Gila Race report
by Kristin McGrath
260 miles, 21,133 feet of climbing, 80+ degree heat, 30mph winds, 65 women battling it out, two-wheel style, for bragging rights and a locally made, beautiful pottery bowl to display on the mantel. This is Tour of the Gila. Entering Gila, 2013, our team had one goal, one mission: Win. Having won two of the last three additions, we wanted to ‘keep it in the family’. Our mission was singular and we didn’t care which one of us was on the podium the last day, we just wanted the top step. Gila was extra special for me as it marked my first race back with my beloved team, after a spring spent racing in freezing, Northern Europe. After many races spent suffering in the wind and flat roads of Holland, I was more than excited to go uphill, and there is no one I like ascending mountains with more than my Twenty16 teammates. Gila is arguably one of the hardest stage races in America, if not the world, due to the challenging terrain in relentless wind, dry air and altitude. Add in a strong peloton and it equates to a doozie of a race. My favorite.
From day one, it was game on in the peloton. We wanted the stage win and the leader’s jersey, and so did 65 other women. Attack after attack came as others tried to force a break; a theme that would continue through the week. The team worked tirelessly to keep dangerous attacks at bay and our hard work was rewarded when we ended the day with three podiums and two jerseys. The celebration was short as the altitude was high, the temperatures were hot and the work for the week was piling up.
The Inner loop road race does not look as intimidating on paper as the first day, but, it actually bills nearly equal distance and elevation gain. It is one of the hardest days in the race, and this year was no exception. Again the team worked as one, a machine with well oiled cogs and a singular mission. We finished the day still in red but still very conscious of the work we had cut out for ourselves. We awoke to cooler temperatures and strong wind the day of the time trial. I had a mini celebration as the wind and temps felt much more familiar to me, especially in contrast to the shocking heat we had been experiencing. Aboard my sleek, rocket ship Felt DA, I challenged myself to push harder and harder; motivated by my teammates and our team goals. Stepping on the podium after the TT was an awesome reward for all the hard work I had been doing over the winter and spring, and more importantly, we were still in Red!
The final two days of the race continued with the same theme that we started the race. Teamwork teamwork teamwork. The peloton made us fight for the Red all the way to the line, but the entire team dug deep and made it happen. Day in and day out, every attack was answered with a TWENTY16 jersey. Teamwork really is a beautiful thing and it is amazing what a group can accomplish when the goal is defined and everyone goes all in. Thank you to my teammates for an amazing ‘welcome back’.