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George & Eric | Inner Loop Insanity

Tighten up your core. Sit straight. Brace hard against the console. Stop twisting around and look at the road. What is that? Am I sick? No, you’re fine. Don’t be sick. You can’t get sick. 

Media car, give me 100 meters.

Pine trees. Moto exhaust. Mountain air. Where are we? Hot. Windy. So windy.

Mark in 3, 2, 1. Break of four riders has 20 seconds on the field. 40 seconds.

One minute, but tenuous. Can the cars come up?

Bring the cars up, but then get them out of there. Understood?

Copy. 1K to feed. I like food. What did I eat for breakfast? Wait, I’m not hungry…my stomach is in knots. Water…can I drink water?

Mark in 3,2,1.

Cramp! No cramping. Please, no cramping. Man, my knees hurt. Rocks. Trees. Lake. I’ve never sat this long in a car without a seat belt. Better not tell the kids. Now I’m standing up in a moving car with no roof. Perfect.

Mark in 3, 2, 1.

It’s a challenge to cover a bicycle race when you aren’t in control of your situation – only receiving bits and pieces of information when the wireless gods smile on you – which is never - or when you can decipher the race radio in your wind-blown, motion-sick state from the back seat of a media car. At the start of each day you have an important decision to make: take a ride in the caravan, or take to the course in a rental car alone and hope for the best. Choosing to ride in the caravan’s media car means you have zero control for the entire race, but if your team puts a man in the break it could be absolute gold. It also means you’re going to get sun/wind-burned while sitting in a cramped seat for 3-5 hours on twisty, bumpy roads. And you’re always going to need to pee.

Colin joyce had to chase back onto the pack after crashing on a descent.

Today we hedged our bets and took a ride in the media car. We had our reasons. Rally would be expected to ride at the front all day to keep the breakaway close, since Matteo Dal-Cin was in the leader’s jersey and the team’s sprinter, Eric Young, was a serious threat on the day, having won this exact race on two previous occasions. By simply putting a rider in the break, Rally could remove some of the burden of the chase, forcing unrepresented teams to do some work at the front. A successful stage race hinges on energy conservation, and with three tough stages remaining, every little bit saved would pay dividends in the end.

Rally didn’t put a rider in the break.

But, man, is the Inner Loop Byway beautiful. We got to see amazing rock formations, gurgling streams, dense forests of Ponderosa pine and cedar, and the giant copper mine that is still active east of Silver City. Though we didn’t get to see much Rally Cycling action out on the road course, we did arrive at the race finish minutes before the peloton stormed into Fort Bayard. We watched in the distance as the speeding group came over the rise onto the finishing straight. With 100 meters to go, it looked as though UHC’s Travis McCabe was going to take the win. Incredibly, Eric Young pulled even with him with about 40 meters to go and then lunged his bike forward with a picture-perfect throw, pipping McCabe at the line and sealing Rally’s second victory in as many days!

Eric Young throws his bike across the line to take stage 2 just ahead of Travis McCabe

Eric gives the podium flowers and a million dollar smile to his girlfriend.

Abandoned Fort Bayard was the backdrop for the start of Stage 2.

Speaking of Fort Bayard…it’s terrific. If you have even the slightest interest in history, architecture, or just dig that little bit of magical weirdness you feel around old, abandoned buildings, you should pay a visit someday. The Silver City area continues to impress us with something new and really cool each day.

As a pro you’re never allowed to relax too much for too long. The sport is too demanding, too cutthroat. There’s always something stressful around the next corner to stop short the celebration.

Despite the Rally team’s exciting victory today, an uneasiness has now settled over The Copper Manor as evening approaches. The riders know that tomorrow’s time trial will play a huge part in determining the overall, and having that stuck in the back of their minds evokes palpable tension. But that’s the sport of cycling in its simplest summation – as a pro you’re never allowed to relax too much for too long. The sport is too demanding, too cutthroat. There’s always something stressful around the next corner to stop short the celebration. It’s the nature of the beast - you must always look forward or risk getting left behind.

After the time trial, a clearer picture of the overall will emerge, and we expect to see clouds of barbecue smoke rising from the motel balcony, footballs lofting through the parking lot, and deftly measured shenanigans a plenty.

Maybe it’s not tension we’re sensing, but rather focus. When your job is to race a bike, you had better be focused before a big stage. This a team that enjoys each other’s company. Jokes in the morning, jokes after the stage, jokes on the massage table. Keep it light, but be ready to execute the task at hand. Tonight, however, there exists a seriousness that the guys haven’t revealed over our first few days in Silver City. As they huddle together on the motel’s second floor balcony, they look more like a platoon than they do a professional cycling team.

After the time trial, a clearer picture of the overall will emerge, and we expect to see clouds of barbecue smoke rising from the motel balcony, footballs lofting through the parking lot, and deftly measured shenanigans a plenty. Except there’s a fast and technical crit the following day. And then the unimaginably tough Gila Monster stage…

Eric poses with aunt and father. A fantastic win is made even better by sharing it with family.

And with that, our Silver City top 7 for the day:

  • Not barfing in the media car
  • Eric Young
  • Gurgling streams
  • Fort Bayard
  • Jalisco Café
  • Discounted Easter candy at CVS
  • Climbing Eighty Mountain to get our 10,000 daily steps