What the deal? Every time I sign up for a RGR (Rapha Gentlemen’s Race) I know it’s going to be tough, right? And every time, I jump to it with a terrific arrogance. The true reasons - are not so much my ego, but my friends. I have way too many great girlfriends, they are way too fit and they love adventure way too much. I can’t say no, I sign up for it, for great friends. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
The last adjective I could use about RGR is lonely, to testify the veracity of my words, see an exchange just few hours after the finish with my friend Chris Distefano:
CD: How was that, did you have fun?
JK: yes! That was legendary! Love it.
Wait… no, I didn’t. Did I?
Wait, yes, it was wonderful.
Wait. No, It was crazy hard. You?
CD: Yes, No, No. No. Yes. No. Yes. It’s questionable.
JK: it was way too hard. It was great.
So, at least, I know that CD and I are on the same page.
I did the race with a “badass team of cool chicks”, like you say. The Rapha women’s team, compose of Abby Watson, team captain, Susan Peithman, Rachel Ryan, Priscilla Calderon, Cindy Lew and myself.
To give you the temperature, those girls went ride back and forth Portland to the coast 10 days ago, lapping 220 miles over the week-end. Sick. I was unfortunately, out of town that weekend and did some miles, like 100ish more or less, less than more around the city of Austin, Texas.
Anyway. These girls are ready to kill it.
Wake up on the morning to go for a climbing ride, like 6 o’clock. I’m the pro/former pro, and I tell you, we don’t do that, because we can go ride whatever we want. It doesn’t make any sense to wake up that early for a ride.
We started at 7:30 am from Pasadena in the north of LA. Riding across the city for a good hour, and then a right turn on the way to nowhere. Our first stop was at this 7Eleven, after only 17 miles only of riding. It is then that we find out that it will be also the only real stop of the day. We were about to start a ride of 85 miles without any kind of human life but one lonely ranger station, lost at 6000 feet of elevation in a canyon.
We started to climb for a while, hitting the peak kind of quickly, in about an hour. By chance, friends from Bike Effect were at the peak to provide us with water and delicious fruits. To our right, the barrier to the hardest ride I haven’t done. But I don’t know it just yet.
We engage our bike on the Angeles Park Forest Way, the start is made of broken pavement. The climb gets steeper and our mouths are drying. Everybody becomes quiet but we try to stick together. After a long fight against the hill, we finally get to stop where the pavement becomes dirt. I’m a little nervous about what is coming. I’m remembering the words of my friend Ben Lieberson who designed the course:
Make it to the Ranger station, then a last climb of 10 miles, then some rollers, then a 20 mile downhill to the finish.
Roller: A Definition
1. you are approaching the hill, you stand up on your pedals for a couple of strokes, and then, you are on the top, between 2 to 3 minutes ride.
2. ( - for Ben Lieberson ) A 2/3 miles hills with 6 to 8% passage, between 10 to 15 minutes ride.
I guess Ben have design the RGR course, so de facto, he is this kind of guy who go explore a dirt road by himself for 9 hours with one bottle of water and the closest human life 40 miles away. It only makes sense that our definition of a roller are different.
Ok, we are at the start of the dirt road and it’s actually pretty cool. I have fun riding this passage, especially the long fun sandy downhill until the ranger station. Then, I started to feel a little dazed a little tired, a little stomach, a little hungry, a little sleepy, I started to feel the true effect of cycling on my body.
The ranger station has water and it feels really good, we are actually pretty excited because we were thinking this 12 miles of climbing in front of us are going to be fun – wrong. It was the hardest, most endless route I have ever ridden. I guess the elevation didn’t really help, and after Susan survived to an asthma attack, it was my time to feel bad, I started to feel nauseous and shaky. Like, really starting to shake.
Part of this body statement was highly a mental break. We hit what we were thinking was the top and then, it wasn’t. A terrible ramp of pavement, probably about 15% (30% in my mind at this moment) started and even for how short it is, it feel like it was not manageable.
I have to stop.
I knew this feeling from once before. The mur de Huy at Fleche Wallone in a road world cup for the finish, intense pressure, intense difficulty, intense weight of an exhausting race nearing the end. But we were only in the middle of the ride, and the ‘’you can do it, it’s going to stop in a second’’ didn’t work like it does for racing. I was sitting on the side of the road with a bottle in my hand, drinking it like it was a strong cocktail, feeling the shadow of riders on my back, definitely nauseous and at the same time contemplating the beautiful landscape, and not giving shit about anything in the whole world. I like that you can get to this statement from riding your bike. At this moment, I’m considering that the earth just stopped to turn for me.
It actually didn’t and I realize that my teammates were probably waiting for me somewhere up there. My deep desire to get ridicoulusly sellfish went away and I got back on my bike at the vision of their pretty smily faces, knowing they were probably suffering as much as me, and I was just being a baby right now. But sometimes, you have to release the baby inside you.
This is went the story of rollers. I was really excited to go down, and at first really excited to start this series of rollers. But then, I wasn’t. This time not for me, but more because of the wrong information I gave to my team. Priscilla didn’t eat a lot at the last stop and started to bonk. (I eat 2 bananas, 2 nutella sandwichs, an oatmeal granola bar, 1 orange, and drink a coke, in 6 minutes.)
She had a totally bonking face. You know, when someone ask you if you are ok, and by reflex, you say "Yes," but your eyes are totally lost in an empty space and your face is turning white. You are also slowing down without realizing it and your pedal strokes drop to 25/mins with your smallest gear. She said she will eat on the top. Well, I felt guilty to admit that the top didn’t seem any closer, and she should eat right now. A lot.
She did and she did because I was sitting next to her to harass her to keep eating everything in her pocket. I lost conscience one time after French Mountain Bike National Championship, I almost fell off the podium. I know waiting a couple of minutes more can be fatal. Slowly, Pricilla came back to life, which is still a process that amazes me, the capacity to of our body to recover and keep producing energy at the same time.
The sun disappeared behind the mountains and it’s getting darker, like night. We catch the Rapha team, the mens one, at the top of Mount Wilson. It’s fun because we all are friends and we are stoked to be at the top of a 20 mile downhill. We all go down together and it was so much fun to finish this day on my husband's wheel.
At the last corner before the Golden Road Brewery, where the finish was taking place, we are joking about the final sprint, mocking each other. But and it’s Jeremy, my husband, and the survivor of bonking from an hour ago, Priscilla who almost run across a red light to win the “Rapha women versus men” RGR final sprint.
Well, like boys are such brats, they didn’t play fair after having lost the sprint and they tried to sneak first to Hillary who were registering the finish time of teams. I can read that on their guilty faces, and Hillary make us finish first. I mean not last, first before boys, who ended ranked 14th of the 14 teams who were able to finish the entire route out of 26…
Anyway, we won the sprint, it’s all that matters for a RGR.
See you next year?
Also, look closely in the pictures and you might see that all my ladies are wearing the LAX socks. Because they are that stylish.