I was climbing well today by my standards, with teams that were dropping me all week. It was steep, I think it was 500m of vertical in 6km if I remember right, with a mini downhill in the middle. I kept an eye on Jon a few riders up and did what I could for the uphill TT.
After that it was a steep switchback descent. I wiped out on a log, no idea why, no damage done though. Halfway down the descent there was a particular ditch that was deeper and sharper, I bottomed out my tire, fork, wrists and elbows. Saw it last second and thought in that split second that this could the "the one" that turns out really ugly. Made it though.
Lots of nice singletrack, bridges, roots, rocks, etc. After a few optional drop off lines (I think I've done a lot of stress testing beyond what the carbon Scalpel might be made for this week - can't say enough good about it) my rear tire was low, burped a little air out at one point. When I CO2'd it I think I bent the valve stem a bit, so it kept leaking periodically. Had to stop 5 times during the remainder to keep topping it up.
I didn't know a 47km "short" stage could be so hard - even the organizers mis judged it a bit thinking the leaders would be in a half an hour earlier than they were. Winning time was around 3 hours. We were around 3:30. No idea how we finished up, but I can't recall ever being pinned at redline for 3.5 hours that hard before, I'm going to sleep like a zombie tonight.
Pat and Andy finished 2nd today and by finish line timing, appear to be now 2nd in the GC by only a minute or two. In a lot of ways I'm impressed they even made it to the end, as I've never seen Pat as hurting as he was a few days earlier this week. It goes without saying that 100% effort went into todays stage especially, they aren't the kind of guys that leave anything on the table. Their competition was flying today, they passed Jon and I three times and finished ahead of us (the whole stopping for air ordeal had us jockeying).
Trish and Craig rolled in looking well spent - Trish left enough energy on the course that she had to go for some alone time in the field before chatting with everyone. I keep kidding with Trish that I'm proud to know someone famous like her, even if the circle that recognizes her impressive athleticism is somewhat small...
Being the slower partner is a hard task on all of "us". Max redline all week would still be "insufficient" if the goal was to be as fast as our significant other. But the goal is really to make it through with what you've got, as a team. The three teams I had windows into this week looked like they did a fantastic job of being real teams and doing just that. Faster partner has to be the helper, facilitator and motivator. Slower partner has to be "boss" by dictating the pace and riding to their limit but without cracking - and they're the only one who can navigate that fine line.
Jon had his breathing under control enough this week to say a lot of helpful things... I suspect (hope) he knew my limited verbal responses were more a result of not being able to interrupt the oxygen delivery system and still hold the pace than lack of appreciation. It's just like people clapping at the side of the course, for those few seconds of passing that can be the most helpful thing on earth.
This should help my fitness for the season, noting like volume and intensity crammed into one week. I'm also happy to say that in the highest density spurt of highly technical riding I've ever done, I don't have so much as a single scrape to show for it, other than the ones from bushes at the side of the trail. I'm healthier than when I started. Also, the ultra-light Scaplel's only mechanical was needing a little more air in the tire on the last day, after 7 days of riding where a lot of it was probably a bit above the bike's true design goals.
Great race, a true mountain biker's evernt!