Appelwick 3rd (GC) at the Tour of the Gila

Stacy's Tour of the Gila Recap

My boyfriend, Chris, and our friends, Franco, Raviv, Kate and I flew into El Paso on Monday and arrived into Silver City, NM that afternoon.  We setup the bikes that night so we’d be ready to ride.  The next morning, we rode around Silver City to make sure the bikes were working correctly.  That afternoon after packet pickup, we rode up to the nearby town of Pinos Altos (PA) to see the start of my first road race stage, which is also the finish of the last stage, which proved invaluable knowing where the pain would eventually end on that day.
Since the women 3-4’s and the men 4-5’s only have 4 stages, our friend Raviv and I didn’t race until Thursday.  Wednesday was the first stage of racing for Chris.    He had a 73 mile point to point road race that finishes with a category 1 climb to Mogollon.  So we could give Chris and Franco a ride back to Silver City, Raviv and I drove out to where the climb starts, made the ascent, and were there in time to see Chris finish and ride back down to the base of the climb where we parked.
Thursday was the first day of racing for me.  It was a 64.2 mile race with 4595’ of climbing and 4394’ of descent.  The weather was nuts!  We had 35mph steady winds with insane gusts of 60mph+ by the end of the day.  There was a quick “neutral” descent out of PA, then directly into a category 3 climb where I managed to get into a 7 rider break, which we were able to maintain through the Mimbres Valley. 
Over the course of the last 15 miles, of which about 7 was a cat 3 climb, we dropped 2 more gals.  Anne Donley took the win with a late attack in the last km with Alex Graebe close on her heels for 2nd.  I just couldn’t close the gap I let happen when Anne and Alex jumped as a massive side wind gust caught the rest of us off guard.
Friday was the TT.  It was 16 miles of sheer pain.  I just used my road bike with clip-ons, whereas the other gals had full TT rigs with discs.  This might have cost me the overall, but it seems a big hassle and expensive to haul a TT bike (which I actually don’t even own) for just a 16 mile stage. Teri Albertazzi put in an amazing effort of  46:05. Stacey Nenninger laid it down for a time of 47:12, Anne Donley came in at 47:14 and Sarah Lough at 47:47.  I finished a decent 47:51.  5th on the day, but enough to keep my 3rd place in the GC. 
Teri would have been more of a factor for the GC, but she didn’t eat enough in the first stage, hunger bonked, which caused her to fall off in that last 15 miles, which took her out of the running.
Love the skinny suit and pointy hat!! 
Saturday was the downtown criterium.  Just a quickie.  12 laps, 12 miles.  It is a really fun course with a nice rise in the back stretch and then a fast downhill descent into the final left turn to the finish.  Jess Vargo, a gal that I hadn’t seen all morning, blasted by to give me the perfect lead out on the final descent.  We turned the last corner and I sprinted for the win!!!  Sarah Lough came in right behind me for 2nd and Jess to her credit, was still able to hang on for third.  
Chris had an excellent crit!  There was a 2 man break and in spite of being bumped, took 4th in the field sprint for 6th overall on the day.

I thought the promoters did a nice job setting up a fun criterium course. 

The 4th and final stage was a chilly one with temperatures only in the 30’s at the start with dark threatening clouds overhead.  This stage started in Silver City and is essentially the same course as stage one, but in reverse.  It’s a 72 mile point to point race ending in PA.  On the several BIG rollers heading out of town and the one cat 4 climb before the descent into the Mimbres Valley, we were able to shed half the group until there were only 15 or so riders left.   I was only watching Anne Donley, Stacey Nenninger and Sarah Lough, since we were all close in the GC, and they were still in this group, with the rest of the girls being several minutes down and not much of a threat to the overall.  We pretty much noodled through the Mimbres Valley, which is essentially flat (but hilly to Midwestern standards) since everyone wanted to save their energy for the dreaded Gila Monster, which is the cat 2 climb out of the valley back to Pinos Altos. 
We made the left hand turn together onto NM 15 and a hairpin turn into the start of the climb.  Holy smokes, downshifting, heavy breathing, snowflakes aflying, lungs and legs aburnin’!!  The battle began!!! 
The selection happened in the first mile when the group was pared down to myself, Anne, Stacey, Alex, Teri and Sarah.  Sarah was the first to fall victim to the Gila Monster!  Anne and Alex, the good climbers they are, pushed the pace all the way.  Teri and I were forced on the defensive, fighting with every pedal stroke with Stacey close behind.   Anne and Alex would surge hoping to drop us, but we managed to hang in there with them through the Wild Horse Mesa, where we caught a bit of recovery before one more climb over Meadow Creek then into the descent off the Gila Monster.  Anne had the advantage, being fearless in a fast descent since she told me she trains in the mountains near Denver where she lives.  I was scared to death and was alarmed at the size of the gap.  When the grade flattened a bit, we hammered it to catch back on before the final 3 mile climb into the finish, where Anne managed to build another gap trying valiantly to win the stage.

500 m to go and here’s Anne in front, Alex in the pink compression socks and me just to the right.  You can’t see her since she’s so little, but Stacey was behind me.  Teri’s fading back at this point.

OUCH!!  Where’s the damn finish line?!!! 
Somehow, in the last 500m, where the grade noticeably kicks up, Anne seemed to just fade, probably due to her huge effort on her gamble to get away. Then, seeing our opportunity, Alex and I hammered it hard past her with Stacey hanging in for 4th. I was spinning hard and breathing harder, deep into the pain cave, trying my best to come around Alex, but it just didn’t happen.  That girl’s a fighter.  She wanted that win bad and got it, but unfortunately, it didn’t change her placing in the GC.  
After I choked back down the lung I nearly coughed up, regained my composure and got a blanket in the first aid station since it was snowing,  I was able to watch our friend Raviv and then Chris finish strong! 

There’s the pain face I love on Chris!!!

Chris and Raviv are Gila Proven!!!!!

Stacey and I on the Gila Podium.  Anne was too cold to hang around.  It was miserable and epic!!!  Those poor podium girls.  Give them a parka!!!

A great time was had by all!!!  L to R: Franco, Kate (our official photog) Raviv, me and Chris