Monday, 7 May 2012

From suburbia to the wilderness

From Fayetteville we drove to Little Rock. We stopped to get supper and sample the pick and mix section at Wholefoods. They refused to sell wine on a Sunday so Rachel treated us to celebratory chocolate! We spent the night in Little Rock before flying to Albuquerque, New Mexico the following morning. This was all uneventful until we touched down in New Mexico and had to stay seated while the police came on board to arrest a passenger for harassing an air hostess!

We were all staying in accommodation perched up in the hills overlooking vast, barren landscape.  It was completely off the beaten track; the sort of holiday destination my parents go for! It was immediately apparent I was not going to be getting my university work submitted in time for deadlines this week due to the lack of internet in the desert (luckily I managed to get an extension on my extension). High altitude is weird; water takes longer to boil, food takes longer to cook and my nose bled umpteen times a day. As for the riding, it pays not to look at your power metre as any given intensity just feels harder. The air is so dry you are oblivious to the fact you are sweating buckets, getting enough fluids in was key. You know there is a bike race on when everyone has panic bought the local supermarket out of coconut water; a godsend for electrolytes and hydration.

Awesome 360degree view from the host housing!
The racing was tough; an amalgamation of the teams, terrain, altitude and heat. Stage 1 ended up panning out well for us with Carmen and Jade both finishing on the podium alongside Olympic champ Kristin Armstrong.  It was a mountain top finish after a 6km slog with gradients of 19%. Half way up the climb there was a cross wind section where everyone was jostling for position, next minute there is a pile up directly in front and I am picking myself off the tarmac. Luckily I had a cushioned landing, falling on top of the Canadian national champion! There was a slight mishap during the race prior to this when the break up the road was directed the wrong way! As the peloton was now ahead of the break we had to stop and wait for the race to be restarted. A pee break was called for which is possible the weirdest thing, give it a week or so and that particular stretch of road in the desert will have some nice green patches!

Stage 2 wasn’t great from a personal perspective. The race split early on resulting in a rather large groupetto for the remaining 100km, completely useless to our GC riders. Janel rode so strongly to take 2nd behind Armstrong whilst Carmen maintained 2nd on GC. Stage 3, the TT was a chance to conserve as much in order to be fresh to help our GC riders the following day. The penultimate stage was a criterium in downtown Silvercity. It was especially hot and dry so we raced with sachets of ice in our skin suits. Short sharp efforts are what make crits hard, I really noticed the effects of being 2000+m above sea level here; it takes longer to recover in between efforts.  The 4 corner course featured 2 kickers and a fast downhill stretch. Despite numerous breaks going up the road it all came down to a sprint with Carmen taking 2nd, I finished 8th. The final day featured climb after climb. I was glad to have that over and done with and the Tour of the Gila wrapped up. Carmen was amazing and held onto 2nd place and the sprinters jersey too.

Warming down on our fab kinetic trainers.

We are now enroute to an Albuquerque airport hotel; I am heading back to Asheville for a week or so. Some r and r is on the cards before we’re off again! I am looking forward to getting a little bit closer to sea level!

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