Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Stages 2 and 3- My Progress Magic Rocks!!
On DAY 2, we had to get up at 5:15 am because we were getting bussed to the starting line. Even thought the buss was not supposed to leave until 7:45 we were all required to check in at 7 in order to avoid getting penalty points. The bus Eric and I were on ended up not leaving until 8:30 and I didn't start until 9:45. During this stage we started according to our general classification, with the fastest riders going last. We were spread out 2 minutes apart and started 4 riders at a time. The first special stage ended up going really well for me and I ended up in 17th overall, 10 minutes ahead of Katia. When the special stage was over, we had a pavement descent into a ski town where we got onto a gondola. I was able to grab a couple of pieces of cake and a coke for the ride at the checkpoint . We were also provided with these funny army jacket liners without buttons to wear because it was pretty chilly when you were sitting still. I shared my car with 2 free ride guys who were not part of the race. After getting off the gondola, there was a short descent to the bottom of a chairlift which took us to the top of the ski mountain. The chairlift took over 20 minutes and I was glad I had the green army jacket on!! When I got of the lift I said "ciao" to the lift guys and when they replied "Bon Jour" I realized we had crossed in to France.
The second special stage of the day started in a town and after a short single track climbed up 1500 meters over a very rocky and rough mountain side. The grade was not too bad and I was able to pass several guys. At the top of the climb there was a 500 meter long tunnel without lights. All riders were required to carry headlamps this day for the purpose of riding through the dark tunnel. My small headlamp did little to light up the tunnel which had water puddles and big holes in the ground. At the entrance of the tunnel we were again provided with the army jackets and were able to keep them on for the close to 2000 meter descent afterwards.
The day ended with a 3 km long single track section and we had to get off our bikes to climb up a steep rock to the finish line. The 107 km took me 9 hrs and 45 minutes. It was a very long day with over 4500 meters of elevation gain, but I put over 1000 points on my main competitor so I had a good race. I was very happy to have a such a light bike this year.
During the Ironbike your day doesn't end when the race ends. I finished the race around 7:30 pm and now had to put the tent up, take a shower in one of the 2 outdoor showers, clean the bike and get everything ready for the next day. I actually got a massage after this day as well. Dinner didn't start until 9 pm that night, and the briefing not until 11. I think the race organizers were having too much fun drinking wine...
Day 3 began very early in the town of Jausier, France. The Tour de France were coming in to the town later that afternoon, so there were lots of people and support vehicles around. Again our start time was dependent on the general classification, but this time we started 2 people at a time. I quickly caught up with Katia who started a few minutes ahead of me, and we were close together when we reached the start of the first special stage which began 50 km into the race. Katia was taking her time at the checkpoint, filling up her camelbak, eating, and hanging out. I was too impatient to wait around, so I went to the start where we had to put our chip in front of a reader, and took off. This stage was rough!!! We went up to over 2500 meters over a mountain pass which was extremely steep and rocky and we had to hike-a-bike most of it. I was not having a great day and got passed by lots of people including Katia towards the top. The downhill went down a scree field and was so rough and steep that it was hard to walk and carry the bike. After a while we were able to start riding again, but I still lost 6 minutes to Katia on that stage.
The second special stage went better. After an "easy grade" hour climb we ended with another rough downhill where I was able to drop Katia. I was so happy with my Magura brakes and fork. It was so steep and rough with lots of tight switch backs down a hiking trail where we had to watch out for hikers, but my brakes worked perfectly without overheating at all during the 2000 meter descent. Amazing!! Eric and I were about 30 seconds apart on this stage and I took back the 6 minutes on Katia!!! This day ended in the town on Barge. The day took me 9 1/2 hrs to finish and my bike definitely needed a little TLC afterwards. I had broken one of the teeth on my big chain-ring and needed new cables and housing. After cleaning my bike with the help of the "special Italian solution" and a paintbrush I borrowed from Mauro and Mauri (for the promise of a beer at the end) I took it over to the race mechanic.
The town put on a nice dinner for us this evening. We sat inside of a boccie ball hall and had pasta, meat, tomatoes, and wine. After the dinner there was an award presentation and the leaders got a huge gift basket with wine and all kinds of yummy foods. There were lots of journalists and reporters there but everything was off course conducted in Italian, so I had really no idea what they were saying except for when my name was mentioned. I was ahead by about 1800 points now and I felt like I could relax a little bit.