Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tour of the Gila update

Day 1-Pinos Altos to Fort Bayard (65 miles)
It’s hard to believe that in a four day race lasting 170 miles, overall gc possibilities are determined in the first twenty miles of day one, but such is heart of the beast of the Gila.  A three mile descent, followed by a five mile climb, culminates in the Sapillo Crossing descent down the Gila Monster into the Mimbres River Valley with off camber hairpins, blind corners, no guardrails, the constant smell of burning brakes, and the inevitable crashes makes these early miles some of the most demanding of the race.  As my official stated, “Gentlemen, you can buy a lot of fancy cycling gear for what it will cost to air lift you out of here.  Think safety.”  
Well, we did and made it through the descent in the bunch.  I collected a time bonus at the intermediate sprint (to have it given to someone else) and finished with the bunch.  Chuck hung tight but had his field splinter in the accordion style of road racing.  

Day 2-Individual Time Trial (16 miles)
Often called “the race of truth”, the TT could be called “race of aero equipment” at the Gila.  Chuck and I were certainly the exception by racing road racing bikes (albeit with aero bars), regular helmets, and non-deep dish wheels.  We raced hard and chopped off at least three minutes off our last Gila tt times and…finished middle of the pack.  It think Chuck was the only rider in the race who chose race day to ride aero bars for the first time.

Day 3-Downtown Crit (16 miles)
Between the back straightaway climb, the rough pavement on Broadway and the 18 inch curbs on corner 4, this criterium race is a nasty girl.  Chuck has done the Gila many times before, but never finished with the field on crit day.  That streak ended at the 2012 Gila.  He took his hairy legs, fired it up, and said, “Adios, cowboy” to the past by sticking out a blistering pace and staying with the contenders.  
I tried to get away at one point, but there was none of that in my field.  On lap five, a rider got loose in turn 4, hit the tires and took a few riders with him.  The field responded with a wicked acceleration throughout the next lap.  Unfortunately, an official parked his motorcycle in the apex of turn 4 to block a fallen rider still shaky from his earlier crash that no one decided to alert the field about and a rider hit the motorcycle at full speed broadside.  It was nasty.  The field self-neutralized the next lap (with numerous one finger salutes for the officials) and began racing with two to go after the entire course was deemed safe.   It ended together.

Day 4 Silver City to Pinos Altos (72 miles)
Rolling terrain from Silver City to the Mimbres Valley, over the Continental Divide and down to the Gila Monster, this stage is the ultimate test of endurance and climbing ability.  Bodies and minds are alternatively frazzled, tired, and excited for the last twenty miles of drawn out climbing and lightning fast descending that the last twenty miles provides.  Of course, there were inevitable feed zone attacks to endure (Bob!) and the first fifty miles of crazy pack riding.  This year also provided two separate “neutralizations” on the road for the Cat 4 and Master B groups to allow the UCI men to overtake the fields.  It was the result of some poor staging decisions made by the Gila officials, but such is life.  Both Chuck and I brought the Rez Dog hurt to the field and moved up some spots in the GC.  

Lessons from the Gila
  1. The Gila is a hard, hard race.
  2. Aero is in, and it makes sense.  Most folks in all fields had deep dish carbon wheels due to their speed saving properties at speed but the possibilities extended to aero handlebars, frames, jerseys, etc.  While it got a little compulsive (where do you stop), over the course of multi-stage race with hours in the saddle, every little bit helps.  More to think about later.
  3. Rez Dogs are rare, but welcome.  Strangers saw our jerseys and struck up some of the most interesting conversations of the weekend ranging for BIE teaching experience to Red tail hawk eggs.  But the most common question was, “Where can I get a Rez Dog jersey?”
  4. Masters division is more fun to race with, but man, they drill it.   A few years ago, Peter had shared that racing the Masters is racing a more “civilized” division.  He’s right.  Instead of being sworn at (like Chuck), I had guys apologizing to me for cutting me off in a corner (which I don’t remember).  The Masters guys are nice, polite and concerned with safety.  And going wicked fast.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

2012 La Tierra Torture: jocking with pros, taking podiums and unleashing a new dog!

A random comment by an unknown racer summed up the La Tierra Torture Omnium for our local Rez Dogs:
"Man, Gallup really represented!"
And that's just it. With all racers taking podium spots, the Rez Dogs (and their attractive kits) were en fuego.

First, a new dog on the prowl.

Holly Herr, convinced by some nameless, but well intentioned members of the team, makes a last minute decision to abandon her plans of riding the beginner races and immediately jumps into Cat 2 for her first race! In spite of some pre-race jitters, Holly preceded to lay down some strong laps both in the short track race on Saturday and on Sunday's XC main event. Holly took first place in the STXC and 2nd place in the XC to combine for 1st place in the omnium!

Second, jockeying with pros.

 In an effort to prove to his fellow Rez Dogs that he is a new man, and night guy has been suppressed, CVD showed up for both races on time, in good spirits and generally prepared... (if you have to read that sentence again, I understand) After the short Dawn-to-Brunch battle with Peter and his ringer, the flying-Mexican-Hadji Corona, CVD proceeded to chase down Hadji in the STXC and attempted to out sprint him for the finish! According to CVD had their been one more lap or the sprint a bit longer "I would have had him!" Based on my observation from the finish line...I agree. In the end, CVD ended up 1st in his age group, 4th overall and only 1 second behind Hadji, a registered pro. (and Santa Fe resident I might add). The XC race on Sunday proved just as successful for Chuck. In a sign of things to come, he was up and at em' at the Flying Star coffee shop early in the AM, looking put together and intentional. Sure enough, in spite of Andy and CVD's inability to score good starting positions at the start line, CVD (and Bobcat... more on that in a minute) put down the power to be the 3rd Cat 1 racer across the finish line and 1st in his age group! Is this a sign of Chuck's plans to turn pro by the end of the year?

 Third, a Bobcat bites!

With the Gallup Cup firmly in their possession, (did I mention that Andy and Chuck were the Gallup Cup Champions in both 2011 and 2012?) Andy rode with the strength and experience of a true Expert mountain biker. Nipping at the heels of his teammate/soulmate in the STXC, Andy easily rode to 2nd place in the 30-39 Cat 1 less than a minute behind Chuck. Hot off a night of bliss the night before (check with Andy for details)Andy kept up the pressure on Sunday against the Expert 30-39 year olds in the XC. Andy rode strong and passed some important competitors ending up in 3rd in the XC for his age group and the 7th rider across the finish line overall! Combined he took 2nd in the Omnium, solidifying Rez Dog Racing's dominance in Cat. 1.

Finally, the Bass Commander (a.k.a Greg Cavanaugh) was working his mojo in the Cat 2 field.

After being stuck behind a rider on a cyclocross bike for lap 1 of the STXC he moved from 12 position up to 6th for lap 2. After 3 more laps he managed to pick off a couple more riders to be 3rd across the line and 2nd in his age group. On Sunday, Greg had a good start and was able to move to the front of the field right away. He entered the main single track in 4th place overall, moved into 3rd briefly and then ended up 4th across the finish overall and 3rd in his age group. Combined Greg scored a 2nd place in Cat 2 30-39 for the omnium.

How can a performance like this be topped? Can we possibly get more strong riders together for one mega Rez Dog Domination? Can the Rez Dog women's team pull together and build on the strength and success of Holly's 1st performance? Will Greg ever move up to Cat. 1 and chase his teammates down? Will Chuck drop Rez Dog when he turns pro? Perhaps Scotty can get him on BMC, or Garmin-Slipstream? As Holly heads for the African plains and CVD dabbles in the road have we already reached our summit and started our decline?

Stay tuned...