Tour the Gila pt 1

So I’ve been slacking a little bit on the race reports. Two weeks ago I did the Old Pueblo Grand Prix. A cool little crit in downtown Tucson, one of the best promoted races I’ve done so far in Arizona. Not to mention there was $12,000 of prize money, unfortunately I had some repertory infection acting up and was feeling pretty shitty. I managed to hang on for 12th in a pretty uneventful race, so I’ll just leave you with some videos of the gnarly crashing going on in the races.


Last weekend was the Focus Crit in Phoenix. It was a pretty typical AZ crit, abandoned office park with pristine concrete.

It was super windy so the small race totally exploded. The highlight of my race was when I was caught between the breakaway and what was left of the field and the announcer said he’d give me $50 if I caught the breakaway in 5 laps…I did it in 2. I took the field sprint in the end for 2nd place.

On to the Gila!
The Landis-Trek team based out of Phoenix asked me to guest ride for them after one of their riders crashed pretty bad last week. I was originally just going to go out and ride solo for Panther but riding for the Landis guys has been a huge help in terms of support. Having people in the feed zone on a 94 mile day is priceless, not to mention a ride back from that same 94 mile point to point race is a big help as well.

We just finished up our second day of the Tour of the Gila. Yesterday was the 94 mile stage to Mogollian (ghost town). The race was pretty flat and tame for the first 88 miles. There was a few field splits going on caused by some pretty sudden gusts of cross winds, although nothing compared to what it sounded like last year. I got caught on the wrong side of the second field split the second time round and we formed an echelon to chase. I narrowly avoided a big crash in our echelon that was probably a result of people riding cross eyed. Our group caught back on pretty quickly and it was back in the pack till the finish. There were a few pretty nasty isolated crashes going into the finishing climb, but luckily nothing that happened in front of me.

With 6 miles to go we made a right turn and it was all uphill to the finish. There was a mile of short steep (10% climbing) followed by a pretty shallow plateau. I stayed in contact with the main group through the first steep section then got dropped as we crested onto the shallow plateau. There was a mile of false flat where we almost caught back on then it was straight up the last 3 miles to the finish. I just rode my own race from there on out to roll in a little over 4 minutes off the winner: Paco Mancebo from RealCyclist.

A quick word about altitude: it sucks. Its effects might be slightly exacerbated by being a little sick, but racing at 7000 ft is damn hard. You don’t notice it just walking around or sitting in a field that’s just cruising along, but as soon as I hit any climbs and go into the red zone there is no recovery for me. My heart rate is no where near what it normally is, I can put in about 5 minutes of hard effort then blow sky high.

And that’s exactly what happened in Stage 2. The second stage, called the “Inner Loop” made a 80 mile circuit around the Gila Forest. The tough thing about this stage is that at mile 6 there is a Sprint point, followed immediately by climbing/rolling terrain up to a KOM point, followed immediately by the most technical descent of the race. So the race starts out more like a Crit than anything else. My legs felt like crap as soon as I woke up so I knew it was going to be a fun day.

I made it through the first bit of the climb but couldn’t recover enough on the smallish descent before the final push to Palos Altos (KOM). I got gapped out with a bunch of other riders. Fortunately we were able to chase back on through the very technical descent off the Wolf Mesa. The descent itself wasn’t very technical, just a few tight steep switchbacks, but my group was doing most of it through the caravan of cars, which meant we had about the width of a bike path to work with on the descent.

We caught back on at the bottom of the descent, but someone forgot how to corner and opened up a large gap on like 20 guys that had to be closed again. Finally around mile 38 we caught back on. Fortunately, after a pretty gradual climb up to the continental divide it was all downhill to the finish. Unfortunately there was one last KOM climb before the finish at mile 62. If it was just one 2 mile stretch of climbing I’d be ok, but the climb went up 2 miles, then descended a mile, then went up another few miles to the KOM point, before rolling back into town.

I was hanging on to the coat tails of the group, but holding on none the less, until a Rio Grande guy sitting in front of me swung right abruptly and took out my front wheel. Luckily we were only doing about 10 mph and I managed to unclip and keep from crashing, but the group was long gone by that point. I rolled in the last 10 miles of the race solo in the caravan, which I still have not been able to figure out the protocol of how to ride in. Can I draft the cars when I get dropped, which side of the road am I supposed to ride on when I’m passing them, when their passing me, and most importantly can I draft the cars when I get dropped.

However hardest race of the day goes to Ben Damhoff, who double flatted before the first climb (@ mile 7) and had to chase the entire 80 mile race to catch back on. He got his TT practice in today so the 16 mile TT tomorrow should seem like a piece of cake.

All I can say is that I can’t wait for the crit, and to get down to sea level.

I don’t even want to talk about Sunday yet.

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