It’s always nice to line up for the last day of a stage race. The efforts you’ve put out all week have solidly taken its toll on your body. You are fatigued yet satisfied. You have managed to settle into a grueling routine and adapt to flogging your body into performing no how tired you are, but deep down you love it.
The start went straight up a road. Matt Page rocketed off the front and gapped the field by a significant amount. He was on a mission. I really like Matt Page, he has a lion heart and always has a smile on his face. It was really fun to watch. I didn’t feel too bad myself, so I went for it at the start. Enter broken record: then I got dropped when it flattened out. I didn’t give up. I chased hard knowing I wouldn’t have to ride again tomorrow. I looked back and saw a group so I waited. The Quail, Matt, Daniel, and a couple other guys were absolutely hammering. I was cross-eyed trying to hang on, and trying to take my pulls to contribute. I tried to tell myself that road racing is fun. I almost got dropped a couple times but Matt yelled at me to hang in there. I was actually groaning out loud from the burning I was inflicting upon my legs. When we had the lead group in site after about 30-40 min of chasing, the groaning turned into a bit of an audible gritted scream as we surged hard to catch the back of that lead pack.
We made it.
I suddenly understood that you really have to bury yourself to stay with the group because when you’re in it, it’s much easier. It will surge again and if you can hang, it will slow down. I didn’t know how to manage this fact for the whole race. Training for these types of effort is different than what I had been doing. If you blow up and go too far in the red for too long trying to hang with the surges and get dropped anyway, you have 60+ miles to ride on a flat road in the wind. I wasn’t willing to take this risk earlier in the race. If I were to do another flatter road type mountain stage race, I would change up my training to include longer over threshold efforts so I know how long I can do that without blowing up. Coming from a background where I intentionally don’t go into the red in races like in the Breck 100, it is tough to make that choice. The last day was easy to make that choice because I had a big enough lead over 3rd to blow up and be slow for the day. I could have taken it easier, but instead I chose to really go for it. I never blew up to the point where I couldn’t recover.
Of course, I got dropped again when it surged after that massive effort to catch the pack, but I enjoyed getting sucked along in the draft. I decided to keep hammering. I caught the Quail and Rasif at an uphill at the aide station who were trading off riding in the wind. Norm informed me Catherine was only a couple minutes ahead. I kept riding my own pace and trying to work with Quail and Rasif. There were more climbs in Stage 7 that went straight into a headwind. They were hard, but I enjoyed them. I was happy to be riding uphill. We ended up catching Belgian rider Tom Smets. Tom and I traded pulls. Later, he and Quail got into a pissing match and dropped me on the last flat section.
That’s me finishing at 1:02! I love how you can see Matt’s attack in this video too.
At around 5km to go, the road pitched up hard. I caught back up to Tom and the Quail. The Quail started flagging me. I looked ahead and saw Catherine. I wasn’t sure I had anything left in me, but I dug for whatever I had. I thought this long steep climb would be the last one and it’d be downhill to the finish. Fueling purely on adrenaline, I charged ahead thinking “5km to go and one climb, I can do this!”
Boy, was I wrong!
Tom was hammering too, I tried to keep the gap at the same distance. The climb ended followed by a sketchy rutted descent, and several other climbs with deep rutted downhills. It was windy. I was straining my eyes for the finish line. It had been 9km since I saw the 5km to the finish sign.
Finally I saw the finish line, I took a look back to see if I had my gap. 12km after the 5km to go sign, I crossed the line taking a stage win. I was so excited, but also completely exhausted after the massive effort I threw out. I went so hard on the first climb of my attack that I saw stars!
I was relieved to be done for the day. Matt was there waiting for me. We waited for our friends to come in and laid in the grass.
Finally won one of the Mongolian 1st place hat trophies!
The Ger camp looked welcoming. It was so nice to sleep in a real bed.
Our Ger was one of the fancy ones. Our crew was happy because we kept getting the least “luxurious” of gers all week. The bathrooms were another story. The water was turned off so the toilets were just filling up. There was no water to wash our hands! There was another toilet I found that was an outhouse style type. If you held your breathe, you were good to go!
I really enjoyed having Guilana and Biso as ger-mates the whole race. We had some others who rotated in and out.
I love the camel. I even pet him, but I was a little nervous to get so close!
The prize ceremony was later that evening. They had beer – warm Tiger beer. I was so desperate that I had one! First of all, I don’t drink lager. Second of all, in my right mind, warm lager is totally wrong on so many levels…but somehow it seemed wrong not to have a beer.
Huge thanks to the MBC staff who worked round the clock for this race! You can relax till next year!
Continue reading for the Post Race Report and full photo gallery.