The big stages are done and so far I’m in the lead with about a 1:37 hr lead over the 2nd woman. I’m in the top 50 of the overall and have slowly been able to build a lead each day. The racing is hard, but I’m trying to be smarter than I was last year. This race is a combination of mountain bike and road racing skill and strategy. Last year, I came in and just raced mountain bike style and went hard all the time because that’s what I knew how to do. This year, older and smarter?, I am saving energy at every opportunity and then putting the hammer down when the time is right. On the flat stages, a selection is made pretty quickly as 400 riders jockey for position in the group. Getting out fast and making a break is key. After that, the riders sort of sit up and sometimes it feels way too slow to me. Other times, I am barely hanging on until the pace slows for no apparent reason. Patience, Grasshopper. The wind here is brutal with nowhere to hide except behind another body, so that’s what I’m doing as much as I can. I try to sit about 3rd wheel to avoid the sketchy riders, to be able to see and to be ready to react if a break happens. It’s strange riding someone else’s rhythm instead of your own, but in the end it’s faster and saves energy. The mountain biker in me struggles with this.
So far, I’ve won 3 out of 4 stages and have a good lead going into the last two days.
Stage 4 was a big mountain day with over 6000 ft of climbing and descending. It was a treat to just settle into my own pace and be able to ride without staring at someone else’s rear. The scenery was amazing! We were out of the wind and open plains and riding through rocky, rugged, barren mountains. I topped out at about 60 km with another woman who’s a mountain goat of a climber. I wanted to keep her in sight, knowing that I had a decent lead on her in the overall. On the huge decent, she was hanging it out really going for the stage win. I pulled back a bit to avoid crashing or flatting on the super rocky terrain. All along the course, there was carnage with flats, mechanicals and scraped up riders. I learned my lesson last year with 6 flats on one descent here. The rocks are not kind, so I paid them their due respect.
I finished the stage 5 minutes behind Rocio from Granada. She was super stoked with the stage win and I was super stoked to make it down the descent with my bike and body in one piece.
The remaining two stages are relatively flat and about 100 km each, so it’s back to the roadie tactics.
So far it has been a clean race and I’m doing well, but there’s still a chance to get lost (like many riders have), contract the diarrhea that’s going around the camp, or have some other sort of catastrophe. I’m never one to celebrate a finish line until I’m across it, so it’s business as usual (and practicing patience) for two more days.