Has everyone seen "the Matrix" with Keanu Reeves? As Chris often reminds me, I could have taken the blue pill two years ago when he asked me if I'd like to do a bike race. I was blissfully ignorant going along in my "normal" life of working, hanging out with friends and family, going to church, you know, just regular life stuff. There was absolutely nothing wrong with that life. I was happy! I had dabbled into doing a few triathlons, so I thought why not? I had no idea that jumping into that first crit in Peoria back in '09 would eventually bring me to test the limits of my mental and physical abilities the way that bike racing has. It's the greatest thing ever!
I survived the first two road races of the Tour of the Gila, including a crash, to wake up to sneezing and wheezing the day of the TT. Oh joy! My seasonal allergies were back. Or so I thought. Turns out by Sunday, those ugly little mucous globs from the Mucinex commercials had made a home in my lungs. But trust me, even if I was 100% it wouldn't have mattered. I'm sure my results would have been the same. Those girls out there are amazing!
Friday was the TT. A 16 mile out and back course. Up down up on the way out, down up down on the way back. Nasty crosswinds and my inexperience with flying downhill in aero bars caused me to have to slow down to a near stop to keep the rubber side down. I'm sure I wasn't alone in that. It was cool to see many of the teams make the decision to just go Merckx style. Later, I figured out that they weren't doing this because they were worried about the winds. In actuality, they probably didn't even bother to ship out their TT bikes since they were there to do one job, support the team star. They didn't need to have their TT bike to do that. In spite of slowing to a near stop, I was OK with my 46:46 time that put me at 27th place out of 51. I know that with bigger gearing for the downhill, more practice and a massive dose of courage that my time will drop on that course. Just another reason to go back for more punishment next year. I want another shot at that descent!
Clara Hughes, who is Canadian and a former Olympian medalist in both cycling and speed skating and member of Team Pactimo won the day with a scorching time of 39:33. Rhae Shaw from Team Cycle U posted a solid 41:23 and Janel Holcomb of Colavita/Forno d'Asolo wrapped up the last podium spot with a 41:58.
Stage four was the downtown criterium. The entire town comes out and it's a fun festive day. The weather was great. The course is super fun, and pretty much non technical being that it is a standard 4-corner affair. There's about a 100 feet of climbing and then a long flying descent through turn 3 into turn 4 to the finish. Last year I won the cat 3/4 race. This year, I pretty much felt intimated by all the talent and tailgunned most of the race. What a difference a year and an upgrade makes! I started to loosen up a bit once I realized I wasn't going to get dropped. Any of you that do crits know, the first few laps are often the hardest. These girls weren't messing around. The big pro teams went to the front and hammered it. I survived the first 5 laps and then things settled down a bit. I was able to move up a little on the last few laps and managed to sprint for an awesome 39th place finish! --heehee;)-- It was fun to move through the pack and just practice sprinting a bit. Clara again took the win. Lauren Tamayo of Peanut Butter & Co took 2nd and Petuzzo Eleonora of Colavita/Forno D'Asolo rounded out the podium spots.
The last and final stage is called the Gila Monster. It's pretty much the reverse of day 2. 72 miles back through the initial "small" climbs (still huge by mid-western standards)out of town, then through the Mimbres Valley to the base of the Gila Moster, where the real racing actually begins. A group of about 12 of us got dropped on those first "small" climbs. We did manage to catch onto the group in the valley only of course to get dropped again on the initial slopes of the Gila Monster. The climb seemed to go on forever. I was pretty much alone the entire time but for some sideline fans, which was really cool. I was dropped by the gals in front of me and I had put time into the small group behind me. When I came around that last curve and saw the finish with Chris standing there, I managed to pant for his benefit "I should have taken the blue pill".
Ah how the tables were turned on me again from the prior year. Last year I took 2nd on this stage in the 3/4's. Now, in spite of completing this stage a solid 20 minutes faster this year, I only came in 37th place. Kathryn Donovan of Missing Link Coaching Systems took the win with Lex Albrecht from Team Juvaderm and Heather Logan-Sprenger of Colavita wrapping up 3rd.
After holding the top spot in the GC through two stages, Mara Abbott our current National Road Champion, let her lead slip away to Clara Hughes in the TT and she was never able to reclaim it. Kathryn Donovan took 3rd overall. Oh, I was 39th.
So, I survived one of the biggest stage races on the NRC calendar in the US. I'm once again "Gila Proven". I learned a lot about a bike racing and myself. What a way to spend my PTO!
I would be remiss to mention that my wonderful fiance, Chris, had a fantastic Gila this year and finished 21st in the GC in the 40+ category among some incredible bike racers. Thanks to his encouragement, I was able to actually complete this race and get every ounce of training and experience from what this gruelling event had to offer.
Next up, Tour de Grove in St. Louis on the 14th.
Thank you all as always!
See you at the races!!