The peloton at Gila was HALF the size of Redlands. The part that was lacking was the Pack-Fill, otherwise known as my peer-group. While they were off put-put golfing or babysitting, I was getting a blow-by-blow bike racer inservice, by some of the best tutors in the business!
The day was roughly 77 miles with a lot of flat on the way out. The ladies were chatting, eating and drinking in the crisp - albeit thin - morning mountain air.
Two hours in I had my first mini-lesson: Peeing on the bike.
Now I have the "privilege" of being around the boys when they do this and I am always quite jealous. This day was the first day I have ever coveted another riders shorts. I hate shorts, i wear bibs. But in this scenario - the short wins. There were many pee stops, pee stop induced crashes, and more pee breaks. I saw one girl peeing ON the bike. I thought that only happened 9 hours into an Ironman. In the dark. I saw Clara stop once with Kristen Armstrong and thought this is my chance, just DO IT! ....stage freight. Once you squat on the side of the road, with 7 others, you look up at the caravan crawling by. Of mostly mails staring out there windows looking for deer or something, but rookie move, it didn't happen. It was 4.5 hours before that relief could be had.
Lesson 2: Going to the car for feeds
This was exciting!!! I would grab empty bottles from the team, raise one up, the officials would call Michael and the team car to the front (from the back, our starting spot was well last...) and I would roll to the car and do the exchange of goods. I grabbed bottles and bars and headed back through the peloton to hand off the snacks. I felt like the ice cream cart! it was so fun! And it really helps the time pass!
Then the historic wind picked up and I soon learned that if I was alone, that wind was 10 times worse. The wind caused attacks which cause crashes which cause gaps. This chain of events sent me to a place I became very familiar with: OFF. THE. BACK. Now there were others there, but sometimes, not so much help. I think it "only" took us 20-30 minutes to ride back to the group. This time. :) You have to ride through the caravan of follow cars to get to the peloton, so when I passed Michael I grabbed more bottles and headed to my homies!
The goal was stay to the base of the Mogollon climb, which I almost made! I was pretty pumped, and just rode my pace as steady as I could to the top. I had passed of my last bottles and the girls were unleashed to tackle the climb! Flavia O (Froggy) ended up 2nd and Clara (Red-Hot) an impressive 3rd with my homie Mara Abbott winning the stage. This put Flavia in the climbers jersey for the next day!
I was so bummed at the 2 hour mark when teammate/homie/travel partner Beatrice Rodriguez (Bea) had been involved in a crash and her rear derailleur had been broken off! When I was finally getting back onto the group, she was in the car and I almost looped out. Not know why she was there, if she was injured etc was slightly stressful and unsettling. But at the end of the we were all glad that she would live to ride another day and no bodily harm - only emotional and to the bike - had been done!
Also Laura Hines who broke her femur at SDSR was on the mend and had come along to do swanny duties of helping in the feedzone and being a lifesaver! This was much appreciated!
Favorite part of the day: The car ride home 70 miles from the top of Mogollon was with Michael, Clara and Flavia. I fought the urge to nap hard and listened and absorbed some of the coolest lessons for the bike and life to date! What an awesome experience. Hands down, that 6 hour period provided me with more learning, feedback, and development than I have received in half a racing season. Being part of a team with the goal of development for a weekend was truly an honor. I almost took notes.