Las Campanas Circuit Race and Santa Fe Hill Climb


Julie Elliott Santa Fe Hill Climb Flickr Album

My mom says when you choose right things will sometimes line up behind you and support you.  That’s what happened leading up to last weekend’s racing in Santa Fe.  I was in a slump but my teammate Drew from Flagstaff was up for rallying to go to the races.  My friend Andrew from Santa Fe put our names out to the Bike N Sport community in Santa Fe and they found host lodging for us.  My wife encouraged me to go.  Everyone said it would be fun.  Singletrack Bikes graciously prepped the Trek Madone team bicycle at the last minute.  Everything was working in favor of going to the races!

The first day of racing was the Las Camapanas circuit race about ten miles northwest of Santa Fe.   I got up early Saturday morning and walked from our rooms at the Adobe Star Inn near downtown to the Santa Fe Farmers Market at the Railyard.  The vendors were setting up.  The scene of people and food was a kaleidoscope of colors, a moving collage of edible landscapes and living cultures of New Mexico made fresh in the morning’s translucent mountain air.  The scent of roasting chili and all different kinds of food stuffs and people extending welcoming smiles with morning greetings made me think I wanted to come back again and spend more time here.   After huevos rancheros and an empanada I ambled back to the black mesa room at the Adobe Star and Drew and I rode out to the start together.

Las Campanas with Janvier Hadi of Team Rwanda

Las Campanas with Janvier Hadi of Team Rwanda

Registration was at the golf course maintenance yard.  The sun turned on the heat as it arched skyward.  Someone had a red Porsche 911 parked there.  What a great day for racing!  The course was a 9.25 mile circuit winding through a spacious residential setting in the high pinyon desert with broad views to mountain ranges ringing the area, the Sandias, Ortiz, Jemez, Sangre de Cristos.  The course was fun and smooth with constantly changing scenery.  It was a mostly local field with one visiting rider from Rwanda, Janvier Hadi.  We were doing 5.5 laps for about 50 miles.  It was a spirited race but many riders were probably conserving for the next day’s hill climb.  The terrain had a few biting hills but didn’t have extended grades or windy sections to make selections for the strongest riders.  So the race mostly stayed together and came down to a sprint at the end.  Janvier jumped free of the bunch and made an awesome break for the win!  It was exciting to see.  The day overall was a success for me as I got valuable race miles in and made some efforts that stimulated my system.  Training is good but there is nothing like racing!

After riding back to the Inn Drew decided he was going to preview the next day’s course.  He felt “like a kid in a candy store” with nice weather and new roads to ride and time and energy to enjoy.  The Santa Fe Hill Climb begins at Fort Marcy and winds for 16 miles up the western slope of the Sangre de Cristos changing elevation from 7,000 to 10,300′ ending at the Santa Fe Ski Resort.  Drew ended up with well over a 100 miles of riding Saturday and got to see a climb he had never ridden before even after 20 years in the Southwest.  It made a huge difference for us that the Las Campanas race was the day before so we could justify a trip over from our home in Flagstaff, Arizona for a compact block of racing.

I didn’t believe it when the locals hinted that the strongest New Mexican riders would attack from the start Sunday morning.  But that is exactly what they did and after the immediate whip of 8% grade over the first half mile or so the field was whittled down to a small pack of four hard breathing riders.  Fortunato, who won Mt. Evans this year in dominating style and is climbing at a very high level, set the tempo unrelentingly and with strong confidence in his abilities.  This was definitely the best workout I’ve had all year.  After 8 or 9 miles I eased up and watched Kip and Fortunato ride away.  Kip is also one of the top climbers in the country.  He won Iron Horse last year in Durango against the likes of the best climbers in Colorado and many of the best from across the nation.  New Mexico can be proud to have racers achieving at a very high level at epic races.  Kip and Fortunato would go on to ride across the line together, and Zia Velo rider David V. also put in a great ride.  Every year I go race in New Mexico David gets better and better.  Keep up the good work!

Julie Elliott Flickr 2014

Julie Elliott Flickr 2014

I rode through the Hyde Park “wall” alone at mile 9 behind the two leaders.  I  breathed in the camp fire scents of weekend sojourners to the mountain.  I climbed up higher and higher into the aspen and mixed fir forest.  I kept Fortunato and Kip in sight but after the wall the grades are more relaxed and I figured the race had already been sorted out.  The concentration it takes to keep the pressure on the pedals the whole time up a mountain engaged me completely, and I relished in this focal point of contact with the climb.  There is a super level of heightened awareness going up a mountain at full bore like this when your body is at its max and your animal self is in full flight and the mind is reduced to something primeval before civilized time began and before complex questions arose.  I simply wanted to get up that mountain as fast as I could.  There is something beautiful in the purity of that ride.  The hard truth of human suffering.  As hard as it was, you have to be grateful to get that little extra push and have a glimpse at the next level of riding.  I’m happy for the winners and all the people that put forward their best efforts to make it up the mountain.  To imbibe a hill climb on an August Sunday morning like we did is to find extra motivation and freshness and partake in the renewal of bicycle racing spirit.  Thank you Santa Fe community!

Epilogue: On the way home we say many bicycle riders out for a ride on the frontage road along I-25 north of Bernalillo.  This kind of community Sunday ride activity is heartening to see.  May we all have better and more opportunities to reduce our stress and enjoy good health and experience our landscapes in an intimate and direct way.  Great to be with people racing and enjoying all kinds of lifestyles on the bike in fabulous New Mexico.

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