Jenny and I have fallen into a smooth rhythm. Wake up, eat breakfast, gear up for riding, break camp, ride a very long way, swim in the river, wash our clothes, eat, stretch, socialize, crawl into the tent, repeat. We have finished three of six stages and are adjusting to the heat, the super intense riding, camp life and each other.
Not that it has been a difficult adjustment at all. Jenny's an awesome teammate, but we have never raced together before or even gone on a training ride together. Racing as a duo where you must stick together definitely requires coordination and teamwork to get to the finish line as efficiently as possible. We are racing alongside mostly male teams and a few mixed teams, and it is apparent which ones are working together to go faster as a unit and which ones are not finding that support from each other.
A perfect example of strength in numbers is the team of Mary McConneloug and Michael Broderick. Mary sprained her ankle at the start of stage 2, a 107km monster day. She rode with us for a while lamenting the injury and figuring she was going to have to drop out of the race. She plastered a smile on her face and her husband Michael pushed her back up into the top of the pack and a great stage finish. She spent the afternoon and evening unsure of racing the next day. However, she nursed the injury and hobbled to the start of stage 3 on a super swollen and bruised ankle. Michael pushed, filled her water bottles and did everything he could to help her out. They won the third stage of the race and are back in the hunt for the overall lead.
Jenny and I are also racing really well. We are finding our cycling legs and are both pleasantly surprised with our early season riding. Stage 2 was extremely long and temperatures were again in the 90s (degrees Fahrenheit). The stage took us over six hours and at the end, we immediately jumped in the river at the finish line. We finished somewhere around 12th overall in the stage. The results are not readily available here all the time, so I am not sure of our exact placing or times. Our goal is to try to break into the top 10 overall by the end of the week.
I have been really happy to discover that we are both about the same speed right now. I did come into this race with some trepidation about keeping up with her, but so far we have been extremely compatible.
Stage 3 was the shortest stage of the whole race and the mood around camp was elevated. After such a brutal previous stage, a 58km day sounded pretty cushy. People were lulled by the shorter mileage and the pace went out like a cross country race instead of a six-day stage race. I struggled to hang on for the first hour up a very technical jeep road climb. After a couple days of riding, a few rivalries have formed and it's clear that some of the teams around us do not like having a women's team near them. The dynamic was more intense today and I felt it. I cheered up when we reached the first technical downhill of the day.
In Chile, they go to the tops of the hills to chop down trees and then drag them down to the bottom to build houses. This repetitive procedure forms a steep trench that resembles a luge course, complete with banked turns and a sweet, smooth singletrack line. It is probably the most fun I've ever had on a downhill. The rest of the day was up or down with not a bit of flat. It was not an easy stage by any means. It still took us over four hours and required an afternoon of river hydrotherapy and stretching.
Three stages down, three to go. I'm not sure of our overall ranking at the moment either. The hunt for an internet connection and electrical outlet in these camps continues, so hopefully I will be able to send these reports soon! Thanks for following.