I was really excited to get the La Ruta show on the road. It was the last race of 2012 and the end to a wonderful, but very long season. Stage 1 is actually the queen stage of the 3 day race and it was right up my alley being about 66 miles and 12,000’ of elevation gain with some hike a bike.
My preparation for La Ruta was not ideal with all the work travel I had been doing. I really hadn’t been able to formally train for weeks and went into it just saying that I was going to get the job done with no excuses.
The line-up was very chaotic and I found myself in the back of the group in the start chute. I was stressed, but there was no way to line up in the front like I’m accustomed. The start was neutral on pavement, so I clawed my way up to close to the front of the pack of 500 people.
The first climb was insanely steep. It was like riding up Lickskillet in Boulder for an hour. My legs were complaining from lack of use (and no openers). I was instantly glad that I switched to SRAM X-O 38-24 from the SRAM XX 39-26 I’d been running all season. Still, I was being swallowed up by the group and not happy with my climbing. I tried to settle in and not worry about it. I thought, “Oh my god, maybe I underestimated La Ruta. If the whole race is steep like this, I am so screwed!” I was riding in 3rd overall. I made a rookie mistake and was carrying a gallon of water up the climb! A lot of people started with only one water bottle and here I was with 2 big bottles, a 70 oz bladder, a pack with stuff in it, and a Topeak XX top tube bag with food. Can you say overkill?
I went to shift to my little ring and nothing happened. I had to get off my bike and use my hands to move the chain to the small ring. I hoped maybe it was just a glitch because it seemed to work fine 2 days ago when I had ridden. Unfortunately, it was a permanent problem for the entire 7hr 20 min I rode that day. I could shift into the big ring, but I could not shift into the little ring. It resulted in many, many, MANY stops when I wanted to shift. I had to get off my bike and move the chain down with my hands and you can imagine how many times you shift back and forth on a course like day 1. I got off at least 30 times. It cost me a lot of time. Instead of getting angry, I just accepted that’s how it was and just did it. There were times I pushed the big ring too hard because I didn’t want to stop to shift down. There were times I kept it in the little ring way too long as well in fear of shifting up and having to shift down again. After giving it to the mechanic after the stage, I discovered my front derailleur was bent. They had to bend it back with pliers.
Once we got to Carrarra, I had found my legs and started passing people. There was red mud and tons of fun. The downhills were steep mud bogs and I would just let the brakes go and slide down. There was only one hard crash in the section and I quickly learned to stay away from the white mud. I moved into 2nd overall as well and was having a killer time!! I know some of you will kill me, but I was actually disappointed when this section ended. It was only maybe 1.5 hours. Then it was on to dirt road and pavement climbing. The heat was absolutely a killer. I had never felt so hot from the humidity and felt incredibly nauseated and border line panicked from the sweltering sun, no breeze, and extreme humidity!
I was dumping water on myself and was glad that I drank so much water in the beginning of the race. The hot section lasted maybe 2 hours.
After that was a 15km pavement climb. I did take one wrong turn, but realized my mistake after about 2km and went back. I lost position to the guys, but still maintained 2nd with my detour. I was very thankful for the clouds and slight breeze. I rode by myself for quite awhile. I knew there was one last climb left after the very steep pavement descent. It seemed to go on and on. I kept pedaling along till I comfortably crossed the finish line!
The major problems began at 4 PM. My stomach started hurting…. Bad. The result was a catastrophe. Stay tuned for Stage 2!