Today was something totally different. It was totally different than anything I’ve ever done before…and as I rode I really tried to soak that in.
Today’s stage was only 24 miles, but it took almost 3.5 hours. Over the course of 24 miles we had 5,544 feet of climbing and descended 5,187 feet. If you have any point of reference for those stats you will know that what we were riding was VERY VERY steep. We crested up and over 12,500 feet on two different occasions and we got to go where very few people ever step foot. We went above treeline and saw views that are often only viewed on cameras. We endured something extraordinary and it reminded me how grateful I am to be riding my bike.
Day 5 started straight uphill. The trail immediately became very rocky, and steep and challenging. We rode strong. It was quickly a group of 3 of us women. We set a fast pace. I think sometimes I take for granted how quickly we can maneuver up and over and through these rocks. When I see the times of some of the people toward the back who are pushing themselves through these trails it gives me respect for just how difficult the terrain that we are conquering is.
About 20 minutes into the race, it was just Katerina and me again. We rode together for a significant distance and then the new race started. The Wheeler Stage is known for its hike-a-bike. This means that the trail is so steep and so rocky that it cannot be passed through. We have to carry, haul, lug, and drag our bikes and bodies up this mountain. We began the hike-a-bike together but Katerina began to get a little gap here and there- hiking faster but also picking better lines.
As we ascended the mountain we hiked for roughly an hour as we would get on our bikes and ride a few feet, dismount and hike for a few minutes and back and forth. I think one of my biggest struggles today was picking when to ride and when to hike. I found myself making a lot of mistakes and taking silly spills onto the ground.
Being up and above treeline, the air was even thinner than below. The people were scarce. The rocks seems bigger, and the trails obviously were not ridden often. The views were breathtaking and it felt like a spiritual experience. I thanked God for the World that we live in and for the opportunity to see it through this incredible lens.
The descent off of the pass was pretty gnarly and is known for flats so I rode with some hesitation which caused me to take a few wrong lines or mess up a few sections. It didn’t seem like a big deal until out of nowhere 3rd place caught and passed me. Time to stop messing around!
We had a gradual 7 mile climb to the finish where I was able to confidently gain my position back and finish in a convincing 2nd place again on the stage. I felt strong throughout the day and know that much of my time lost was due to error instead of fitness.
I’m really excited about how this race has gone and I’m so proud of the results I have produced. Each stage it seems that I am gaining confidence and ability.
I think having this stage on day 5 is significant though. I’ve wanted to do this race for a long time and after so much fatigue, so many wake ups in the 5 am hour, hard miles, and everything else it can become easy to wish it was all over. Today as I crested the top of the climb all I could think about is when I will get to do this race again. What an experience. Thank you Breck Epic. I’m so glad we have one more stage tomorrow.
All Photos By: Bill Schieken