Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Andalucia MTB Stage Race - Stage 1

Getting ready
The next morning we got up around 6:30am for what turned out to be an excellent buffet breakfast by the hotel.  Pretty much everything you could ask for to include the thickest black coffee ever along with salty meats and cheeses galore. Olive oil was abundant as we were in the olive oil production capital of the world. And, In case you are wondering what the current MTB World Champion, Jose Hermida, chose as his pre race food it was a fresh baked baguette with olive oil drizzled all over it.

Now it was time for the real test for me…..to figure out what to eat on the bike.  What was I going to want to eat?  I don’t know!!!  I rarely eat on the bike and usually only fuel with sports drink but now that we were going to be on the bike for 60 + miles I HAD to eat.  I just packed it all (gels, blocks, bars, etc) so that I had a choice.  Better off with some food that you will actually eat because what sounds good now may not sound good at race pace. I was ALREADY thinking about Stage 6 and how I could make it that far without depleting my body or getting dehydrated so I really wanted to be careful.  I also settled for carrying 2 sports bottles and no camelbak because there were going to be plenty of feed stations along the way.

Neutral Start:  CRASH
Before the race started I was on my head.  There was a neutral roll out from the hotel to downtown Cordoba before Stage 1 began.  I knew jitters were in the air and I told myself to stay out of trouble.  I purposely put myself ALONE in the extremely large pack when from out of nowhere a guy swooped in, crossing bars with mine!!  We fought it for a while and I ended up going down hard on the pavement.  Everything flew out of my pockets and no one hit me thank heavens. Jenny was luckily right there to gather everything that had launched and get us back up to the group before the stage start.

Downtown Cordoba
The bike was fine and I was fine- more just annoyed. Got the first war wound on my bike from that one.  Can’t believe everything was ok aside from what turned into a sore left arm for the rest of the week.  To think that my (our) race could have been over before it even began!!!

STAGE 1:  Córdoba–Cerro Muriano
Jenny and I rolled up to the start of the race only having a few minutes to shake off the shock of the crash.  The gun goes off and I send my body into more shock racing from downtown Cordoba towards the hills for 6400 feet of climbing.  That kind of intensity trying to get a good position in the pack made me feel like I wanted to barf for the first 2 hours of the race. Awesome feeling. 

But my mind was easily diverted as all the Andalucía Bike Racers had been started WITH a separate Marathon race that had 1000 starters.  It was flat out mayhem as Jenny and I rode with groups for the first 2.5 hours of the race. Still at that point there was only about a 10 second gap to the next person.  I even gave some poor guy begging for food as I rode by my sports bar. When you are out in the middle of nowhere like that, you are all in it together.  

We headed up paved roads, through tight singletrack, into tiny towns, and down some of the sketchiest descents that I found myself riding thanks to my Nobby Nic Schwalbe Tires!   We passed some amazing ruins during the stage too.  It was truly breathtaking out there.  But it wasn’t completely dry.  There were MANY stream crossings that were ridable but left you with a cold, wet, and frozen foot for the rest of the race.

At about the point we thought the race should be ending it just kept going and going and going.  Oops, they forgot about that last hellish 7k.  And it’s not that the last 7k was that bad but when you expect it to end and it’s not, that’s when the troubles with the head begin.  But Jenny and I kept trucking along even pushing ourselves up one hideous climb only because people were lining it screaming.  It just about cracked me.  That is what you call peer pressure and we succumbed and both decided after maybe that wasn’t the best idea in the world. 

When we finally crossed the line we were told we had come in 2nd and I really thought that they had made a mistake.  But after a few interviews for Spanish TV and a bunch of pictures, it was reality that we had indeed really come in 2nd!!  Wow, in my first stage race ever. I think I could like this stuff!  : )

There was more media coverage than can be imagined

Notes:  I am loving the international feel of this race!!  14 countries are represented and it’s a hit or miss if the person speaks English or not.  Even have some heavy hitters from the pro road arena (Heras and Beltran) mixing it up in the dirt and dust!
Cars are encouraged to park on the sidewalks to make room

Riding home from the grocery store
Many home have a sturdy door that leads to the courtyard

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