ZVC entered the tour this year with one of the largest contingents of racers from the team ever to have entered the race, and one of the largest numbers of riders from any team at the 5 day event this year. Racers at the TotG included:
Men CAT 4: Luke Hollomon
Men CAT 3: Kyle Martinez, Dustin Walthall, Marcus Toya
Men CAT 1/2: David Vaughn, Chris Schlabach
Men Masters B: Bret Carter, David Rutledge, Patrick Holland, Tim Ketelaar, Brad Wilkenson,
Men Master A: Jerry Garcia
Women 3/4: Catherine Stailey, Tonya Sotelo
…15 Racers in total and some of the most talented and hardest working racers in the peleton.
First let’s talk about what we learned: supporting racers is a lot harder than it appears. THANK GOD for Marcel Berger!! Due to an unforeseen illness (He is doing quite well and should be back to racing soon) Marcel could not participate as a racer in this year’s edition of the ToG. However, that did not keep him from supporting his teammates in an incredibly professional manner. Marcel served as our feed zone support throughout the 5 days of the race, preparing water bottles and nutrition each day (or the evening prior to the race) so that EVERY ZVC racer would have the opportunity to take a feed every day. This may seem a small feat, but consider that Marcel had to drive over 400 miles at the event, just to make sure he was in the feed zone at the most remote places on the course. ZVC racers were never in need of neutral support. In fact, Marcel and Dave Rutledge not only provided race support on Stage 1 to Mogollon for ZVC, but helped out the single TIBCO support person, attempting to provide feed to 8 racers, at the Glenwood feed zone. Just another example of ZVC working to support racing and making friends along the way. The support that is required of 15 racers cannot be overstated. From the feed zone support things just get more challenging.
As an up and coming team, we have certainly come a long way, but we also have a long way to go. Let’s consider the third stage of the ToG and the support required to get 15 Time Trialists on the road and in position to perform to the best of their abilities. One of the most difficult aspects is the sheer time spread from the earliest racers off, to the last racers off. Between arriving at the TT venue at 10:00, about the same time the pros were finishing, and staying until the final ZVC racer finished at around 4:00PM, there was never a lack of things to stay on top of. The first thing that had to be done was getting a schedule of when each of the ZVC racers was starting. This allows the racers to concentrate on racing and not worrying about finding their respective start times. Shown below is the “Start Board” at the ZVC support trailer. Second, and again this is a challenge due to the limited resources in this small team, is figuring out the staging of equipment, including front TT wheels, rear disks, trainers, etc., so that there is the maximum potential for the resources to be used, but also allows for resources to be set aside for racers in the highest GC positions. For the ToG, this meant having wheels and disks available for Cat Stailey (She actually brought out her own wheelset), David Vaughn, Kyle Martinez, Bret Carter, and Jerry Garcia. Thanks to the understanding that each of these and the other racers have about what it means to be a supportive teammate, each of these racers got a set of “Hot Wheels” to use during the TT. In spite of a couple of small mechanical issues, the ZVC racers all did exceptionally well in the TT. Thanks again to Marcel for his tremendous support to all the TT racers. We could not have done it without you!!
Racing as a team is the essence of road cycling. There are a great many aspects to what this actually means, but sacrifice and selfless service pretty much sum it up. I certainly won’t try to give every example I saw of these traits during the 2014 ToG,(because there were many) but I will call out a couple. The first example I will use is in the Men’s Masters B race. Starting the race with 6 racers, we knew we had a small advantage over teams with far fewer racers. We also knew that we probably had loftier goals than these other teams as well. After a quick team meeting the night before the race began, it was fairly (and quickly) obvious that the main objective of EVERY racer was getting ZVC on the podium in GC after the race was done. However, it was also clear that we had the opportunity to do this in both the 35+ and 45+ categories in the Men’s Masters B race. Thanks to the combined and selfless efforts of Dave Rutledge, (in every stage, but particularly the crit and Gila Monster RR!!) Tim Ketelaar (Outstanding work in the Crit Stage) and Brad Wilkinson, ZVC ended the race with a MISSION Accomplished!!
Another stunning and beautiful example of how a team is supposed to work was on display during the Gila Monster stage of the Mens CAT 3 race. (I will use the story as it was relayed to me, so I apologize if the details are a bit off). During the final climb of the stage, Kyle Martinez, the highest placed of the CAT 3 racers in the ToG for ZVC found himself distanced from the lead pack and watching his top 10 placing going up the road ahead of him. Starting from the last 2 positions in the peleton at the base of the Sapillo climb, Marcus Toya and Dustin Walthall saw what was happening and fought back. Reaching Kyle as they progressed up the climb, Dustin and Marcus went to the lead of the chasers, slowly picking up riders as they went up the climb. The two ZVC racers worked together, with little help from any other team, to eventually claw their (and Kyle’s) way back up to the lead pack. This tremendous effort, and the sacrifices to their own individual placing in the race, ensured that Kyle maintained his top 10 placing in GC at one of the most prestigious stage races in the United States. It was incredible to see the gratitude in Kyle’s face and he relayed to me how Marcus and Dustin buried themselves to help out their teammate.
Achievement [uh-cheev-muhhttp://static.sfdict.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pnghttp://static.sfdict.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pngnt]: something accomplished, especially by superior ability, special effort, great courage, etc.; a great or heroic deed
We hear of achievements all the time. It’s almost as if it is expected. But in the sport of cycling, where it is often you against 100-150+ other competitors, it is difficult to pull off. It is even more difficult when you consider a race the caliber of the ToG. A top 10 placing at the ToG is, for many amateurs, the crowning accomplishment in a life of racing. As mentioned in a previous posting, the ToG is a rite of passage, and it has significance well above most other races.
So it is with pride in these racers that I mention the achievements of our top finishing ZVC racers, each result a tremendous feat in many aspects.
David Vaughn. After racing in the ToG last year, and winning the GC in the Men’s CAT 3 race, it would have been easy for David to rest on his laurels. Expecting that would have been foolish. David is a fierce competitor, but it would have been easy to assume David was at the ToG simply to ride after of coming off the recent birth of his second beautiful daughter. After 5 tremendous days of racing, with the support of a super tough Chris Schlabach, David Vaughn found himself just off the podium in 4th place in the Men’s CAT 1/2 race!! This at one of the toughest races in North America!! Congratulations David, both on your young family and your TotG results!!
Chris Schlabach. Perhaps nobody on ZVC has a more challenging week at the TotG than Chris. Racing at the highest amateur level in the Gila at the CAT ½ race, Chris is a mountain goat and sprinter. Despite racing all day, as the co-owner, he is working at Gila Hike and Bike just a few minutes after his races end. Chris was counted on to work for David V. and Dave’s results demonstrate the success Chris had. In spite of a high speed crash in the criterium, Chris took the start on Day 5, and finished the Gila Monster stage of the toughest amateur race in the North America. Thanks for your support of all of the racers of ZVC Chris!!
Kyle Martinez. I have often said that Kyle represents the heart of the Zia team for ZiaVelo Cycling. Kyle is often the supreme teammate, working tireless for others in races. So it was with great pleasure that we were able to watch Kyle finish in the top 10 of the CAT 3 race. This accomplishment was in spite of a mechanical in the TT that cost him precious seconds in the GC placing. Kyle was obviously pleased with his placing, but had nothing to say of his position on the GC at the end of the final stage. Kyle could do nothing but gush enthusiastically about the work done during the race by Marcus and Dustin.
Marcus Toya. The quiet assassin of ZVC. Looking at Marcus off the bike (except when he is glaring at me!) you would never know that Marcus can rip your legs off on the bike (and as a boxer in his free time, maybe literally!!). Marcus is a tremendous climber and sprinter, but gave up his own ambitions to protect Kyle, particularly on the final stage of the TotG. Marcus can be counted on time and time again to work, whether that is pulling back a break or towing you up a climb. Beautiful TotG Marcus!!
Dustin Walthall. Big Tall!!! Another quiet racer for ZVC, Dustin is hard to miss in the peleton. Despite his height, Dustin is a tremendous climber that can suffer, and did on the final day of the Gila! Coming from the back of the peleton to lead Kyle up the final climb, get dropped, catch back on, and go to the front…over and over again….all in a successful r to protect his teammate’s position in the top 10 on GC. A tremendous asset for ZVC.
Jerry Garcia. It would be an understatement to say the Jerry is new to road racing. Coming to the road for ZVC as a CAT1 mountain biker, Jerry has shown talent not often seen in a “mature” racer coming to the road after such a long career racing off road. Starting last season as a CAT5, Jerry has risen to the top of the Masters racers in the state..and now beyond. Working without the benefit of even a single teammate in the Mens Masters A, 5 day race, Jerry showed why he is feared in any event on a bike he entered. At the end of the day, Jerry was standing on the Masters A, 45+ podium with a third place finish. He represented ZVC with pride and the stature of a seasoned road racer.
Bret Carter. Coming back to ZVC after downgrading to a CAT 4 (Due to his schedule as a commercial airline pilot), Bret once again showed his tenacity at the TotG. With the able assistance of Dave Rutledge, Tim Ketelaar, and Brad Wilkinson, Bret won the TT stage with an impressive performance and secured 3rd overall in GC in the Mens Masters B Race.
Patrick Holland. New to ZVC for 2014, Patrick appears to have found a new home..and are we ever lucky and happy to have him on ZVC! Patrick turned in an incredible performance and found himself on the podium in third place in the Mens Masters B 50+ race. Way to go Patrick!!
Dave Rutledge. What can you say about Dave? Dave is the good cop (to my bad cop) great co-director of ZVC, and a fantastic team member to have escorting you through the Gila. Dave worked tirelessly, sacrificing his own GC placing to escort our Masters B racers up the Gila Monster climb. He also tried his best to keep all of the Mens Masters B racers safe and in the field as long as he dared. Dave is the ultimate worker on the team and for the team. Thanks for all you do for ZVC Dave!
Cat Stailey. There is little to say about Cat, except WOW!!! Racing in basically her first year as a road racer, and taking on the Gila is no small feat. Cat attacked the Gila with the tenacity of a seasoned veteran. As competitive and fierce as she is on the bike, she is polite and unassuming off the bike; hiding her fantastic cycling abilities. Cat turned in a tremendous performance and finished a solid 9th in her first TotG. Watch out for Cat Gila, I have a feeling she will be back with a vengeance next year!
Tonya Sotelo. Tonya showed why she is a force on the bike at the TotG. Her attitude and never give in (forget giving up!!) attitude is a sight to behold. Tonya represented ZVC with class and strength. Another newbie to the racing scene, Tonya only has better things ahead of her!
Tim Ketelaar. When you think of “never give up”, think Tim. Racing against some of the best Cat 3&4 masters racers in North America, Tim holds his own in the peleton, and works tirelessly for the other racers of ZVC. Attacking in the crit or chasing down breaks, Tim was counted on to be there when he was needed in another TotG!
Luke Hollomon. It is rare that a cyclist decides to race the TotG only 1 week prior to the event, but that is exactly what Luke did. Luke represented ZVC as the only racer in the Mens CAT 4 field. Finishing this race without months of preparation is a great accomplishment. Give him two weeks to prepare, and watch out! Thanks for representing ZVC Luke!!
Brad Wikinson. Brad holds a special place in the heart of ZVC racers and riders everywhere. The reason he is in our heart is how he raced and finished the Mens Masters B race only 1 ½ years removed from open heart surgery!! Brad is an inspiration to all of us. This is only the most recent of many years that I have raced with Brad at the Gila, and I have NEVER seen him upset, angry, or sad. Brad is a fantastic teammate and an accomplished guitar player as well. (You learn a few things about a guy after sharing host housing for a few years!)
Finally we have the accomplishments of our family and friends. This team would be nothing without the support of every member of ZiaVelo Cycling, our families and our friends. Leading this list in a tie is Marcel Berger, the Robinsons and the Murphys!! Supporting a road race is like herding cats; really fast and tired cats!!! We are constantly in motion, most of which is never seen by our supporters. A quick glimpse of a racer in a feed zone, and a quick grab of a bottle are about all a race supporter ever gets. But these angels are so critical to the success of our team.
Marcel Berger. How many of us would give up our free time to go to an event we would love to be racing in, only to find ourselves cooking meals, filling bottles, driving hundreds of miles, getting up early, and staying up late, all in an effort to ensure that those that are racing have everything they need to be successful. Thanks Marcel again for being such an outstanding teammate and person.
Anne Murphy (Cat’s Mom) and Curtis Schipper. Holy cow!! How many folks would bring their Winnebago out to a bike race to support a team of racers they had never met, with food, drinks, facilities, etc? These wonderful folks would!! They were there for ZiaVelo Cycling with more support than one could ever ask for…everyday!! You were a pleasure to meet and speak with and I look forward to seeing you both more in the future! Thanks for all you did for ZVC!!
Brian and Lynn. B&L are two of the best people you could ever meet. Brian has worked in so many ways for this team over the last many years, both as a sponsor and racer (working for me in so many races I cannot even count them!). And now we have Lynn. After making dinner for the team last year, Lynn hosted TWO wonderful and delicious dinners for ZVC (almost 20 members!!) this year at their beautiful home in Silver city. Two of the BEST evenings I have ever had and certainly two of the most enjoyable!! Thanks so very much for all you do for this team and thanks to Lynn for being one of the ZVC lady racers!!
Well, that my friends is a wrap. Thanks so much for reading and thanks to anybody I have inadvertently omitted from this post. The Tour of the Gila is a tough event, but wonderful people, great friends, fast racing, and a beautiful experience make it all worth it! Great Performances and a preview of coming attractions! Learning, racing as a team, and achieving. I think that this best sums up ZiaVelo Cycling’s takeaways from the 2014 Tour of the Gila.