. I’d stopped after the first KOM climb to fiddle with my rear derailleur, which was so messed up that I couldn’t stay in the same cog for more than a few pedal strokes. I knew my attempt to fix it had failed wen I rode back up to the peloton before the next KOM, gears clanking and grinding away.
After the Gila Monster descent (the more difficult and interesting section of the race) I got off right away and signaled SRAM for a neutral bike. They changed the pedals and raised the seat in a hurried panic, but by the time I got going again I was way behind. Like five, six, maybe seven minutes or more. I drafted the car for a while at an easy 500 watts but ended up having to hold onto the door for dear life just to get back on. From there it was a big effort up and over the small feed zone climb to get through the whole caravan and latch onto the back of the peloton. Stupidly, I’d taken on six bottles in my back during the bike transfer, deciding that I should be of some use to the team while I got the mechanical sorted out.
This was my biggest effort of the day by far. Luckily the officials didn’t give me a fine or time penalty, even though they almost scared our driver, Alex, into leaving me behind, which would have meant I’d finish out of the time limit and my week would be over. I wish officials had to race for at least a year as part of their training. Of course that would mean there’d be zero officials. But this sort of thing happens time and time again. Someone flats, has a mechanical, crashes, etc and they get disqualified, fined, or time penalized for using a car to get back on. It’s not like we purposefully have shit go wrong so we can “take it easy” behind the car. It’s always a much bigger effort having to pace back on than to sit in the peloton. Sorry, rant over.
My new bike was better but I still could’t use the 11-tooth because the shifting on it was messed up too. No worries. The finishing straight is all about positioning and grinding out a long effort.
I bided my time in the flat valley, moved up for the final climb, helped pull up some teammates with me on the sides, sat in comfortably on the climb, took it easy on the highway descent, kept well-positioned but not too far forward with 10 K to go, and then made a well-timed move to the very front with 3K to the finish. I got to the front during a lull and coasted a bit when I realized I was too far up, a few bike lengths ahead of the field and out in the wind by myself. The breakaway was still 40 seconds up the road, if that, and a big lead out effort was needed if we were going to catch them. I figured we would, since they were easily visible and the windy finish would be hard to stay away on. (Three guys from the break did stay away by the skin of their chin–Scott’s words not mine. Just three seconds).
I got swarmed from all sides but was still in a good spot leading into the crucial right hander with 1200 meters to go. Someone crashed to the right as we rounded the corner, freaking everyone out for a split second. I hopped the center divider out of the corner and stood up to sprint onto the wheel in front of me when my foot came out of the pedal. Now my day was truly over. I got clipped in then hammered the rest of the way seated since the pedal was so loose. I finished 52nd. Ughh. I’ll have to wait for next year for a true crack at it.
Shit just went wrong all day long. This is what happens when you’re forced to build a bike the night before a race. Oh and to top it all off, after the race I took my rear race wheel to the shop to be dished and trued only to return home and learn that I’d just paid to have Scott’s wheel fixed, not mine. Stupid wheels all look the same…round. Nother trip to the bike shop tomorrow.
Now that my complaints are over I actually feel like writing something positive about today. I got to race my bike, which is always a positive. No one on our team crashed or lost time, so that was a positive. Everyone is feeling good and motivated for the next three stages, I have chips and salsa to eat, and it’s Thursday and I’m not at work. It was sunny and 70 degrees and the race, even though it didn’t go great for me, takes place in one of my favorite areas in the States. The Gila National forest is a beautiful place and I can’t get enough of the high, dry mountain air (literally can’t get enough) and the smell of baking pine trees. Gila is a great race. I’m really looking forward to that last road race. I think I might actually be strong enough to make the break for once. Time for chips and salsa.