Tuesday, October 17, 2006

JUAREZ BEATS JUAREZ

10th Annual LaCupacabra 100K, Juarez , Mexico
October 7, 2006

That headline could be taken two ways, but it turned out the wrong way for me. The course beat me back to tenth place. Tenth is hardly ever anything to get excited about. But I still had fun and look forward to going back in ’07 for a better result.

I had heard about this race for a few years. So last year when they invited me I was excited, but unfortunately it didn’t fit my schedule. But Carlos the promoter was smart enough to ask “What about next year?” He really wanted to have “Juarez in Juarez ” as he said. So…

I got so much respect at this race. Carlos picked me up at the El Paso , Texas airport himself. We crossed the border into Mexico quickly, thanks to his “VIP” connections and he put me up in the nicest room in the best hotel in Juarez . Nice! Carlos had arranged a big press conference for that evening where I met reporters from local newspapers, TV—it was a really big deal.

On race day I saw what a big production the Chupacabra 100K really is. So many riders, something like 2000 all total with the amateurs and age groups. They had the mayor there and everyone you could think of in town was involved in the event. There were course marshals and aid stations all along all 60-something miles of the course!

I was nervous on the starting line. I knew that my fitness was off a bit. My last race was the Subaru 24 Hour at 7-Springs, Pennsylvania . I won there, but in the month since then I’d been constantly traveling. I’d driven to Utah for the launching of the new Carbon Rush for Cannondale, had gone to ‘Vegas for Interbike, and just a day after getting home from that, I flew to France for the European launch of the new Carbon Rush, then flew back just in time to make it to Juarez, Mexico. All that traveling just gets to you.

Plus I was going to be racing my new ’07 Scalpel, which I’d ridden just two times before the race. This new one measures out a little differently than the Scalpels I’ve ridden all along. I’d changed out the stem and had moved my seat back on the rails a bit, but I still wasn’t feeling like I quite had the position where I wanted it. “Don’t worry about it,” I kept telling myself.

The race started out on some fast fast dirt roads. That part of the course was kind of funny. You’re right next to the border, looking over to see the US Border Patrol guys, doing their thing and watching the race go by. I started out with the front group and it was just attack after attack. I felt alright, like maybe I’d been worried about nothing. The pace was hard, but not impossible. Then at about five miles into it the pace picked up “BANG” like it was like a criterium or something! Oh man I hammered the best I could, but those guys were motoring, and of course, most of ‘em had either done this race before or were locals racing in their own back yard, so they knew all the trails. The front guys were all of Mexico ’s best racers. Some of them I recognized from when I was still doing the World Cup cross-country series a few years back. That was the first time that I’ve had my butt kicked that hard in a long time.

The front group pulled away while I kept the best pace I could. But I just wasn’t comfortable on the bike and realized that I was concentrating more on how I felt on my bike than on the race. I felt flat from jet lag. Just nothing in my legs. When you’re having a bad race, it’s hard to get motivated out of that feeling. Then on top of that they had two big long hike-a-bike sections and one of them I stepped into a big hole and twisted my ankle. It didn’t hurt that bad when it happened. I hopped up and down for a second and said a bad word or two, shook it off and kept going.

I was struggling the last twenty miles, but the people on course kept calling my name and cheering me on. So that helped carry me in to the finish. That was about as hard as I’ve ever raced for a tenth place! I was disappointed that I didn’t do better. But I’m just human. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in thirty plus years of racing is that you’ve got to take the good with the bad. I’ve had some good successful races this season, so one not so successful race isn’t such a bad average.

Later that night my ankle started bugging me a bit and it got kind of stiff and swollen. Walking through the airport the next day carrying my bike bag and luggage it felt even worse. After sitting on airplanes for most of the day it was real stiff by the time I got home. So knowing that the 24 Hour race at Moab the following week has some pretty treacherous rocky sections I had to make the decision to cancel out. It was hard, but probably the smartest thing to do. I’ll be going to Costa Rica for La Ruta next month. Thomas Frishknect won last year, and he’s not going to be easy to beat. We’ve had some good races, he and I over the last 18 years or so. So I’m looking forward to it. This break will give me enough time to get rested, get my ankle healed, get my new bikes dialed in and be there ready to improve on my personal best of second place at La Ruta.

See, that’s how you deal with a bad race. Put it behind you and focus on the next one. Next stop, Costa Rica !

The guys at Intense Bike Shop in Juarez, Mexico were great - THANKS FOR ALL YOUR HELP GUYS!!

Peace and out,
Tink

2 comments:

Dave Harris said...

Dang, that's a lot of travel to have in your legs to straddle a new bike with any hope of riding well. Awesome job in a tough field.

You were missed at Moab but fortunate not to be there, trust me!
http://teamhealthfx.com/blogs/dave_harris/archive/2006/10/16/1963.aspx

Tinker Juarez said...

Thanks Dave. Congrats on your 3rd place! We were watching the results and was wondering what happened. I plan make it there next year.