58km, 958m ascent, but net down a lot
The order of the day was to survive. We're on a gravel descent road with lots of corners, and lots of trucks and tractors that take liberty with "lanes". Apparently it's the deepest gorge in the world between sets of 8,000m peaks.
One last 7am bag drop, and people just want to cruise and be happy. That was the plan...
... till the start when Cory said "are going to crush it today?" I thought no, take it easy. Then Kate cross country started and I couldn't even get on her when for the first couple of hills. It dawned on me a net downhill 60k race on sketchy gravel was exactly my deal. Caught on to front group after a half hour, then ended up solo for a bit. Saw a group of 4 Nepalis dividing themselves out, and next half hour was riding to them. Got in a group with Rajeev and Ajay. Ajay cracked both of us and we kept working together. Rajeev has the power over the hills mentality and was pushing my buttons by using my own moves. He's stronger and thicker - lives in Norway now most of the time. We were hauling ass and then I said let's take bets on who'll win today - Cory, Gerrrit, Naryan or Ajay. He said we passed Cory with a mechanical in a town, I didn't even see him. Gerrit was going hard, but we came around a corner and he was begging a tube and had multiple flatted. Sucks. I gave him mine. All of a sudden we were in 2nd and third, and Rajeev had already actually conceded he was fading and I was crushing him. This was looking good! Wow!
Then 2 minutes later I flatted. So much for giving away my tube with 3k to go. Took a while to get another. I dropped back. Got one with a short stem that worked for a bit, then that flatted. I was walking and Cory gave me one and sat while I changed it, Gerrit came by and lamented that luck. Never feels fun, but that's racing. A single flat with a couple k to go in a stage isn't bad for here.
I finished! It was almost on a super high of a second (or third) but Rajeev even at the finish said the same thing, that he was cooked and thought I'd get him at the end. At least I have a new riding buddy!
There was talk this morning of doing group ride day. I thought it was an ok idea. When I could barely hold Kate's wheel on the first climbs, I had assumed then group ride was off, as that didn't feel like any group ride pace I've done. Upon finishing, I'm hearing more about not group riding than I am about a chance at a really solid result save for a small sliver of bad luck. I only have a handful of days each year where it feels like I'm flying, and unlike some who podium every event they show up at, it's a scarcity for me. I enjoy the feeling of riding well when I can. Tomorrow is the actual group ride day. No regrets. Other than not having enough Stan's in the rear tire ; )
Sunset is happy times.