Caution: Talk of urination to follow.

Hydration was going to be key. With my parents working the feed zones, I knew I’d be taken care of. Little did I know I would actually drink too much, have to pee, be unable to find a downhill to use to stay on the bike and take care of it, and thus had to stop. I had to stop because it hurt that badly. Bizarre. In my effort to stay hydrated, I overhydrated, something I‘ve never done (usually it‘s neon yellow after a 90-mile road race, so this was all new to me). My ability to turn the pedals slowly became more and more painful; I HAD to pull over. Could no longer bide my time for a downhill. When I saw another rider doing the same thing, pulling off to the side, I figured that was as good a time as any.

So this guy Kit and I were then chasing. The peloton was going slow at this point -- roughly 60-some miles into a 94-mile race, so I didn’t think it would be that difficult to catch back on. I was wrong. Wind was atrocious, and I hadn’t noticed it was that bad because I’d spent all day tucked away nicely in the peloton. Kit flatted. The wheel truck sorta kinda gave us some motor pacing after he got back up, but then drove on ahead. So we were on our own. The gap to the field at this point was a minute. It would slowly balloon. Chasing a peloton that’s chasing a 7-man break while riding northwest into a 20mph NW wind? Not fun. Thirty miles of time trialing. At one point I turned back after gapping my now-two mates (other dude had the flu and just got dropped -we’d soon drop him as well) and I hit a big hole and CLUNK the nose of my saddle shifted downward. So yeah, chasing. Killing myself. On day one. Will I miss the time cut? Geez. I should quit. This overdramatic mantra played over and over. Quit. Quit. Quit. Devil-on-the-shoulder Liam seemed to be beating Angel Liam. Maybe it didn’t really hurt as much as it seemed, going over roller after roller, watching the peloton creep away and eventually out of sight. Maybe I only thought it hurt because the kicker of the course is the 5-mile category 1 Mogollon mountaintop finish and my head couldn’t wrap itself around the fact that I was time trialing and would have to face this thing very soon, on a near-empty tank.

I rode through the last feed zone, completely solo, noting that only my parents were still hanging out there. It was like a ghost town. The racers must have passed through here 20 minutes ago. My face mustn’t have been a cheerful thing as I grabbed my final bottle, knowing that I still had three miles to the base of the mountain. All that was on my mind was the time cut. Time cut, time cut, time cut. Quit? No, make the time cut, win tomorrow. That’s a fun plan. I continued to debate quitting as I rode over the cattle grates, hitting the 14% pitches. I can just quit, hang out in Silver City, have a ton of fun, it’ll be great. Nah. I should completely destroy myself and make sure I finish within the time cut.

I did the math whilst on the rivet, a few times in case I wasn’t thinking straight, and I estimated that I would make it in time. And I did.

It sucks. It really, really sucks, let me tell you. That’s bike racing. Strange how a goal of “top 10 in the GC” can so quickly and so coldly change to “don’t miss the time cut and be unable to race the rest of the weekend.” The dichotomy of race expectations and actual race events is one of the reasons I love bike racing. The way you can straddle a line of being good and sucking, and never quite know which side you’ll end up on that day. The way something so comically inane as drinking too much and being forced to stop to pee that ends all hopes of a decent GC finish? Uggh, I hate it and love it at the same time. So going back to goals shifting and hopes changing and all that: gameplan now is to try to win a stage. I like the way tomorrow’s looks on paper, but after the colossal effort today I’m not sure if I’ll be good to go. We’ll see.

The “I Should Be Thankful I’m Not That Guy” story of the day: a Cat 3 dropped his chain and sucked his derailleur into his wheel, breaking it… ON THE 2-MILE NEUTRAL ROLL-OUT! Dude’s done for the weekend. Can you imagine? Makes what happened to me look like child’s play.

“Mad props” to my folks for surviving their first day in the feed zones. They’re pro.

Oh, also: as of right now I’m probably 25 minutes down on GC, rocking maybe 50th place out of 55. Hey, at least they won’t care if I want to get into a break later this week.