he Claro Brasil Ride slogan is “More than a race… a stage in your life.” Initially I thought it was kind of funny, but by the end of the race it had become reality. This is currently the hardest race I have ever done. It’s not because the courses are particularly difficult, it’s just that they are long and brutal, the race is in November(I don’t know about you, but if I’m racing endurance in November, I’m the Ford Pinto running on fumes!), and the rain – oh the rain.
Stage 1 was around 8 miles. It was a time trial, and by far the shortest stage in the 350 mile race. It was the only course we got to pre-ride and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was actually pretty technical. There were some paved and doubletrack sections, but there was a water crossing that was deep enough to go over my knees, sand pits, Moab-like sandstone, and a tricky descent near the end.
Video in case you missed it!
I don’t have a photo for what the start of the Claro Brasil Ride 2010 looked like, but the feeling and the goosebumps standing at the start line will get an A+ in the memory bank – something I will never forget. We were lined up to go off 3rd out of the whole race, with Jenny and Brian Smith starting 1 minute behind us. This was the only day the sun was shining. There was a helicopter, loud music, Brazilian people from the town lining the start chute. The intensity of waiting for your start at a time trial is also high. I haven’t done a time trial in I don’t even know how long. It’s quite the contrast to a 100 mile mountain bike race. Any tiny mistake you make costs you time…and podium spots.
We had a great start. I rode in front with Jeff right behind me. This stage was one of the few times he actually had to work hard to keep up. The rest of the stages came down to me suffering, blind in the pain cave and him soft pedaling and trying to get me to go faster! We navigated the sand sections with ease, and did our best to get across the water as fast as we could.
We knew Brian and Jenny were going to be coming up on us like a freight train if we didn’t keep the crank brothers pedal to the medal. Next was the more technical rocky sections of the course. I was anaerobic and riding sloppy, but still clearing everything on the climb – it just wasn’t pretty. Suddenly I heard Jeff yelling to me. I couldn’t see him, so I had to stop. I waited and the European Youngsters came by. I waited longer and Jenny and Brian came by. The whole thing was probably only 20 seconds or so, but in a TT felt like 10 minutes. Jeff came around and he had a bout of chainsuck. We caught on and held it riding with Brian and Jenny, maybe 10 seconds back for a good amount of time.
We had almost made contact and I came into a corner. The sandstone had gotten really slippery from sand being kicked up on it from all the people pre-riding, and I made a mistake that cost us. In a flash, I was on the ground. I had lost my wheels from underneath me. The price? Road rash on my lower leg and a pretty stylish bruise on my right hip which later materialized to this:
It also cost us another 30 seconds.
The end of the race also was different from what we had pre-ridden. In the end we came in 3rd place overall, 1 min 30 seconds behind 1st place (Brian and Jenny). Yeah, do the math – with no mishaps, we still would not have won the prologue, but the prologue sets the tone for the rest of the race.
The next day boasted an almost 90 mile race course – more our style. Jeff was confident. Me? I thought, “When was the last time I rode 90 miles… road OR mountain bike?) The longest Breck Epic Stage was 60 or 70 miles which was my last mountain bike race (August), and since then my longest ride was 4 hours. The last hundred mile race I did was the Cascade Cream Puff back in July. I was counting on my cumulative endurance from the year to carry me through. Was it a good idea? How would I fare?