The final stage of Gila is famous, and infamous. Known as the Gila monster it consists of 170km, and 5 categorized climbs, totalling nearly 10,000 feet of climbing. There is one out and back section to the Gila cliff dwellings that can only be described at ridiculous. Climb for 12k, go down 10k, turn around and retrace your steps. All 5 riders were still in contention today, and spirits were high as we rolled into the parking lot at the ungodly hour of 8am. We may not be the best team at the race, but we without a doubt have the best music, Swedish House Mafia was on the menu today, and all too soon we were rolling out. All to soon after that, Anton flatted at the most inopportune of moments, just as we were about to turn onto the first KOM of the day. I saw him and would have stopped, if I hadn’t been bleeding out of my eyes and ears simultaneously to stay in the pack. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending who you ask, he never got back. After the first climb we settled down on the long ride through the valley towards the out and back section. Once we hit the first big, and I mean BIG, climb, the lights went out for me and many others. I have no idea what happened at the front, because I was, as Mundy so eloquently put it, in a tunnel of pain the rest of the race. The rest of my day consisted of pedalling up one godforsaken mountain after another, with all too short descents in between. Evan was in the same boat as me, pure survival mode, while Zach was up ahead fighting to stay in contact. I can happily say that we made it to the finish, albeit barely, after a final 20k that seemed to stretch to infinity, and beyond. I rolled across the finish line barely conscious, drank three bottles of water and rode the 1k back to our house, where Zach and Anton were already waiting with the beers on ice. At that point in time a beer would have just about killed me, so I stuck to the chicken wings and jalapeno Doritos our host had so thoughtfully provided.
After everyone arrived and we sat on the couch for a while, we headed outside to pack bikes, and arrange our things in the van for the drive to El Paso. We said our good byes to our hosts, as well as John and Heidi, and headed back to Texas. That brings us to now, still in Texas, when we should be in a plane heading home. Unfortunately American Airlines WW2 era planes have a tendency to have their wings fall off and so we have been pushed back onto a flight that gets back to God’s Country (Toronto) at midnight. A lot of sore tired bodies, but we are heading home.
I should take this chance to say thanks to everyone involved with the team, I can safely speak for every one of the riders that we had a great time, and that all your efforts are most definitely appreciated! Check back for more when my brain regrows all the cells I killed yesterday.