I should have been a little more concerned last night when I found Eric's pedal (Crank Bros. Candy) noticeably difficult to turn. It looked like the (cosmetic) end cap on the axle was just broken and jammed up inside the cage, and sure enough pulling it out loosened everything up nicely. Having done this multi-day stage race thing a couple times now, I should know what happens once WILL happen again when you least want it to--Murphy's law or something like that--but I left well enough alone. There's only a 6 hours or so of racing left, right?
After a start that nearly killed me (why is everyone all of a sudden racing again on day 6? I thought we got all that out of our systems on the island...) we dropped into a steep, dusty, switchback ridden descent where the rule was ride or get run over. It was tight, intense, and my arms were burning so bad I wanted nothing more than a ten foot high skinny to get everyone off their bikes for a while. Racing up with the fast kids ain't no joke.
Hitting the bottom I looked back for the first time, no Eric. Everybody on the party train rolls through, no Eric. I waited a couple minutes more, no Eric. This is SO not a time to eat dirt and slide (trust me, I tried it on day 3). Then here comes Eric, no PEDAL. The bearings were so seized it was unscrewing itself from the crank.
He reattaches and we roll. 10 minutes later, BUGGER.
If there are FIVE things (we're up to five now, right?) that one learns from stage racing, number five is how to manage adversity. Usually we're talking making a quick and clever fix to a broken part, mitigating the effects of fatigue through proper care, weathering adverse conditions and the like. Today I tried channeling adrenaline fueled rage into a 6mm allen key. Effectiveness? Let's just say I needed a 10" lever to get the pedal off again after the stage, but I digress.
We raced harder today than ever. Technical descents left little room for rest after climbing in the 85+ degree sun, and the stage finished with a 10k false flat time trial through the woods in town. Maybe we raced too hard? Maybe we won't recover? Eric is already bionic (has a neat tape thing that makes his knee not hurt) and I've already made a little human hamburger, but that's how it goes up here in the mountains. When you're pinning it up a climb (pinning it might not be far into zone 3 at this point), it's hard not to be asking the question "what about tomorrow?" The question transcends racing, really. Every moment we live has some effect on the next, yet if one spends every moment worrying about what comes next one never lives the now. Today we lived the now. 23rd on the day, moved up to 22 in the GC.
The now is bombing down a gnarly singletrack so steep you're riding the bike your chest and snapping up your head for a second to admire the amazing snow-capped peak framed between two trees as you fly past. The now is attacking a 30 degree climb like it's the last one of the day because you want to know if you can make it. The now is accelerating through a berm around a blind corner you've never seen and trusting the next berm will be there for you. Most of the time it will be.
Tonight we leave you with an example of life in the moment, trust in one's abilities and one of the best trails riders of all time (seen live after Stage 6 of BCBR), Ryan Leech "just turning around":
(sorry for the giganticness, no video editing here...)
Stage 7 is a sprint tomorrow. 30k, 1200m of vert up a ski hill and back. Leaders expected in 1:30! Gonna have to break out the reserve legs for that sort of silliness...