Stage 3 bought a whole new type of racing to the Mediterranean Epic…and it was hard.
The course started with a 3 mile paved climb with unrealistically high gradients. I was standing in my smallest gear and cranking over the pedals with my whole body leaning over the front tire. I burned match after match once again trying to pass as many people (men) as possible from the gun. I knew after the 3 mile climb there were 6 miles of flat gravel roads where being in a good pack was an absolute must.
As I settled into the pack for long flat section I quickly realized that I had not only gotten in a good group, but I had gotten one that would take me to my limit. I felt like a full on road racer as I used everything to hang onto wheels and anticipate attacks. The pace would surge as we swallowed up riders dropped from packs ahead. Every 5 foot gap that would open between me and the man in front of me felt like a chasm to close. Not only that but the flat roads were making my 11 tooth cog feel like child’s play as I spun at over 120 RPMs!
Since the goal of this race was to gain fitness and take my diesel engine and give it some speed, every explosive effort I gave to close gaps felt like training well achieved.
After 45 minutes the gaps were getting harder to close and dumping my cassette between my easiest gear for the climbs and hardest gears for the flats had pushed me to my limit. My group dropped me but I wasn’t ready to give up yet.
I put my head down and found my rhythm, jumping from wheel to wheel trying to get back up to the group slowly but surely. I continued to fuel knowing that eventually my body would push passed this state of fatigue. When I race I live for my second wind.
After almost 3 hours of racing and many miles of climbing and attacking later I caught back up to the people who had dropped me what felt like so long ago. The 7 gels I had taken kicked into high gear and I accelerated over the top of the biggest climb of the day.
As I entered the final and only big, technical descent of the day I was more than ready to finally experience some true mountain biking. I was so excited that I might have descended the best of my life.
The descent was a ridgeline with ruts and completely covered with rocks. I felt like I was a skipping stone and the rocks were water beneath my wheels. I was skipping on top of the rocks and it felt like I was barely even touching the ground. I passed another girl on the final descent. The adrenaline rush of that descent made the miles of starring at nothing but the wheels in front of me well worth it.
I still had 6 miles to the finish line at the bottom of the descent and the men were not too proud to hold my wheel as I did everything to burn my final matches of the day and hold off other packs that I knew would barrel down on us if we let up the gas at all.
The results were totally different today since the course favored such a different type of racer. While the people around me shifted I remained consistent and finished the day in 10th! Once again, my consistency paid off and I am still sitting 9th in the overall standing!!
Only one more day left in this race. It’s the shortest day, but don’t let that fool you. Tomorrow there are 6000 feet of climbing packed into only 30 miles.