Studio Velo's Eastern Sierra Adventure: 'An Orgy of Vert Lust'

I finally got the hall pass from my family to go on a cycling trip--the 4 day Sierras trip put on by Studio Velo.  It is based out of Bishop, and tackles the brutal climbs of the Eastern Sierras, which are some of the most fearsome on the planet.

This trip is basically an orgy of vert lust.  On the menu are 4 of the 5 hardest climbs in California, and a couple more in the top 10 just for good measure.  And yet, you don't have to be a mountain goat to enjoy the riding.  The trip is fully SAGed, meaning Chef Ritchie and the van are always nearby to provide food, water, or a lift to the top.

The scenery in the Owens Valley is desolate and spectacular.  This is the (very) high desert, and this trip we had the added attraction of snow at the higher elevations from a recent storm.


I am a good climber for a big guy.  Of course, a hippo is a fabulous dancer for a large water dwelling mammal, but they don't tend to do well on Dancing With The Stars.  There are limitations.  Tackling HC climbs every day of the trip is a good way to find them.

Day 1
Dawn in Fairfield


We left Mill Valley at 6am to drive to Bishop.  We stopped for lunch at the Mobil in Lee Vining, which happens to feature an outstanding restaurant.  By 330pm we were settled into our rooms in Bishop and ready to tackle the weekend's appetizer--the climb up to South Lake.

The first day is a chance to warm up the legs and see who the players are.  Our group had a range of abilities but consistent enthusiasm.  Based on the climb to South Lake, I was going to be in trouble, as there was some aggressive climbing going on.

This was our introduction to big gradients--both altitude and temperature.  Just getting from the valley floor to the base of the mountains proper is always a long climb in and of itself in the Owens Valley.  Once you get to the mountain, the real fun begins.  We climbed steadily for more than 4,000 feet before it started to get really cold and a bit dark.  I then realized why Bill and Chas, the cagey  veterans, were hauling packs up this climb.

They had lots of warm clothing and lights.  I turned around when I started to lose feeling my fingers--never a good sign when you are climbing.  I had a vest and arm warmers, but those were woefully inadequate for the descent, and I was very cold for the first 10 minutes.  Of course, descending at 40+ mph, you get back down to the warm zone pretty quickly, but I still did not regain full feeling in my fingers until after my shower.

The light was amazing on the way down, and there were quite a few photographers out to capture it.  They must have heard the Studio Velo boys were in town.

The view from the hotel on the first night.

We had dinner at a local restaurant, but not before Uncle Colin regaled us with stories from the back of the peloton (aw...snap!).

Bill seemed keenly interested.


Day 2

Yesterday's teaser left a bit of a mark on my legs.  Today we rolled out from Bishop to the South, to take on White Mountain and Death Valley Road.  White Mountain is a beast.  It climbs 6,204 feet over 20 miles.
Some hot chick must have just rolled by.

I started slowly, riding with Scott, chasing down the rabbits who had zoomed away with enthusiasm at the start of the climb.  By an hour into the climb, the order of the day had been established.  Myself, Scott, and trip revelation Brian--a quiet vegan who never seems to be working hard, but goes uphill like greased tofu.

After another hour, Scott attacked.  I hung on for a while before deciding that day 2 was not the time to go deep into the pain cave.  We climbed up into the snow at over 10,000 feet, to finish after 2:30 of climbing.  Ouch.
Okay, which one is the dancing hippo?


The metrics from Training Peaks and Strava fail to capture how tough it was.   Climbing a 9% pitch from 9,000 feet to 10,000 feet is not the same as doing it at sea level.
Bill and Chas stick it to the less mature members of the riding party.

We dropped back down to around 8,000 feet for lunch.




Almost everyone made it up the climb.  Luke was having some altitude sickness,  and had thrown up several times on the climb.  He gets the "Boot and Rally" award for continuing on almost until the lunch stop.

Not a bad view.
The descent was the fastest of the trip, with steep grades and mostly smooth roads.  50mph+ was the order of the day.  Of course, I forgot to put on the GoPro.
Why yes, I did descend like an out of control truck.

Death Valley Road was a mere digestif after White Mountain, climbing 4,000 feet in 14 miles.  It was an amazingly steady climb.  Almost always 6% for the first half, and steadily 7% for the second half.


We ran across this little fellow about halfway up.  Not sure if Stan's would seal a real snakebite, we moved on.
We are 10k of vert into the day at this point, and Bill is still going strong.  Yes, folks, 62 years old and he will rip your legs off.  Bill is happiest when pointed upwards.


We got back down right as the light was getting awesome again, so I had to take a glamour pic.  The bikes hanging on the front cost more than the van.

When we got back, Ritchie whipped up a feast out of the pathetic hotel kitchen.  As far as I know, the only thing even approaching a cooking appliance was the coffee maker.

Dinner was a time to share the adventures of the day, and to try to convince others that you could have gone faster, but you were just being social.

to be continued......

Home-made Waffles - Belgium Style

Today we were graced by a dozen sweet cross bikes from Ridley Bicycles. On the morning agenda was a cross ride on Mt. Tam & demo event day back at Studio Velo, and, most importantly, a nice post-ride meal prepared by our very own Chef Ritchie. The meal of the day was obvious : Belgium Waffles -- Brussels style (not Liege the other famed style of Belgian waffles).  


Josh killing the waffles

For any new, traditional dish, our chef does his research.  When we first asked Ritchie to prepare Belgian waffles, his first question: Which kind?  Belgian of course, it's a We are Belgium event.  But, as you pointed out, there are many types of Belgium waffles, the two most common being from  Brussels and Liege.  

Unlike our typical experience with oversized, pre-made Waffles found at fairs & farmers markets, a true Belgium waffle is thin, light, and yeasty (in a good way). Crispy on the outside, but hot and moist on the inside --- thanks to the excessive use of butter-- these road-side 'pastries' were seriously delicious and the perfect post-ride meal.

Evidence of a real cross ride

While there was not much mud to be found on the arid trails of Mt. Tam, Hobbs of course found some nice, mucky mud on our return via the 'passage du gois' -- our hidden (and many times under water) bike path through Tennessee Valley. The day's ride was shorter than usual, but after about 90 minutes of riding, we had a chance to try some dismounts and remounts.  Some of us, and I wont' name names, had a lengthy dismount on the way down Corte Madera Ridge.  










Studio Velo World Championships

 


One hopes Bill Keller doesn't bring his amazing fitness to this year's World Championships on Sunday. Above BK rockets ups to South Lake last weekend in the Eastern Sierras. Go Bill! 

Here is the point system for Sunday's Ride & the general rules & guidelines:

This is our annual, unofficial unsanctioned race (or ride).  The goal is to form key allies out on the ride to ensure the strong boys are at a disadvantage.  The unofficial favorites, TJ and CH, and a few others, can't attack or "drill" it until after Whites Hill. For any ride favorite, Whites Hill is neutral. After the top of Whites Hill, it's game on. We encourage all other riders to get some early points by attacking on Whites.  The total number of points gained over the course of the ride wins. 

Regroup Points:

-Easy Roll out to Whites Hill

-Re group at Point Reyes Bakery

-Re group at top of BoFax & neutral on Sisters

Route & Points:

Golf Course Hill (San Geronimo) 

1st = 3 points

2nd = 2 points

3rd = 1 point

Nicasio Valley School Sprint

1st = 3 points

2nd = 2 points

3rd = 1 point

    Bonus Points

    4th = 1 point

    5th = 1 point

Point Reyes Stop Sign Hill Sprint

1st = 3 points

2nd = 2 points

3rd = 1 point

Dog Town Sprint

1st = 3 points

2nd = 2 points

3rd = 1 point

BoFax Climb

1st = 3 points

2nd = 2 points

3rd = 1 point

    Bonus Points

    4th = 1 point

    5th = 1 point

7 Sisters Climb = Neutral (RockSpring Gate Sprint Points)

    Bonus Points

    4th = 1 point

    5th = 1 point

Studio Velo rides Levi's Gran Fondo

Monday morning and my legs still feel like somebody hit them with a stick.  The cause?  Another great ride with 7,499 of my close friends on Saturday.  Levi's Gran Fondo is a great event that raises a lot of money for local Sonoma County charities and offers up some awesome roads for participants.

This year the weather was a bit iffy, though only for those doing the full 100 mile route.

I have done all 3 of Levi's events.  They get a lot bigger every year, but without becoming a complete cluster.  The first year had 3,000 riders.  Last year, 5,000.  And this year?  7,500 riders.

The SV crew rolled up to partake in the fun.  We all arrived too early.  They have the registration so well sorted that there were no lines despite the number of riders.  Parking was a breeze.  The critical time seems to be 630am, when all of a sudden lots of cars show up simultaneously and things get a bit crazy.  Next year, I will sleep another 30 minutes.  The upside of being early was extra time to hang out and chat with the many SV riders in attendance, some of home I had never met.

Justin "Jens" Curtis was on fine form in the pre-ride, as always.  He was sounding pretty raspy.  I thought it was attempt to be sexy for the ladies, but it turns out he was merely deathly ill.

Thanks to the guy driving the Clif Bar truck, who went beyond letting us pillage the assemblage of nutritional goodness and actually helped us loot the truck.  You need lots of calories for the Fondo.

Lots of cycling celebrities show up.  Pros, former pros, has-beens and never-weres (that's me). 

Here is one for the ladies...Dr. McDreamy shows a little podium bulge (courtesy of @podiuminsight).

Special thanks to Capo who allowed many of us staged in the VIP area at the front of the melee.  Not intentionally, mind you--I just name dropped my way in.

There are two stressful segments of the ride.  The first 10 miles and the last 10.  In the opening 10 miles, riders jostle for position and try to move up to the front.  The pack takes up the whole road as terrified motorists seek shelter on the shoulder.  It is like Critical Mass, but without angry slackers.  Slight miscues are magnified radically and panicked braking occurs.  Further back in the group, it is probably a complete sh*tshow.  There are no pics from this part of the ride because I dared not remove a hand from the bars.

Around mile 10, we hit the first significant hill on Graton Road and the pack sorted itself out in a hurry.  All of the hairy-legged hangers-on attacked backwards as the front group took shape.  Of course, "this is not a race".  It just happens to have a start line, finish line, timing chips, and lots of strong riders attacking frequently.  It waddles, it quacks, but it is not a duck.

I was determined to make it into the front group this year, but I was already sitting too far back as we hit the Graton Road hill.  Despite cranking 391 watts for over 7 mins, I only made the second group, which chased hard (with JD from Capo driving the train like a madman) but could not regain contact and we eventually just settled into a fast rhythm to prepare for the fun of King Ridge.

At King Ridge the weather started to go wonky on us.  A heavy cloud system meant a nice warm start, so I had left my vest in the car.  Thankfully, at the last minute, I had put some embrocation on my old, creaky knees.  More for the style of it than any perceived need, of course.  Smell fast, go fast.

For extra speed, apply to chamois.

As we climbed the ridge, it started to rain.  Not a problem on a long uphill slog, but a big issue for the screaming descents ahead.  The first rains of the season lift the oil up out of the crevices on the road, creating incredibly slick conditions.  And, of course, it gets cold.  And my vest was in the car, where it was safe and dry.  I did not want to carry an extra 150g of vest on the course, because, well, you know, "it is not a race".  At least I had some arm warmers.  Getting wet and dirty is why you don't wear white shoes after Labor Day, no matter how much faster they are. 

My Fondo plan was to ride super hard to the rest stop at Tin Barn, after King Ridge.  Then I would regroup with the rest of the SV crew and have a more relaxed pace to the finish line.  Part 1 of the plan went decently well--I thrashed myself on King Ridge, including descending with a couple of locals who were seemingly oblivious to the fact we were riding on an ice rink.  I gave them enough room that if they went down, I could adjust my trajectory to fall on top of soft flesh instead of hard pavement.

The Tin Barn rest stop was the first opportunity I took to sample the awesome fare that Levi et al provide.  PB&Js, roasted potatoes, fig bars, chips, EFS, Coke...basically all the stuff you need.  Did I mention you need lots of calories?

I got my obligatory pic with Levi.  No, I am not 8 feet tall....like most mountain goats, Levi is a small dude.


I hung out to await my friends and the onset of hypothermia, while decimating the PB&J supply, until Levi himself advised me to wait for the next stop, where even greater deliciousness awaited.  Sometimes it seems like the Fondo is an excuse to consume mass quantities. 

Rest stops are like a netherworld of time suck.  As soon as you are getting ready to roll, another friend shows up and you wait again.  This process will actually repeat itself ad infinitum until you just say screw it and roll.  The cooler temps this year meant less patience.

Karen's run of bad luck continued.  Remind me not to stand near her during lightning storms.  She had been given some "better" wheels by a friend.  Her rear hub started tearing itself apart on King Ridge and by Tin Barn expert mechanic Chris Reed diagnosed the howling sound as an imminent hub explosion.  They have mechanical support at the rest stops, but are not equipped to defuse a ticking hub bomb, so Karen SAGed it back to Santa Rosa.

Finally, Chris Reed, Bryce R, Justin C, honored guest Brian from LA and I got going.  The next stretch of road, Meyers Grade, is the hardest of the ride for several reasons.  It starts with a very steep descent--so steep that you cannot slow down once you realize you are going too fast.  Add the first rain of the season and a metal bridge roadway into the mix and you have guaranteed carnage.  Sure enough, a rider just in front of me hit the deck hard on the dodgiest corner.  We were going the same speed, but I had a couple of elements in my favor.  First, I was running low pressure in my tires, so I had a bigger contact patch.  Second, I was riding in the tire tracks, not in the middle of the lane.  The middle is where the oil is--don't go there.

Once you cross the slick metal bridge, you are faced with a nasty climb.  It is the hardest climb of the route, but gets little publicity, overshadowed by King Ridge and Coleman Valley.  It is only 1.6 miles at an average grade of 8.2%, but you hit it when your legs are stone cold.  The result is an immediate flooding of lactic acid into the muscles.  Awesome.

It was around this time that "Jens" began to feel poorly.  He had not puked on himself yet, so I knew he had at least another 80 miles in him.  At the top of the Meyers Grade climb is the Ratna Ling Buddhist retreat.  At this point you had better hope that your legs reincarnate in a hurry, because the next 10 miles is "rolling".  And by rolling, I mean uphill.

We stopped at Tom Ritchey's ranch for lunch.  They had a full deli set up there, but I did not make it past the volunteers offering up pre-made sandwiches right at the entrance.

Jaguar print is PRO. Matching the frame to the shorts is superPRO.

Paul gets a sandwich.
Excuse me, miss, your seat tube is missing.

As with all the rest stops, it goes uphill from Ritchey's place to put the zap in your cold legs.  It was here that my carefully laid ride plan started to unravel.  Bryce was feeling frisky, and Reed was not helping matters.  Jens decided at this point that he had suffered enough, and dropped off to hang out with Mrs. Jaguar Print Shorts.

We passed a sign warning of an 18% downgrade for the next 2 miles.  Of course, the next 2 miles were mostly uphill....apparently they put the sign in the wrong place; or, maybe, they have a sick sense of humour.  Finally we started the very fast descent down to the coast.  47 mph is a bit more interesting in low visibility.  This is a good time to point out that on Friday night, I cleaned my brake tracks and pads to make sure that when I grabbed a fistful of brakes, something was going to happen.

Reed, Bryce, Brian and I formed up into a solid paceline and motored down the coast.  Brian is basically Dolph Lundgren's twin (except Dolph is Swedish).  While he suffered quietly on the climbs, he dropped a big Norwegian hammer on Hwy 1.    Along the way, we picked up (and usually dropped off) a few passengers.

"I will break you!"

 


This year Levi added the option of doing the dirt climb up Willow Creek instead of Coleman Valley.  I am all about riding dirty, so we made the left turn after Jenner for 7 miles of big fun.
This is where the real fun starts.

L to R: Chris Reed, Brian, Bryce.  Not pictured: the bear.

The surface was mostly really good, except for some interesting gravel pits where they were doing some road construction.

This was the most fun part of the ride for me.  Dirt just makes it more interesting, and we took it at a gentlemen's pace.  Dolph was going to drop off the back, until I mentioned that there are bears.  Big ones.  That seemed to give him a few more watts.

Yeah, I rode right through the bear poop.  Yuck.

The crux of the Willow Creek climb is a steep bit that hits 20%.  You have to keep your weight perfectly balanced--too far forward and you spin the rear tire and fall over.  Too far back and you wheelie and fall over.  Bryce stood up (nooo!) and managed two complete revolutions of the rear tire without actually moving, and somehow managed to stay upright and get going again. 

Back on to the pavement and off to Occidental.  We made a last stop for water, as Brian was dry.  Apparently being a giant Norwegian is thirsty work.  Oh, and he had lost both his bottles on a rough patch of King Ridge.

I don't have any pictures of the final 10 miles.  It was all I could do to hang on as we motored in at ludicrous speed.  We picked up Justin again (the dirt option is slower than Coleman), who did not seem excited to see us, and probably wished we would just leave him alone instead of demanding that he hop on the train.

The final stretch in on the bike path is always a bit sketchy as you mix in with the riders from the shorter routes.  "Passing on your left!"  "Passing on your left!"  "Uhm, no, your left!"  "Your other left!"  You get the idea.

A final burst of wattage, and we are done.  98.6 miles and 7,657 feet of vertical, using 5,363 calories (more than made up for by copious eating along the way).



Now it is time to continue the eating.  Gerard's Paella is the hot option for the post ride refuel, but the line was really long, so I hit the Fork Catering truck.
There is lots to see at the post-ride festival.  Carbon bikes, cool steel bikes, wood bikes.

I had not expected to see a donkey and miniature horse that ride in a minivan.  They are part of Forget Me Not Farm, one of the charities that Fondo supports.



And with that, I am spent.
Fashizzle.



Would it be worth it....The infamous RGR

Sometimes a ride, a race, is seen not through the eyes of the narrator, the spectator, but the eyes of the racer, the rider himself, the one who suffers, the one who lives the experience. Below is an inside look at a team, a true team of racers, who through grace and teamwork, experienced and thrived in this year's 2011 West Coast Rapha Gentlemen's Race. 

By Josh Flexman


Rolling up, rolling out.  Destination was the RGR (The Rapha Gentlemen’s Race) just outside Portland Oregon.  The car ride up was persistent but jovial. 

The crew.  Racers, racers to be, and something in between.  The six of us enjoyed the company, talked work, talked food, watched movies, took naps.  Something was in the air about us though.  Something we knew was looming ahead, but could not yet define or predict.  Subtle nervousness, angst. 

Ok so there was some heat up there this weekend.  Foggy, cool Mill Valley was shrugging her shoulders in the rear view, sorry guys, good luck...

 Our first ride of the weekend took us along some of the meandering rollers and flats of Southern Oregon, just outside Grant's Pass.  Beautiful country, sweet warm air.  After the near 2 hour warm up we dipped into the Rogue River for a quick float before continuing the journey north.  Spirits up, heads up. The balance was still there, always the balance of the next day.  The company, the jokes, the bikes, the vacation all held in balance by what we all knew would be effort of the unknown next day. 

We arrived in Portlandia in the dark; nourished and  hydrated.  Things were on schedule.  The wake up time was 6am.  Could we sleep?  Some maybe?  My night would be a mixture of both dreams and wall staring.  Typical and expected.

Dirt roads change the way you ride a bike.  Especially a road bike.  In my head I was preparing for some dirt roads.  I have ridden dirt roads many times before on my road bike.  I did a lot of training camps in West Virginia where dirt  was expected and welcomed.  Gear down...b*tches. Slow and steady. Grade up.  This is what I was thinking before this race.  This is what I was telling myself as we drove mile after mile to the start line passing countless "pavement ends" signs:  It's just going to be gravel connectors.  Ok some climbs too, and maybe some steady false  downhill flats.  But it's just a long ride, just a long social ride, a promotional stunt, a "Gentlemen’s" race...


But what I really knew (and perhaps only knew) going in to that said race was its length: a 130 miles.  That is long sure, but I have raced 80+ countless times, whats an extra, ummm 40...?  Some level of heat we were un-acclimated to... Thanks Mill Valley.  Dirt roads.  We all ride mountain bikes...  The wild card was this;  something very unique to bike racing and riding, something that may not immediately register as familiar to many, even very experienced bike racers: This was a pure team event, nothing counted if one of our guys didn't make the full course.  We were tied together--- all day long.  Bound by this unspoken trust that each would do what was needed to get to the finish line.  Our time was clocked by the last finisher of the team.  No support, no sag, no shallow end.  Just steady grinding.  Steady chipping.  How far down does the well go today for this SV team.  Today it went DEEP.

The environment was beautiful.  Rolling green hills, trees on the edge of deadly thirst, leaves desperately holding on to red summer.  Bugs, blue sky, lots of energy.  There is a level of awareness one has about their environment as they start to dig into a big day on the bike.  It is as if the beauty is holding you in the palm of its hand.  Slowly closing, less light comes in, less sounds, more uncertainty.  There must always be the respect.  Beautiful yes, forgiving no.

The ride started and ended with a steep dirt, deep gravel driveway.  When we rolled out down the road, already passing the day's first flat (unknown team), nerves began to settle, and acceptance set in. 

Eat drink, drink eat, drink, drink, eat, eat. Heat.

Heeeeeaaaaat.



So far so...well...ok I will use the word good here, reluctantly.  We got passed by the Rapha Continental team about 6 times in the first 40 miles.  Each time they flatted we would roll by, steady, in control, and driven.  When we flatted, they rolled by us, no hi, no bye, just “flatted again?” 

First real climb of the day at less than an hour in burned a match.  Everyone starts with a book of matches.  The size of your book depends on what you have prepared for, what your body is willing to do, and what your mind expects.  As we crested the climb, and I looked down at the Garmin, a feeling of fear washed over me so fast, so determined.  It was a confident and aggressive fear. Mile 20? No it can't be.  Something was wrong with the computer. 110 miles to go, no way. It’s can’t really be this hard the whole way.

There were so many times when I looked at one of my teammates with the intention of asking how they were feeling and then decided it was unnecessary.  So many details of this ride are peripheral.  They exist somewhere, at some time, but are just for us, just for the sufferers.  We all experience these moments, the beats the breaks, the ups the downs, the peaks and valleys.  They all exist in the balance.  This ride was so hard because we are so rarely called on to go this deep.  So many moments of doubt and surprise.  Joy and heartbreak.  It was so hard because we all knew the same thing.  The other guy wearing the same jersey as I am, will not stop.  So therefore, neither can I. 

The roads disappeared beneath us.  Mile after mile.  The rocks, the dust.  Dying and rebirth.  Round every corner, the feeling of anticipation.  How long can this climb really be?  Hard climbs.  Long dirt gravel climbs.  8 mile gravel false flats are soul destroyers.  

My muscles started revolting at or around 70 miles in.  The fatigue pounds at the door.   Kicking at the dusty broken, splintered door.  We stand inside, huddled together, heads high, all taunting it.  Hobbs almost beckoning.  "I dare you," he mutters. Not yet. The eyes around me said no, so I said no.  The energy was still there, always there.  Scott made sure, Hobbs made sure, Tom made sure, Eric made sure, Justin made sure.  I breathed it in.  Fatigue underestimates.

At this point we are all in, chips down, minds melting.  We peddle, and wonder what the hell we are doing.  Crashes surround us, blood, broken bikes, broken bones.  Cars blaze by.  Car back, car back.  Hobbs has the directions as if the course was his Sunday ride.  Scott is never too tired to encourage and ground the ups and downs throughout each and every mile. The contagious disease of optimism fighting back.

This ride, this race, this “Gentlemen’s” race, was—in light of the challenges—a perfect (well, relatively perfect) display of teamwork and tenacity...  We had a steady, predictable team of riders.  Everyone was looking one step ahead.  4 flats. 4 pro flat changes.  Calm leadership. Determination.  Desire.



Of course there were moments where doubt collapsed on our heads .  Every time a person pushes the limit, or checks what the limit is, there will be these moments.  Checkpoint at mile 105 was this moment for me.  Broken people littered the area.  Bikes in the truck, bikes on the ground.  Sun hitting so hard.  Bastard sun. Water bottles are now dusty abused, hated. I recall grabbing the brakes as if it was the end, feeling the surrender, and coast to a stop.  I can't lift my leg over the bike, I stand there, hunched over the bars, and staring at the menacing dirt road ahead pitch up around the corner.  The “team” doesn’t miss a beat. I am pulled back from the edge.   Scott, gets my bottles, fills them up and dumps cold liquid on my head and on my legs and says, “you are going to get back on the bike and start pedaling, now do it… I believe in you.”  So I do.  It works.  I am in disbelief.  Skeptically  force things back together. 

Miles 105 to 130 were 97% dirt, most of which seemed to be up hill.  We past so many people at this point. Surviving and at the same time thriving.  The f*%$king Garmin laughing in our faces.  Distance: 119, 119, 119, 119, 120... Justin power walking past other walkers one of the ‘final’ climbs.  Power he found somewhere deep.  Justin is in charge now. 

Eric and Tom were so strong, so steady.  I borrowed strength from them.  It was going to be over soon, we were for the first time in the race in first place?  Maybe,.....  but that was all it took.  That maybe ignited us.  One last flat, 300 meters from the end of the dirt.  Flat fixed. Scott was on it.  Rolling on.  So close now,  F you Garmin you can’t stop us now.  126......  127. 128. Rollers...ouch.  Last right turn on the dirt.  Pass a girls team furiously.  Sorry girls you are getting put into a tree if you contest this. We are finishing this now.  The last 200 meters of the course was steep, uphill with a single track paralleling it to the right.  Dismounted the bike to get over the ditch.  Left leg malfunction, dragging the bike, looking back.  Hobbs yelling help, Justin just straight in trouble.  Blur, bluuuuurrrrrrr .

No field sprint, no arms raised, no kissing sponsors or podium girls.  None of these things; but something else.  I would lie if I said I knew it all along, "sure no problem boss, you can count on me..."   We all made it happen today, we all spread ourselves thin, across 10 hours. 

The wave of relief rinsed off our dust covered abused bodies.  Everything was worth it now.  The end.