I was on a solo breakaway suicide mission and didn’t care. I was maybe 2 minutes off the front of a twelve man chase group on the final day of our 2010 Monster Climbs trip to the high Sierras. There was really no reason for me to be out front, I was having a terrible weekend fitness-wise.
Friday’s ride up Onion Valley Road was fun and uneventful. Climbing 5,000 feet up the 5th best road climb in the US was very enjoyable. I pootled up alongside my friend MickeyGow, saving myself for Saturday’s Queen Stage.
The wheels came off the bus on Saturday’s ride to Pine Creek. I started out feeling average, but instead of getting better as I warmed up, things got steadily worse until I was struggling to produce power going less than 5mph at around 45rpm. It was clear that I had fallen off the Razors Edge.
The Razor’s Edge is that narrow range of fitness where you are working hard enough to keep improving, but not so hard that you get overtired. I was obviously overtired and the more I pedaled, the deeper I dug myself. I bailed on the big climb for the day up Rock Creek (20 miles and 7,000ft) for some quiet poolside rest.
And that’s how I found myself just a little fresher than everyone else at the start of the final day, climbing 19 miles to Lake Sabrina. I knew they’d catch me; it was just a matter of time. Looking at my power meter it was clear I wasn’t producing much more power than the day before, the Descenders peloton was simply taking their time to reel me back in.
Ahead I saw a rider, pootling even slower than me. From a distance he looked very fit with good form, just moving very slowly. As I got closer, I could see his kit was Italian – meaning he was either authentically Italian or just a Wanna-be Guido. Then he stopped in the middle of the road and took a piss. Not in the bushes, or even on the gravel in the shoulder, but right there on the tarmac in the middle of the road. This convinced me he was truly Italian and probably from the southern end of that amazing country.
Passing the rider, I said “Buon giorno” and received an undecipherable reply. Looking at his face for the first time I realized who the rider must be. It was none other than Ivan Basso himself, probably on a recovery ride after winning the Giro d’Italia last month! I had just passed (neh, dropped!) one of the most legendary cyclists of our time! The only man to ever challenge Lance Armstrong in the high mountains. Basso was going off the back, unable to maintain my relentless pace.
Don’t you love it how cycling uphill at high elevation makes you a bit batty in the head?
I continued on enjoying the beautiful scenery, watching pine trees replace the chapparel as I steadily made my way upward. I was caught by my team at some point and summarily dropped. Ivan was in the group chatting amicably with a few of my teammates. I supposed they were congratulating him on his Giro win and speculating his chances for beating Contador at le Tour next month.
A little later, my friend MickeyGow caught me up and together we rode the last four miles to Lake Sabrina. It was truly a great afternoon cycling among some of the most beautiful country California has to offer.