A “Mark Your Calendar” Note from Fatty: Tomorrow (Tuesday, 1pm MT) I’m going to be doing a live interview with Kathryn Bertine, who’s currently working on a documentary called Half The Road, a documentary film that explores the world of women’s professional cycling, focusing on both the love of sport and the pressing issues of inequality that modern-day female riders face in a male-dominated sport.
As some of you may have noticed, three of my top five current cycling heroes are women (The Hammer, Rebecca Rusch, Jill Homer). And while only one of these three is a pro cyclist, I still love the idea of women’s cycling getting the attention it deserves. So join us. Here are the details:
Where: On SpreeCast, or right here on FatCyclist.com
Date: Tuesday, July 2
Time: 3:00pm ET / 2:00pm CT / 1:00pm MT / 12:00pm PT
A Note from Fatty About Today’s Story: If you’re just jumping into this race report, you should probably be aware that it’s now very nearly as long as a book. But you know, it’s summer, and this makes for some pretty good summer reading. If I do say so myself (which I do). So you may want to catch up by reading parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight before reading this one.
I don’t think I’ve ever had greater motivation to ride beyond my ability as I did on my final leg of the Rockwell Relay: Leg 9. I was in the position to either set my team up for a win by finishing ahead of Tommy of Team 91. Or I could set my team up for a loss by letting him pass me.
Which meant I was going to ride absolutely out of my head for the 36.8 very climby miles of this road from Panguitch to Cedar Breaks Mountain.
As you can see, it’s almost nothing but climbing. 4116 feet of it. Which — fortunately — I really like.
I am happy to report that I absolutely rode out of my head. I averaged 17.4 miles per hour — not a bad speed when you’re plugging away uphill.
I caught and passed the racer from Team Flowmax, which was especially gratifying to me, because he was one of the group of four riders I had chased — without success — for most of the second half of my first leg.
It felt like I had redeemed myself, somehow.
As I rode, I experienced this extremely strange mixture of joy and fear: joy that I was riding so well (I could feel that I was riding well), and fear that — at any moment — Tommy might come surging past me.
I watched as desert turned into pines, then aspen. With beautiful mountain streams. I watched the day go from dark to light. None of it registered. All I cared about was getting to the exchange point before Tommy did.
And I did.
I got to the exchange point, handed off the slap bracelet to Kenny, and then coasted to a stop.
My part of the race was over. But Team Fatty still had three more legs to ride. There was no time for resting.
Later, when I saw the results, I would find that I had reason to be proud of my final effort. I had done this leg of the race in 2:08, which is 29 minutes faster than Team Fatty’s previous best on this leg of the course (bear in mind, though, that Kenny did this leg of the course on a singlespeed in 2011, and in 2012 we had an alternative route for this leg of the race).
In fact, only three people were faster than I was on this leg of the race: with a 2:06, Team Red Rock Bicycle Company (which would tie for second place overall for the whole race); with a 2:07, Team Fast Friday (which would take fourth overall for the whole race)…and Tommy of Beauty and The Beasts, who was far and away the fastest person on this leg of the race with a 2:00.
Yes, that’s right. While I was having the race of my life, Tommy still put eight minutes on me. (And a minimum of six minutes on every other team in the race).
A Decent Proposal
Of course, when I handed the bracelet off to Kenny, he didn’t know how close Team 91 was to us (as it turns out, Team Fatty still retained a slim five-minute lead); all he knew was he needed to do his best to prevent Team 91 from further eroding that lead.
Or better yet, extending that lead.
The thing is, though, Kenny’s leg was short: just 31 miles. And only the first half of it is climbing, after which it is a crazy, fast descent.
And so, when Kenny caught the racer from Team Green Gecko 1 during the climb (which Kenny KOM’d, by the way), Kenny figured maybe he had found a partner — someone who could help him get to the top of the mountain before the descent.
But the guy just grabbed his wheel.
“I’m trying to build a gap on another team,” Kenny said. “So take a turn pulling.”
“It’s all I can do to hold on,” the man replied. “But I’ll tell you what. If you can pull me to the top of the climb, I promise you I’ll more than make it up to you on the descent.”
It was an intriguing proposal. And the confidence with which the racer from Green Gecko 1 made it persuaded Kenny.
So Kenny pulled the other racer to the top, giving him a ride the whole way, wondering whether this guy would be able to make good on his bold promise.
Kenny needn’t have worried. As it turns out, the rider from Green Gecko 1 wasn’t a good descender. He was some kind of mad genius descender. He got crazy low on his bike and shot forward as though the laws of physics had just declared a holiday.
Kenny’s whole job, for the 20 miles of descending, was to stay on Green Gecko’s wheel as they flew down the mountain at speeds hitting — and staying near — 60mph.
And whenever Kenny started to drop off the back, unable to hang, the Green Gecko racer would sit up and let Kenny get back into his slipstream.
It was like being escorted by an ICBM.
Next Up: The Hammer
Meanwhile, at the next exchange point, The Hammer and the next racer from Green Gecko were talking. As it turns out, he was the one who had told The Hammer she smelled good back in her first leg of this race. So I was keeping a close eye on him.
Kenny and the Green Gecko racer zoomed in, handed off their batons to The Hammer and the next Green Gecko racer. Together, they had increased our lead over Team 91 to nine minutes, giving Team Fatty a little — very little, when you consider the miles and time that had gone into this race — wiggle room for the final two legs of the race.
The Hammer and the Green Gecko rider took off together. It looked like we’d continue to be working together with this team.
But we had no idea how strange this race was about to get for us.