Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tour of a Desert

Most local races back home are in the middle of nowhere.  Due to police permits and road closures, races are usually held on purpose built circuits or in remote areas that see very little traffic. This is not ideal for creating a very supporter-friendly atmosphere. 

For larger, international races, one would expect a more extravagant affair in more exotic places. This is what I was expecting for the UCI race, Tour of the Gila, in New Mexico. 
The race was based in Silver City and going by the name, I was expecting just that; a city. My expectations began to lower as the aeroplane turned up for the flight to Silver City. 
Apparently, large planes don't go to Silver City and you have to fly in a tin can with propellers that carries up to 17 people. The plane is so small that a passenger had to be left behind because it was too heavy for the windy conditions. 

As we flew into Silver City, my body was fighting the need to go to the bathroom (which the plane lacked) and travel sickness as the plane bounced around in the wind. I was quite happy to touch down. 
Driving into Silver 'City', I couldn't help but feel like I had arrived on the set of a Quintin Tarantino film. It was a desert surrounded by mountains with a old-time Western feel. The locals didn't appear to be the cycling type and as I watched a tumbleweed roll across the road, I wondered how many people would make the trip for the race and where they all planned on staying as accommodation options was low. 

As it turns out, the Tour of the Gila is a heavily anticipated event. The high altitude, large climbs and randomly changing weather conditions make for a tough event. 
Droves of people had made their way to Silver City for this year's 27th edition of the race. At first glance, I was surprised that a race was held here, but the entire community gets behind the event and it is a huge one on the cycling calendar. 

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