3er Reto a La Colonia Tovar
Date: 12 July 2015
Race type: Puro Asfalto (mass start uphill TT on MTB)
Location: Aragua, Venezuela
Rider: Claudia Penaloza
Last Sunday, I raced the Reto a la Colonia Tovar for the second time... but the course was the only part I did twice. A few hundred riders gathered early for number pick-up and pre-race warm up.
We'd again have a controlled start for the first 5 km while we wound our way through rough, and often congested, downtown La Victoria roads... but it was a lot faster, important, and dangerous to maintain position than last year, and therefore decisive.
The pace was extremely variable in the pack and I ended up losing ground from being cautious. Once they let us go on the foothills, I had a good deal of chasing to do to catch up to Elsa Peñaloza (unrelated), a frequent rival in MTB races. When I finally reached her, I let up to approach the mountain together thinking we were the competition to beat... but as we started the climb found out there was a woman up ahead.
Elsa didn't believe it at first, when people at the hydration point called out I was second on the road. I clarified "You mean 1st and 2nd or 2nd and 3rd? 'Cause there's two of us here"... Second and third was the answer, Elsa said they must be wrong. She set her pace, I followed slightly behind but kept her in sight. It took about 30 min of grueling climb to corroborate the spectators were right, Walnifer Candiales, had maintained a better place in the (out of) "controled" pack, kept it going in the foothills, and started the 6.5 km (4 mi), 701 m (2301 ft) elevation difference, 11 % grade climb, before us. All of a sudden, I was fighting for third.
I reached Walnifer with about 3 km to go; we passed and repassed each other like in slow motion (sections at 25 %, remember?) so many times I lost count. I was barely holding on... very hot, and very thirsty. She passed me again as I ransacked a hydration point, so I just kept her close thereafter.
At some point, I looked up and recognized the final stretch of the climb. I saw Walnifer and decided it was now or never; she was at least 10 m ahead and there were less than 50 m to the finish.
I dropped the gear, stood up, and used every last bit of weight I could put on the pedals. I creeped up and passed Walnifer, she stood up and did the same. You could hear our gears falling, our lungs gasping, and our hearts set on reaching the line first. We barreled in like two trains. Innocent, unsuspecting men ahead were overtaken left and right, some almost fell victim to our drive. We were matched, but the final inch was hers. Dizzy, trembling, and seeing stars I had obtained one of the best 3rd places I'd ever fought for.
Final times were 1:15:53 for Elsa Peñaloza and 1:16:15 for Walnifer and Me.