Race: Tour of the Gila
Dates: May 1-5, 2013
Category: 40+ “A” (1/2/3)
Field: 45 starters
Stage 1: 6th
Stage 2: 5th
Stage 3: 5th
Stage 4: 15th
Stage 5: 6th
ThirstyBears: Ron Castia, Ken Gallardo, Hans Gouwens, Dan Palmer, Holger Steinbach, Max Thompson
Before I say anything else, I have to say that THANK YOU doesn’t even cover how I feel about the team’s performance at this race. Every single teammate trained for months and put in a stellar performance. Every person I talked to said that our team was amazing, how we worked together so smoothly and basically rode like a Pro team. And how 4 out of the 6 were over 50 and that we had 2 guys in the top 10 and 4 guys in the top 20 (and swept the 50+).
Reader’s Digest version: The race went almost according to the plan I had in my head – get Hans into a break and well-placed on Stage 1, perhaps even into the race lead (which he did on Stage 2), ride myself into a good position overall; attack on Stage 2 to get some time; not lose too much time on Stage 3 (TT) and hopefully take the race lead (or be close to Hans with him leading), finish with the pack in the crit and then go for broke on Stage 5. It all went bad with 2 km to go on the really steep climb about 20 km from Stage 5’s finish when Carinio looked back, drifted back and left, forcing Calvert to come back and left and cut my front wheel and left me lying on the road. They sort of waited for me, but I had to go full gas to catch up and when I was about a bike length behind, Carinio attacked and I had no answer. Lost about a minute despite a valiant chase by Hans (who dropped back from the break to help me) and I and ended up 3rd overall.
Stage 1: Mogollon Road Race (115 km)
The plan was to ride conservatively, perhaps get Hans into a break with some less capable climbers and into red while I relax in the field and follow the strong climbers at the end. The team rode amazingly, with Hans getting into a break and the field basically letting it go, then as we approached the final climb, ThirstyBear went to the front and strung out the field with me sitting nicely behind Ron, Max and Holger who rode a tempo that cut the field down to about 15 guys. Carinio attacked when the climb got steeper but slowed on the plateau which allowed Max to get on the front to control a few late attacks. At 4 km to go, Damian Calvert (multiple NM state champ, just turning 40 this year) took up the pace and I could only follow. The pace cut the field down to Calvert, me and Carinio with a couple others not far behind. We caught the two guys from Hans’ break at 3 km to go and I was doing good until Calvert attacked at 2 km to go. I lost contact and Carinio went around but couldn’t hang on either. Hans held on until 1 km to go and only got pipped at the line to be 3rd on the day. I started pedaling squares and two more guys came by me at the end so I ended up 6th.
Stage 2: Inner Loop Road Race (120 km)
We came into this stage with multiple ThirstyBears within striking distance of red, with Hans in 3rd, me in 6th, Holger in 11th and Max in 13th. Our plan was to let others set the pace on the first big climb so we’d have as many ThirstyBears as possible once the race reached the long valley road where we’d go on the offensive, using our large number of teammates to attack until we got someone away. Once again, the guys rode spectacularly, with everyone making the selection over the climb (also thanks to an unfortunate crash about 2 km from the KOM by Travis Dixon, the 2010 winner, and the good sportsmanship of Calvert to neutralize until Travis recovered). The descent and following rolling uphill were fun, with Ron and I giving the peloton a lesson in descending. Things got interesting about 5 km from the feed zone when Brenon’s brother Shawn attacked and 2 km later Hans followed a bridge group of two riders. Carinio hit the gas as we entered the feed zone and by the top we were all back together and headed DOWN. Mark Legg-Compton (yes, Katie’s hubbie was in our race and Katie was in the Pro Women’s race!) started railing the corners and I was right there with him. The group stayed pretty close together (though was down to about 20 guys after Carinio’s acceleration) until we got to the real fun – a 5 km fast technical descent similar to Hamilton. After MLC power slid the first corner with his rear wheel locked, I went around him and showed him how we ThirstyBears descend – like a stone! At the end of the descent, MLC was about 50 meters back and the rest of the group was nowhere in sight so we started working, but after a couple minutes we could see the group so we chatted for a minute until we were caught. A mile later, one of Hans’ Stage 1 break-mates (Al Senft, who turned out to be a “composite” team member of Calvert’s) rode off the front about 100 m as we went through some large rollers. The field seemed content to let him go, so as we headed down the next roller, I let a small gap open in front of me (I was 2nd wheel) and then, taking a page from Dan Martin of Safeway, I absolutely drilled the next hill, sweeping up past Al at warp 1 and opening a big gap on the field). Al managed to catch me on the next downhill but the field had apparently decided to let us go figuring it was still a long 40 miles to the finish. Al proceeded to sit on as I built a 1 minute…2 minute…3 minute…4 minute lead over the next 10 miles. By the time we hit the 2nd mid-race sprint point (which Al wisely let me take as my plan was to counter-attack him if he came around), the field was so far back that we were out of sight. Somewhere in here, Hans managed to bridge up to a solo attack by Craig Nunes of Art’s Cyclery and was joined by Travis Dixon (who wasn’t badly injured in his earlier crash) and they eventually joined us right after the 2nd feed zone (yes, I made them work for it!). By then the moto ref said we were up to a 6 minute lead so I knew we would stay away. I told Hans to sit on and cover any attacks because I wasn’t sure I’d have the legs after my 30 mile ITT. What I didn’t realize was that Hans has about as much of a sprint as Mr. Phipps (no offense Chris!) and what we should have done was use our numbers to break the group apart or for Hans to work and give me a short break to recover and then for me to sprint in the finale. In any case, the group was content to let me do the bulk to the work with some help from Travis so as we rolled into the finishing straight, I led it out and watched in horror as Nunes took off at 300 m with Hans gapped off the back. I should have done more accelerating of my own as my spectating cost me 5 seconds. The field must have finally woken up because they came in about 3 minutes later but our aggression put Hans into the race lead and me in 2nd, 21 seconds behind him. Calvert and Carinio were now nearly 4 minutes behind Hans and nearly 3 behind me. I definitely would’ve liked that to be more like 6 minutes and 5 minutes, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Stage 3: Tyrone Memorial Time Trial (28 km)
What can I say about a time trial? I need to work at it some more. This one seems to suit me pretty well since it’s windy, hardly any flat and a bit longer at 28 km (vs the typical 16-20 km we usually race). I knew I’d have to race hard and figured I had a good target in Craig Nunes in front of me. After I put 20 seconds into Nunes in the first half, I thought I’d be faster than last year, but the wind wasn’t favorable on the downhill and I was slower by about 20 seconds. Carinio was slower too, but not as much and I gave back 1 minute 45 seconds and was 5th on the day. The effort was still good enough to take over the race lead, but the time gaps were now small with less than a minute separating the top 5 guys on GC. Oof…my legs were really sore after the TT. Now the real fun begins…
Stage 4: Downtown Silver City Criterium (20 laps, about 50 minutes)
I really love this crit course – it has a nice power climb, technical cornering, a fast downhill and long finishing straight. I had very little trouble staying close to the front last year so I knew I just needed to keep Carinio in check (he solo’d away for the win and 38 seconds last year) and the team was strong and ready. Well…or so we thought! 3 laps in and Carinio comes by me on the right and when I try to follow I nearly get put into the barriers by the guy next to me. Where’s the respect for the race leader?! Around turn 1 and again nearly barriered as Carinio hits the gas, bridging up to a small group of non-threatening guys who’d gone after the first two primes on laps 1 and 2. I get to the front and it’s full-gas chasing. I get close but after pulling solo for two full laps I need help because Carinio has gotten the break organized. One guy drops out a lap later and then the rest are popped on lap 6 up the hill so now it’s just Carinio solo. A couple guys from other teams are helping out as they want to preserve the GC and throw down on the Gila Monster. The team worked their way to the front one by one but we couldn’t really really get organized because as soon as we hit the hill, the counter-attacks would fly and I’d be forced to chase again.We slowly ate into Carinio’s lead which was never more than 10 or 15 seconds and he was back in the fold with 5 to go. The guys finally had a chance to get it together at the front and we kept the field in check until 2 to go when all the top GC guys attacked the hill. By now I’d gotten a little reprieve and easily followed and just sat on the wheels for the final lap madness (some really dangerous moves by the crit guys who benefited from the small field and no time cuts) and was happy to cruise in at 15th. Carinio was pipped at the line so he only got a 6 second time bonus and moved into 4th, just 3 seconds ahead of Calvert. The rest of the GC was unchanged and I felt better than I had after the TT.
Took a nice 1 hour power nap and then came down to watch the Pros throw down. United HealthCare took 5 laps to reel in a 2-man break that had a minute gap and set up their sprinter, Hilton Clarke perfectly. Impressive work. I’ll share some photos I snapped when I get home and have a chance to edit them and upload.
Stage 5: Gila Monster Road Race (119 km)
With Carinio and Calvert 42 and 45 seconds behind me, I knew I’d have to be ready for a showdown in the final 25 km which starts with a 5 km steep climb. Before that, though, the team would have to control the race over a series of big rollers to start the day and then the long valley road in reverse of the Stage 2 route. However, I knew we had the ability and we set out in search of glory, a couple final red jerseys (hopefully one for me and another for Hans) and a couple of Mimbres pottery bowls. The team performed perfectly, keeping all the early break attempts by the top 10 guys on GC in check. Just after the first sprint point (taken by Calvert which put him equal on time with Carinio) Shawn Daly attacked. We let him go and shortly after that his teammate bridged up. Both were pretty far down on time so we (and the rest of the field) seemed content to let them dangle as we headed down towards Mimbres and the Continental Divide. Their lead got up to a minute as the guys rode a steady tempo at the front like Sky in last year’s Tour. When Nunes attacked at about the 25 mile mark, Hans followed and we dialed back the pace just a bit to see if anyone else would take up the chase, but the field was content to sit on our wheels. The break never got more than 1 minute 45 seconds and the guys literally delivered me to the base of the final climb having hardly broken a sweat. As we turned uphill, Calvert went to the front and turned on the gas which blew the field apart. After about 3 minutes it was just Calvert, me and Carinio. Let the games begin! I was thankful for the nice steady head-crosswind which allowed me to sit on but Calvert slowed a bit and his teammate Al Senft re-joined us and attacked. I followed quickly and Calvert countered but I was able to jump quickly onto his wheel. After he slowed, Carinio took a dig which I was slow to cover, thinking Calvert might pull it back. Instead, he wisely took my wheel and then took the tight, steep inside line of the next corner to try and jump across but I pulled him back with a steady turn of the pedals. We’re back together and alone with about 2 km to go to where the climb flattens out ever so slightly and as I’m sliding right to get out of the wind, Calvert suddenly dips back, overlaps my wheel and then sweeps left. I almost save it but can’t and I high side then tuck and roll as I go down. I pick myself up and run back to my bike which is 10 feet downhill and look up to see Carinio and Calvert riding away. They do slow down slightly, but I still have to go full throttle for a minute to catch up (after I fumble and fumble in my haste to get clipped in) and just before I’m able to make contact, Carinio attacks. Calvert is forced to follow and they slowly pull away. Hans sees them go by (remember, he was up the road) and drops back to pull like 10 men for the next 6 miles but Carinio and Calvert are clearly working together and build a minute lead. Once the climb levels out, three other guys from the group that caught me after I fell are helping but it’s not consistent because Nunes and Senft are sitting on and disrupting. Hans popped with about 8 km to go so I towed the group all the way to 500 m to go where Nunes muscles past me and then attacks. I managed to hang on for 6th on the day and 3rd overall.
Interestingly enough, the officials had seen what happened and asked if I wanted to protest. I was curious why and they asked if I thought it had been intentional. I said I didn’t mostly because I didn’t care at that point and certainly didn’t want to win because of a protest. It turned out that Carinio had looked back to see if Calvert and I were still with him and that had caused him to drift back and left, forcing Calvert to do the same.
In the end, I feel good about the final result. I was 3rd behind the 40-44 National Champion and the multi-titled New Mexico State Champion. Not too shabby for a guy who only started racing back in 2007…