Going into this stage I had heard rumors of the opening 5km climb with it’s concrete pitches of 30% but what I didn’t know was that these pitches were strewn throughout the course. I learned today that any climb I encounter will be easier than the climbs I experienced today.
We started neutral from the host hotel parking lot promptly at 6am. The pace was good and I was feeling better today. The pace was short lived as we made the left turn onto the opening climb. The pace didn’t increase but it didn’t decrease either as the grade quickly went to 10%. I managed to stay with the lead group of 8 until the we started the 30%. I have never sit so far forward on my saddle to keep my bike from tipping over backwards. It was everyting I had just to keep the bike moving forward, moving up. Everyone’s pace was the same because everyone was in their smallest chain ring. Three of us fell off slightly but the leaders were easily within reach. We kept our pace. The 30% grades would last about 2 minutes long and then you would get a small break and encounter another.
I was still feeling good but my day took a similar turn to yesterday with my chain breaking. My derailleur seems to be having a binding problem in the mud—imagine that. I did a quick fix at a about 5 minutes again with the second and third groups passing me. My race quickly became an adventure again but I was ok with that—only 500 meter to go to top out the first climb.
The following descent was just as steep as the up but rutted with wet rocks and mud. This was one of the scariest but most fun descents I have ever done. Even just a couple of seconds off the brakes and you speed quickly rose above 30mph. I held on well and passed a moto that did not do so well. A mud sink hole swallowed an entire moto up to the bars—-suprisingly we later saw him at the finish.
After the descent, was a short climb and another descent down to the river. I was at the bottom and that only meant one thing—I had to go up.
The next climb was 17km and an 1hr 16minutes. This was the most beautiful climb yet as it overlooked a valley. You could only see high mountains lush with vegetation and a few coffee plantations. Birds circled ahead and the sky was blue. You could also see where the landslides had occurred numerous times which was unnerving at times when you saw the cracks in the pavement.
At the top, I descended again down down down. At the bottom, I experienced more 30% concrete climbs over and over and over. It was quickly becoming an unrelentless granny gear hell. They even mixed in a muddy 30% grade so we could get a little more hiking in. At this point, I finally saw another rider that had about a 1 minute gap on me. He kept that gap as we all rode the same speed till 10km to go.
Once I topped this “final” climb, I headed down another steep decent that was more muddy and rutted than the previous ones. It seemed harder but only because I was tired and ready to finish. Once down, I hit the pavement for some rollers and I caught my 1 minute guy. We spoke a little about our day and climbed up another “final” 2km climb. Then descended. He took the lead and I sat on. Then I did my turn at the front down a final dirt descent and entered the city for the 5km gradual climb to the finish. I could just make out another rider ahead of us and put in a good effort to reel him in. My new partner sat on my wheel and I was OK with that. We made the turn for the finish and all the sudden, I see my new partner sprinting around me for 11th place?! What?! He has over an hour on me in GC and not even in my category. There’s no money and not much pride in 11th versus 12th.
But hey that’s racing and he was racing and I am having an adventure.