We’re on about hour 10 of the 26 hour drive to New Mexico. Teammate Bobby (Robert) Munro (who happens to be my significant other as well) and I are crammed into a Kia Soul with our bikes, camping equipment and luggage.
I can’t believe we’re actually going to the Tour of the Gila!” I exclaim: “I’m going to blog about this, so don’t steal my blog.”
“Well, actually I was thinking about that.” Bobby says with a smile while he looks ahead at the road. “We can write about each other’s races! I’ll give you the highlights of my race, and you can do the same for me. We’re riding on the same course so we can just write about each other’s’ experiences.”
Hence, this blog. You’ve already read Bobby’s recap, you know that Tour of the Gila is a UCI professional stage race held in Silver City, New Mexico. Silver City rests at 6,000 ft of elevation, and every stage of the road race crosses the continental divide, often climbing above 8,000 ft. Rob Britton, 2x Tour of the Gila champion and professional cyclist for Rally, has been quoted to say that the combination of climbing and elevation makes this race the hardest of the North American stage races leading into Tour of California. The professionals tend to use this race as a tune-up event for Tour of California, but this is one of the few stage races that features an amateur field. As such, the amateurs show up fit and ready to go.
Now for an introduction to Bobby:
- Height: 6’4”
- Weight: 82 kg
- Strengths: Strong in breakaways, respectable sprint, expert donut eater
- Weaknesses: Climbs with a gradient > 4%
With those intros out of the way, we can jump into the race.
Day 1: Race to Mogollon (Pronounced Moe-ghee-on): This is a 75 mile point-to-point that is essentially a net downhill until the base of Mogollon, which is an iconic climb to a mountain top finish. Bobby knew he wouldn’t be competitive at the finish against the field of young up-and-coming juniors smashing their way through the cat 3 field on their way to a pro contract. His goal was to crush the intermediate sprints. He was able to snag a 2nd in the first intermediate sprint, but soon after a break was established and as their gap grew, they were able to easily sweep the rest of the sprints. Bobbystayed with the main pack until the base of the climb, then rode it in to the finish. Mountains aren’t kind to the big boys.
Day 2: Inner Loop Road Race. The juniors of Lux and Team Swift started flexing their quads early in the day. The pack was blown to shreds and groups of 2 and 3 battled their way through the crosswinds and up the final climb. Bobby needed to work with others and give it some real effort to make the time cut, which were strictly enforced in the men’s 3 field. He succeeded and rode in just in time. He would get to fight another day.
Day 3: Tyrone TT. For one, neither of us own TT bikes. For two, a windy day in New Mexico is sustained winds of 25 mph with 40 mph gusts. Not ideal when you have a crosswind for the entire TT. Knowing he was under-equipped for the TT and is a strong criterium rider, Bobby chose to conserve his energy for the next day.
Day 4: Criterium. We quickly learned that we in the Midwest are much more experienced with criteriums than our Western amateur colleagues. Bobby raced a smart crit but unfortunately was second wheel to an inexperienced rider who grabbed his brakes coming into the last turn. Bobby was able to get around him and sprint to 5th, but the split second of slowing and loss of momentum allowed a line of racers to come around the inside. This unfortunately cost Bobby a podium position.
Day 5: Gila Monster. Gila Monster boasts a 10 mile climb to the finish. The pack stuck together for 60 miles to the base of the climb. Then it was go time. Bobby spun his way up the mountain with time to walk around and recover before watching the women’s finish.
I asked Bobby at the end of the week what he took away from this race. “It’s important as a cyclist to experience different things – things that take you out of your comfort zone to improve yourself” was his response. He certainly stepped outside his comfort zone last week. As a flat-lander from Michigan, elevation is a crushing experience, and as someone who isn’t a strong climber, this race was just about the hardest thing to attempt. Bobby fought through it and came away stronger and smarter. He’s looking forward to a summer of racing in the flat, fast criteriums we specialize in here in the Midwest!