I had some beef with the Mogollon stage at the Tour of the Gila. The previous time I did it, I drank too much, and had to pee. Like, had to pee so hard I could no longer pedal. Hydrated? Yes. Forced to pull over to take a leak and lose all chances of finishing with the pack up the climb? Also yes.
This year I was sure it’d be different. I strongly desired to actually race up the climb, and see how a mountaintop finish would play out with me being on form. A break got established very early on, with a bunch of Boulder guys, actually. Their gap never got up to four minutes, usually hovering around three and a half. That was OK by me, as I calculated they’d probably need more than three or four minutes at the base of the finishing climb if they were to have any chance to succeed. The first 80 miles of the 90-mile race were incredibly negative. Overall pretty lame. Also, we weren’t doing much, or at least I was trying my hardest not to do much. I think I averaged 600 kJ/hour for the first two hours, which is not only a tiny amount, it’s smaller than lots of my recovery-esque training rides. So I was taking it easy the first half of the race, to be sure.
Then, at 25km to go, I was fortunate enough to have my shitty Cycleops Joule GPS computer just fall off its holder, bouncing off the road to the left. Did I ever write a post on my awful, awful experience with the Joule? If not, I will try to one of these days. Suffice it to say, DO NOT BUY A CYCLEOPS JOULE OR JOULE GPS, whatever you do. Holy lord, they’re garbage. And their holders don’t even hold the computer on a road. Hmm. There are some engineers ought to be fired over there in Wisconsin.
Back to the race. We turn right, and that starts the big finishing uphill. I made sure in the preceding 10 miles (or was it 8? I’ll never know, because of how shitty Cycleops computers are!) to stay at the front, and as we turned right, I was behind Colby Pearce, in the top 10 wheels. Right where I wanted to be. The road basically pitches up between 6 and 12% for a little bit, then there’s maybe a mile of dead-flat riding on a mesa, then it pitches back up super steep for the last few miles. It’s a brutal climb, but my 3×20 intervals up Rattlesnake near Boulder prepared me pretty well. We make it up the first steep pitches and onto the mesa, and I’m one of maybe 20 guys in the lead group. We had just caught the final breakaway rider, so the winner was coming from our group. I wasn’t feeling great, and knew it, regardless of how nonexistent the data from my inordinately heavy rear Powertap wheel was. As we left the mesa for the cover of a tree-lined, couple-mile finale to the top of the climb, I was hurting, but knew a top 10 was doable. I watched the leaders ride away, knowing I couldn’t hold the speed they were doing. I counted 11 guys in front of me, so I was sitting 12th. Not good enough. My immediate goal became to pass at least two guys before the finish.
Turns out a lot of guys were closer to their limits than I was, as I slowly passed one, two, three riders, laboring up the hill and just trying to keep a steady rhythm despite the undulating steep, then super-steep, then just-kinda-steep terrain. With less than 1km to go, I saw Fortunato Ferrara, the little Italian climbing specialist from Los Alamos who won this stage two years ago in my Cat 2 race, just ahead. I wanted to pass him. With a bit more than 500 meters to go, I did, and then passed another guy who was zigzagging across the road, almost at a standstill. Unfortunately, when I went by him, he gained a newfound energy and was right on my wheel, maybe two seconds behind me. I also thought I was in 5th place, which gets something like $20 for the stage. I like $20. So I want to hold him off. He’s right behind me, I have nothing left, he has nothing left, we’re both “sprinting” at the 100m-to-go sign, and I’m barely able to edge him out, by just two seconds. Sadly I was sprinting for 6th, so it didn’t really matter all that much.
Getting to actually race up the climb was a ton of fun, and I’m pleased enough with my 6th place. I’m now 2:16 down on the winner, Boulder’s Jim Peterman, who just beat Zirbel and Haga in a local Colorado TT. So it will be difficult, though not impossible, to move up on the GC this weekend.
Today’s stage is a short 76-mile jaunt up and over the Continental Divide, with three big categorized climbs and a 1.5km flat finish. Assuming I make the selection over the final climb, which shouldn’t be a problem considering my result yesterday, I’m stoked to see what I can do in a flat finish. Might try to take off from a ways out and catch people off guard. Pursuit-style. We’ll see.