Chris Winn: Ramblings From The Road


10 May 2011

Tour Of The Gila And Beyond.

So I was hoping to do a report on the Gila in the first few days post event, but time was running short as Kat and I had planned a nice getaway to San Diego the week following the race.  Once our plane landed in sunny CA all thoughts of getting together some words on the week went out the window, as it was time for a little sun, surf and some recharging.  We landed back in Denver only this morning, and I promised myself now that I'm back on deck it was time to get it done!

It was my fourth time around for the Gila and the race never gets any easier.  I will always have fond, yet painful memories of this race, as this was the first major road event I did after I switched from the dirt. I'll never forget getting shelled out the hoop on the first stage, running outta water and still facing the Mogollon climb wondering if I should have stuck to two hour single-track slogs!  But as time goes on I feel I've definitely gotten a little wiser and incrementally stronger, so each year there is anticipation to see what we can do.   Also, the field at close to 160 riders this year seemed as wide open as ever, without the superstars of Armstrong and the ProTour gang present that had in recent years put this race on the map.

Stage one saw aggressive racing at it's best, with attack after attack wearing down the peloton over pretty much what seemed like the entire race.  It felt like no team was ever going to be content with the make up of the breakaway and by the time we reached the foot of the final Mogollon climb it was the largest group of surviving riders I've seen.  I say surviving because as per normal the winds were out of control, causing panic and splits throughout the course of the 151km day.  Once again Mancebo showed us a clean pair of heels, dancing away for the win.  As for me, to be honest I've never got along with the Mogollon, never seeming to be able to hit it right with so many gradient changes and got dropped off on the initial slopes.

The memories of Stage Two in 2010 will live with me forever I think.  It was without a doubt the strongest winds I have ever raced in, coming into the final kilometers it was simply pure survival to keep the bike upright. This year however, the winds were much friendlier, not to say it wasn't difficult at times, cause it was (!), but certainly not at the level it was the year previous.  The break formed early thanks to the first intermediate sprint being within the first 5km, and unfortunately we had missed it.  Once over the initial first berg and into the valley, orders were given and soon enough Tito and myself were swapping off the front with Real Cyclist to keep the break (who at one stage had over two minutes) in check.  Coming into the finish it was clear a bunchie was going to occur and our World Champ trackie took 6th.  Getting closer to the podium!

The next major focus for the team was towards Saturday evenings criterium, having more than a couple of riders capable for the win.  As always it was a fast and chaotic affair, and throw in some of the roughest pavement experienced throughout the season, the last few laps were super tough.  Kemps rode strong to put us on the podium for a 3rd place, but soon after all thoughts fell towards the final Gila Monster stage the following day.

The Gila Monster is a super solid 180km / 9000ft brute of a climbing stage, and a great way to finish off the tour.  Last year I rode semi decent to finish in the 20's, so this year, as every year, I was hoping to improve on that.  But, bike racing is a fickle mistress, and she can either smile on you or scowl with cruel intent.  This year, I got the latter, having perhaps the worst timed flat tire of the stage.  After making it through the first 80km, we hit the base of the first Cat. 2 climb and simultaneously my front tire decided to lose air.  Of course, at the base of the first major climb everyone panics and accelerates for position, and after a change from SRAM Neutral I was rolling again, but that was the last I'd see of the peloton again.  A disappointing way to end the race for sure, because that moment of crossing the finish line on the final day is always one to savor.  Overall it was a tough Gila this year for sure, but the positives were the team landing a podium and getting more race days in the legs.

As mentioned the week after the race Kat and I snuck away to San Diego for a little sea change.  Of course the bikes came with and it was great to do some coastal rides.  It was also nice to catch up with Greg, Trina and their little guy Ray who we hadn't seen for over a year.

With a the short break over now it's back to it, looking forward to some solid racing on the horizon.

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