KCO Races in the Tour of the Gila
What the hell am I doing here? I kept asking myself this throughout the four days that comprised the 2014 Tour of the Gila.
Lauren Fallert, one of my esteemed colleagues at Verde, Bella, my eight-year-old daughter, and I all loaded into the car at around 8 a.m. on Wednesday, departing Durango, Colo. We rolled into Silver City, N.M. at 5:30 that evening, after navigating the most obscure, desolate stretches of highway found in the United States, period, with only one speeding ticket. (Fallert and I almost wrangled our way out of it because Officer Jay was so smitten with and my Diamondback Podium Equipe road bike on the back rack.)
We checked into the Bear Mountain Lodge – an inn outside of the main downtown grid. It’s a super cool, rustic inn that we highly recommend! It was a beautiful oasis of Old New Mexico complete with a Mexican Day-Of-The-Dead art installation (the entire hotel is an art installation really), three horses, two standard poodles and four El Pollos de Pantalones (our name, not the genus or species). The inn keeper and owner, Linda, was outstanding. So was the breakfast spread every day!
THURSDAY: Road Racing
The first day of racing for me, as a Cat. 3-4, was Thursday. We loaded into the car together and made haste to the start “town,” which was teeny tiny and stocked to the gills with riders and cars. Long story short? I didn’t get the chance to warm up – AT ALL. Oh well – I had many miles in which to do so, right?
26 Cat 3-4 women racers rolled out of Pinos Altos at 8 a.m. sharp to our final destination 62 miles later of Fort Bayard. My category of women racers really ran the gamut. We had a Mexican national, some super strong juniors from Tuscon, Ariz. (15- and 16-year-olds) and a 26-year-old from Wisconsin who I’m pretty sure will be one of the most famous female road racers of all time within a few years (she was the overall general classification winner for all four stages). A range of racers falling between 25 and 43 years old, hailed from San Francisco to Salt Lake City to Boulder to Albuquerque and, yes, Durango.
Full disclosure: I was struggling to hang with the lead group through the first three quarters of the route.
Thankfully, my mojo kicked in on the climbs toward the end. I was actually doing pretty well (first out of the six riders in the lead pack) going into the finish sprint, when I took a right corner far too wide and nearly stacked on a cement turn-lane divider. Said divider caused a rider in the group behind us to break her arm in a fall, so I’m really happy that I didn’t actually hit it. I did have to come to a near stop, however, to prevent that and as a result, I placed sixth that day. I was still stoked!
FRIDAY: KCO, meet the Time Trial – Time Trial, meet KCO
Boy. I really felt like a punter at this stage.
Tell me this: Who shows up at one of America’s premiere stage races having never raced a time trial? That would be me! Punter Carpenter-Ogden!
So, myself and one other member of my category were the only ones who didn’t have time-trial bikes and ‘those’ helmets.
I felt like I was on a reality TV show as I rolled down the ramp and up the hilly course. I just pinned it as hard as I could not realizing until later that evening that the goal was speed, not crushing watts. Coach Clayton told me that in a pre-race email, but I guess in my fog of punter-ism, I forgot his advice. I ended up a respectable 8th. This stage is where I lost most of my minutes, but the general classification (GC) on day two listed me as 5th. I was still happy!
SATURDAY: Criterium – Pretty much the biggest “What the HELL am I doing here?” moment of my entire life.
Full disclosure, again: I wanted to skirt the crit. Badly. Fallert and Bella dropped me off and basically forced me participate – if I didn’t do it, I would be unable to participate in the last stage. So, I rolled out onto the course, feeling like the biggest dork at the junior-high-school dance, pushing my coke-bottle glasses up the bridge of my nose, hiding in the corner of the gymnasium as the belles of the ball rode out confidently to the start line.
What I was most worried about was my inexperience. I didn’t want to cause a wreck of shock-and-awe magnitude. I decided to just be a hanger-on in the crit. I was getting to know many of the women in my category and I liked them. Why would I want to endanger them? Finish: 17th. GC? 5th! I have no idea how that worked out, but I was stoked.
SUNDAY – Gila Monster Road Race
Even with the 7:30 a.m. start, I was so excited to do this last stage. It’s the entire reason I wanted to go to the Gila. Just under 70 miles of awesome, hilly road racing, finishing up with one of the most grueling hill climbs and never-ending roller sets I had ever experienced. Sheer bliss!
Once again, I struggled to keep on with the lead pack (which was big – about 15 of us). When we finally got to the business end of the route, the pack blew up. There were women strung out all over the climb, han solo-ing the best they could up the hill.
I decided it was now or never. I found my happy place mentally and settled in for an hour-long spanking as I rode up the hill. One by one, I picked off racers, until I settled into fourth place, less than a minute behind 3rd place. Second place was the future phenom, Amber, who won the entire GC, and first went to Jodie from Denver. I am not sure what variety of Wheaties Jodie ate that morning, but damn, she was FAST! She went from 7th place to first, and won with over a minute on Amber. It was awesome! I ended up 4th on the last stage and 5th overall in the G.C. Not bad for a soccer/lacrosse/baseball mom, brand-communication agency owner who stuffs in training where she can…. Happily!
I so enjoyed this girl’s trip! Fallert, Bella and I went to Silver City not knowing what the heck we’d find or experience, and we found it to be a very eclectic spot and one marked with a distinct culture. We also went in as three girls and left as four – the Ogden family decided to adopt a darling little puppy on our trip! It was one of the best four-day trips of my life! Thank you Lauren Fallert, for your support and help securing the deal on the puppy too.
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