As I reached the summit of Tres Cuevas (Three Caves) Hill, I saw Armstrong in his Motorola jersey. He was the buzz all weekend...the new kid...he's really good...some kind of prodigy...When I saw him, I thought to myself, "That's that guy! He's supposed to be really good!" He was just getting back on his bike after fixing a mechanical or flat. I pedaled faster to catch him before he got away.
It was a two track "jeep road" so we rode side-by-side, me left, him right. We exchange greetings, and I asked him if he'd ever gone down Tres Cuevas before. His reply was no. I told him to be careful because it gets really steep.
We did a couple of little stair-steppy drops still side-by-side, and road got steeper still. We soon came up on a guy wearing a Wild Oats team jersey who was obviously a roadie...this guy was flailing...literally. I was still on the left line, Armstrong on the right. We split and passed the guy, going around him on either side.
About a 100 meters ahead was the first switchback. Armstrong told me to take the lead. I lead the way through the hard right-hand turn, popped over a little berm/rock outcropping in the road, and set up for the second switchback coming up, a left-hander. A few meters down from this point is a ranch house on the left with its barn on the right. I knew the road was smoother and improved here so I got into my best aero tuck and took my hands off the brake levers. I maintained this position as long as possible. I couldn't pedal any faster. I must have hit about 40 - 50 mph...fast for a full-rigid XC mountain bike.
The road gets to the desert floor where it is a series of small rolling hills. It was here where I dared to glance behind me and saw Armstrong at least 200 meters behind me. I pedaled like crazy in my biggest gear.
I reached the final check-point at the final major turn of the race. 9 miles to go!
As I went through the check-point I refused water and just wanted to stay ahead of Armstrong. I was hammering hard when Armstrong pulled up next to me. He said, "That was fun! Let's ride in together." I replied, "I can't...my legs are spent...you go ahead." and he did. He dialed it up to the next level and left me in his dust.
The next 7 miles was single-track through the Chihuahua desert. Really beautiful stuff, and all I could do was try and keep Armstrong in my sights, which I did for about two or three miles. The final 2 miles parallels the landing strip and on to the finish line in Lajitas. When I got there, about 2 minutes behind Lance, he was still there talking to someone. I rode through the finish, then coasted over to him, shook his hand and said, "Good race!" He said the same and said thanks for leading him down the hill and that it was fun!
It was one of my better expert category races. I don’t remember my placing…in the top 20 though.