Stage 3′s weather forecast boasted another smoking hot day. The high was 94F. The course today was touted as the “road” stage. There was only about 5 miles of singletrack, but just about every mile was fun. I even had a flashback to the Claro Brasil Ride stage race – there was about a .1 or .2 mile section of trail that was hub deep! There was another cool section of trail by the river that had tons of moss covered rocks.
I did a short warm up and my legs felt stiff and my heart rate was low. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually had some power behind my legs this morning at the start. Rebecca, Sue, and I, along with a couple other guys had dropped from the fast lead group and were riding along. After about 2 miles, we were ripping down a descent and ended up missing a turn. We headed down the Prologue course for about 1-1.5 miles. It didn’t occur to me that we may have been off course. Suddenly Sue stopped. She said, “I don’t see anyone up there and these are not fresh tire tracks. I think we missed a turn.” At first it was hard to believe, but the rest of us decided that we would have seen other people. We turned around and rode the short steep wall near the end of the prologue and back up the hill we just descended and finally got back on course. We lost about 10 minutes. I did my best not to get discouraged but it was hard since I finally had some legs and actually race.
Our small group stuck pretty close together as we tried to make up time on the course. Unfortunately, I was feeling a little too good and overdid it on the climbs. For some reason, I thought I was going to be able to sustain my pace. After about ten miles, I cracked like an egg being dropped off a 5 story balcony and never came back. My heart rate dropped about 30bpm! There were some tough road climbs. However, some of them were 4 wheel drive and rocky enough where I did not lock out my rear suspension so today was not a total roadie day! In my opinion, it was the hardest so far but I tend to suffer on the road.
The heat was a major factor. Even though I was drinking, eating, and taking electrolytes, it took a toll on me. I was creeping along the road and it felt demoralizing to see the road continuing on without an end. Some of the road was very exposed to the sun, and I’d feel it beat down on my body and the humidity seemed to swirl around. I told myself to HTFU (harden the fuck up) and keep pedaling. I was delighted to have some company – thanks Joey and Scott for riding with me. I was so hot, cracked, and my legs hurt so bad I might have burst into tears had you not been there! Haha What a baby. It felt like we were out there forever. I find that riding a trail can be easier when I’m tired simply because there are mental breaks(as long as it’s not too steep). You focus more on the present moment, trying to ride through a rock garden, or simply enjoy the singletrack. The views are quite different from a road where all you have is your pain!
The glory moment was the last mile of the race – downhill singletrack! It was a breathe of fresh air! At the finish, my legs and booty were so sore that sitting on the grass felt like a foam roller!
After a nice soak in the creek and some food, I was *almost as good as new, but am definitely feeling some leg soreness and fatigue going into stage 4. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s supposed to be super fun singletrack.
I’m now sitting 6th in the GC. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again – my favorite thing about stage racing is the small community you live with for a week. It’s great to be riding with such a strong, positive group of people in such a beautiful place. #win!
Sorry for no photos… I don’t have any from this stage.