The Mogollon

Finally, I am getting around to writing some race reports from Gila.  Sorry for the delay — life has been a whirlwind lately.  I’ll explain more on that later (do I make empty promises every blog post?).

The Mogollon: A 90 mile, largely flat, run-in to to a 7-mile, 2000 foot climb.  Sound simple?  Add a 185-man field, vicious crosswinds, and a breakaway with accompanying strong chase / field guttering / throwdown for the latter 60 miles and things get fun.

The big teams give chase.  My teammate, Kevin, fights for wheels on the left.  I was a few wheels behind him. (Photo: Team RadioShack)

The big teams give chase. My teammate, Kevin, fights for wheels on the far left. I was a few wheels behind him. (Photo: Team RadioShack)

It was a cold morning.  I spent the previous night unsure whether to keep eating more out of nervousness and expectation of the coming demands on my body, or stand pat in fear of not digesting the ridiculous amount of food before morning.  We had a 6:30am wake up for the cold 9:00 am start.  After oats and much espresso (thanks to this beauty), we rode down into town.  The neutral start consisted of a few random turns through town (during which Chris managed to nearly explode his bike by shifting into the big-ring / big-cog cross gear with a pie-plate 28t cog and a chain too short, thankfully Kai shepherded him back to the pack without too much trouble).

In the first hour or so I felt like a tourist.  Look! Lance Armstrong.  Oh, there’s Levi peeing off the bike.  And there’s Dave Zabriskie, cool!  Etc.  Since my job was to sit tight until the finish climb, I had a free ticket to observe the race, just as long as I stayed out of trouble and kept my teammates close-by.  Kai, Brandon, and Stu joined the chase (oh, yeah, a break rolled away early, of course, and we had been instructed not to try to join).

Sick.  Brandon on the front. (Photo: Team RadioShack)

Sick. Brandon on the front. (Photo: Team RadioShack)

Soon, the chase was full-on, the field was guttered, and blown apart.

Echelon, anyone? (Photo: Team RadioShack)

Echelon, anyone? (Photo: Team RadioShack)

With some teamwork, I was able to stay sheltered for most of it.  Things started to get really dire around miles 60-70, where some nice gradual climbing was thrown into the mix with the winds.  At times I was riding in the dirt, in the grass, and through chunks of broken asphalt.  Guys were flatting everywhere, including Kevin, who got a wheel change and impressively was able to get back in.  The the main group was getting small.  Really small.  We started with nearly 200, and it was down to more like 50.  I was hanging on dearly.

Finally, a guy from Mountain Khakis gave his teammate a push in front of me, opened a gap, and then looked over his shoulder for help.  Nice, move, considering he had two of his teammates on his wheel.  I didn’t panic.  We were in the caravan almost immediately, and we were echeloning and drafting off of cars.  It was hard — in order to have any hope of catching back, we would have to go faster than the teams chasing on the front of the peloton, after having already been cracked in our effort to draft them.

I was able to keep my cool, did a small amount of work, but conserved my energy in the hope that I would get an opportunity to use that reserve to get back on to the field.  It paid off, eventually — the group slowed up at the crest of the gradual climb, and we were able to catch back on.  The group was down to less than 50 when we caught back, although many more riders were able to make it back on after we did, before the turn onto NM159.

The pace got hard again as we climbed through the last feed zone and approached the final climb, the Mogollon.  The field shattered on the rollers leading up to the Mogollon.  I kept a lid on my effort, knowing that there would be plenty of time to pull back riders in the latter part of the climb if I didn’t blow up early (thanks to the man from Bissel, who pulled me through the caravan on the plateau without complaint).  The high altitude changes the game; I found out in Bisbee that at this elevation, I only really had one “match” to burn.  In other words, if I went as hard as I could one time, I would be spent for the rest of the day.

The strategy played out well.  I was able to pull back probably twenty riders during the climb, finishing 44th on the day.  No kisses on the cheek from Sexy Lexy, but, given the company I was in, and the names around mine on the results, I am not ashamed to admit that I am quite happy with the result!

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~ by awerbuch on May 11, 2010.

2 Responses to “The Mogollon”

  1. […] famous riders.  It was a fairytale; a dream come true.  And I did pretty well, for an amateur.  Life was grand.  So of course I decided to take time off from school and chase the dream.  And about a week […]

  2. […] been really difficult to let go of racing.  That unmatched exhilaration of laying it all out on some mountain road for the sake of glory, fans/friends, shouting your name, living it through you, with you.  […]

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