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George & Eric | Waiting for Huffman

“To be under pressure is inescapable. Pressure takes place through all the world. We all know men who grumble under these pressures and complain. They are cowards. They lack splendour. But there is another sort of man who is under the same pressure but does not complain, for it is the friction which polishes him. It is the pressure which refines and makes him noble.”       – Saint Augustine

“I can’t smell anything through the blood and dust.” George said, as he readied his equipment for another long day of Gila coverage. Our room at the Copper Manner was beginning to take on an unpleasant odor, and I had mentioned it. Four straight days of bad eating, hot sun, chaotic schedules, questionable hygiene, and limited wardrobes were having an adverse effect on our living space…and on us. Our skin was burnt and cracked, our legs fatigued, and the insides of our noses were so dry and crusty that it hurt. And we were exhausted from a general lack of sleep – apparently Silver City was attempting to set some sort of nighttime siren record during the race week, and the paper-thin walls of the Copper Manor were no match for the noise. We were on the verge of cracking…

The Dan Potts Memorial Tyrone Individual Time Trial came to our rescue.
At the Dan Potts Memorial Tyrone Individual Time Trial, we wouldn’t have to spend hours in a car, bake helplessly in the sun, or meekly talk our way through police roadblocks. We were happy about that. Instead, we could essentially stay in one place and enjoy the satisfying whoosh of disc wheels as riders turned themselves inside out on the hilly, hot, and windy course that has become legendary in cycling circles. (Ed. Note: George did ride in Rob Britton’s follow car, but he was technically still sitting in one place.)
 
Evan Huffman was having a rather quiet Tour. His respectable 7th place finish in the Mogollon Road Race had been overshadowed by Matteo Dal-Cin’s epic solo win on the same stage. The following day had been one for the sprinters, and Eric Young had ignited the fans with a spectacular last-second lunge to the line for the win. Today, however, was a day for Huffman, and he was expected to perform. An experienced rider against the clock, Huffman won a U23 national time trial championship in 2012, and took the victory on the Gila course in the same year. A strong result here would go a very long way in determining who would take the overall title.
It takes a certain type of athlete to excel in this discipline – one with the exceptional ability to stay focused out on the road with no other riders around, churning out unthinkable wattage kilometer after kilometer until every part hurts. Until you have nothing left.
Huffman has that ability and showed it today. Aboard a Diamondback bike shaped like a razor blade, Huffman forced the pressure out his mind and rode a controlled race, blitzing through the 27km course in an astounding 33:07. Despite the nerve-fraying gusts of wind hammering his aero wheels, Evan was regularly hitting speeds over 85kph on the way back into town. Nobody else was even close.
Spirits were high at the Copper Manor in the afternoon. The previous night’s cloud of tension had burst with the big win. The riders were finally allowing themselves to let off a little steam on the balcony in celebration, and the team’s director, Jonas Carney, was not about to put an end to it. It was an awesome vibe to be around.
When you embed yourself within the Rally Cycling team and witness the riders performing at such an extraordinary level day after day, you begin to understand the subtle genius of Jonas Carney. As Rally’s Performance Director, Jonas is responsible for recruiting the team’s riders and getting the best possible results out of them throughout the season. It’s not an easy job, but Carney is a man who knows his business. As a rider, he was among the fastest sprinters in the world, winning countless races and representing the United States at the 2000 Olympic Games. Brash and cocky in the true sprinter’s mold, Carney undoubtedly had the speed to compete at the professional level in Europe, but he chose a cleaner route, and that choice has served as a guiding light for this Rally for almost a decade now. Cyclists want to ride for Carney, and it shows in the way they perform out on the road. It’s been a slow and sustainable build, but in 2017, Jonas has assembled what is arguably the best all-North American cycling team ever. A team that has now won an unprecedented 3 out of 3 stages at the Silver City Tour of the Gila. 
Tomorrow is crit day…time to have some fun!
Epilogue
As awesome as Jonas is, George and I were worried that a sprinter might not be able to effectively motivate Rally’s key time trialists for this critical stage. So, on Wednesday morning we called Rally’s Performance Manager, Eric Wohlberg, who was spending a week off at his home in San Jose, CA, and asked if he could send the riders some helpful Gila TT tips.

 

Wohlberg is a multi-time Canadian national time trial champion, 3-time Olympian, and winner of the 2000 edition of the Tour of the Gila. He’s also poetic in a sort-of-nuts way. So here is what we got:

Gila TT - A tough ride, always won by tough customers.
Usually it is windy, often headwind out to the U turn.
Largely uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back, so the strategy is kinda easy:

1) Make animal noises as you leave the start line
2) Disregard the Wuss-A-Tron readings, as you have to go pretty much full gas to the U turn.
3) After the U turn, float the downhill, recover, and then be ready to absolutely empty the tank back up Mule Pass. Remembering that we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.
4) Aero tuck/chicken pedal the descent back to the line, while trying to keep your bike between the ditches due to the cross wind.
5) Make animal noises as you cross the finish line

It worked.