Midway through today's stage - the first one in the Trans Andes Challenge - Rebecca said to me, "It feels good to pedal."
"I know," I replied.
Right then, I was both amused and felt confirmation that it's going to be a good race.
Of course she likes to pedal! Rebecca (Rusch) is the three-time 24-hour Solo World Champion. And me? Well this is pretty much my favorite thing to do. Experiencing the world from my bike, being treated to incredible beauty, stunning views, a mixture of hard, varied, technical, riding - all during a time that is usually winter for me. It doesn't get much better.
Or at least that's how I felt until the last 5km when the 90-degree Fahrenheit weather and approximately 80-degree difference from the temperature (where Smith lives - ed.) in Gunnison, Colorado, combined with the Coca Cola I drank at the last food zone, caused turmoil within my stomach.
I was holding out for the finish line. It's always that way though. Day one in the heat is the hardest, and the finish line is the best.
The opening stage was 64km on paper, and had an elevation delta of 1,276 meters. Rebecca's odometer told a different story though. We rode 67 km, were eighth overall and the first women's team, finishing in four hours, 21 minutes (including the neutral start), and we climbed 1,406 meters.
The climbing and elevation change varied for the different teams. Poor markings at a junction 27km into the race had several of the top teams extremely confused. For example, Mary McConneloug and Michael Broderick descended, climbed, descended another route, then climbed out before descending the right way and going on to take the stage overall win by 30 seconds from the second placed team, a men's team.
For Michael and Mary in their first-ever stage race, the win was exciting and both changed their goals from getting some solid riding and trying their hand at stage racing to contending for the overall race win.
Now we are getting into the swing of the event, washing clothes, drying gear, organizing our food and bikes for tomorrow, relaxing a little, The campsite is at the Thermus.
It is really stunning here. The race is very mellow, yet well organized. The food is exceptional. Stay tuned as in the next blog post, I'll write about food, wine and camp life.
Tomorrow, is stage 2 with 100km distance and a proposed 2,800m of climbing. According to Juan Pablo, the race director, we'll like it because it's faster.
Yet, I wonder how much climbing there will really be? The map shows 3000 feet of climbing at kilometer 50. Followed by a 25km descent.
Tomorrow... no Coca Cola for me!
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Jennifer Smith and Rebecca Rusch have teamed up up to race the 2010 Trans Andes mountain bike stage race. Smith, 36 hails from Westport, New Zealand, but has called Gunnison, Colorado, home for the past 10 years. The 41-year-old Rusch, winner of last year's Leadville 100, resides in Ketchum, Idaho.
The pair is racing under the team name La Diosas, which means "The Goddesses", and both are contesting this mountain bike stage race for the first time. The race also marks their first time racing together as teammates.
Rusch is the winner of the 2009 Leadville 100 and a three-time 24-hour solo World Champion. Smith placed top-five at two continental Xterra championships last year and has previously raced events like the Cape Epic.
Follow the adventures of the two women as they take on the Trans Andes Challenge.