Sitting here having a beer, in the shade, in downtown Bend, it seems further away than the 40 miles and a few hours it is/was, but today's stage 1 was as much about water as the final climb to Mt. Bachelor. It was water chaos in the two "neutral" zones as dehydration was dragging riders of the back of the main group one by one - where they were cast off to I haven't a clue - tonight's results will tell.
Maybe it was the combination of altitude (we started at 3,800 feet) or the temp climb higher than forecast, but more than one fellow rider, unprovoked, turned to me or murmured randomly to the peloton - 'why am I so thirsty?'
The frustrating thing was the surge in the zone - "what the hell were they doing up front?" It's a N-E-U-T-R-A-L zone... get it?? There was panic in the zone, you could see it if rider's actions - what if I don't get water???? Where was Wolf Blitzer? THIS was a REAL Situation Room. It was especially frustrating at the second zone, screeching cork on carbon, followed by the smell that ensues, swerving bikes, desperately lunging hands trying to grab a bottle, and then a K up the road everyone sat up and drank... what the hell? I wonder about the volunteers passing out those bottles, they must have felt like U.N .workers at the last well in the Sudan.
How to measure the toll? Maybe in the fact that the peloton stayed together because no one wanted to attack, or maybe the teams up front just shut it all down until the end? From my vantage (a wee bit back) it was hard to say.
In the end I (think) finished just off the back of the second group on the climb up Cascades Lake Road. A silly first-year mistake and not knowing the climb well enough. I should have buried myself to get over the hump with them and finished together. I had to TT across the false flat the last 2Ks to get in as close as I did. The climb's gradient also did enough folks in to help me, but it just wasn't long enough - this old motor need steepness and distance to ramp up to full speed and start making real inroads.
Today was another learning lesson I was hoping the year would provide. The beauty of being a rookie - so many lessons! My head was never in today's stage - my body was good, almost great, it had to be to get me past my head! The new bike and light Cirra wheels Mark loaned me did their duty as well.
In the end - 16th on GC for the Masters 45+, about 3 mins back - not as bad as I thought. Covered the 72 miles in 2:59
Thanks for everyone's support - emails and calls.