by Ray Thibault
I was really blessed to help my uncle Jack and cousin John through the Cochise Classic. The idea came in August when my uncle and I met in one of many hospital visits for my mom. I had already written off racing this year due to professional difficulties, my mom's illnesses, and my brother's passing. My uncle is 71 and in his third year of riding. He used to be very heavy and has made incredible progress. He doesn't have a lot of power but can maintain a good cadence over a good distance. My cousin is 49 and also in his third year of riding. His power output is a bit better than my uncle. He has trouble with pressure points on his feet which can result in excruciating pain after a long ride. But he has learned to mitigate that with careful application of power, so we thought it would be doable for both of them to finish within 9 hours or so.
We did not know there was a cutoff time until the pre-ride dinner and that increased the anxiety a bit because our 9 hours turned into 8. But, we thought we could do it. My cousin and uncle did the long El Tour last year but it was flatter than the CCCC and I honestly was a bit concerned about Mule Pass for my uncle. My plan was to keep close to my uncle and let my cousin get out as far as he wanted to.
When the ride started, we were quickly near the back save for a few people. The three of us stayed together to the first sag stop and it was pretty easy going so far. But the elapsed time was just a bit much for my taste at this point, but I said nothing and just kept encouraging my uncle. We had been practicing for Mule Pass best we could with runs up Pistol Hill and the SNPE Loop, but we could have used more. As the incline to Bisbee started, my uncle started slowing, but still kept a steady cadence and his spirits were high. My cousin meanwhile was out in front almost out of sight and I hoped he was taking care not to put too much pressure on his foot. We got to Double Adobe road and my uncle kept going and I stopped to make sure I knew when the sag stops and the sag wagon would stop operating. I was starting to form a backup plan in case things went south with my uncle or cousin. I got back to my uncle and we kept grinding it out to the Bisbee Sign at the top of the rise south of Bisbee. We stopped for a drink and bite to eat here and I could tell my uncle was tired by now but was willing to keep on going. We got into Bisbee and my cousin was waiting for us at the Roundabout. I think we were in last place by now. I sent my cousin on ahead and told him to take advantage and try to make it in by the cutoff time. He was concerned about his dad, but I told him, "I've got your dad -- go!".
When we started back up, I found out my uncle thought we had done all the climbing. I had to tell him we still had another few miles to go the top of Mule Pass. This got really hard now as my uncle was well into unknown climbing territory on a road with no bike path. He was so tired that he was wandering into the traffic lane sometimes and I had to keep him focused on the tunnel. "We'll get to the tunnel and then the climb is over! For now. We kept grinding it out and finally got to the tunnel. I was worried we would get hit from behind with our slow speed and dark environment, but God had our backs and we got out to the end of the tunnel and to an unexpected checkpoint at the top. We took a well deserved rest here to congratulate my uncle on his achievement. My poor uncle was just hammered now, but he wanted to go on thinking he could recover on the down hill. He sent me on as he wanted to take the downhill at his speed, which consisted of a lot of brakes. So I tucked in and rode to the checkpoint at Highway 90 and waited for him there. I waited about 7-8 minutes and started to get concerned but he finally showed up. He said "I'm done". At some point down the hill he got disoriented and found himself in the traffic lane which only added to his fear of downhill speed. That was it - it was 11am with 40 miles in and 54 to go. "Are you sure?". Yep, time to sag out. Biggest achievement of my uncle's three years of riding! God is good!
My cousin has been out of sight since the roundabout in Bisbee and with my uncle safe in the sag wagon my plan was now to catch up to my cousin and help him through the wind. I have been in the saddle for four hours at a very slow speed but it was still four hours. From Highway 90 I took off and tried to go fast but not all-out since I have not done any distance training at speed in a long while. I really felt pretty good at this point and made it up the hills on Davis Road with very little problem. I caught up with my cousin about 25 miles later past the top of the rises on Davis Road. I got in front and rode through the wind for him for most of the rest of Davis Road. Two things happened at this point almost at the same time. My cousin's cyclic pain started in his feet and I started getting cramps in almost every muscle in both legs.
We stopped at the sag stop at Davis and 191 to rest my cousin's feet and the moment we did my legs seized up front and back and I couldn't move at all. It took me about five minutes to walk it off and get back on the bike. I'm not sure what time it was but we have 20 miles to go now and since the wind was behind and to the side of us my cousin told me to go on , that he would be alright. My cramps were coming and going so intensely that I could not concentrate on helping my cousin any longer. I had no choice but to go into an autopilot mode, set the pace and just keep going. I was hurting a lot but I knew that the pain of stopping would be even more intense. I managed to keep this up until I turned onto Glenn Road heading towards the fairgrounds, when my front tire flatted. I had to stop and predictably I siezed up again and since I was the only one around I started yelling and screaming trying to get off the bike and get moving. Frustration and pain do not go well together. I walked off the cramps and changed the tire and was able to keep going to the finish where I crossed the line at seven hours and 43 minutes. My cousin was able to keep up and crossed 4 minutes later I think, getting his finishers medal!
It was really cool to see my uncle Jack and my cousin John accomplish such awesome things when it didn't look like we would be able to do it earlier in the day. The ride turned out to be much harder and much more intense than both of them had anticipated. But having overcome this ride made every previous difficulty look easy by comparison and they are both pumped to go after bigger and better things for the future!
Ray getting reading to head off
by Gary Schobel
This ride for me was one of my best rides and at the same time one of the toughest ones. I started out the morning by waking up just before the alarm clock. I felt good and ready to race. The weather was in the high 60's with a slight overcast. We got to the fairgrounds in plenty of time to set up the tent, tables, and the banner. It was great to see so many ChristianCycling members there. It wasn't long before the national anthem was played and the 165 milers were at the start line ready to go. The 95 milers were up in 30 minutes. As I made my way to the line I looked around to see who the competition was going to be, all I saw was a lot of my buddies. It looked like it was going to be a good race.
The race started off at a slow pace and the wind was at our back. I don't know if it was just me, but I could feel the anxiousness just waiting for somebody to break free. It wasn't long before a buddy of mine, Dwight Nelson took off. Then Craig from Stone House chased him. With Greg and me in the front I knew it was our job to chase down any attacks. So I felt since I knew Dwight I would take the first attack. It wasn't much of an attack as it was a pick up of the pace. The gap was getting larger and I knew if I was going to catch up with those guys I had to move now. I gave a quick yell over to Greg to let him know that I was going to take this one, and I jumped on it. I caught up with the guys quickly. They weren't really throwing down an attack that just had a little quicker pace then the group. So we just stayed with it. We started to rotate through and decided to take one minute pulls a piece.
Before long we looked back and we couldn't see the pack. We all decided to keep this going. Wanted to see how far we could get. Personally I wanted to make it to the roundabout before the pack caught us. That was only because of the accident I saw there last year. At the roundabout in Bisbee we looked back again no sign of the group. I thought it would be great if we could make it to the top of the tunnel before they caught us. Not only did we make it threw the tunnel but all the way down the other side with out getting. When we made the turn on to Davis road. I looked back thinking surely they got to be right behind us, but there was no sign of the group. Dwight encouraged us by saying even though we were going into the wind let's keep a nice even pace. We were hoping that the wind would discourage the guys in the front of the pack not to want to work so hard and allow us to continue to keep the distance between the pack and us.
About 65 miles into the race the pros from stone house caught us. Wow! They were really moving. I managed to work through two rotations with them before popping. The second group was shortly behind them. Michael and Greg were in this group. I really wanted to hold on with them, but I've spent too much energy staying away the first part of the race. The mountaintop experience that I had so far in this race was now on a drastic downhill slide. I quickly remembered why I didn't want to race this race. Davis Road! There I was, once again riding it all by myself fully exhausted. I just wanted to quit. I wanted to be done. A couple more opportunities came around when some of my buddies yelled out, grab a wheel. I tried but I just didn’t have enough strength to stay with them. Eventually I did reach to finish line. I picked up Platinum. That was great, because I said if I ever got platinum at Cochise I would call it good and never race this race again.
Then something happened. I cross the finish line to see my teammates and my buddies on the other side waiting to congratulate me. It was awesome! You would of thought I had a spot on the podium. Everyone was talking about the breakaway. That part of the race was really cool. I never thought I'd be involved in something like that. I was never so proud to be wearing the ChristianCycling jersey and representing our team. To God be the glory. It was great to hear that Margo had taken second place for the ladies category and was able to pick up a pretty cool trophy. I also praise the Lord for watching out over Jimmy with his tire incident, Steven with his fatigue, and Ray, for his perseverance. I feel that the Lord gave us a great weekend of racing, fellowship, and outreach.
The ChristianCycling Group at the Cochise Classic
by Michael Hast
Cochise County Cycling Classic is my favorite race. The scenery is great, the race is very challenging with the climb in Bisbee and then on the way back there usually is a pretty stiff headwind. Usually it is a very tough race, but right from the start, with a tailwind pushing us to Bisbee and Gary in a breakaway, it was the easiest CCCC ever, or was it?
Well, right from the start I positioned myself in the middle of the pack, not being able to see what was happening up front. It was to conserve as much power as possible, because last year's attacks happened after only 40 miles of the race with over 50 more miles to go. And with the pros from the Stone House Group in the midst, I wanted to be ready this year to handle their attacks. Being that far back led to Gary, Dwight and Craig pulling away from the peloton unbeknownst me. They pulled further and further away. I got the news about their breakaway and who was in the breakaway a couple of miles before Bisbee. That was great news because I knew that the Stone House Group pros would not chase down one of their own. Nor would I chase down Gary. So I started praying for my brother Gary who was ahead, that God would give him super strength that day. The climb in Bisbee was hard, but unlike last year where I got dropped, I hung on to the chase group and made it with them over Mule Pass.
After Mule Pass, Kyle and Eric from TriSports with Adam tried a few times to get a pace line going to chase down the breakaway. The riders from the Stone House Group interrupted their efforts quite a bit. Right before Davis Rd. another pack caught up to us, because they worked together to catch us. On Davis Rd, we got closer and closer to the breakaway. Many more attacks happened on Davis Rd to bridge the gap between the breakaway and us. Finally, Kyle and Stephen with riders from the Stone House Group were able to bridge to the breakaway. I followed Brian Forbes' wheel with the same intent, but when we closed the gap to some riders that failed to bridge to the breakaway, Brian took the left side around those riders and I got stuck on the right side. I tried one more time to bridge to the breakaway but got stranded in no-mans land. I burned pretty much all my matches at that time and got pulled back into the chase pack. I stayed there until the end of the race.
My plan to stay with the lead group over Mule Pass was successful. I was even able to stay with the chase group through some of the attacks, but finally got dropped on Davis Rd. All in all, it was tiring and fun. Looking forward to next year's edition, LORD willing.
Michael at the start
by Greg Chmelik
I had been looking forward to this race for quite a while. It's a funny thing; I really like events with climbing even though it is not one of my strengths. I guess you just like what you like. It was great to line up with so many teammates and meet some new people too. The field was a lot stronger this year and I figured it would be a pretty tough race.
The weather was great and we got rolling with no problems. I wandered up near the front and found Gary. We formed an accidental break coming off the first turn. I guess we were all pretty revved up because four of us had opened a gap without even being aware of it. The field regrouped and we took the next couple turns and headed out towards Bisbee. Two of the Stonehouse guys casually rolled off the front without even alarming the pack and the next thing I knew they had opened a hefty gap on the field. Suddenly I saw an orange streak out of the corner of my eye. Gary had shot out to bridge up to them. He got across pretty quickly and no one else responded. From there it was slow pedaling to Bisbee. I couldn't believe nobody wanted to try and chase or jump across. I stayed near the front but did not do any work. It was great because Gary and the Stonehouse guys got away pretty well.
By the time we got to Bisbee they were well out of sight. Then the race started to heat up. One Stonehouse guy took off at a good clip as the climb steepened. I stayed on his wheel but when I checked my power I saw I was doing over 450 watts. I knew I couldn't hold that all the way up the climb so I eased off and let the skinny guys fly by. I tried to hold steady power up the climb and then accelerated as hard as I could over the crest and tucked in for the descent. At this point the break was still gone, a small group of very strong guys (including Michael) were together up the road, and the rest of us were scattered behind. We collected up a good group at the bottom of the descent and got a nice paceline going. The group ahead was stronger but not as well organized. We caught them right before Davis Road.
Here was where I made my big mistake. I got a little lazy right as we caught them and didn't close up the last few meters. I figured it would slow down as the two groups merged and people shuffled around. At the same moment the road steepened and somebody attacked out of the group we had just caught. I found myself off the back with a couple guys in the wind over the top of that little climb before Davis Road. Out of the few of us who had fallen off, nobody looked too excited about chasing the group down again so I put my head down and took off alone.
It took six miles of time trialing as hard as I could to catch back on. I could see them pretty well but there were strong guys on the front taking pulls and launching attacks so it took forever. I groaned inwardly every time I saw Michael or Kyle moving up. I kept hoping the chase car behind their group would take pity and come back a bit to pace me up to them. No such luck. Many times I wanted to give up. When the gap would grow a little or my legs would get weak I would start thinking how easy it would be to just sit up and wait for a few guys but I knew the result would be much better if I could just catch those guys. Eventually I did. I can't describe how great it felt to finally get up to the chase car and feel my legs unload for a bit. The car didn't let me get lazy. It promptly moved over and I had to jump the last couple meters to the group.
After that I was pretty exhausted for a long time. The group kept attacking each other all the way back and it was all I could do to just hang on as each of those many accelerations happened. At some point we caught the early break but I was totally oblivious. When we finally turned on to Glenn, I was pretty happy knowing the end was near. The sprint started pretty early and I lost the leaders as we turned on to Leslie Canyon for the last few miles to the finish.
It was a great race and really boosted my confidence after a season full of injuries and illnesses. I was proud to be the top finisher for ChristianCycling. The majority of the guys that beat me were very polished racers, cat 3 and up. I was also proud of Gary for boldly chasing after those guys to join the break. That couldn't have been an easy decision so early in such a long race. He must have known he was signing up for a lot of pain. Jimmy had some adversity but handled it with his usual poise. Michael was in the lead group as usual, taking pulls and dishing out the pain. Didn't hear as much from other people so I'll look forward to hearing more later.
I want to make special mention of my awesome wife and fellow ChristianCycling member, Margo. She crushed it in the 47 mile event! She did not get a good grid position and was boxed in. This caused her to miss the lead group. Nevertheless she kept her head down and worked hard the whole way. She placed second overall for the women and placed quite well in the combined field too. I'm sure next year she will be shoving that little bike a bit further forward on the starting grid!
Greg at the start line
by Jimmy Davis
I was not planning on riding the Cochise County Classic this year. However, because so many of my friends were riding I ended up registering the day before the race.
Michael Coyle and I had been spending a lot of time training at Saguaro National Monument and I felt that I would be able to do fairly well in the race. As the race got closer, Perimeter Bicycling put out a special bulletin stating that you could register for only $50 so Mike C. and I jumped at that opportunity.
I decided to go down to Douglas early so that I could get checked in to the hotel. I had been told that the hotels were all booked up and I did not think I would be able to find one but the Motel 6 was available.
The ChristianCycling team met at the restaurant that we have been eating at for the last three years and we all had a great meal and a great time just hanging out the night before the race. On race morning I felt pretty good. I got up, got dressed and saw Michael C. loading up his bike; we headed over to the expo to meet Michael and Gary and help them set up the tent.
Usually it is pretty windy at the Cochise Classic and this year was not any different but it wasn't as bad as previous years. The temperature was pretty comfortable and I didn't have to wear a base layer or arm warmers so I felt pretty good about the race. As the race materialized we were heading out towards the climb and the pace was pretty casual. I sat in the pack about a third of the way back and just enjoyed the ride. I could see Gary and Greg up at the front and Mike H. & Mike C. where near me at times.
Suddenly, I began to hear a lot of chatter about a few guys who had gotten off the front of the pack. Folks were asking who was in the breakaway and others would respond "It's that IC3 guy, Gary!" I did not know that Gary was with two other folks but I was glad to hear that he was in the break. I was a little nervous because I thought he was alone but I knew it would be a great thing if he was able to get a couple of minutes on the pack and make over the climb before the leaders caught him. It turns out that there were two other guys with Gary and they were able to stay out front for over 60 miles!
As the race progressed I began to get that feeling that I needed to go to the bathroom again so just before going through the tunnel into Bisbee I pulled over and went to the bathroom. At that time I saw some riders go by including Michael C. He asked me if I was ok and I said I'm alright I will catch you guys later. I did not realize that meant I was going to chase them for around five or six miles before getting back on. Once I was able to catch up with that group we all worked together pretty well for quite a while. Soon we were on Davis Rd. and working well. Some of the riders began to fatigue but we were still making pretty good time. As we turned and started to head home I could see a sign that read, "Douglas 20 miles/ Mexico 21 miles." I was tired but feeling pretty good... I was really happy because I had not cramped (normally I have to manage cramps during races this long).
Right about that time there was a loud sound of a tire blowout. Unfortunately the person who had that blow out was me and I began to try to see what was going on with my rear tire. The other guys in the pack with me begin to yell, "Stop stop stop!" My tube had shot out of the tire and wrapped around my cog and chain. I have never seen anything like that before and it was a real mess. Normally I can change my tube in around 3 minutes or less, this time I couldn't even get my back wheel out of the drops because the tube itself was wrapped around the chain and cog. After unraveling all that mess I was able to see that my tire was still in good shape and I only needed to change the tube. About that time a group of three riders came by and saw that I was ready to go and waited up for me to get on with them. We worked together for a little while, however two of the riders were not able to maintain the pace and another rider and I ended up coming in together.
Overall, it was a fun ride. I'm so glad I didn't have my cramping issues and it was a very good day of training! I'm very happy to see how the team rode, how we were able to minister to the community and I'm also very glad to see Margo getting some hardware to take home, she took second place in the woman's 47-mile race.
I made it home to find my family in good health and my house in order. AMEN.
Jimmy and Greg getting ready
by Margo Chmelik
Greg and I were really looking forward to Cochise this year as we really enjoyed it last year. This year was even more fun being a part of a team! I only wish that I was strong enough to ride with the guys in the 95 mile.
Greg and I started our morning driving from Bisbee as we waited too long to get a room in Douglas. We were a bit late but got Greg off on time for the 95 mile. I went back to the car as I had an hour to kill before my ride started. I ended up staying there a bit too long. I only had a few minutes to spare by the time I got to the start line. Wasn't able to line up right at the front like I had planned.
On the start, I worked my way through lots of people and tried really hard to catch the lead group. Never did catch them. They were pretty speedy! I doubt I would have been able to keep up with them even if I had caught them. It would have been fun to try though!
I ended up working with two guys for the rest of the ride. They were good guys and took good care of me. They made sure that I got back on a wheel when I was done with a pull. We worked hard. After turning onto Double Adobe we had a chance to rest up a bit. Double Adobe is downhill. After spending some time with my heart rate in the 130's I asked them if they wanted to get back to work. One guy said, "don't you ever get tired?!". I was indeed tired but felt ready to get back to work. I have Buzz to thank for all of the hard intervals workouts he has had me do this year. Those really paid off!
The last few miles were hard. One of the guys I was with was able to out sprint me and the other guy with us at the finish. I told the other guy to go ahead of me because I could tell he had a bit more in the tank than I did at that point. He kindly told me, "no, ladies first." I went ahead and thanked him.
Much to my surprise, I came in 2nd place for the women! It was pretty cool as I got a big 'ol trophy. It was an awesome day and I was very proud of the work that the guys did in the 95 mile. Praise the Lord for a fun and safe day!
Margo gets 2nd!