She’s a good lady
By Jason Sumner
There’s a strange realization that often comes over me in the middle of mountain bike stage races such as the TransPyr. It usually happens right about the time the proverbial shit is hitting the fan the hardest. And I think to myself, what would my mother think if she could see what I’m seeing right now.
The answer I always come up with is that she probably wouldn’t like what she saw, and wonder where she’d gone wrong as a parent to raise a child that grew up to actually find a certain sick pleasure in riding down steep rocky hills in the middle of a driving rain storm in a foreign country.
Fortunately, she doesn’t ever has to see exactly what I see, so she just thinks it’s cool that her son has found somewhat gainful employment and seems to travel around a lot. She’s a good lady.
So today, I actually had a few of those Mom moments during stage 6’s 88km trip from Jaca to Isaba. But before those details, it’s worth mentioning that myself and the rest of the TransPyr peloton were awoken at about 4 a.m. this morning to the sound of crackling thunder and bright lightning, and by the time wake-up alarms started chirping two hours later, it was indeed raining gatos y perros. You’ve never seen so many long faces as were in the hotel breakfast line.
Fortunately, the race organizers had the good sense not to send us out into an electrical storm, and delayed the start by an hour, at which time the rain had let up. Unfortunately, after a brief paved section, the day’s route turned onto a dirt road, which had been turned into mud road by the aforementioned rain storm. And this mud was the particular variety that mud’ophiles like to call peanut butter, the kind that sticks to everything it touches. Like bikes.
After making a few fruitless pedal strokes, myself and the rest of the bunch quickly came to the realization that the day’s first climb would in fact be a hike. And it was about 45 minutes into this fairly miserable hike that I thought, what if mom could see me now, plodding up this muddy road, bike loaded onto my back. She’d certainly wonder why I found this kind of physical outlet fun. I was asking myself the same question. Over and over.
I also could not help but notice the various abilities that my fellow competitors had to deal with these less than ideal circumstances. Some intelligently stopped for a moment and scraped the giant clumps of mud off their bikes, thus reducing it’s weight by 15-20 pounds, and then proceeded to walk up the hill with their bike lifted off the ground so it would not again be transformed from a stealth XC machine into a 45-pound glob of mud-encased carbon fiber.
Others were intent of doing an in-person definition of insanity, which is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In this case, they would roll (or valiantly try to ride) their bike until it become the aforementioned 45-pound glob, then stop, bat at the mud with a stick, and start rolling it again until it was a glob again. Anyway, you get the picture. It was a long morning.
Mom moment No. 2 came on an exceptionally rocky fire road descent later in the day, when the it started raining again, this time so hard there were literally small rushing rivers cascading between the rocks and down tire ruts on this road. I think if I’d been given a vision test at that moment in time it would have been 20-1000. I really could not see shit except for the mud and rain on my glasses, and occasionally the feint outlines of a clean line down this watery minefield called a race route. Alas, I just wanted to get to the bottom, and find a tree to stand under, so on I went, relying heavily on the 29er wheels of my Specialized Camber to correct one bad line choice after another. It did.
Anyway, I’m rambling, but lastly it’s worth noting that the day ended on an exceptionally high note, as the weather broke and the race route took us on a gradually rising paved road up into an amazing canyon with massive granite rock walls on either side and a rushing creek just below on the right. At the top, we were directed off pavement and onto trail, which though greasier than the fry cook’s handshake, was a ton of fun. A couple rainy day’s at BC Bike Race a few years back taught me that if you just let the mud be the boss, the bike will find its way down the hill safely. Again, it did.
It also didn’t hurt that the finish town of Isaba is one of those postcard-picturesque high mountain towns that are so uniquely European with their old brick building and cobbled roads. Mom would like this place.
As for the nuts and bolts, Joan Compte and Jaume Guardia (Team Camprodon) scored their second straight stage win, stopping the clock in 5, hours 31 minutes. Again no change at the top of the standings, as Emilio Vivian and Daniel Martinez of the Alberto Contador Federation continue to lead, owning more than an hour cushion over the next closest team.
As for Nuno and I, we had a good day. The bikes stood up to what was a hardcore gear beating, and save for a few minor get-offs there was no great drama. Nuno continues to improve on his downhilling acumen. I continue to cling to his wheel on the ups. It added up to an 8 hour, 12 minute day, good for 88th and 89th out of 197 riders. In the overall, we’re sitting just outside the top 100 in 107th and 108th. Total time through six stages is a shade above 53 hours.
As for tomorrow, the forecast is cool with a chance of light rain as we continue our trek to the Atlantic Ocean with a 100km spin from Isaba to Elizondo. Total climbing 2,255 meters. Bed time.