Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Andalucia MTB Stage Race - Stage 4

STAGE 4:  Priego de Córdoba-Jaén
Today’s stage was just what I needed.  It was a longer stage of 115k with a climb at the start and end with the middle section being a long flat Rail Trail.  But we didn’t get to start (what was) the 5hr and 40min stage until our 5:30am wake up call to pack all our stuff in preparation for the transfer to the new hotel and city (Jaen).

It was important to be race ready as well since the bus was dropping everyone off at the stage start in the middle of Jaen, a beautiful white city on a Mesa at the stage start.  At the beginning of the race on the 1hr + climb the top 3 Women’s teams stayed together but unfortunately we were separated from the leaders in the feed zone immediately following.  They had a feed and we had to stop to fill our bottles up. That minor separation put us in a group of 9 or so along with the Spanish Ladies Team (Esteve) who have proven that they can and will be right there when we crack or have a mishap.  They are strong and they clearly wanted 2nd again.

Priego de Cordoba, Spain
Priego de Cordoba, Spain


Downtown Priego de Cordoba, Spain
I was purely in love with the long stretch in between climbs letting my legs flush themselves while Jenny was looking for her gun. It was a bit windy on the flat section but I found a great use for all my wrappers as I stuffed them down my race jersey - wind block barrier!  This would prove to be a valuable lesson in the days ahead.

When we hit the final climb The Spanish Esteve team was off like a shot and I did my best to stay with them. I didn’t have as many matches as I had hoped for on this day but was able to climb steady until I almost cracked like an egg along with everyone else near the top.  It was like a sea of delirious people barley turning over the cranks at that point at about the 5 hour mark.  I had sweat pouring off me as I suffered up the last part of the climb at a snails pace. I was more annoyed that I was feeling that way because my mind was in it but the body was conking out of me.

That is when Josh Ibbett (Mixed Team Overall Leader with partner Cait Elliot) came to my rescue.  It was taking EVERYTHING I could do to TRY and eat.  I wanted to eat my gel blocks so bad but had no energy to do so once I finally willed myself to get them out of my pocket.  I held the package in my hand forever as they bounced out onto the ground one by one. Josh recognized the ridiculousness of the situation and grabbed my bag and literally ended up feeding me.  What a guy!  Thanks Josh!!! 

By the time I hit the top deliriousness really set in and so did the lack of balance and coordination.  It was such a terrible feeling knowing you were that tired.  But the trails were so good you wanted to truck ahead!  As we descended towards the finish we encountered a steep slope leaving you to wonder if you were really even supposed to be WALKING your bike down it. 

In the end and with a few gnarly crashes by yours truly, the Spanish team had come across the line 4.5 minutes ahead of us.  RATS!!  We took third, which we were pleased with but knew we were capable of better.

Note:  By now after all this climbing we have been doing, my mind just assumes that around the corner is a climb.  And you know what; my mind was pretty spot on!!
Spain is know for its bullfighting and Flamingo Dancing

Jenny getting settled at the new hotel

A bit of the stage:

Andalucía Bike Race. Etapa 4, parte II from Paco Portero on Vimeo.

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