Waking up before 6am to race the Gila Monster wasn’t hard, I could not sleep. If I had great legs I could contend for the stage win and move into the top 10 on GC from 15th. I was excited and hoped my body would be up for it.
Stage 5 was 72 miles and the reverse loop from stage 2 with the finish at the top of a 2-tiered climb. The first 40 miles to the feed zone went by very quickly. We blitzed over the Cat3 climb 10 miles in, but no one seemed too hurt by the ascent. If the first 40 miles were fast, the next 15 with 1000ft of lost elevation were blazing. A break was 3 minutes up the road and Sam took it upon himself to mitigate that gap.
We started climbing around mile 55 and after a mile of gaining vertical I was in the front group of 8. We had the race leader, 3 Slipstreams, and 3 other solo riders. It was a perfect climb for me, better than the first day. It was a steep tempo climb with the occassional kick to hurt people. Unfortunately I did not have great legs, I had legs that were sort of good enough. The attacks started flying after we had established our lead. Slipstream, with a rider 1 minute down on the overall, were trying to dislodge the leader and the other guys in the break wanted solo victory. Me? I was getting dropped and clawing my way back to the group for most of these digs and this stuff started with 20km to go. I just refused to accept my fate and fall off the group. It only got worse as the grade dropped to 2 or 3%. The riders could recover in the draft before launching another attack. Then I managed to get myself dropped on a tight turn on the descent. As I watched my race ride away I turned my brain off and dropped off the hill with the least amount of caution I have ever mustered on a descent. I caught the group right before 4km to go and knew I was in for a long ride to the line. The attacks came less frequently as we started climbing again. The group figured out that no one was strong enough to go solo and it would come down to a hill sprint. This would usually be good for me but again with the less-than-great legs.
The sprint started with 300 meters to go on a very steep kicker and I had absolutely nothing left. I rolled in 8th, last of the lead group.
I moved up 3 places on GC to 12th, I was hoping for a top-10 but I would have needed the stage winning legs to pull that out.
Jon finished first out of the chase group in 9th and finished 7th on GC giving the US Para Cat3 team another 3 top-10s for the race.