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Gila Stage 5 - Gila Monster Road Race

Here are some great photo's that I took of Lance et al in the P/1 crit:


The Last Supper - Heagerty, Bickel, Bain, Barton, Sladek
Alright, it's true confession time. I really wanted the final stage to pass as uneventfully as possible and as slow as people were willing to go. But I had my reasons...

The first year that I came to the Gila, I found myself and two others chasing another group up the Mimbres River valley for 20 miles in a perfect team time trial straight into a tough headwind. We never caught that group before we reached the base of the Sapillo climb with 20 mile left in the 72 mile stage. I got up two switchbacks and bonked. In what qualifies as one of the most memorably inhuman rides of my life, my two companions practically dragged me the 5 miles up the climb, the ten miles across to the the next climb, and the final five miles up to the finish.

Maynard Herson, MC driver for the P:1's Then there was the race three years ago when I seemed to get through the final stage alright. Until on our drive away from Silver City that afternoon, a hemorrhoid flared up and I had to spend the remainder of the trip laying on my side in the back seat while Seymour drove us back to Austin.

Just two years ago, I was so spent after the race and felt so weak for the following ten days that I was convinced I must have come down with Epstein Barr Virus.

So in six prior starts I was batting fifty percent on final-stages-where-I-wanted-to-die. You understand my sense of foreboding.

We started the stage with a nice, sedate, neutral rollout. I talked with Michael Carter, the race leader (won three of the first four stages). He told me that he was about to head out to be a DS at the Tour of Korea. I'd never heard of it but he said it was a pretty big race. I was catching up with Jame Carney when Korioth interrupted us. As they continued to talk I realized that we were going up hill and I was starting to struggle while they were in casual conversation. Not a good sign.

The next 15 miles were critical - hang with the leaders until we got over the early climbs before the long headwind trudge up the valley. I hung on by my fingernails as we went over the last of the 3 little climbs but I was still in the race. We then rocketed down the other side of the mountain at 50 mph until we reached San Lorenzo. Phil Sladek went off the front there. I wouldn't see him again until after the race.

The headwind in the river valley was a blessing. It controlled the race while I kept myself as sheltered as possible. Carter and Carney were content to sit on the front and set a tempo that kept almost all from escaping and insured those who did get away would not gain much advantage. 

We climbed through the feed zone and then the next little climbs. Once again I was hanging by a thread. So were Bain, Heagerty, and many others. We passed over the spot where about an hour earlier there had been a massive crash in the P/1 race.

After surviving those hills I knew I was golden. I'd reach the base of the Sapillo climb in one piece and could dawde all I wanted. The guy ahead of me on GC had more than 3 minutes advantage, and I had a twenty minute advantage over the guy behind me on GC. Not much was at stake other than survival and a little foolish pride.

So when we hit the climb I did exactly what was called for. I just rode my own pace, which meant that almost everyone except Heagerty and Bain rolled up the road. The three of us trudged up the climb; soon only one figure was in sight ahead of us and he eventually disappeared. No one was visible behind us although I knew there were a few back there who hadn't survived the valley in the group. Heagerty complained that his back was spasming. We slowed for him. Now that I was thinking of Heagerty's back my own back started to bother me. I found that we were barely climbing faster than we had on Tuesday when we were just doing a warm-up spin and practicing the descent of this hill. But we were climbing.

Kristin Armstron is not even breathing hard after winning the Women's P:1:2 Gila The top of the climb meant just 15 miles to go. We shot down the other side, but not with as much panache as on the previous Tuesday. When we finally got to the finish in Pinos Altos, we had given up 17 minutes to the leaders that we were with just 20 miles earlier. It had taken us an hour and twelve minutes to cover the same distance they did in just fifty five. Pretty damn amazing. But it wasn't a final-stage-where-I-wanted-to-die; so no complaint!

The crowds at the end were like nothing I'd seen in Pinos Altos before. That's what Lance's presence does. Kristin Armstrong came in to win the women's race about ten minutes after we finished. Thirty minutes later the men finished, with Lance and Levii coming in 2nd and 3rd just seconds behind Phil Zajicek. Levi and Lance finished 1 & 2 on GC. 

I didn't stay long enough to see the P1 award podium but did see Kristin Armstrong on the women's podium.

After that it was a fast six mile ride down the mountain to The Palace Hotel in Silver City so I could throw everything in the car and head for home.

Another Gila and I was still alive to tell about it.

The women's podium
The Women's P/1/2 Podium

09:42 PM in Cycling | Permalink


Way to go Frank! Thanks for 5 days of vicarious suffering.

Posted by: Matt | May 7, 2009 5:13:18 AM

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