Finally!! The last day of Ironbike. After a brutal week of riding, Ironbike doesn't let up even on the final stage. Although there is less than 30 miles of riding, we have to climb close to 10,000 feet in that short distance. This off course, includes the 6000 foot climb up Mt Chaberton to the fort. We started the first special stage right out of the camp. After a bit of a descent, the climb began. The first hour or so was on a quite mellow gravel road. I was keeping a pretty good pace and was able to put some time on Katia. There had been some confusion about the results the previous day, so I wasn't sure exactly how far ahead I was, and I couldn't afford to lose by too much during either of the 2 special stages. As the trail got steeper and elevation higher, I could look down the switch backs and watch Katia gaining on me.
When the trail gets steeper and rockier, you have to be a very efficient spinner to carry enough momentum to make it across the technical , loose sections. As the altitude was increasing, so was my breathing. Katia passed me with a friendly "good job Louise" and as much as I tried to stay on my bike, I wasn't able to keep a high enough cadence for riding but had to get off and start pushing.
The trail (if you can call it that) gets so steep that most riders have to carry their bikes on their backs in order to make it up. Pushing seems less energy consuming to me. The trail was so loose and steep that you really had to dig your feet in, to keep from slipping down. Sometimes you had the option of taking switch-backs or going straight up the side of the mountain. I was so out of breath that I chose the switch-backs.
Still able to push the bikes
All I could think about was that I couldn't lose too much time, and I was pushing as hard as I could. My breathing was out of control with the high altitude and effort. When I finally reached the top and saw the yellow arch I was completely done! But, I had made it!! I gave Katia a big hug, she definitely deserved this win, she was very very strong! The altitude and effort made me pretty nauseous and I wasn't able to eat or drink anything, so I took off with Katia and her team mate Claudio for the long bumpy descent.
We were going down the same trail we had come up so at times we had to slow down in order to avoid colliding with the racers still coming up! We descended about 3500 feet to the checkpoint that was the start of Special Stage number 2. I tried squeezing down a little bit of food and filled up my Camelbak, because the second special stage is no cake walk either. Katia and I took off together. We now had a steep single track climb ahead of us. About half of the trail was ridable, and the rest we had to push. I reached the top just ahead of Katia and then we had a technical, steep, slippery single-track to descent. I was feeling good and could ride most of this section. When I reached the gravel-road descent I had dropped Katia and tried to keep going as fast as possible without being completely out of control. We finish with an extremely steep (at least it seems this way after 7 days of hard riding) 10 minute pavement climb through the streets of Sauce D'Oloux to the finish line. I was beyond happy to cross the finish-line!
Very happy to finally finish after 7 days of brutal racing