There is something special about suffering together that seems to make relationships stronger. The Mi Duole team tried to make the Rockwell Relay fun. We really did. We got a gargantuan van with beds, showers and coolers. We conned our wives into joining us. We even had self-talk sessions filled with positive affirmations, but in the end the competitive nature in each of us came to the surface. Maybe a little more in me, we wanted to do well, represent our team and families and maybe get a little hardware in the process. It was a fun weekend, but it was filled with a fair share of pain.
Rockwell starts in Moab, UT. On Thursday June 19th we pilled into our rented Sprinter Van and started the three day trek on the open roads. Strategy was discussed. Nutrition was analyzed. Gear was double checked. As a team, we had been planning on racing since February 2016. This would be the second go-around for Team Mi Duole so we felt like we had a pretty solid grasp on how this race would shake out. In 2015 we signed up to participate as a competitive team, but un-knowingly registered to start our race at 11:00 with the teams in the Open Category. The Open Category consisted of 5 teams, all pros, and strong a bulls. From the first twenty minutes last year we where working to play catch up. This year we started at 9:00, where we belonged, and it made all the difference.
We spent the night in Moab. Woke to Marriott hotel breakfast and made our way to the start line. We had an hour to put numbers on our bikes and listen to the pre-race instructions. The 9:00 start featured 60 teams toeing the line, chomping at the bit, acting like caged tigers. It was eighty degrees by 9:00AM, and a 54 mile climb up 5,000 feet to Monticello loomed. At the end of the first leg we sat in 3rd place and seemed pretty comfortable working with the other 8 teams who had established themselves.
The Rockwell race consists of 12 total “legs.” These are designated distances that each member of a four person team is required to ride. For example, Adam Barker was our second rider, so he took care of legs 2, 6 and 10. Before the race the team has to decide who will take what legs, but with our team being so well rounded it was tough to determine who would go where. In the end, each team member suffers in their own way. There isn’t a “safe” position, but with that said here is a breakdown of the work each of our riders took care of:
Cyclist 1 - Stuart Anderson
Total Distance: 129.2 Miles | Total Ascent: 10,233 Feet | Total Descent: -1,582 Feet
Cyclist 2 - Adam Barker
Total Distance: 111.7 Miles | Total Ascent: 6,346 Feet | Total Descent: -11,748 Feet
Cyclist 3 - Andy Welch
Total Distance: 154.5 Miles | Total Ascent: 5,295 Feet | Total Descent: -7,507 Feet
Cyclist 4 - Spencer Chipping
Total Distance: 120.7 Miles | Total Ascent: 4,941 Feet | Total Descent: -6,460 Feet
A couple highlights from our race:
The Van: It’s difficult to describe to you what it was like in there. Quarter morgue, quarter changing room, quarter restaurant, quarter dance party. Somehow we convinced our wives that we needed them to come and take care of us. When the idea was first conceived it was brushed off as a joke - no way they would agree to ride in the van for 30+ hours using discarded bibs as pillows and nursing us back to mortality. Kudos to them for agreeing to serve, because that is what they did. They drove us. They fed us. They let us sleep through the night. I loved sharing the experience with Kristin. When I remember Rockwell 2016 I will remember the van the most. The laughing. The encouraging, and overall the love that surrounded the team.
Lake Powell: When Spencer took to his bike for the first time we had been in the van for close to eight hours. He had been anticipating riding the whole day and when it finally came time to ride he unleashed the beast. This is a 45 mile ride that climbs out of Lake Powell and moves it’s way through Glen Canyon. Spencer and another rider cranked out a 30 minute lead on the seven other teams trying to catch us. It was pure magic to watch him pull away.
The Boulder Climb: By the time the team reached the climb up Boulder Mountain it was pitch black. The Boulder climb is part of Leg #6, a 40 mile segment that climbs close to 4,000 feet. Adam has done this segment two years in a row. It’s a brutal climb with a terrifying descent down the back side. Adam rode like a man possessed and then forsook his children by throwing himself down the descent. I was pleased by his efforts, his wife was flabbergasted by the speed.
Darkness: In the race bible it describes this leg by saying, “This section of State Road 12 is what makes it famous! It just cannot be put into words. You will feel as though you are cycling in the clouds.” The ironic part about this segment is that you can’t see anything. It comes right after the Boulder segment and it’s 1:00AM. All you see is black road, and a lot of it. Andy Welch took this segment, which consisted of 56.6 miles (the longest of the race) and 3,000 feet of climbing. I will never forget pulling up along side Andy after some mechanical issues set the team back and watching him pedaling like a crazy person, on Adam’s bike, with no light, and temperatures hovering around 38 degrees. He was riding so hard to catch the leaders without any regard for himself or his comfort. The worst part was, that in between gasps for breath Andy was apologizing for not going faster. That’s the kind of dude you want in your corner.
My overall feelings about Rockwell is that it made me really tired. Also, I loved the atmosphere of racing for and with my friends and working as a team. There were times when I was riding that all I could think about was how grateful I was to live in such a beautiful place and how blessed I was to have a body that allowed me to ride.
It took the team 28:45:12 to finish, good enough for 8th place.