The Gila Monster
by: Torey Philipp (California Giant Cycling)
The “Gila Monster” stage of the Tour of the Gila sure lived up to its name. Going into the final day, we really didn’t have a designated leader for the stage or any guy to protect on GC, so our goal was to get one of us into the early break and hope it survived to the finish. Last year, the Gila Monster’s sharp teeth bit into me when racing at high altitude finally caught up with me and drained every last drop of energy out of my body, so I was a little worried about what might happen this time.
When the neutral zone ended, the race was on. There were constant attacks, but no one was getting too far up the road. The Jamis-Hagens Berman team, of overall race leader Janier Acevedo, was not making it an easy task for anyone attempting to get off the front. On the series of rollers heading towards the first KOM, the peloton was completely strung out, approaching speeds of 50-plus miles per hour at some points. Pebbles and debris shot up from the wheels in front of me. One of them struck my shin with enough force to actually break the skin, so I had blood dripping down my leg the rest of the stage. That’s a first!