Cat 3 ladies dominate the podium at Tour of the Gila

Report by Dawn Andres

I decided I wanted to race the Tour of the Gila last July after falling in love with stage racing at Baker City and Cascade. Somewhere along the way Christine Holland and Kris Duyn signed on too. This was so awesome, I cannot imagine doing this race without either of them.

We used Tuesday as a travel day, giving us Wednesday to get settled and check out some of the courses and be ready for our first road race on Thursday.

When we checked in for the race on Wednesday the official asked Kris “Do you even have road racing in Oregon?” We laughed and thought, “we aren’t in OBRA-land anymore…” We laughed about it again after the race, figuring we showed a few people how we race bikes in Oregon.

Stage 1: The Inner Loop Road Race
Thursday morning came and 27 cat 3/4 women lined up in Pinos Altos, NM for a 62 mile road race with around 4.4k of climbing. The race started with a long, beautiful descent, then category 4 climb, followed by a gnarly steep descent with hairpin turns. After the descent there was long valley leading up to a category 3 climb. After the last climb we had 10 windy miles of rollers to the flat finish. Christine, battling bronchitis, was on board to work for Kris and I up until the last climb.  Kris was going to protect me on the climb, and I was to take the sprint. We executed perfectly. Christine was aggressive and protected us on the first half of the race, Kris pushed the tempo up the climb dropping all but myself and 2 others (Brooke and Cara), and I took the win in the sprint. It was a team effort, and it felt good.

Stage 2: The Dan Potts Tyrone Individual Time Trial
Friday we faced the TT, a 16-mile out and back with 2 climbs and 2 descents. Based on the times from the previous year we knew that this would be around a 45 minute effort. As the previous stage winner, I got to start last, 1 minute after the girl 2nd (Cara) in the GC. The course started with a 15-minute gradual climb. I started gaining on Cara almost immediately. My head started talking to me: “Don’t blow up! As long as you’re gaining on her you’re gaining seconds in the GC! Don’t need to do too much! Save those legs for the Gila Monster!” Shut up head! Then at about 10k to go my calf cramped, but I was still gaining on Cara. I pegged my effort on staying close to her rather than making it hurt. I finished the TT 3 seconds after her, effectively beating her time by 57 seconds. I played it safe and conservative and hoped it was enough. It was good enough for 3rd in the TT, down from 1st by 41 seconds. Lesson #1: don’t hold back. Don’t play it safe. You never know what your competitors are going to do. I ended up gaining almost a minute on Cara in the GC, but Brooke beat me by 1 second, closing the gap I had on her to 7 seconds. Luckily, the person to win the TT was my teammate Kris. She was focused and said afterwards that she was always just on the brink of blowing. She crushed it, beating me by about a minute, and was rewarded with the leader jersey. Cara fell to about 1:30 back in 4th place. Christine, still battling bronchitis, played it safe to save her lungs/legs so she could continue to race another day.

Stage 3: The Downtown Silver City Criterium
Saturday, bright and early, we lined up for the crit in the cute downtown of Silver City. The course was a rectangle. The start and finish was in the middle of a long flat section, you made a left turn through corner 1 onto another flat section, then another left turn at corner 2 where you faced two short and steep kickers. You started the descent from the second kicker, made a left turn onto corner 3 and continued to descend all the way to the left at corner 4. We got there early and took some warm up laps. I nearly hit the deck in the warm up when I almost skidded out taking corner 4 too hot. About 5 laps in I figured out how to take that 4th corner. We all finished with the rubber side down and with the pack. No changes in the GC. Kris in 1st and me in 2nd.

Stage 4: The Gila Monster Road Race
Sunday we faced the queen stage, The Gila Monster. 68.9 miles with 5,610 feet of climbing. This stage was basically the same course we did on Thursday, but in reverse. That means that the steep gnarly descent I described from stage 1 was now a climb. They call this climb the Sapillo and after cresting that there were still 12 miles (with still some good climbing) to the uphill finish. We were warned “save something for the Sapillo” and that it would be “everyone for themselves!” With Kris and I sitting 1 and 2 in the GC, Christine again was on board to be domestique. She raced aggressively and hard for us all the way to the base of the Sapillo. When I saw Brooke (3rd in the GC) going for the bonus sprint I told Christine to beat her, and she did. When there was a lady way off the front (for probably 10-20 minutes) Christine started a paceline with ladies at the front to reel her back. She worked so hard for us and we were so lucky to have her there. There were a few attacks and breaks, but everyone came back together before we reached the base of the Sapillo.

This climb gives you all it can, right at the start, and doesn’t let up for 3 miles. It’s steep, and it shattered the field immediately. Kris led the way, Brooke (sitting in 3rd place) knew our tricks and got on her wheel (the position I wanted), and I followed behind her. I looked back and saw 2 girls with us, Cara and one other. In what seemed like no time at all Kris started to pull away from the rest of us. This is where shit hit the fan for me. I decided to go around Brooke and bridge up to Kris. I caught Kris and yelled that we had a gap. And soon after that I blew up. I watched Kris ride away, and looked back to see Brooke gaining on me. She came around me and I grabbed her wheel. It hurt and I started thinking about how great riding tempo sounded. At that point I literally gave up - mentally and physically. I told myself “3rd place is ok” and I let her go. I regretted this decision later…

Cara wasn’t far behind and knowing I had such a big gap on her in the GC and losing faith in catching Brooke up ahead, the two of us took it easy riding together. I really really regreat all of this. When we got to the final climb, maybe 3k from the finish, I kicked it up a little was very surprised to see how quickly I dropped her. Lesson #2: sometimes your competition is hurting just as much as you, and sometimes they are hurting more. They aren’t going to tell you how they are feeling, so go ahead and test them. Lesson #3: never never never stop racing. Brooke who was 3rd in the GC became 2nd in the GC, and in the end she finished with a gap I believe I could have closed if I wouldn’t have stopped racing my bike.

I crossed the finish line 3rd feeling like I played it safe instead of racing hard. It doesn’t feel good to finish a race like that, even if you are on the podium. A lesson learned to take with me.

Kris, on the other hand, was amazing all weekend. She was focused and raced hard. She won the last stage by minutes, easily winning the GC.

I loved the experience and the time spent with my teammates in New Mexico. PBS dominated the podium and people took notice. We heard others talk about how this year was faster than last year because PBS wasn’t there last year. More than one person commented on how well we raced together. Kris and I combined took 5 podium spots in the individual stages and 1st and 3rd in the GC. This was a really great showing for our team.

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