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Kathy Sherwin: Tales From the Andalucia Part III

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |March 31, 2011 8:09 PM
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STAGE  5:  Eastern Jaén

After the race yesterday we all got settled in our new abodes in the middle of downtown Jaen.  It was culture shock at its finest coming from a hotel that was more removed to a BIG beautiful city where there is NO parking anywhere and concrete everywhere.  The dinners and breakfasts on china plates continued as we ate like kings and queens never getting exactly full for an entire week.  Strange concept as you completely stuff your face. 

Today the race started with another longer 1hr climb this time thru olive trees and Jenny and I were able to hang with the leaders again.  The Spanish Ladies team was also there and they were now officially starting to put time into our time gap for the Overall after coming in ahead of us the last couple days.  Our goal was to stay 2nd or better Overall and to try to win a stage.  The terrain was either up or down but the beauty of the scenery and the ripping singletrack that meandered along the cliff was downright breathtaking. 

On one of the fast loose descents I witnessed (right where I jumped off) 2 out of 3 men lose control and eat it hard.  One flipped over his bike in front of me and luckily ONLY broke his saddle.  Our team motto this whole time has been "Bike and BodiesĒ for good reasonÖ.one crash like that and you are out.  Not worth it.  But itís hard because you are racing but you need to know when to hold back too.  That is part of it.

The Spanish team was clearly finding their form and was gone pretty quickly towards the top of the climb.  Jenny and I did the best we could, enjoyed the experience and the singletrack, even took a wrong turn (only a few minutes lost) and made sure to keep looking up to check out the views.  Then we were stopped at a time checkpointÖ.STAGE OVER.  Say what?  The race ended 10k early because of problems with the police.  I can certainly see how that might have been an issue in such a hugely populated city.  Jenny and I were 3rd again holding on to 2nd overall by the skin of our teeth now.

Note:  I cannot believe HOW LITTLE I am looking at my watch, and am just simply enjoying EVERYTHING about being on the bike for more hours than I have ever spent on a bike at one time.  I didnít know what to expect from my body because I have never expected this much from it, even in training but I am pleasantly surprised at my attitude toward hopping on the bike every morning for another 4hours + of racing.  Itís so fun! 

STAGE 6:  Southern Jaen

Why didnít we catch the weather report?  Oh yeah thatís right, because every racer and their mother was clogging up the internet all week long and we gave up ages ago.  MISTAKE.  To add to the insanity of the weather to come, we were in the lead for 2nd overall BY ONLY 6 seconds (after 24 hours plus of racing) to the Spanish Esteve Team!!

Letís get this out on the table now:  Spain does not necessarily mean sunshine and warm temps.  We can attest!!   Jenny and I lead the race today for 4 hours and 20 minutes up and over several mountaintops (where it was snowing!) and we were overall having a GREAT day on the bike.  As the rain and snow moved in the descents became brutally cold and almost excruciating.  Unfortunately, Jenny and I only had our jerseys and shorts with a few other pieces like arm warmers and knee warmers.  I have never wanted to climb so badly in my life (just to stay warm)!  It was so cold as we made our way around the gorgeous dam below but yet I still found time to enjoy the view.  We endured about 30k of extreme cold and wet.  The shaking, shivering, teeth-chattering were abundant as we descended through the mist.  Jenny and I didnít speak a peep for about 2 hours as we kept moving forward toward the finish line still in first place.  

The weather and chill got so bad that I was taking mental note of where I saw a person with a car so that if we had to go back weíd know how far.  It was becoming a survivalÖ..of the stupidest really. In my lightweight summer gloves I could not feel my hands.  They felt like stumps and I was worried.  Several things went around in my head like wondering if finishing was worth getting frostbite over?  Apparently it was because I kept goingÖ.but really, what are you supposed to do?  I was seeing the finish line as a place I would be safe and I just wanted to get there.  I forced myself to drink my sports drink to stay hydrated and to just move my hands. 

It was highly uncomfortable at this point on the bike, which is what inspired me to pick up the nastiest oldest, dirtiest garbage bag and put it under my jersey for wind protection.  Moments after I did that it made a big difference.  But it was too late.  With 10k to go, getting splashed and sprayed with water from the roads we were passed by the race leaders who were clothed from head to toe.  Our fault for not being prepared.  We crossed the line in 2nd place only 2.5 minutes back and extremely close to being hypothermic.  The good news was that we had secured 2nd Overall in the Stage Race!

Notes:  Stage 6 was by far the best stage yet for us and itís the one I was most worried about!!  We both climbed the 8000 feet like a charm and put up with some extreme conditions.  Although disappointing to take 2nd for the day, itís good to know what are limits are. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Thank you to the race organizers:  This was by far the best experience I have ever had on a bike.  I didnít know what to expect as I was a first time Stage racer and I was extremely pleased with everything from the organization, the stages and the way everything was run.  The organizers were some of the nicest people you will ever meet and were EXTREMLY invested in the international athletes making sure that everything and everyone was going to be ok.  In addition, the media coverage was AMAZING.  The amount of interviews we had, footage taken and pictures snapped was unbelievable.  I could go as far as saying not a moment was missed. 

As for Jenny:  Thanks for choosing ME!!  She was there for me through thick and thin and is one of the strongest athletes both physically and mentally I have ever met.  Did I mention she climbs like a mountain goat?  The laughs we shared each night after the lights went out recounting a ridiculous situation will not be forgotten.

And my husband who somehow found his way to the various feed zones in the middle of Spain when he could.  It was so wonderful to see your smiling face while helping us out as we hammered towards the finish line.  There is nothing like a pick me up such as that just when you need it the most!!  Thanks for your endless support while you help me pursue my passion. 

And to all the people that became part of my world while I was there, thru the thick and thin, THANK YOU.  The passion we share for the love of mtb racing is such an amazing thing!!!

 And last but not least to my Sponsors:  ‎6 days, 313 miles, 39,000 + feet of climbing and I had NO MECHANICALS.  A HUGE thanks to Stans NoTubes for supplying me with the super sturdy 29r Crest Rims, Orbea (Alma 29r) for a smooth ride, Sixty-Five.12 out of Durango, Schwalbe Tires for getting me down the hills in one piece, Ergon for happy hands, Rotor, Genuine Innovations for PINK air, Sram for flawless shifting, Crankbrothers, and Verge for all the must needed clothing!! 

Needless to say, you donít even have to ask me - OF COURSE I would do this again!!

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