Saturday, May 06, 2006

Tour of the Gila Day 3 - Teamwork for survival

Day 3 of the TDG is a 70+ mile race through the mountains over the Continental Divide with endless climbing and technical fast descending down the spine of the GILA!

The first sprint was 6 miles in on a uphill grade where the first rider to pop off was a lone Mcguire gal (who amazingly rode in alone the entire way!). A few miles later still on the first climb which seemed endless Hiroko came through the caravan trying her best but the legs just would not let her go harder. We cheered her on from the car and yelled at her (like team managers do) and tried to help her along. We had to leave her. A bit further up the road just before Pinos Altos Kele started coming back right as the pitch of the climb really where the peloton just put on the pressure to get over the top and start descending. We cheered Kele on the best we could. I knew that Kele is a very good descender and she would catch on after she made it over the climb.
Jen C too broke just before the top of climb as her back could not take the pressure. Then about 20 more got detached containing the rest of the Bella's. There was still more climbing, but Jen C caught back on in the first descent and managed to get back with the Jane, Noel, and Jen J where they struggled to keep the pace up and get back to the group before the long descent into Mibres Valley where the field would slow down and the headwind would begin.

Jen J and Jane went to the front to do most of the work where other riders sat on their wheels.
After the mile climbing through feedzone 1 was the big descent and they rode well for a really long time.
After a while, I called over the radio to Kele:" Kele if you can hear me give me a squawk on the radio".. Kele replied "squawk!" and I knew she was coming.
A few minutes later in the crazy 180 degree turns I looked in my mirror and saw Kele was barreling down the hill just killing it to catch on... and she did. Flying through the corners. I looked at my speedometer and I was doing 45 and she was passing the cars!
Once in the Valley the gap was announced to me as 3 minutes. Then a few minutes later the official told me it was 7 minutes! I could not believe it and figured it was wrong, so I didn't tell the gals that number but told them to keep moving to chase on. Later after the gals were chasing in the valley for what seemed like 40 miles someone reported the Gap to the peleton was 22 minutes... The wind was taken out of their sails, they were really bummed out. A few corners later someone on the side of the road yells out its 2 minutes to the peloton! It seems they meant it was 2 minutes and 22 seconds! And fires were lit under a few rears, Kele , Jane, Jen C, Jen J, and Noel hammered off the front of the chase group and brought them back into the fold just a few miles before the turn off heading back up the climbs with about 15 miles to go. It was amazing, Kele really dug herself deep to help and so did Jen J while in the Valley, without the collaborative effort the Bellas would have not had any opportunity to finish with the lead.

Jane, Noel, and Jen C made it over the 2nd feedzone climb, while Kele and Jen J both came off. They had done their job and had done it well.

A few miles later Jen C could not take the pressure from the attack on the climb and broke off too.
It was just Jane and Noel left in the Peloton that were pushing through the terrible headwind on a super long descent.

Going into the last corner with about 1K there was an attack and the Bellas just missed it. Jane stayed with her group containing Gaby and pushed on to come in 20 seconds off the winner and Noel at 30 seconds finishing with Kathryn Curi.
Dotsie Bausch won the stage.
Jen C rolled in about 8 minutes later , then Jen J and Kele about 12 minutes off the win time. We hadn't seen Hiroko since the first climb of the day 60 miles earlier. Amazingly she came in just 28 minutes behind. All alone and she managed to stay within a half hour. Hiroko was a trooper and inspired everyone never to give up!

The team dinner was well earned thanks to Janes parents for treating. Hiroko can sure put it away!

Velo Bella -Kona
Road Team Manager


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