Well... Let's just say it was a bit of a disappointment. Here's how it shaped up...
A month ago, I got the invite to go. At that point, there were going to be 4 from my team in the 3's, all pretty strong. A week after that, the 4th dropped out because of work. Well, OK. We get to conference championships (for collegiate) and the other two guys aren't feeling too strong. To top it off, I crash on the Sunday crit. Me and the 2nd guy drive to NM (the other guy was going to fly out Tuesday afternoon after a final). That part went fine, though hotels in Roswell, NM are way overpriced.
Sooo, once we get here, the 3rd guy calls and says he has something to where he can't eat, and if he does, he throws it up. He's out, obviously, so down to 2 of us in the race. Yuck.
Don't worry, there's more bad luck to follow (I promise this isn't all a woe is me thing, it'll get more upbeat here soon).
First day... We roll out, and I'm feeling great, despite the altitude. I raced a very solid 3 hours against the deepest, strongest 3's field I've seen in a while. Ended up getting popped near the end and suffering like none other up the final Cat 1 climb. Turns out my teammate wrecked about halfway through the stage. We both finished well within the time cut, but we're way down on GC. To add to it, the guy who won the stage is basically 1:30 up on the field for GC, so the race is more or less won for his team. Either way, I was fairly happy with myself for day 1. I raced really strong, especially considering the altitude and the crash a few days before.
Day 2 (today)... We roll out, and half an hour later, on the first climb, they pop me. Ouch. I figure, OK, I'll just try and make the time cut and kill it in the TT to at least get some sort of result. Not so fast... A few climbs later, and my left knee and hip (the side I crashed on) are toast. Couldn't push the pedals anymore. I kept trying to go, because I didn't want to abandon a stage race I spent $600+ to get to, not to mention the time, but I ended up having to. It hurt really bad (physically and mentally), but there was no way I was going to make it back to the start/finish. To add insult, my teammate double flatted and destroyed both of his tubie tires. He's still in the race though, thankfully.
Sooo, the positive... I learned exactly how much altitude sucks. Today I was pushing numbers that should have been a breeze for me in Austin, and suffering like none other. This being only my 2nd race as a 3, and with the altitude and all, I'm reasonably happy with how Wednesday's stage went down. I learned a lot about tactics, descending, climbing, and just riding that I never would have learned had I not come out here. I got a chance to race against probably one of the deepest and strongest 3's field that I probably ever will get a chance to race against. I got to ride hills that just don't exist in Texas, and I got to see some really great scenery.
I'm still here until Sunday, so I'm treating it like a vacation. Tomorrow and Saturday I'm going to ride some on my own, take pictures, and just enjoy it. Sunday, I'm going to play team manager and give out feeds for the other guy (plus the guy in the 2's) on my team. I came here to have fun, and I can still have fun, just not quite the way I thought I could originally. I get to watch some top domestic pros duke it out in Saturday's crit, and some of the strongest climbers in the country fight for Sunday.
It sucks to have the actual race end this way, but it also kind of leaves me wanting more of it. This is by far the best organized, most competitive, and most fun race I've ever been to, so I'll definitely be back, either next year or the following. Next time I'm back, though, this race is mine.