It’s not every day that you get to take your bike over 12,500 feet. Today’s race was all about expansive views, rocky descents and lots of walking.... LOTS of walking.
I thought that I would start the day situated in the middle of the pack. The start times for every individual today were based off of their finishing time on stage four. My time for yesterday’s race wasn’t very fast, and I figured I didn’t belong at the front. I started to warm up when I heard that all UCI riders were being called to the front. “So much for a warm up!” I thought to myself as I lined up with the twelve other UCI women.
Before I knew it, we were off. It was a great, quiet and serene start to the day. With so few of us, I really felt like we had the entire course to ourselves. The climb was not super steep, and I kept spinning as a few of the men who started after us began to catch me. Everyone was super friendly as they past, wishing me good luck.
As we past the first aid station, the climbing got more steep, but thankfully, I was still able to remain on my bike. I kept feeling like my heart rate was soaring through the roof and I was having trouble breathing. Looking down at my Garmin, I could see my heart rate was lower than I thought, only about 130 beats per minute. I chalked it up to fatigue and just kept spinning.
Rounding the corner, I looked up towards Wheeler Pass and knew it was time to walk the bike. Like a line of ants, the majority of the field can be seen pushing their trusty steeds up the mountain. It really is a beautiful scene; so many people out there, giving it their best, pushing beyond limits. I was thankful to have the company of a friend, Rebecca, on this section. Her encouragement, and the encouragement of my fellow cyclists around me, was a huge help to get me up the pass.
At the top, I stopped to enjoy the view. I knew I wasn’t anywhere close to the leaders of the race and figured I should just be thankful.
The reminder of the race is a huge blur. The descent off the pass was a rough one, and I made a conscious decision to keep my wheels moving over all the rocks and roots. I rode well, flowing through the rough sections, keeping the rubber side down.
I finished, despite being tired, with a smile. While pedaling through the finish line, I wondered if I had improved at all from my previous race on this course. Looking at the final time, I noticed that I was at least thirty minutes faster than my first attempt! I know I have a long way to go, and most of all, a lot more fitness that needs to be gained, but at least I am seeing some improvements. Who knows, maybe if I keep training on these steep hills, I’ll actually get closer to being good at climbing!