The US Paralympics Cycling Team Cat3 contingent had a great showing during the first stage with me in 3rd, Jon Copsey 15th, and Sam Kavanaugh 30th. We were present during the race and a lot of people took notice. Sam is missing his leg below the knee and the number 1 google search linking to my blog right now is “Tour of the Gila amputee” so that’s pretty cool.
Stage 2 was 78 miles with about twice as much climbing as stage 1, but it was broken up throughout the day. Riding high off of day one and looking to defend my GC (overall) placing Sam and Jon set about controlling the early pace. The first climb of the day started around mile 6 and we hit it at the front where we needed to be. Several other riders and the Slipstream Juniors team decided to take point so we let them set the pace and drifted a few rows back and got Jon and Sam out of the wind. Things were just dandy until my front tire went soft around mile 10; thankfully I was right behind Sam and he gave me his wheel. He was riding a much wider wheel so I had to fully open my brakes, this would become important later. Jon had dropped out of the group to pull me back into the field. I was safely back in the group less than 1 minute after I flatted so it was a great display of teamwork!
I lost a few seconds on the nasty descent and got into a chase group of 4. We were able to make it back to the group without too much energy wasted. Once that was done I set about the task of eating and drinking. Miles 40-65 were pretty sedate with the occassional attack thrown out.
Things went sideways around mile 65 and during the second feed zone. I took my bottles just fine, but I was getting dropped on what should have been an easy climb for me. Once isolated I could hear it, swoosh…..swoosh…..swoosh. Any time I was riding hard my front wheel was rubbing against the brake pad and had been for the last 55 miles with another 13 to go. Armed with the realization that I, in fact, did not suck at riding a bike I fought like hell on the descent and the next big roller to catch back on. I was dropped again during an acceleration and chased back on. This happened 2 or 3 times after the feed zone. The final time I made my way back into the group the moto ref said, “You just refuse to die!” All I could do was nod, my mouth was dry, my eyes were crossed, all I could think of was getting to the line with the group because of the selfless way my teammates had ridden. I did manage to lose 24 seconds during the sprint to the line, but it was a much smaller loss than I could have sustained.
So why didn’t I just open my brakes a bit more? The cam was completely open and I was too oxygen deprived to figure out which righty was tighty and go the other way. The last thing I wanted to do was to close the brakes further.
I sat at 8th on GC after the stage with hopes of a podium finish still alive and staring a TT in the face on the next day.