Today, I am the hare…If you’ve read my blogs before then you know that one of the reasons that I love stage racing is because of the opportunity! This week I have 6 chances to find my most optimal racing strategy, to test my limits, to see what I can do, and to get there a different way each day.
I must admit, yesterday was a little bit stressful chasing for the majority of the race. Today I decided I wanted a different view of the course. I examined the course map before the start and felt that many of my strengths would be exposed in the first half of the race. I wanted to capitalize.
I set a hard pace from the gun. Given the last few days, I figured that someone would go with me, but after several minutes I found myself out front with a small gap. I questioned myself, but I felt good. It was time to be brave.
I continued my pace, riding smooth, making sure I wasn’t going overboard but also allowing myself to revel in this new feeling of being at the pointy end of the race from the beginning.
My teammate, current race leader, and 5x Olympian, Katerina Nash was only 1 switchback behind me so after an hour it felt almost inevitable that she would catch me. After an hour we had connected and began to ride together. Up hills, across valleys, over rock gardens, across drainage pipes, we set a similar pace together.
When we hit the really (REALLY) steep hill of the day I expected to see separation. It felt like my first test, but as I asked my legs to respond they did. 1.5 hours, 2 hours, a 10 mile climb, 2.5 hours, and 3 hours Katerina and I rode right with each other. In these scenarios we aren’t chatting, we are working, we are pushing, but I can at least speak for myself and say that we are having fun. It was incredible to ride with a teammate and someone that I look up to so much out there on course today.
As we crested the top of the 10 mile climb, I was relieved. I had made it through (what I thought) was the hardest part of the day and we were still battling stroke for stroke for the stage win. As we entered the descent, I knew Katerina’s descending skills are out of this world and with the fatigue in my body I hesitated to follow at her pace. I let a gap form, but as we neared the bottom of the descent and dumped out into a fireroad climb I saw that she had only gained a 10 second advantage. I was still very much in the race for the win, that is, until that turn…
We were nearly 3 hours and 15 minutes into the race. We only had about 7 miles left to go and we turned a corner to see…basically a wall. It was so steep and I could see people all the way up and around the corners. It was never ending. I put in a fight to try to stay right there but I felt like my body spontaneously combusted. I dragged myself over the climb, each pedal stroke was a battle, I felt like I was seeing stars, and Katerina disappeared up the climb.
I made it to the finish in 2nd, but this was another race I am hugely proud of. The confidence is growing and one of these days my move will stick.
In a stage race the overall win is determined by adding the times of each stage together in order to crown the ultimate win. Currently, Katerina is in 1st and I am in 2nd. So far, it has been a great race for Clif Bar.
All Photos By: Bill Schieken (CX Hairs)