Last year at this time I spent a few days as a road racer at La Vuelta de Bisbee, a three-day, four-stage road race in Southern Arizona. I decided to up the challenge this year and gave the Tour of the Gila in Silver City, NM a go. This race is one of the premier domestic NRC races, and a number of the top women’s teams are represented. And Kristin Armstrong raced, enough said.
I’ll go ahead and lay the racing facts out on the table:
Overall GC: 32nd
Stage 1: 23rd
Stage 2: 34th
Stage 3: 44th
Stage 4: 31st
Stage 5: 22nd
Bee stings: 2
Elevation: 6,000+ ft
I planned for a good ass-kicking (aka training) going into the race. I guess I got what I signed up for. Stage 1 started on the flats with a few rollers and ended on a Category 1 climb 73 miles later. In road racing, there are always critical moments when you have to go or not go. Simple. I usually make a decision, and in retrospect I wonder, “what was I thinking?” Those missed-moments defined my first Gila. The climb on Stage 1 had a mile-long flat windy section on the way up. I wound up chasing the lead group through this section. I didn’t really know where the flat section was, and when pace upped another notch beforehand, I decided to “not-go” thinking I wouldn’t last. Bummer. Around the next corner, the wind hit, the grade flattened, I had no draft = dropped. I missed my chance to sit in and take a breather.
Stage 2 “The Inner-Loop Road Race” is the beast of the Women’s 1-2 race with 3 categorized climbs in 78 miles. A group of 9 women rode away on the first major climb, and I hung on in a chase group of about 15. The groups came back together some time after the infamous “Sapillo” descent. Team Webcor drove the pace since their sprinter was in our group. They also drove the pace through the last feed zone (11 miles to go!) which resulted in my getting dropped #2. Since I was out of water at that point and anxious for more, my thinking was “get bottle.” Once I had my bottle, I was dropped. Another reason why road racing is hard: the feed zones are fast. I also got stung by a bee while changing after the race, and that was the first time in my life that that has ever happened.
Kristin Armstrong blew away the existing time trial course record by over a minute. I got stung by another bee 2 minutes in. If I could learn to tolerate the uncomfortable (and painful) position, I think I could learn to like time trials. The criterium was pretty uneventful except I never found the lap counter out racing and never knew how many laps we had left. Carla Swart, a fellow student-athlete won the criterium which is pretty impressive. On the last stage, things went pretty well. Amazingly, I still had something in the tank for the “Gila Monster Stage.” I managed my best power output for the week on the last climb and won my group sprint.
The best part of the week was having my sister around to feed me bottles (and cook). She drove all the way down from Vancouver, BC for the event. She took some pictures through the week and I’m still trying to get a hold of a few of them. She’s got some talent with a camera. Check it out: shannonforsman.com
Up next: Collegiate Road Nationals in Fort Collins, CO.