With 14 hours of riding completed this week, I’m starting to feel it. After thinking it couldn’t get any tougher than yesterday, it did, and it hurt a lot. Being in the high country is hard for multiple reasons, but the one I’m going to pick out is the steepness. I’m pretty good at getting into a rhythm on climbs and making progress, but when you’re in your easiest gear grinding away with your face 2cm from your stem, there is no rhythm to be found. Add into the equation the 3000+ metres altitude and things become difficult.
42 miles and 6200 feet of climbing, all of it steep and loose. I started slow like normal and battled some nagging knee pain for the first 15 miles. I had plenty of people to work off and with, and rode in a group until the biggest climb of the day, where I pulled ahead of Travis Brown (Trek) and Collin Cares (Kenda/Felt) to finish the day in 8th place, despite a puncture in the last 4 miles.
I’m getting really sick of the dirt roads that exit Breckenridge! Each day has been starting on the same roads to get us onto the good stuff, and as such the first hour or so has been torture. Today was no different, and from the get go I knew it was going to be a suffer fest. I really didnt want to ride fast up the first climb which resulted in me missing the second group of riders: the group that would have been perfect to pull me around the majority of the course. In the end I worked hard with the aid of Yuki (Topeak/Ergon) over the next two smaller but brutally steep climbs and only got dropped on the undulating terrain into aid 2. I was finding the short accelerations needed on the rolling stuff was too much for my tired legs, so I was useless at staying in the group. After Aid 2, Collin, Travis and I worked together on the slog of a dirt road before I managed to escape and dig deep up the biggest climb. In hindsight, the reason I was feeling good there was probably due to the 2 gels and one whole packet of chews (about 500 calories total) that I ate after aid station two. It hurt though, and cresting the top of the hill was difficult. From there until the finish I managed to get down a gel every 20 minutes or so, and it paid off: I could feel the fuel tank was empty and I was relying completely on the constant sugar top ups. As with the start, the finish of each day has also been brutal. From aid 3 it was 10 miles into the finish, and one big fat climb. I’m really good at studying elevation profiles before the stage, but consistently underestimate the final climb. I had the fortune of a wheel to follow up the first section, but a slow leaking tyre forced me to stop and loose contact. Luckily, the stans held in the tyre, and a top up with some CO2 got me rolling again. The final descent was nerve wracking as I knew there was a massive slice in my sidewall, and I was just waiting for it to give away. It didn’t, though!
I was disappointed to finish in 8th, my least favourite position, as I felt like my ride was worthy of a higher placing, but it just goes to show the level of competition here this week. Time wise, I think I gained a fair chunk of time in the GC, so I’m hoping to move up a position, or at least minimise the gaps ahead of me.
Tomorrows stage goes over the formidable wheeler pass for a shorter but demanding day. The long section of paved road in the middle will make tactics interesting: no one will be wanting to be alone there. My aim is to start harder than I have been, and hopefully get over the top with a fast group to gain some time on the road. Even though there’s only two days left, it still feels like I have a long way to go.