Today's stage started out well. It was sunny, I was feeling good and Brady and I were riding together from the start. This was just what I was hoping for since "riding together" translated to me keeping my 58.5-second lead.
Historically (meaning last year and the year before) stage 3 had been a good stage for me. It crosses the Continental Divide twice and the descents are killer. My first year racing the Breck Epic (2010), I finished stage 3 in 4th, my best stage finish that year. Last year, I also finished in 4th, but had the course not been sabatoged (someone thought it would be funny to move the arrows and course markings) I would have finished 2nd. So I was hoping for a good day of racing without any major mishaps.
But it didn't really happen that way. At aid station one I had to stop because my right cleat was loose. As I tried to tighten it, I found out that it was loose becaues one side of the cleat mount had stripped out. So I cranked the other one down as much as I could and kept riding. Five minutes later it came loose again and I saw that both sides had stripped out. Fail. Mega, mega fail.
At that point the cleat was still attached to my shoe, so I went ahead and rode it. It was annoying having my shoe slip around every pedal stroke, but at least it was still attached to the pedal. But when I got to the top of French Pass (the first Continental Divide crossing) I hopped back on my bike after the final hike-a-bike section and my cleat was gone. I was so bummed and surprised that I even missed the Skittle Feed at the top of the pass. I assumed I had lost it on the hike, but about an 90 minutes later I realized it was stuck in my right pedal. It must have torn out of the destroyed cleat mount the last time I dismounted. I considered trying to pull it out and reattach it but decided that with a stripped mount it probably wouldn't hold.
The rest of the race (about 2.5 hrs) was not very fun. Not only was I forced to walk sections that I should have been able to ride, but both descents off of the Continental Divide were a lot slower and less fun because my right foot kept slipping off the pedal. Eventually (it might have had something to do with eating a ton of Hammer Gels and Perpetuem Solids) I started feeling a bit better and tried to have some fun. Regardless, I've decided that clipless pedals are a lot more fun if both cleats stay attached to your shoes.
I eventually finished second in the stage, 5 mins behind Brady, who now has a 4-minute gap on me in the overall. But with three more stages to go (over 100 miles of riding) it's still anyone's race.
And at least I didn't lose the cleat.