Saturday, October 6, 2012

Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay: Stage 8

Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4
Stage 5
Stage 6
Stage 7

We arrived at the good ol' Kolping Hotel Escuela later that evening and were off to the race dinner for the first time in days. After such a long day of racing and 2 long bus transfers, we just wanted to eat and go to bed. The time trial was late the following morning, and we'd actually be able to sleep in! No early wakeup to get our luggage on the truck.

As disappointed as I was in my lack of performance, I had gotten my head straightened out as the country rolled passed the window on the bus. A huge weight had been taken off my shoulders. Before, I was doing my best to help the team, but holding out hope for my own performance later. Now, I didn't have much left to give, but I was going to die a thousand deaths to make sure the team got the best result we could.

Once we got to the hotel, a quick search revealed no missing luggage. Eric and Bob started making phonecalls, but made no progress. It looked like we were going to have to finish this thing with what we had.

Remember, my TT bike had slipped through back in LA, and was the only one that made it to Uruguay with us. Reid had flown separately and brought his own, so we had 2 TT bikes. The decision was made to put Zirbel on Reid's bike and Zwiz on mine, since those two are great time trialists and were still high on GC. Bob begged and borrowed, and scraped together several sets of clip-on bars for the rest of us. We still had several sets of HED wheels, as well as 3 discs and a couple TT helmets.

The following morning was very relaxed, especially for me and Soladay. The Z-men would give the TT a full go on full-TT setups, Reid would do the best he could Merckx-style since he was still high on GC, and Hanson would do his best to honor the yellow jersey. Soladay and I did some arithmetic.... 19-mile TT, 20% time cut, estimate 51kph average for the winner, and give yourself a 2-minute buffer for your target time. Back-calculate the average speed that you need to hold, and voila, a TT-for-time-cut.

Preparing to head for the TT course along the mustache was coming in nicely?
I'm just going to throw this out there: I'm terrible at doing a TT just to make time cut. First of all, I'd never done it before. The very idea is appalling to me. But I certainly liked the idea of an easy day, since the final two were going to be tough if the Z-men had the rides we expected in the TT.

I ended up with a low-end aluminum front wheel and HED disc because of the timing of my start--after finishing, I would find Hanson and give him the disc before his start. Zero warmup whatsoever. I got to the start house very early, waited for them to do the completely unnecessary bike-check in the TT-jig (come on people, it's a road bike), and sat down to be entertained by watching the locals have their TT-setups assessed for legality. The bike jig was a new thing for them down there, and almost none of their bikes met the guidelines (and that's with the generous eyeball-and-clipboard measurements being taken off the wooden frame of the jig).

And I was off!

 It was a very bizarre experience. I was watching my speed, knowing what I needed to average. But I was racing a TT...? What I'm trying to say is that I held back as much as I could and narrowly missed the top-half on the results page...I could have gone 6 minutes slower and been safe from time cut.

Reid had had a poor performance, and he wasn't looking too great. He had that sullen, far-off look of someone who is much sicker than they're letting on. We rode easy back to the hotel and kept dropping Reid. Upon reaching the hotel, he climbed straight into bed.

Zirbel and Zwiz had gotten 3rd and 4th, respectively, and were now in 2nd and 3rd on GC. We would come to be very thankful that they hadn't ridden into yellow...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Dinner that night was at the hotel, made by the hotel staff. They plopped a massive plate of shepherd's pie in front of us around the same time we saw our usual overrated chef hosting a food segment on the local news. I dug into the food and immediately wanted to scream at the staff. "YOU CAN COOK FOOD LIKE THIS, AND YOU NEVER TOLD US?!?!?!?!?!?! I OUGHTA STRANGLE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!" They also served us some delicious bread and a cup of delightful canned peaches. Dessert was cake. I was so happy, and so angry.

Not all was well, though. Zirbel hardly touched his food because he felt that putting food in his stomach would just be poking the dragon. Reid missed dinner altogether, unable to get out of bed.

Our team meeting that night was quick: we were going to just finish this thing off, and do our best to keep Tom and Zwiz where they were on GC. Reid nodded along from his bed, where he was wrapped in blankets with a knit cap on his head, very feverish.

That night was unpleasant. I felt very bloated, was putting out some serious fumes, and had a disconcerting visit to the bathroom before bed. I woke up several times throughout the night, alternating between freezing cold and drenched in a pool of my own sweat. Not good. I would later find out that Zwiz had the same night as I did in the room below ours.

I awoke to find out that my night was a cakewalk compared to Zirbel and Reid, who had spent half the night making trips to the bathroom.

We were dropping like flies.

Only Soladay and Hanson escaped unscathed. I think the culprit was our chivitos that the 4 of us had a few nights earlier.

After a meager breakfast (food unsettled my stomach) and another uncomfortable encounter with the porcelain throne, I started getting ready for the race. Wohlberg solemnly delivered the news that we were down a soldier: Reid was far too sick to race.

Looking at Zirbel, I thought that there was no way he was going to be able to race. He could barely eat and was obviously out of it. I watched him sit in front of his race bag for minutes, just staring at it, trying to remember what he was trying to do. We convinced him to give it his best shot. Just roll to the start and make the call.

Stage 9 was 115 miles, and we were all going to figure out just what we were made of.

Stay tuned for the dramatic double-stage finale in a couple of days!