I awoke last Saturday morning and it felt like my nose was completely dried out all the way from the nostril up through my sinuses. It wasn't a painful feeling, more like a discomfort caused by an unfamiliar sensation. I quickly came through the fog of my dessert-populated dreams and remembered that I was in New Mexico and that feeling was caused by the fact that there is no moisture in the air, of course.
The drive from Arizona to Silver City was beautiful. Silver City is 4 hours from anywhere. I enjoy the loneliness of the desert landscape, it is a powerful space and it makes me feel a bit like a tiny spec. I enjoy this feeling, if only for a short time.
I did some bike racing, but I will not bore you with the play-by-play. Instead I wrote a general overview and I made of list of things I learned.
I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to ride for a really top-notch team full of heart, grit, and a real appreciation and understanding of the sport. I got a tasty slice of what I was searching for this season - to race for a strong team at the professional level where my natural work-horse self could be put to good use. I have no illusions of being a top GC contender at the NRC level. Sure, it’s possible some day, but that day is in the future, and it also may never come, but that doesn't really matter. I want to contribute to the sport and I love to do the dirty work. FCS/Zngine p/b Mr. Restore has it going on. They gave me an opportunity to work for a solid team and I feel like the luckiest girl! It was a most refreshing and brutal week!
My teammates for the week were ferocious and selfless. I admire each of them; Anna Sanders, Jess Cutler, Flavia Oliveira, and Jess Cerra. We rode well together and had some solid results to show for it; a second place finish in the general classifications for our Humming Bird/MountainGoat, Flavia, as well as the climbers jersey. We put ourselves in the break in each stage and kept our speedy climber protected so we could unleash her on the mountains, only to be beat by the impressive and nearly untouchable Mara Abbot of United Health Care Pro Cycling. I am so proud of our Gila team and the great story we made together. I am genuinely impressed by the other teams as well, they are finely oiled machines that are incredible to watch and race against. Eff yeah women’s cycling!
I developed a new skill, or perhaps discovered one. I can get dropped right away in the stage, work with some crushers to chase back on, sometimes chasing for about 50 miles, reconnect at the perfect time to feed my teammates (bring them bottles from the car) and maybe cover a move or take Hummingbird out of the wind before getting dropped again on the climb.
If you've ever raced, you know the feeling when you’re deep in the pain cave and your mind makes your body let up, if only for a few seconds. I can say for sure that I never gave up even for a split second when I knew I could still be useful to the team. I chilled out at the end of the very last stage after my work was done and there were no time cuts to race for. I also got to just ride the TT and not worry about trying to race it. It was perfect and gave my body a bit of rest so I could, again, be useful for the last two stages (a common practice for teams). In other words, I got to be slow in the TT on purpose and not by accident, ha!
It felt amazing, painful, wonderful, crazy, and beautiful to dig that deep. I could do that every day as long as I am racing for a team of amazing humans.
The support crew worked non-stop behind the scenes to have our bikes and bodies ready to go to battle each day. Lee, Niels, and Erin were the glue that held us together. They were nothing but encouraging and provided an atmosphere where we could perform at our very best. They were just the right mix of calm, collected, smart, and wonderful. They even bought me Epsom salt so I could take my baths after massage. Laura Green (my Portland massage therapist, who keeps my body working all year around) will be so proud!
It’s also worth a mention that I found a real buddy from another team. In every stage, we ended up riding together, either off the front or chasing off the back. It was a bit uncanny, we literally found each other every time and I find it fitting that we finished next to each other in the GC. Thank you, Lauren De Crescenzo, for being such a powerful human, I hope to see you again in the futuretimes. I am proud to have my name listed right below yours on the eternal record of the Gila 2014, forevermore.
Lessons learned :
1. it is very possible to chase back on after you've been dropped, don’t give up, there’s always a way. Just be sure you find some strong buddies to help you.
2. If you do chase back on, check on your teammates right away, they are probably thirsty and need you to go back to the car and stuff bottles all up in your jersey and haul them back up and take their empties. I used to work in the service industry, so delivering beverages is a finely tuned skill of mine made useful in the bike racing
3. The desert is dry and elevation is a bitch so you just have to convince your body that you’re not actually killing it and it will keep going
4. Having a massage every day of a stage race makes you feel luxurious, loved, grateful, and generally better than you did before the massage
5. Tour of the Gila is relentless and will eat you up right quick as though you were a small bowl of salty popcorn if you’re not tough, super tough, and you will leave even tougher than when you arrived
6. Having nice racing gear makes your job a tiny bit easier, or at least it makes you a tiny bit faster while doing the same excruciating efforts. Big high fives to Veloforma for a fine race machine and HiFi wheels for my first experience road racing on tubulars! It was totally tubular, dude.
I would also like to thank my coach, Josh Liberles of Hosmer Chiropractic Health, for having me fit and prepared after a few days off the bike with a mild head cold the week before the hardest race of my life. I felt great and was able to work the entire first day in the breakaway. Without someone smart telling me how to ride my bike at key moments during the season, I would be a total shit show. Thanks Josh and HCH for keeping me happy, healthy, and ready to compete at the top level.
Anona Bird and her companion, Daniel (Dan, Danny), found me at the top of the mountain on the last day and bought me rib dinner (lunch?) from the cowboy. It was the best thing that could have possibly happened to me! Thanks for being amazing friends and bringing me home with you. We celebrated with GIGANTE margaritas and a spin to dinner on townie bikes, my legs almost fell off but it was totally worth it. Oh yeah, and I got to meet Neptune, the snuggle bat-dog bundle of energy! He only woke me up four times in the morning, no big deal, he’s got so much love to give!
Silver City, thanks for all the pain and happiness. I will hold it near and dear until we meet again.